When looking at early screenshots of Tales of Vesperia, I was quick in assuming the game would be a higher resolution version of Tales of Symphonia. After all, both of the games looked a bit similar to each other in visual style. It wasn’t until I began reading gameplay details of Tales of Vesperia that I then assumed the game would be a highly refined version of Tales of the Abyss since Vesperia was using an evolved FR-LMBS. When getting around to starting the game during its release time and investing a few hours in it, I pretty much went with the personal belief that Tales of Vesperia was a surprisingly convenient blend of Symphonia’s style and Abyss’ substance. I could be wrong with believing that, but it ultimately helped me to define some of the best features in Tales of Vesperia, seeing as how this was Team Symphonia’s third 3D Tales game. Ultimately what matters is whether or not the game manages to stand out on its own and not cast itself into the shadows of the series’ previous installments, and Tales of Vesperia does hold its own.
Vesperia opens up with a nice cinematic showing the capital of Zaphias and all its inhabitants and ends with a blastia core thief stealing the aque blastia from the Lower Quarter, causing the Lower Quarter’s water fountain to spiral out of control and spout endless amounts of water into the district. Yuri Lowell sees the action from his window and is quick to leave his room to see what’s happened; and after learning what’s happened, Yuri seeks out the blastia core thief in the rich district of Zaphias and ends up in prison, only to be saved by someone who the party later refers to as old man. When escaping from prison and heading into the castle, Yuri meets young princess Estellise; and its after this fateful meeting that turns the game from recover the aque blastia into something bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger.
Typical plot transition in a Tales game? Maybe, but what makes this transition enjoyable is the personality each of the characters bring to the game; and with a lead like Yuri Lowell, a man who doesn’t care about what’s good or bad and leads his life and makes his decisions by conviction, who can deny such a thing? Character VA in Tales of Vesperia is surprisingly good, but there are points in the game where the VA can get annoying and feels unusual given the context of a scene.
The real highlight of Vesperia is its refined and deep battle system. Taken from Tales of the Abyss and rightfully so, Vesperia uses what it calls the EFR-LMBS (evolved flex range linear motion battle system), allowing you to move freely around the field by holding LT without needing to learn a skill. With the ability to learn skills from weapons and synthesize newer weapons to learn newer skills, battles in Vesperia open themselves up to a broader realm of possibilities that really allow for unique combo setups and tactics such as adding an extra 3 hits to a 3 hit combo, using an Arcane Arte after an Altered Arte and followed up by a Base Arte or another Arcane Arte then going into Over Limit and using a Burste Arte and ending the combo with a devastating Mystic Arte, increasing physical and magical parameters, adding nice incentives, so on and so forth.
Part of the fun in exploiting the depth of the battle system lies in the willingness to synthesize new weapons to add more to a character’s repertoire, which ends up making Judith an alternative melee fighter choice to Yuri and making battles a whole lot easier by spamming Rita’s magic spells. The other uniqueness of synthesizing comes in the form of some special accessories and equipment that can only be earned from synthesis, causing the player to develop a sort of OCD complex by fighting enemies over and over again to earn materials necessary to synthesize. Even being able to change the onscreen character and walk a bit faster on the field requires synthesized items!
It’s really because there’s so much to synthesize and utilize that adds to the fun of exploration in Tales of Vesperia. What’s even more interesting about battles is how a majority of boss battles make use of a Secret Mission requirement that must be met in order to earn a reasonable amount of grade and unlock an achievement. Even if they are veiled in secrecy, these Secret Missions often range from simple to just plain difficult or even completely ridiculous (especially one in particular). Often I’ve found myself making the effort to figure out just what I needed to do in order to meet the Secret Mission requirement; and while some of them don’t take that long and simple in scope, a few others seem to be based on luck, really good timing, and lots of patience.
Cooking and skits–now voiced for your pleasure–remain in Tales of Vesperia, but the real surprise lies in how the game opens itself up to complete exploration later in the game, giving the player some time to tackle on sidequests with some that do a good job of keeping themselves secret unlike previous Tales games where sidequests made themselves a bit obvious. Tackling sidequests greatly adds to getting the full experience out of any Tales game, and Tales of Vesperia is no exception.
In light of such beaming positives, Vesperia does have a small shortcoming. There are some instances where the narrative feels like it was rushed, not making certain plot points completely clear and having the player beg the question. While the game’s story is mature and deals with some mature themes, the plot gradually unfolds from a fresh take on things to the usual way Tales games deal with unfolding the plot. It’s unusual for that to be a negative; but considering how well performed the first part of the game unfolded and showed how it differed from the usual Tales formula of unfolding a plot, the latter half of the game heads back into a slippery slope, where the feeling of the narrative being rushed begins to show. It doesn’t dramatically change how enjoyable the overall presentation in Tales of Vesperia is, but it did a good job of making me wonder why the latter portion of the game felt odd.
That aside, Tales games have always been known for the ability to provide the player with amazing battle systems that offer varying ways to create colorful combos, wacky and hilariously insane character interaction with some moments of sexual innuendo, and large amounts of sidequests. In that respect, Tales of Vesperia and delivers completely and makes use of great items in the Grade shop to enrich your subsequent playthroughs. The game’s achievements are sure to keep you busy, and the game itself is worth the price of admission.
What’s next, Team Symphonia?