lcad's Tales of Vesperia (Xbox 360) review

Its adequacy is unquestionable, but its originality is not.

Over the past few years, Namco has consistently released games in the Tales series.  Tales of Vesperia is their latest entry and the debut of Tales on the Xbox 360.  Is this game, built for a new platform, significantly different from its forefathers of a previous generation?  Did the design team anticipate any major innovation or steps forward?  The answer to both of these questions is a resounding “no”.  Although it contains noticeable improvements, Vesperia is, by and large, not that different from even Tales of Symphonia: a title from 2004.  On one level, that’s not such a bad thing.

Vesperia’s world of Terca Lumireis is powered by small crystalline objects called blastia.  They are obtained by being excavated from ruins of a past civilization.  Due to their mysterious nature and importance, there is much scientific research dedicated to them.  A royal family officially governs the world, but a group of guilds called the Union also has a presence.  They don’t always see eye-to-eye and this creates political strife.  The stage is set for something big to happen; the catalyst is a ragtag band of folks from different walks of life uncovering a corrupt plot and following it through hours and hours of twists and turns.  The plot’s progression and characters might feel a bit familiar, if you’ve played any other Tales games.  It also might feel long and kind of saturated with unmemorable moments and characters that are only so because of the game’s length.

Though the narrative might be subjectively stale, the script and voice acting are delightful.  Tales of Vesperia doesn’t take place in a time of ours, but if it did, some of the dialogue and phrasing could be considered pleasantly anachronistic.  With the exception of a handful of characters, the voice acting is quite believable.  Skits, which are optional, one-off conversations between the characters about irrelevant topics or plot events, are now voice acted.  Previously, they were not and voices, in my opinion, substantiate their worth.  They’re good for breaking in-game silence and just hearing the characters chat about things in a more casual sense helps bring them to life

The game’s main grind is going from place to place on an overworld, finding dungeons and towns, solving puzzles and fighting monsters.  It’s all pretty standard RPG stuff.  As usual, battles happen when you come into contact with monsters rather than being random.  Unsurprisingly, Vesperia uses the most recent incarnation of the Linear Motion Battle System, which has been present in many of the past Tales games.   Minor additions have been made in the form of new types of Artes (special magic or physical attacks) and the “Fatal Strike” ability.  A Fatal Strike is an instantly killing blow that you can trigger when and if a Fatal Strike target appears over an enemy.  It’s satisfying, simple to pull off and useful when overwhelmed by strong enemies.  Its other new gameplay element is a system of skills that come with weapons.  If a character uses the weapon long enough, they get to keep the skills after they change to a new weapon.

Tales of Vesperia is clearly a quality title.  It’s fun and the plot can be engaging, if a little confusing.  The graphics are gorgeous, the in-game cut scenes may make you do a double take and think you’re watching some sort of actual animation.  It even has a regular, old, non-anthromorph dog as a functional party member!  The game still has the same gameplay, art style, music style and general vibe as older releases, though.  If you’ve never played a Tales game before, you should be quite content for 40 hours and beyond.  If you have, the fresh coat of paint might not sell you all the way on this one.

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