Tales of Vs. is to the Tales of series as Dissidia is to Final Fantasy. As such, I was fairly surprised and pleased to find that the controls in Tales of Vs. were almost identical to that of any other Tales game. Considering how different Dissidia and Final Fantasy are control-wise in the latter example was. Tales of in itself isn’t remotely ATB-based, turn based, or anything like that.
So, characters are controlled similarly to the way they are in the main series. The only main difference is that the button that is usually assigned to opening the battle menu (triangle) is now relegated to item duty. Skills are still selected with D-pad, and there’s still the standard three types of guarding. Of course, since this game focuses on 2 vs. 2 fighting, there are a few more controls as well. It’s possible to change targets, something that isn’t all that important except for controlling the camera and for casting spells. You can also order your teammate around with basic commands using the analog. For example, the default settings for pushing the analog up is “Act freely,” right is “Attack,” left is “Guard,” and down is “Keep your distance.”
Items are dropped onto the battle field periodically, as well as Limit Balls, which increase a portion of your overlimit. Some items, usually foods like sushi or tempura, are for temporary stat boosts. A baton that fires an elemental beam across the stage at the same height; a boomerang-like blade that twirls around you several times; a ladle that fires a ray from where you’re standing, are some of the attacking items you’ll see.
Characters are highly customizable. With each fight, whether it’s the main story Yggdrasil battles or the battles in Arcade Mode, characters on your team gain GP (grade points), which can be used for stat upgrades. These points can be redistributed at any time. Also, at certain points when you’ve gained enough GP, your characters will “level up” parameter-wise or learn new skills, which can then be assigned to the skill button. Most notably, you also learn your Mystic Arte (Hi-Ougi) at a certain GP level as well. There are also equipment shops where you can buy weapons, armor, and accessories, plus commands for PC characters and SP skills, that increase your parameters. (And no, different weapons don’t change you’re character’s appearance.) Analog commands can also be adjusted, as well as the SP skills.
As you probably already know, there are 35 characters to choose from. Each has their own advantages, although the difference seems to vary more with the category the character belongs to. There are the pure swordsmen like Cless and Lloyd, magic swordsmen like Kratos and Luca, archers like Nunali and Chester, and mages like Tear and Collette. In general the strategy for using the characters within a category doesn’t seem to differ much other than little quirks like how Yuri’s sword-twirl can interrupt an attack chain if done wrongly.
You start off the game with eight characters to choose from: Lloyd and Collette, Leon and Kyle, Luke and Tear, and Farah and Yuri. The list shows how they are paired during the Yggdrasil story mode. As you complete each pair’s story, a new story appears. For example, finishing Lloyd and Collette’s story unlocks Cless and Kratos’ route and unlocks those characters. Characters are also unlocked by viewing subquests and following their events all the way through, such as with Shing and Kohak.
The main driving force of this game is, of course, the battles. As stated before, most battles are 2 vs. 2, although occasionally you’ll have battle royales and 2 vs. 1 (or 1 vs. 2, at which point you better hope you’re at a high enough level). Most of the fields are interactive in a minimal way, with rays that appear that damage you or rolling barrels that throw you across the screen. There are also disappearing platforms to stand on.
Since you’ll be fighting with a partner most of the time cooperation is encouraged. One way to do this is with combos, and another is an Overlimit recovery feature added to Vs.. If you and your partner both go into Overlimit at the same time, your HP and TP are both fully restored, and you can perform techniques consecutively without pause. Unfortunately, the enemy team can use this as well.
Tales of Vs.’s story mode is Yggdrasil battle mode, which follows a pair of characters. You can choose either and switch at any time, with a few exceptions. Your team moves across a world map, where points of interest are pre-laid-out in a web. These are shown with icons with different symbols representing optional training fights (that vary in difficulty), subquest events, and story events. The events, both subquest and story, are all told completely in skit format, familiar to Tales of fans, whereas voices are used for only the story events.
More actual plot details will be given in the next Tales of Vs. article, as well as more info on other modes in the game, including arcade and survival mode.
On another note, the little pamphlet with a summary of the instructions in English included with the Asian version is the cutest thing ever.