Name: Tales of Vesperia
Developer: Namco Tales Studio
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Lead Designer: Yoshito Higuchi
Composer: Motoi Sakuraba
Genre: Roleplaying, Real-time Combat
Year Published: 2008
The Narrative: The narrative for this game is one of the best that I’ve seen in any game, JRPG or otherwise. Most JRPGs have narratives that focuses solely on characters and the gamer gets to see how the character is the single-most important being in that game. The entire world seems to revolve around that character. That’s all well and good….
But Vesperia does so much more than that. The central protagonist for the story, Yuri Lowell, begins his journey by trying to catch a thief who stole something valuable from the slums where he lives. When he does this, he meets a girl, Lady Estellise, who is looking for someone who is a mutual friend of Yuri’s, and the great hero: Flynn Scifo. Yuri agrees to help Estellise find Flynn, so he sneaks her out into the world to track him down. But in doing so, they run into another new character, Karol Capel, who is trying to save a community from being devoured by monsters….
Hopefully you see what is happening with all of this. The story grows organically from everyone they meet. Each character has his/her own personality and their own problems that accompanies it. And this is a great thing, as the stories begin to intertwine in really interesting ways. And yes, just like all JRPGs, the character’s actions will help sculpt the world around them. But in this case, we also get to see the world sculpt the characters as well.
Tales of Vesperia possesses one of the most complex narratives I’ve had a chance to experience. And it’s worth a look for those who haven’t played it.
The Story: Because the narrative is so complex, it is difficult to truly summarize the story. I hesitate to say it is a journey of Yuri Lowell, because it isn’t. Yes, the game does focus on Yuri, but it is more a story of teamwork and togetherness. There are some fairly dark elements within this story. Yuri commits two murders in the name of justice and comes close to murdering his best friend. We see the great hero Flynn Scifo commit crimes which harms quite a bit of people because he was ordered to. We get to see Karol slowly learn how to be brave and stand up for friends, even put his life on the line when the entire party fell into a trap.
I could go on and on about it, and it is very well possible to do so (when Yuri and Flynn come to blows i a jaw-dropping fight, it’s a fight that nearly brings down an entire building… and neither of them were trying). The story takes easily 40+ hours to complete. So rather than do that, I want to share one of my favorite scenes… to show the complexity of the story. Don Whitehorse was forced to commit suicide in order to balance the scales. His nephew’s actions caused the death of a very important leader in a different city. So the Don needed to die in order to prevent a war. We quickly learn that the nephew was tricked by a manipulator named Yeager. Yeager showed up a time or two, one of those really annoying reoccurring slightly effeminate villains.
The scene opens up after the Don’s passing. Yuri and the team are walking away from the Don’s palace, trying to figure out what is next. Yeager shows up with two of his bodyguards. Yuri and his team are ready to fight. They want blood. Yeager’s bodyguards leap to his defense. Yeager pleads for peace for today. He has flowers and wants to pay his respects to the Don. The scene left the impression that Yeager and the Don were actually friends and that he hated what he did. This moment carries through throughout several more scenes, like when Yeager ends up helping Yuri track down the person who kidnapped Lady Estellise. And even when the team finally got their revenge and killed Yeager. In that fight, it was like Yeager wanted to die.
It’s that level of depth to the story which sets this game apart from may other JRPGs and probably most other RPGs in general.
Fun side-note: The final antagonist for this game is only trying to save the world, just as Yuri and his group is. I want to avoid spoilers because… wow… the guy becomes the final antagonist because of what occurs in the story. He was never “evil”… though nobody in the game was. Yuri is forced to fight him in order to stop him, but it was clear Yuri really didn’t want to do it. Heck, the final antagonist saved Yuri’s life
Fantastic Graphics: The game has the look and feel of an anime. Now, I’m not exactly a fan of animes. But for this game, it works pretty well. Well, this is something all Tales games does fairly well. They embrace their anime heritage without going fully overboard (see Final Fantasy X and every other one that follows it). It’s a signature for the entire series! Fun with style while remembering functionality (for the most part).
But with this game, the scenes are vibrant and nicely detailed. Though that’s normal to expect for any modern game.
The Skits: Just like the graphics, skits are a trademark for the Tales series. They are fun interactions between the characters that adds to the overall flavor of the game. I always found them to be a fun distraction, something to ease the tension or to get to know the characters a little bit better.
Plus, they are all so charming that it is difficult not to watch them and smile.
The Battle Mechanics: I once said Grandia III has the best RPG active battle mechanics of all time. And I’ll stand by it. The Tales series is a very close second. Each character has their own special attacks and fighting style. So the gamer can decide how they want to fight. I know people who prefer Karol’s overpowering style. I personally like the balanced approach of Yuri. Though there are a few who swear by Rita’s dominant magic.
The battles are quick and intense, making them far more engaging than a lot of other games. The battles takes place on a two-dimensional circle and the gamer can control one of four characters. The controlling character can run anywhere on the battlefield, to charge or dodge any opponent. The gamer can have the character dodge, attack, use special attacks (weapon arts or magic), use items, and so much more. The system is quite intuitive… easy to learn, but it takes a little while to master.
The Voice Acting: The voice acting isn’t bad, perse. It really isn’t. A lot of it is pretty good.Heck, most of it is. But there are moments where the voice inflection / tone doesn’t quite match what is happening in the scene. When that happens, it immediately pulls me out of the scene, and that’s what ends up annoying me. I don’t have any specific examples for this, but you’ll hear it when it happens. Lord knows it happens enough times.
Need A Guide To Find Secrets: To be honest, it’s next to impossible to find all the secrets of the game without having some sort of game guide. The game’s biggest failing is the lack of clues for finding all the secret goodies. And there are a lot of them too, like hidden weapons, Giganto Monsters, and the like. Sure, the main story is fairly easy to follow. All it takes is a little exploration. And that’s a lot of fun…
… but if you are a completionist, and I know a lot of you are, you’ll be very frustrated with this game.
The Honest Truth
The Tales series never sold well at all. A brief glance of VGChartz.com will show that. The most popular games in the series barely broke a million sales. Tales of Vesperia was not one of the popular games. So I’m willing to bet you have never played this game or ever even heard of it. So please believe me when I tell you this: you have NO IDEA what a great game you’re missing.
Vesperia is a treat to play. An honest to goodness treat. It sucks you in from the first scenes and keeps you engaged for hours upon hours. It costs $22 on Amazon for the Xbox 360 and about $40 on the Playstation 3. So, I think it is very affordable on the Xbox 360… so do yourself a favor and get the game. These are the types of games that should be supported, you know? Games where the developers care deeply about the story and the fun of the game.
Let me leave you with this. The opening for Tales of Vesperia. The song you’ll hear is called ‘Ring a Bell’ by Bonny Pink.
It shows all the major characters in the game and gives a pretty good sense of what you should expect when you play it.