3 Year RPG Special Part 3: Tales of Vesperia for the Xbox360

Hey, everyone! Welcome back to the third part of this 3-year special! Now then, since I got my “hello” out of the way, let’s talk about the Tales games from Namco. If you are blinded with confusion about this series and saying to yourself, “what is this Tales series?” Well, you are not alone, and no, I was not insulting your intelligence. I’m serious, since, um…let me explain. The Tale franchise is apparently a huge fan-followed-action RPG franchise from Namco that has been going on since the first game appeared on the Super Famicom. It officially started to come here when the PS1 came to be, and FF7 made RPG’s a huge moneymaker here in the states. Namco caught wind of this and decided to start releasing the Tale games over here to take the big boys like Final Fantasy down a couple of pegs. This plan failed, but we did get some of the games over the years. The first game we got in the series was Tales of Destiny, the first game to be released over here in 1998 with good reception. They then released Tales of Eternia over here under the title, Tales of Destiny 2 with generally positive reviews, despite some complaints about the graphical presentation and sound work, but well received nonetheless. Sadly, after that, they basically have been releasing some of them over here, but not all of them. I think this is due to a good chunk of gamers really liking this series, but not a big enough chunk of customers to port over the entire franchise in the U.S. For example, we got left out of the ACTUAL Tales of Destiny 2’s release on the PS2. We got Tales of Symphonia for the Gamecube with it ending up as one of the console’s best and ONLY RPG’s with a cult following. Namco left us in the dark about Tales of Rebirth for the PS2, but gave us Tales of Legendia for the PS2. Namco also gave us Tales of Abyss, and are going to give us Tales of Grace for the PS3. I am going to review the most recent of the Tales game to come over here in the states known as Tales of Vesperia for the Xbox360. In my opinion, this could be the best Xbox360 game. This is debatable, due to people saying that Gears of War or Halo is the best game on the console, but this is my review, and I am going to say that Tales of Vesperia is the best game on the console, and I could highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great RPG for the console. Let’s dive our way into no man’s land and get onto part 3 of this 3-year Anniversary Special. 

The story takes place in the planet of Terca Lumireis, where people live inside kingdoms and towns protected by barriers so that monsters don’t kill them. The story then takes us to the kingdom of Zaphias. Our main hero, Yuri Lowell, voiced by Troy Baker, is an ex knight who is kind of like a Robin Hood or V-like character, who watches over the little people of the lower areas of the kingdom and makes sure the royal knights don’t harass them. One day, there is some commotion when a magical item called an Aque Blastia is taken from the lower quarter’s fountain area and causes water to overflow. Yuri sees that the knights don’t really care, and decides to find out what has happened to the Aque Blastia and find who stole it. After letting the thief who stole the blastia run away, Yuri is accused of breaking into the mansion and thrown in jail. After the help of another captured hero named Raven, voiced by Joe J. Thomas, Yuri escapes the castle and takes along with him the princess of the castle named Estellise Sidos Heurassein, or for short, Estelle, voiced by Danielle Judovits. Yuri decides to leave the kingdom with Estelle and his dog partner Repede to find a friend of his named Flynn Scifo, voiced by Sam Riegel, to find out what is going on. The story is great, with some very well-developed characters that might be anime stereotypes in some ways, but they are fleshed out in such a way that you could care less about that. The story itself might be not the most original, but it’s a deep and multi-layered story with some interesting outcomes from both sides of the guilds and the royal knights. Later in the game you will even question some of the character’s later judgment and decisions. Besides Yuri, you will meet the human acting dog partner Repede, Estelle a shu- in princess with no knowledge how the outside world works, Karol Capel a young monster fighting guild member, Rita Morido a very stern and serious female spell caster, Raven, a laid back and smart-alecky veteran archer, and Judith an elf-looking spear-wielding woman with a mysterious other persona. In the PS3 version, which is only in Japan, you could also play with Flynn, a very stern and serious knight, and Patty Fleur, a mature-acting young pirate girl. 
The gameplay featured in Tales of Vesperia is of an action RPG. The battle system used here is an upgraded version of the battle system from Tales of Abyss, called the “Evolved Flex-Range Linear Motion Battle System”. This is where you fight on a 2D plain, but you can also hold one of the trigger buttons to move around a 3-dimensional plain to dodge enemy attacks and flank them from another side. You can also block attacks and pull off combo attacks. Each character also has his or her own set of special moves they can pull off to do things from super attacks, healing others, strengthening others, and other abilities that your characters can pull off during battle. You yourself can only equip 4 special moves at a time, but you can equip them anytime outside or inside battle. Sometimes, the special moves will have to be used to solve a puzzle from time to time within a boss fight. Monsters are all visible on the overworld and dungeon map so you can pick and choose your fights, but like I said in Grandia and Lunar: Silver Star Story, you will need to grind a bit to make yourself strong enough with the huge amounts of boss fights that are in the game. Sometimes, you can surprise the enemies and get a lead in the fight, but that can work against you also. When enemies catch you by surprise, it will cause your team to be mixed up, and you will usually have characters swapped with other characters that are not cut out for those specific enemies. While the super moves are nice, you can also pull off Over-Limit mode, where your attacks are stronger, and you can pull off an even stronger move while in this mode. There are even elements of quick-time events, where you can pull off a quick attack that will usually end up killing the weaker enemies and  cause major damage to bosses. There is a lot of strategy, and even though button mashing will help in some areas, you will need to be more strategic in some fights or else you will get wailed on. There are other RPG elements, like an alchemy system, healing items, buying better equipment, but I think one of the best features is the leveling-up system. You level up normally, but the best part is that your unused party members aren’t left out of the leveling up since they level up and learn skills and new moves along with your used party members. Oh yeah, there is offline multiplayer where your friends can take charge of the characters that aren’t being used by you. It’s an overall complex action RPG that is easy to grasp for any gamer old and new to get into. 
The graphics, while not pushing the limit of the 360, look amazing. The cel-shaded anime look is taken full advantage of here, but it looks glorious. What I am trying to say is that everything is colorful, detailed, and it’s an overall beautiful package. The character designs are great, with anime and manga artist, Kosuke Fujishima who is known for his work on You’re Under Arrest!, Oh My Goddess!,  Sakura Wars (1997-2005), and some of the other major Tales series like Abyss, Symphonia, and the recently released Xillia. His artwork is amazing, and it’s really well-animated, with each character having a bunch of personality to their movements. The game also uses in-game, CG, and anime cutscenes to tell its story, and they all look great, especially the anime opening the game with the song, Ring a Bell by BONNIE PINK. It all works well. The voice acting is great, with voice actors like Troy Baker, Danielle Judovits, Julie Ann Taylor, Michelle Ruff, Joe J. Thomas, Megan Hollingshead, Sam Riegel, and other great voice actors make up the cast of the game. The funny thing is half of these people aren’t that famous, and I think they do a great job. I know there isn’t a Japanese track to this game, but I don’t think it’s needed. The music is wonderful with the composer being Motoi Sakuraba. He is mostly known for his work in Star Ocean: The Second Story, Beyond the Beyond, Shining Force 3, Valkyrie Profile, and is the main composer for the Tales games. There are a lot of great tracks featured in the game, and it’s definitely worth looking for the special edition of this game just to get the soundtrack. He has also worked on the Mario sports games, the other Star Ocean games, and the Golden Sun series. I know I already talked about how great the characters are, but I’ve got to talk about Yuri as an example. At first, he might come off as the “rebel leader”, but later in the game he will kill off two main villains without the others knowing. I won’t say whom, but their deaths are gruesome and he won’t even tell everyone that he did it. He is also very calm-minded, but he makes sure to put the team’s priorities first hand unless he needs to take things in his own hands. I could easily stretch this into a 30-page review and take up half of the review talking about the characters, but they are all just amazing and I don’t feel like making this a 30-page review. 
Even though this is just a wonderful game there are a few minor flaws. Switching from the 2D plain to a 3D plain feels a tiny bit clunky. I also don’t like how Namco is selling level upgrades on the Xboxlive market place. I really didn’t need any of them since grinding is cut like a fine steak to where you don’t really need to buy the level upgrades. My final complaint is a common one amongst RPG’s and its unbalanced boss fights. Seriously, there are everywhere in RPG’s! Last Remnant has them, Final Fantasy has them, and of course the older Dragon Quest games have them. It’s annoying when you are feeling good and then you have to fight off a giant beast that is overly powerful. It isn’t as bad here, but it has happened a couple times, but mostly in the early part of the game. 
This is a GREAT RPG for the 360. I dare say it’s even the best RPG on the system. I could recommend this to anyone more so than Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey. This game is a bit pricey still and 40 bucks is the cheapest I have seen. You could also get it for about 20 bucks off the Games on Demand series. The collector’s edition is about 10 bucks more, but it is totally worth it. It’s one of my favorite games and is my favorite out of the Tales series. I say go find it. It is totally worth more than other games like Infinite Undiscovery and the recent Star Ocean game. This has been part 3 so let’s get moving to an adventure that you will never forget. Next time we will jump into the grand adventure known as Dragon Quest 8: Journey of the Cursed King.
This game gets a solid 9 out of 10