Tuesday, October 10, 2000

Tales of Vesperia | 8.5

I am writing a review about a game that I believe is truly exceptional.

Let me start off by saying that if you have been looking for an old-school role-playing game, this is the game for you. This game features boss battles, monster battles, spells, dungeon crawls, small towns complete with an inn, a tavern, a general store that sells equipment and towns people with plenty of random things to say that add nothing to the story what-so-ever. Most of all, this game features a compelling story and a lot of dialogue for your reading pleasure. In My opinion, this is the best RPG I have played since Lunar series (PS1 and Sega CD) and Final Fantasy 7. I believe that these days, the only company people trust with RPGs is Squaresoft's Final Fantasy series and while I too play those games for a good story, a lot of times, I feel bogged down with all of the customization that must be done in order to truly experience the game. If you are like that, rejoice, for in this game, while there is some customization that can be done, it is not needed to fully enjoy the game. Just continuously equip the armor and weapons in the next town and be on your way, just like it used to be.

If you're looking for an original story, you won't really find that here. This is the classic story of the troublesome angsty youth with a chip on his shoulder and no known job or schooling who starts doing a remedial task that takes him away on a journey against a seemingly invincible foe. And what journey would be complete without a clueless love interest and band of comrades to help the main character discover his personal identity? Even though this story has been done to death, to me, this story was a breath of fresh air compared to the complex tales that many games attempt to wave which leave you concentrating more on the back story and the world's politics than on the main characters themselves.

Now let's talk sound, the voice actors are great. I would say a good portion of the text in this game is spoken and the voice actors do a good job of adding personality to a 2D character. I also appreciate that it doesn't sound like one person did all the voice acting. The music is perfect as well and though you won't recognize any of the songs, each one sounds familiar and won't sound repetitive even if it starts over. Another added touch that you won't notice unless you focus on it, is the sound of people walking. When you walk across a bridge, it clanks and as soon as your character steps onto the grass on the other side, it sounds different, instead of constantly sounding like you are walking on some kind of metallic surface no matter where you are.

OK, now we come to the graphics. This game has beautiful backgrounds, colorful and memorable monsters, unique characters and beautiful areas (towns, dungeons, caves etc.). The game uses Cel-shading which, if you are not familiar, makes all the characters look like they are in a controllable cartoon. The beautiful thing is, the cut scene characters look just like the characters you play with, so you know how in Final Fantasy games every so often they switch to the ridiculous CG shots? None of that here. While some might see that as a setback, I believe it really helps keep the story in perspective and makes you feel like you are in control of the whole story and not just a majority of it.

The battle system is not turn based at all and reminded me a lot of old Playstation games like Star Ocean or Grandia, where your characters are free to roam around the battle ground and you must move them to the enemy and press the "attack" button to attack. There is magic, but the battle system is best understood by playing the game for yourself. Or, if you would rather, you can play with a friend. No longer are your friends forced to sit around and watch you go through the story by yourself. In this game 2-4 players can play together (provided you have enough controllers). I believe they can only participate in battles with you, but I am not sure as I have yet to play the game with a friend.

All in all, this game is destined to be a classic. Not just for the 360, but for video games as a whole. In this player's eyes, it is an instant classic. A departure from all the ridiculously complex RPGs to a more simple time, when games were more about the story and characters and going on a journey.

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