Tuesday, October 10, 2000

Tales of Vesperia | 8.5


+Engrossing storyline, thanks to some well developed characters
+Fun, Addictive Battle system
+Very well written dialog with a good sense of humor
+Good voice acting
+A Fairly good soundtrack
+Good looking game


-A lot of story exposition, some of it not even necessary
-Battling can sometimes rely on button mashing over skill

The Tales series has never been too big in America, but many of the games within the series are a blessing. Tales of Vesperia is a great outing that many fans of the series may enjoy. If this is the first time you've ever played a Tales game, then Tales of Vesperia is a good game to start with.

Tales of Vesperia takes place in a world where blastia, magical properties, are used to protect the denizens from monsters. There are also knights who help out and protect the citizens of the world. You play as Yuri, a man who left the knights mainly because he didn't like how the government treated the people. Obviously, there's something else a foot. Something more that this powerful empire is hiding and as Yuri and company you're going to find out what it is.

Tales of Vesperia may not have an original storyline, but it's told very well. Much of the dialog is very well written and sprinkled with its own fluffy humor. What really helps the story standout as being something much more than it is, however, is the cast of characters. They're very well developed and as you play you'll become really attached to them. Each also has their own distinct personality to help them along and they have their own charms about them. To help character development you can also watch skits, which are basically conversations among the party and they're completely optional. They really add to the characters by giving you a glimpse into just what they're thinking. If there was anything about Tales of Vesperia's story that is a little troubling, it would be that perhaps there's too much story in some areas. You'll run from one town to another only to backtrack to a previous town only to realize it was all done for story exposition and that you didn't really engage in a lot of battles. Yet, while there's a lot of exposition, there's still plenty of battling to be done.

The Tales games have largely been known for their battle systems. Once a battle begins you control one of four characters. You can all run around freely and land blows akin to a hack and slash game. You can also perform special techniques called Artes which will cost you tech points. It's all very simple stuff and feels very similar to the Star Ocean games. It can feel like a button mashing affair at times, and certainly the beginning stages of the game can be that way, but as you get further into the game it becomes less about hack and slash and more about strategy. Bosses in particular can be a challenge, especially if you want to get all the achievements. Some bosses require you to do certain things in order to get the achievement for them.

While you control one character the game's AI makes it a point to control the other three. Surprisingly, the AI does a very good job of keeping your characters alive and using items on allies who need them as well as healing. You can also set certain strategies and customize it up to help out. Even better than that, the game has multiplayer. Up to four players can play, although only the first player gets to control what happens in the field. For all it's worth, though, the battle system is superb.

Finally, there are abilities. Characters can equip weapons that will teach them certain abilities. If they use the weapon long enough they'll learn the ability and be able to use it whenever they want, provided they have the skill points required to equip it. There's nothing difficult about learning Tales of Vesperia's battle system. It's all relatively simple and easy to pick up on. So even if you've never played a Tales game before, the battle system is easy enough to learn that it shouldn't give you any trouble.

Graphics wise, Tales of Vesperia is gorgeous and runs very smoothly. Most of the dungeons you'll travel to also look nice. The enemies and bosses are very detailed and the load times are incredibly fast. The character designs are perhaps the best part as every character stands out as their own. Music wise, the game has a lot of memorable tunes that stand out. There are a few forgettable tunes but much of it really fills the situation. Much of the dialog in the game is spoken and the voice acting is very good.

If you're a fan of the Tales series, this is a great game to add to that collection. If you've never played a Tales game before and you're curious about the series, this is a good game to start with. With its easy learning curve and character driven story, most RPGers will find Tales of Vesperia to be a real treat.

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