Tales of Vesperia
The first time you watch the opening cinematic of Tales of Vesperia, you're like, "Man, this is the most generic thing I've ever seen." Then you start playing the game and you get to know the characters better and you get into some battles and that's when it happens-you start to understand the totally sappy bonds that all the characters keep going on about. It's all about love and friendship, teamwork, and exploring a world you've only scratched the surface of. Pretty soon you're humming the theme song and watching the opening cinematic over and over again. I just wish the actual game itself had left me feeling as warm and fuzzy as the intro.
THE BOTTOM LINE: This interesting installment in the Tales series is probably best suited to hardcore RPG nuts and fans who loved the previous titles.
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Tales of Vesperia is very much a Tales game, so if you're familiar with the series, then you'll feel right at home. The series has its own quirks and unique sensibilities, so your enjoyment may depend on how much you liked other Tales installments. Vesperia stars Yuri, a retired knight, who gets caught up in a mystery when when an important Blastia-it's sort of like a programmable magic bauble-is stolen. You can guess what happens after that: you go out, meet characters, fight battles and unravel the larger plot.
There is a fairly complex combat system in place, complete with an Artes system that gradually evolves to let you unleash some impressive moves. There's also an Over Limit and Fatal Strikes system that you can also exploit but because different enemies have fatal weaknesses to different series of continual attacks, I just mashed the B button with my eyes literally closed and still managed to survive.
Outside of the fighting there are some environmental puzzles that mainly have you pulling levers and spinning mechanical gears and the like. It's all fairly simple stuff and I didn't run into anything that proved especially difficult. Tales of Vesperia is also the first Tales game in HD, and although the animation could've been more exciting, the cel-shading makes the game look like a 3-D anime show. There are some nice illusions of space, though, making the normal-sized playing area feel more like a sprawling town or forest. For example, in the guild city, Dahngrest, there are terraces in the background with NPCs you'll never get to meet, which might be frustrating, but it still helped make the environment more interesting.
Tales of Vesperia is a fairly straightforward Japanese RPG, which isn't a bad thing at all. Sure, it's clich?d and it doesn't reinvent the wheel. I'm not telling you to run out and buy it as the next big innovation in role playing, though; I'm saying if you have a soft spot in your heart for RPG games and you liked the other Tales titles, then this is a pretty safe bet for you.
PROS: Straight forward Japanese RPG experience; cel-shaded graphics are nice.
CONS: Complex battle system is unnecessary since button mashing works so well; corny dialogue.