Title: Tales of Vesperia
Posted: September 02, 2009 (06:19 AM)
Tales of Vesperia
Clocked about 40+ hours on this one, finished the game, but there's still plenty of side quests to do, and a fair few achievements. I'm gonna take a break and come back to this later, probably play an EX New Game with some of the Grade bonuses.
The story is a bit all over the place, but still incredibly compelling to play through. I loved at how simple the complication was at the start, and then things just kept snowballing and becoming bigger... and a quest to recover a stolen item ends up being a mission to save the world. Some of the names of stuff seemed really over the top, like Apatheia, Entelexia (or however you spell it)... but it's no worse than Symphonia's "Desians" and the strange words from that game. Must be a Tales thing.
What really made the game for me was the characters. At first I was skeptical about a character named Yuri who dressed all in black and is a lot less squeaky clean than your typical RPG hero... seeing as Shadow Hearts already did that. But both characters seemed different enough in my mind. Yuri managed to break away from Shadow Hearts Yuri, and kind of own the name. It was refreshing to see this character do things that few other good guys would do, but I'm not going to spoil it here. This is a character that defines the Chaotic Good to the exteme, which makes for a really cool contrast and conflict with his best friend Flynn, who is Lawful Good to the extreme. The way these two characters interact whenever they cross paths is great. I also kept expecting Flynn to join the party, but he never quite gets there. He's the usual sort of hero you expect in an RPG, and he's always an outsider here.
Estelle, she's a likable princess type character, but she's very like Colette. I don't have a real lot to say about her.
And you know, I almost groaned when the 12 year old Karol joined the party. Not a child character! But throughout the story, he actually became one of my favourite characters in the game, and definitely above most other child party members I can think of. He has his issues, but he's always incredibly likable and you do kinda feel sorry for him. And then he turns around and says or does something completely awesome.
Rita is a character I didn't like much at first, but I don't think I was supposed to. She's a cold, genius mage who cares little for anything except her own research, and it takes her a long time to warm to the rest of the party, but when she does - and then tries to hide the fact that she cares, well I always enjoyed that. Her technobabble was always quite amusing, though I wish she'd stop punching Karol.
Repede is a dog who has a pipe sticking out of his mouth. He's a pretty cool attack dog, and only contributes to conversations with occasional woofs...
Raven is a fun character, as is Judith, but that's getting into deep spoiler territory. I really liked this cast of characters. Which is awesome because they TALK with each other so much. There's like 500 skits where the characters talk about anything that's on their minds, and while they are optional, I always made sure to watch them. The actual story is pretty dialogue heavy, too. This can really make some games drag, like Golden Sun, but here it worked quite well.
Also loved the battle victory bits, where a character or characters would say something. Estelle started off the "sign of victory!" thing with the other characters, a high five, and it was cool to watch her high five other characters, and it took off.
The battle system is much like Symphonia's, but it felt a little different. I didn't like it as much at first - Yuri felt really slow compared to Lloyd, but eventually I got used to it, or Yuri got faster and more powerful. I liked how the other characters were able to take care of themselves. When they got poisoned, they'd just use the antidote themselves. All I had to do was just keep an eye on things generally while focusing on what my character was doing. Very rarely did I have to step in and tell another character what to do. Star Ocean could learn a thing or two from this game.
The soundtrack was absolutely brilliant. Not a single track sounds out of place, and there's a few that will stay in my mind forever, such as the emotionally powered confrontation music (usually plays when Yuri and Flynn are on screen together). The music in the guild city of Dahngrest is so uplifting and catchy - I've been humming it for days. The battle themes all match that fast-paced button mashing experience, and it changes across the three chapters of the game - the regular battle theme in the third part really got my blood pounding for every single minor battle. It was just so epic and imperative. I loved it.
I also loved the cartoon style visuals. It looks similar to Tales of Symphonia, that same sort of visual style, but everything is so much sharper and crisper on the 360. Yeah, it's not graphically intensive like Lost Odyssey or Star Ocean 4, but it's still excellent in its style and presentation.
This is one of those games which is just so well done that I can't think of any complaints to level against it. I felt it was too difficult at first (some of the early bosses surprised me), and perhaps some of it is, but once I got better at the game, I still found it challenging, but never frustrating.
I suppose there is one thing - there's very little in the way of backstory for these characters, which struck me as odd. The characters all have a history, but it's never dwelt on, except in one case. But that makes sense. Part of the world's history is a great war ten years ago, which would explain why the characters don't seem to have any families. All the characters are very much for the here and now.
I originally titled this blog post "Games I've been playing" and intended to talk about some other games. Guess I went on a bit long here. Holy crap I wrote a fair bit. Did I actually manage to trick myself into writing a review? I should tidy up what I wrote, and perhaps reorganise it a bit and turn it into a review.
But I'll post this first. Might get comments, which might lead to more discussion of the game and give me more things to talk about in a review.
Posted: September 02, 2009 (11:34 AM)
I'm pretty sure the over-the-top naming of stuff is a pure Tales thing. I remember wishing I had a Legendia-to-English translation dictionary when the game spent a lot of time talking about the relationship between the Merines with the Ferines (and there might have been another "-ines" somewhere in the mix).
If there's one thing the Tales games are great at, it's making entertaining characters. The gameplay in Legendia got old and boring after awhile (and the second quest, where you go through EVERY dungeon again didn't help), but I kept playing the game just to see how the characters would interact together and grow as a team. That's the big thing about these games. They're good at making a group of people distrust each other, but gradually become friends and learn to count on each other.
Posted: September 02, 2009 (03:03 PM)
They seem to have a thing for the Well Intentioned Extremist bad guy who wants to save the world by destroying it.
Some more thoughts on the game while I slept. The story seemed to also follow a formula for a while - there is so much the party does not know, and when they finally get some answers, or start to get some answers, something gets in the way and interrupts them. Like, some enemies arrive and there's a big old boss fight. It seemed like it was happening so much around the middle of the game that I was actually surprised when we were given a fair bit of exposition without a boss fight... the next complication in the story had the decency to wait.
Also, reading a guide, I'm a little annoyed that I've already missed a bunch of side quests that are only available for a limited time. Guess my next playthrough will be following a guide just to make sure I don't miss any subquests to get titles and stuff.