Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tales of Vesperia - Summer of Games "Review"

Note: This is not a standard review. This article was originally typed up for a "Summer of Games" event held back at our old location; however until our Tales of Vesperia review is typed up, this will be holding its place.

Tales of was one of them games I had always wanted to play, however they were always very hard to find and I wasn't really sure if I'd actually like the games. The only thing I really knew about Tales of was that it was a RPG, and you fought monsters. Yep I really didn't know too much back then... Well last year I finally decided to track down the Xbox 360 game Tales of Vesperia, and I'm glad I did.

After looking on the gamestop website I was able to track down a copy of the game that was only about 30 or so miles away from my house. Really it wasn't that long of a drive, and it gave me a reason to visit a town I normally don't go to.

Once I got to the gamestop I spent quite awhile just looking around to see if there was anything else I might like to have, but there really wasn't anything. I ended up leaving the store with what I went there for, and I was happy with it. Although I did end up returning the disc just moments after I left the building... (It was too scratched up. There was no way it would work.)

A few hours later, after spending awhile shopping in other stores with my family, I finally got home and put the game in my 360.

Tales of Vesperia is an action RPG and one of the few rpgs that have been released on the 360. If you have ever played a Tales of game before in the past, you will find this game plays very much like all of the others, however it is the first game to go HD and it does include quite a few features. Although I'm sure a lot of you have either played Symphonia or Abyss, I'm still going to review this game on its own and leave the others out of it. (Although I would like to say now that there is a LOT of fan service in this game, and even bosses from past games can be fought later on.)

Once you start the game you'll find yourself watching an anime styled opening that's actually in English for once! Now I know this could be a problem for some people, expecially those who loved the Japanese version, but the song's actually pretty well done. Although this doesn't really add anything to the game, I still felt it was nice to see.

After you get past the opening and intro cutscene the game will finally start.

The story opens with a town in chaos. The water control system is busted, the streets are being flooded, and the town is without any clean water to use. Main character Yuri Lowell is looking out his window when one of the local kids shows up asking him to come help.

It turns out the blastia core, the energy source of the fountain, had been stolen. Yuri decides to head to the upper class district to search for the person who might have taken it, a man named Mordio, but ends up getting captured by guards and thrown in jail instead.

It turns out Yuri had joined the knights years ago with his best friend Flynn, but after a few different events changed Yuri's views of the knights, he took his leave. Although his best friend left, Flynn stayed a member of the knights with a goal to change the knights from within.

After Yuri breaks out of jail the game truly starts and players enter the world of Tales of Vesperia. As he escapes from the castle, Yuri ends up meeting the princess (who had never left the castle in her life) and they both escape the town together. With both being chased by castle guards, they set out into the world with different goals. Yuri heads out to look for the man who had stolen the blastia core, while Princess Estelle searches for Flynn to give him a warning message.

ToV's story is actually a LOT different than most RPGs and it does not focus on a "saving the world" plot. While the first part of the game follows the main characters as they search for the stolen blastia, soon the characters get involved with guilds, an ancient race, and the history of their world. Their world has always had blastia and barriors to protect their towns from monsters, but the characters soon learn that their world isn't what they quite thought it was.

The game's story plays out a lot like an anime would. Characters travel to different towns, they get mixed up with some kind of event that's going on there, they make side trips to help out new friends, and they slowly make their way to completing their goals.

Each character in the game is a lot different, and a lot of them are characters you wouldn't expect to be a main character. If I had to put it simple, Yuri is that cooler hero character who shows up as soon as they're needed (like characters such as Protoman), Flynn is the "normal main character" type of character (however he takes on the role a character like Yuri would normally have), Estelle knows nothing about the outside world expect for what she has read in books, Raven acts like an old perverted man (even though he's 30), Rita is that teen girl who's also pretty smart who is an expert when it comes to blastia, Judith is a member of an ancient race who HATES blastia, Karol is the young kid who wants to be a strong guild leader one day, and Repede is an awesome dog who was a member of the Knights with Yuri.

Although the main story is the main part of the game, there are also a lot of skits that can be viewed at different times. These skits are normally just small little chats where we get to learn more about the characters, or simply get to see them interact with eachother. Yuri will play jokes on his friends, Estelle will slowly learn about the world, Raven will show how much of a pervert he really is, and Rita will beat him up for it. Normally these skits are funny scenes, but there are some pretty touching moments as well so they're really a nice part to the story. They are extra, but I strongly recommend you watch as many as you can.
Tales of Vesperia's story is a lot different than most RPGs, there's a lot of character devolopment, there's a lot of twists, and there's three full story acrs that tie together in the end. To sum it up, the game's story reminds me of an anime that has had three full seasons.

So I just explained the story, but what is the game actually like? Well the gameplay is just like a normal RPG. There's 3D towns and dungeons that you will visit, each with a fixed cam angle, there's side quests to take, there's a world map, and there's a lot of exploring. While on the world map monsters will randomly appear around you, but you will not actually enter a battle until you touch one of them. If you want to avoid a fight you can simply run around them, or you could run into them and fight them to gain EXP.

Once you're in a battle you will find you're already locked onto one of the monsters on the field and you'll only be able to run left/right, however by holding the R button you will be able to enter free run mode which will let you run around the 3D arena freely. In this mode you can switch what target you want to attack, or you can hit them with a powerfull knock back attack.

While you're locked onto an enemy and in your normal side scrolling type view, the game will then play out like a 2D fighter. By hitting the attack button/changing the direction you're pressing on the analog stick you'll be able to pull off different combo hits, and you'll also be able to use different special skills (which you will have to set to shot cuts). By using different hits/skills you'll be able to chain huge combos together inorder to do massive damage.

Although you can only control one character at a time, later you will be able to freely switch between the active party members, you'll be able to give commands, and you'll even be able to program how each party member will act during the battle. These really aren't features you'll have to worry about too much earlier in the game, but they are a must for harder settings.

So it's an action rpg that plays like a fighter, but what about multiplayer modes? Well most RPGs don't have a multiplayer mode so....... I guess that's why this one has one! Yep just like the past Tales of games, if you connect a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th controller to the 360 you'll be able to set your party members to "human" which gives your friends full control. Now your friends can ONLY control these characters in battle so no running around the world map together, but it is better than nothing.

Just like in all RPGs, or at least most, you will gain EXP after each battle but you will also gain EXP for your weapons. You see each weapon in the game actually has skills attached to them. By using the weapon in battle these skills will start to level up, and finally you'll be able to learn the skill forever! It does take points to equipt these skills, but weapon skills are active as long as you're holding the weapon so don't worry if you don't have enough points for your new skill that you just learned.

Tales of Vesperia really focuses on learning and you will have to teach your characters just about everything. You'll learn new attacks by trying different combos in battle, skills are learned from weapons, you get better at cooking the more you cook, and you will even have books to fill out which require you to learn everything about everything. Although there isn't really much of a point to these books, other than achievements, they can be nice to look at... It's just they're a HUGE pain. If you're looking to 100% this game, it will take quite a few playthroughs, a lot of magic lenses (items that allow you to see monster stats which also records them in your monster book), and a lot of time. It's just not that simple.

Boss battles in this game are also pretty big and they take a LOT of skill to actually beat. Although you can simply mash away and pull off 100 combos till the boss dies (if you're lucky you won't die), that really isn't something most people would recommend. Each boss battle actually has a hidden challenge to them, and by doing these challenges you'll unlock acheivements and even a brand new costume for Yuri later in the game. These challenges can take a LOT of time (heck one time it took me over 50 tries to finish one because I kept killing the boss before I could actually do it), and they are NOT always easy. Also keep in mind that the game will NOT tell you about these hidden goals, so it's best to look up a guide online.

Tales of Vesperia really has a lot of missibles, heck there's 100s of side quests and events that can be missed just by entering a wrong town, and it really has a lot to see. If you're the type who has to see everything a game has to offer, get ready to put 300 + hours into this game, and get ready to start reading walkthroughs. There's just too much to see on your 1st playthrough, and you WILL miss a lot if you just play through this game on your own. You WILL need a guide to 100% this one. (Good news is there are spoiler free side quest guides that will tell you where each new event is before you pass it up. Just search on google, and you'll find them in no time)

This game was really a nice rpg, I loved the story, the battle system was fun, there were a lot of extras, and I loved the cell shading. Really if you're a fan of RPGs, animes, mangas, or beat em ups, I recommend that you try this game.

Tales of Vesperia actually was rereleased on the PS3 with more skits, more voice acting, new items, new costumes, new areas, and even new characters! However this version was never released outside of Japan and most likely never will be. It's really sad that we'll never get to see all the changes made to the story, but there's always youtube if you want to see the new skits.

There was also a movie released to show the events that took place before the game (Yuri joining the knights, and the events that caused him to leave), but this has never made it to the US either. It is possible to watch fan subs online, but lets just hope a dub will be released sooner or later. UPDATE: The movie has been dubbed.

In the end I really loved ToV and I loved the movie. This game deserves a 10/10 in my book.
This type of game just might not be your thing, but it's worth checking out if you're an RPG fan.