I’m a huge nutcase for all things J-RPG. Whether it’s getting the strongest gears or beating the strongest of foes. Going through all the long and winding roads or sailing the seven and sometimes even to the eight seas. I was there. But my passion grew even brighter when I first saw a glimpse of Tales of Symphonia. It was just like any RPG I’ve played. It played like just any RPG I’ve played. But something was different, the combat was more on the action and less on the turn-based waiting game. It was fresh and it was awesome!
Now at the first month of 2019, Tales of Vesperia, a game that follows the same aura as Symphonia jumps on to the PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC. This alone was enough to get me jumping for joy. A game that was originally for the Xbox 360 that was ported to the Playstation 3 (for Japan only). It holds the timeless look and its midget-sized frames that only adds to each character’s cuteness. Whether it’s Patty’s unpredictable ways to enter the scene or Boss Karol’s terrible naming sense, there’s a lot to love and a lot of Raven to smack around too.
The Adventure Begins…
Within its first hour, you’d be introduced to Yuri Lowell, a young man that’s casually wasting his day, people-gazing from a window in his room only to be interrupted by a lad that asks for help with their broken fountain. But with its missing or rather… stolen blastia, a type of core used by humanity in their daily lives, he then tries to track the thief only to get mistakenly accused and get thrown in jail. Some mini-cutscenes and a bit of running later, he would then bump into Estellise Sidos Heurassein that’s trying to escape the guards in order to warn Flynn Scifo, an imperial knight and close friend of Yuri. With the plot in place, Yuri and his faithful dog companion Repede, then skips town with a girl to find another man or two… a knight and a thief.
Their journey itself spans across the globe of Terca Lumireis. A world filled with monsters and its vast history. Whether in the ancient civilization’s technology “blastia” or the greater beings that protect its world. Exploration and storytelling is where the game shines and it doesn’t disappoint. Other than the vast side quests, extra content and optional areas, the story whether its saving the world from a greater evil or simply playing a role in someone’s life is phenomenal to say the least. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions of black to rainbows and butterflies. It tackles the story in layers as you learn everyone’s past as they come and go throughout your travels. Definitely something I’d love to talk about in greater detail but I’d prefer to not spoil it for anyone.
While the story itself is a godsend as an RPG that entails enforcing one’s justice, it does come with its flaws. Overstaying its welcome for one. Having to run through countless hoops to advance the story whether it’s the never-ending battle encounters as you try to find the next step towards unlocking a door or simply the broken mechanics behind the effective area of effect on your sorcerer ring as you try to skip past an enemy. At times I find myself going through a couple shots on an enemy before it hits or until it notices and jump me from where I stand. It’s an interesting mechanic only if it wasn’t broken or works as intended. Dungeon puzzles has always caught my attention when it comes to J-RPGs and this has plenty of unique puzzles to go through. Whether it’s activating gears with your overpowered yet at times faulty ring or dragging pedestals and boxes for your own enjoyment. Though at times I find myself guilty at looking through a walkthrough guide over just to get myself out of a tight spot. Something that I always end up using at least a few times for Tales and other RPGs alike.
While the game is a decade old by now, the fact that the graphics is as crisp and gorgeous as it is, is a testament to a good art design in the hands of Kousuke Fujishima and Minoru Iwamoto. It’s a lovely looking game spanning through colorful landscapes and hub worlds. My favorite being Harule, a town filled with nature with a giant tree at its center showering its surroundings with sakura petals as far as the eye can see. It’s a truly mesmerizing sight that just catches my attention everytime I stop by to stock up on consumables. While the game world itself is not as huge as modern games nowadays, it does come with its complexity in the form of an ever changing world as you progress. New areas become available while some areas get a major makeover. Weather changes and the time of day can also affect certain enemy spawns which adds in to the overall feel although the enemies are riddled with tons of palette swaps which can get tiring to fight after a while.
Speaking of fighting, the combat system being action-oriented requires extra polishing. Having played more recent games in the past like Berseria and Zestiria on the PS4 or probably my favorite Tales game on the PS Vita (which is one of two games on the system) Tales of Hearts R, Vesperia itself feels slow and its animations pose too many wasted frames. Chaining artes which is only achievable with the Overlimit mechanics makes it a hard game that lacks fluidity of actions. The button press lag also doesn’t give it the time of day to block as you’d already be staggered for a few hits. And to my surprise, there are a couple of times that my companions in battle would simple stand for a minute or two doing nothing despite their healthy HP and TP meters and non-existent status effect to prevent them from doing something.
Come at me, Bro!
Initiating battles can be done in a multitude of ways, some are pre-determined and unescapable while others can be made to your advantage or catch you unaware. Since the running speed of you and the monsters around the dungeons and the overworld differs, it can go from an Advantage Encounter in which you’d require to stun an enemy with the sorcerer ring before you walk over them. This would start the fight with them stunned for a limited amount of time to position yourself or compress them with an arte for a massive spray of attacks afterwards. Encounter Link however is when more than one set of enemies take notice of you and starts coming at you, this would make the glass shatter animation before a fight shatter twice or thrice depending on the enemies nearby when that happens. There’ll be more enemies during the fight which can prove difficult or be used to your advantage. Lastly, getting jumped on from behind would then start the fight as a Surprise Encounter which not only spawns the enemy from behind you, but also puts your inactive characters to the fight aside from your controlled character. Also getting jumped on from behind with multiple enemies would put you in an Encounter Link and a Surprise Encounter at the same time.
The game itself comes as a throwback to my favorite old school RPGs. A world to explore, a grand and lengthy adventure to follow and fast travels are non-existent. With little to no guidance or a quest marker to follow, it really comes down to taking in the story as one’s own and going from there. Should this be one you’re looking for it might as well be a fine choice for the first month of the year. But should you be looking for an action-packed RPG then I don’t see it being a filler until the major releases come around. Its charm really comes toward the charming characters and their unique personalities that uplifts the game as an experience worth coming back to time and time again. The Definitive Edition also includes additional costumes and some based on other Tales of games.