Anime and Manga — Reviews and Previews
I’ve mentioned Tales of Vesperia in so many posts lately that I feel like I’m just rehashing all my earlier points. Still, I couldn’t pass up the chance to give the game its due credit with a full-fledged entry of its own. There’s something to be said for a J-RPG that manages to capture the attention of someone who plays almost nothing but J-RPGs. What should have been just another drop in the bucket turned out to be an unbelievably fun experience that sucked up 100 hours of my time without my even noticing. (The last game to do this was Resonance of Fate, which you should totally play, too.)
My previous experience with the Tales of… games is pretty limited. I had picked up Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World back during the holiday season in 2008 but wasn’t impressed with it – the main character spent most of his time either sniveling or having schizophrenic breaks, the female love interest was just kind of a bitch, and it was a sequel to the original Tales of Symphonia that I had never played. So this summer I bought a used copy of Tales of Vesperia with drastically reduced expectations.
The story and characters of this game, however, are quite a bit more developed and less annoying, even if things are a little slow in getting started. (Maybe this was the problem with ToS: DotNW too, and I just didn’t make it far enough to know.) Your party of seven characters all have their own personalities, back stories, and motives throughout the game, and the literally hundreds of vignettes within the game help to flesh them all out. In fact, it’s easy to say that the characters are the driving force, since the plot revolves around the usual “saving the world, one random encounter at a time” shtick that gamers have seen time and again.
Still, the game does throw some interesting twists at you, none of which I can discuss without getting ridiculously spoiler-ific. It’s important to note, though, that the game benefits from a second or even third play-through, if only so you can watch how the plot and its twists come together seamlessly.
You’ll probably be coming back again, anyway, if you’re at all interested in achievements, if you’re a completionist, or if you enjoy the game’s strategic real-time battle system. As I pointed out before, the achievements in this game are difficult to get to the point of actually being frustrating. Specifically, the achievements for getting every item in the game or for encountering every enemy are time-consuming and unforgiving. If you miss one entry the entire achievement is caput.
If you’re a completionist who wants to experience every nuance of the story, you’re going to want to use a walkthrough, because the game flat out doesn’t tell you about the half-million extra things you can do at any given point in the game. There’s an entire extra final boss you can fight if you trigger a certain number of events in the right order. Finally, the real-time battle system is a nice break from the turn-based J-RPGs that people seem to rally against lately. You control one member of your party directly but can purchase/create an item that allows you to switch to any character during battle. You can be as hands-on or as hands-off as you want, allowing you to bring your own tactics to the match or just beat the ever-loving crap out of your opponents by mashing the attack button. I favored the latter.
As an additional incentive, the game allows you to buy power-ups (2x EXP, keeping your weapons, etc.) and unlockables with your end score, making it easier to get through the bulk of the game the second time through. If you do decide to come back for seconds, though, you’re going to want to leave some time in between your play-throughs. It’s easy to get burnt out on the game, since much of the time is spent in repetitive battles or sitting through cut scenes you’ve already learned by heart.
The voice acting is some of the best I’ve seen in a J-RPG for a while – not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but more than passable. Troy Baker does a good job as protagonist Yuri Lowell, but the most memorable performance is delivered by Spike Spencer, whose stereotypical German accent as Yeager is surprisingly endearing.
To add to the awesome, I found out in the course of writing this post that there’s actually a Tales of Vesperia prequel movie that was released in Japan in 2009. (Most of the Tales of… games are given anime adaptations, but this is the first feature film for the series.) I hopped online, watched it, and can say that it’s an amazingly good movie and worth any anime fan’s time, not just those who have played the game. To compare it to last week’s Origin: Spirits of the Past: the Vesperia movie has better pacing, better character development, and an infinitely better plot. Origin probably wins out on the quality of its animation just because of the CG wizardry, but Vesperia has some astonishingly slick fight scenes going for it, too. You can find subbed copies of the movie online, but if you do it right and play the game first, you can pick up a legal copy of the movie from Funimation when they release it early in 2012.
There’s not a lot left to say that I haven’t already covered before, so I now solemnly promise to leave Tales of Vesperia out of my posts for a least a few weeks! So go play it!