Tales Of Vesperia Xbox 360 review

Aaron indulges in a little anime questing, as Namco’s Tales series arrives on the 360…

The Tales series of RPGs has been around for a long time indeed, first seeing the light of day on the SNES in 1995 (Tales Of Phantasia). Over its 14 year history, it’s appeared in many forms and on many formats, with both a core and spin-off series taking the tales in varying directions. Tales Of Vesperia sees the popular JRPG arrive on the Xbox 360, and its Microsoft debut isn’t half bad.

Set on the world of Terca Lumireis, this particular tale revolves around the use of ‘Blastia’, magical artefacts that provide all manner of essential services to the people, from supplies of water, to great barriers that defend towns and cities from the vicious monsters that roam the planet.

At the start of the game a mysterious figure is seen stealing a Blastia from the slums district of the city of Zaphia, a Blastia that provides the people of the lower city with water. Enter main protagonist, and player-controlled character, Yuri Lowell. Once a member of the Imperial Knights, he’s now a reluctant hero of sorts, and, as is always to be expected in such tales, soon becomes drawn into a plot of global proportions.

Delivered in a rather striking fusion of traditional anime and graphical environments, Vesperia is a great looking title. While it’s not the most technically impressive game around when it comes to looks, this is all about style, and there’s a ton of it to be found here. The world is colourful and vibrant, and both character and monster design are spotless.

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The game itself is pure JRPG and is split between fields, town and dungeons. In towns and cities Yuri and Co. can converse with citizens, shop for items, stay at inns and find more information about their quest, while the field utilises a Final Fantasy-style overworld map. On this map you need to traverse the world to find various locations while fighting off attacks from enemies. Unlike FF however, there are no random battles here, and enemies always appear in the world. If you wish to avoid battle, you simply need to avoid touching any foes (although they’ll do their best to grab you).

The same is true when in dungeons, and while exploring the various locations your quest will lead you to, you’ll encounter armies of foes waiting in the shadows. These can be avoided too, but often battles are required to progress, and if you’re going to stand a chance later on, you’ll need to keep fighting to level up and become stronger. There are also many boss battles to contend with, which can get very tricky, indeed.

When in towns or dungeons the camera control is fixed, and tracks your movements. When on the overworld map, however, you have full control of the camera. It would have been nice to view more of the lush world with a manual camera at all times, but it’s not a huge problem, and the camera is never annoying when exploring or trying to find elusive treasure chests.

In battle, Vesperia uses a real-time combat system, with not a turn-based dice roll in sight. You have direct control over your character, and can attack using weapons and magic abilities, including the ability to string together combos and dodge enemy advances.

Unlike similar battle systems seen in games like the recent Star Ocean: The Last Hope (which we reviewed here), Vesperia uses a slightly different setup. Battles take place on a horizontal plane and you move left and right towards and away from foes. This keeps combat simple and accessible, and less confusing. However, by holding the left trigger, you can then move around in full 3D. Combining the two makes for a flexible system that soon becomes second nature. I must admit, though, I personally prefer the more freeform system seen in Star Ocean, but Vesperia‘s option is still enjoyable, especially when you learn new moves and abilities and add them into your combat repertoire.

Several extra systems come into play during the game too. There’s the synthesis option, which lets you create new items and weapons from other materials, a novel skills system that attaches new abilities to weapons (use a weapon more and more and you’ll earn skills while wielding it) and skits, short dialogues between characters that can be accessed at any time.

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All of these features and the real-time battles system combine to form a very well presented and polished RPG. Vesperia looks great, sounds good and plays very well, with an epic quest and some deep and rewarding play. Unfortunately, I initially found the story and characters to be a little on the dull, clichéd side, with all of the staple, cookie-cutter roles being filled, and the story may be appear to be a little too mundane for some. That said, the smooth game play, and accessible combat is more than enough to keep you coming back for more, and as you play, the characters do start to grow on you.

Perhaps the only major complaint I have about the game relates to the upcoming PS3 version. This has already been touted as having a raft of new features, including full voice dialogue (much of the 360 version is text-only speech bubbles), extra characters, enemies, locations, costumes, skits and cut-scenes, and more additional content.

This is a real shame for 360 owners, and such a deficiency of extra content, particularly the full voice dialogue, is a bit of a kick in the teeth. Of course, PS3 owners will be happy to get such an improved version, making the game even better.

All in all, and despite the missing content, as long as you give Vesperia enough time, and get through the first few, admittedly boring hours, you’ll eventually find a gem of an RPG that’ll keep you coming back for more, and one that should see you through the upcoming months of gaming drought.

Tales Of Vesperia is available now.


4 out of 5