With the Tales of Arise demo landing next week on consoles, I thought it would be a perfect time for me to remember my favorite Tales game: Tales of Vesperia.
Tales of Vesperia Was a Shinning Light Amidst The Darkness
Japanese Role-Playing games came out of their golden stretch (which started in the mid 90s) in the mid 00s. By the time Tales of Vesperia arrived in 2008, JRPGs had taken a permanent backseat (mainstream wise) to other gaming genres such as First Person Shooters, and Action-Adventure games.
I admit it. I was a part of the gaming trends in those days too. I had been an obsessed JRPG player for more than a decade, but during the Xbox 360/PS3 era, I found myself playing Halo, Call of Duty, Gears of War, Uncharted, and Mass Effect, more than I did JRPGs of the era.
The few JRPGs that I played during this time belonged (mostly) from my PS1 and PS2 back log. From the actual 360/PS3 era, I remember Star Ocean: The Last Hope being disappointing, Final Fantasy XIII being the worst in the series (in my opinion), and Lost Odyssey had some truly bright spots, but it didn’t seem like Sakaguchi was quite back to his 90s Final Fantasy form.
Far and away, Tales of Vesperia, was the best JRPG that I played on that generation (yeah, even better than Xenoblade Chronicles to me), and the game was a reminder of why I had fallen in love with the genre in the first place.
The Tales series has always excelled at this. Its games have had good characters. In fact, for the most part, Tales games have had rather pedestrian (overall) storylines, which were saved from mediocrity thanks to its amazing characters, and their development. The interactions with one another.
As with previous entries, I wouldn’t say that Tales of Vesperia’s tale is completely original and devoid of JRPG cliches. The game features a Female lead in distress, and a Male protagonist (who escorts her) who eventually is tasked with leading a band of characters in a quest to defeat an Evil Empire, and to save the world.
Its protagonists, a Noble Woman named Estellise, and a Knight dropout named Yuri, fit comfortably within the established JRPG cliches of persecuted Princesses in destress, and underdog Heroes who rise above their status to save said damsels.
That said, Vesperia’s quest is one of the finest that I have ever played. For starters, Yuri Lowell is one of the best protagonists that you will find in the genre, and even Estellise proves to be far more likable than previous Tales female leads (I am thinking of Colette, and Sherley here).
The reason that these characters are likable, is their well development, which is carried out in the series’ excellently written (and acted out) dialog, and the series’ traditional ‘optional’ skits. You can choose to bypass these skits, but you would be missing on some truly enriching moments between the game’s cast. Each character had a distinct personality, a distinct background, and the writing helps to convey this fact.
For the most part, after long 40+ hour JRPGs, I usually feel relieved when I see the final credits roll. With Vesperia, however, I was actually saddened by the fact that it ended. The game had an awesome ending, but I wanted to keep adventuring with Yuri and company. The cast had blended so well, that Tales of Vesperia felt like a good anime series that you never want to end.
The game is complemented by typical love, political, and war themes that have plagued the genre since the 1990s. These themes felt fresh here, however, because I truly cared about each character in my party. This (great character development), is something that the Tales’ series has been known for, and Tales of Vesperia couldn’t have been a better example of it.
The Series Kept its B-Side Visual Tradition Strong
For the most part, aside from the first time that I played Tales of Symphonia on the GameCube, I have never been visually impressed by this series. The reason the Tales series remains alive – when others have gone the way of the dinosaur – is that this series has always stuck to a smaller budget, and more conventional visuals.
Consequently, Tales of Vesperia doesn’t look as impressive, as say Final Fantasy XIII. Even Star Ocean: The Last Hope is better looking (technically), however, I did find the cel-shaded ‘anime’ look to be pleasing. Actually, I feel that it has aged as well, or even better than the former two titles. After all, Cel-Shaded visuals are the reason Wind Waker remains a pleasing looking game to this day, and Tales of Vesperia retains some of that charm itself.
Tales of Vesperia retained the action combat system from previous entries. Its brand of action-based combat remains my favorite within JRPGs with party based combat. But the game’s excellent pacing made it so that there was never a long stretch of grinding needed in between boss battles.
Tales of Vesperia did not revolutionize the way that series has always handled combat and exploration (it does have a fully realized overworld map in the tradition of 32-bit era JRPGs), nor did it try to. The game had towns, dungeons, tons of side quests, and even a New Game plus mode. Every complaint that I leveled at Final Fantasy XIII back in the day, Tales of Vesperia remedied (before it).
So, yes! I fully recommend a play-through of Vesperia to any one reading this article. The game should be easy (and cheap) to find as it is on the Nintendo Switch’s e-shop, and on other console platforms’ own digital fronts. You will not regret giving Tales of Vesperia a spin.
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