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Critical Reception: Namco Bandai's Tales of Vesperia

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Namco Bandai's Tales of Vesperia, an Xbox 360 RPG that features "a wide-ranging story, compelling characters and an intense real-time battle system," according to largely positiv

Danny Cowan

August 27, 2008

6 Min Read

This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to Namco Bandai's Tales of Vesperia, an Xbox 360 RPG that features "a wide-ranging story, compelling characters and an intense real-time battle system," according to reviews. Spanning multiple console generations and platforms including the Super NES, Gameboy Color, and the PlayStation and PS2, Namco's Tales RPG series has spawned numerous sequels and spinoffs in its 13-year history. Though the franchise remains popular in Japan, its fanbase in North America and Europe is considerably smaller, and many entries in the series have never seen an overseas release as a result. Given the popularity of recent releases like Tales of Symphonia and Tales of the Abyss, however, this week's release of Tales of Vesperia could finally earn the franchise a solid foothold in western markets. Vesperia releases this week in the United States to a Metacritic-averaged score of 81 out of 100. Steve Hannley at Hardcore Gamer Magazine scores Tales of Vesperia at 4 out of 5. "Poor Tales. Even though it's one of the longest running RPG series, it has never really gotten much fame in North America," he notes. "Is this the effort to finally break it into the mainstream, or will it be a forgotten and disappointing yarn?" "The first thing you notice when you start Tales of Vesperia is how beautiful its cel-shaded graphics are," Hannley continues. "Colors are incredibly vibrant and pop from your screen (especially if you’re playing on an HD monitor). Many of the environments are simply beautiful." Hannley finds that Vesperia's gameplay measures up to the standard of quality set by its visuals. "The Tales of Vesperia battle system is nearly the same as the versions from Tales of Symphonia and Tales of the Abyss," he explains. "When you approach an enemy, instead of simply going into a turn-based attack sequence, the game becomes a real-time fighting game. "Even though it’s not as deep as fighting games like Soul Calibur or Tekken," Hannley admits, "it makes for a very fun way to battle." "Tales of Vesperia is a great way to kick off the Tales series in this generation of gaming," Hannley notes in conclusion. "The graphics are stunning, the characters are interesting and the game is simply really fun to play. Hopefully, this will be the game that gets the Tales series noticed by people who think Final Fantasy VII was the last good RPG in gaming." IGN's Ryan Geddes awards Tales of Vesperia a score of 8.2 out of 10, explaining that the title provides an excellent introduction to the series for owners of current-generation consoles. "Longtime fans of the Tales games will see much they are familiar with in Tales of Vesperia, and newcomers to the series will get a solid introduction to what all the fuss is about," he praises. "In bringing Tales to current-generation consoles, Namco Tales Studio stuck to most of the conventions it has created for the series over the years and added some new elements to spice things up a bit." Geddes claims that Vesperia's most interesting moments arrive in its battle sequences. "Because characters and enemies aren't taking turns attacking, battles are less about strategy and more about knowing your fighter's moves, chaining together combos and using special attacks at the right times," he says. "But just because battles are real-time, that doesn't mean there's no strategy involved. Each character in your party (there can be four on the battlefield at a time) can be custom-tailored to fit your style." Vesperia also features a unique spin on an otherwise typical RPG narrative, according to Geddes. "Clearly, Tales isn't breaking any new ground in terms of story. Mysterious magic, warring guilds and monster attacks have been staples of the genre for years," he writes. "But beneath the surface, Tales of Vesperia explores themes of corruption, betrayal, honor, virtue and how quickly all the above can blend and heave when life hangs in the balance. At times, that exploration is handled clumsily in Tales (perhaps something is lost in translation) but the overall effect is strong." "Tales of Vesperia is a strong anime-style Japanese RPG with a wide-ranging story, compelling characters and an intense real-time battle system that keeps you on your toes," Geddes summarizes. "The storyline isn’t breaking any new ground and begins to unravel somewhat at the end, but there’s power here, and the characters will definitely stay with you after the battle ends." At 1UP.com, Andrew Fitch gives Vesperia a rating of B+, noting that the title recalls the emotions inspired by early console RPGs. "Long after we forget the details, we remember the feelings certain games of our youth evoked," he says. "Though it's difficult to put into words, Tales of Vesperia manages to recapture -- even if only for fleeting moments -- some of those elusive intangibles that led to lost RPG weekends on the Super Nintendo and PlayStation 1." Fitch describes Vesperia's classic RPG formula as a mix of "fun, fast-paced combat; a charming, likable cast; a colorful, inviting world that begs exploration; and quick, seamless pacing that's always got you on the move and tackling something fresh." Vesperia's characters make a lasting impression, Fitch says, especially in comparison to previous entries in the series. "Yuri's simply more relevant and relatable than Luke, Abyss' whiny teen noble lead," Fitch claims. "We've all had those moments where the deck feels stacked against us and we fantasize about taking the law into our own hands -- and Yuri's the embodiment of that vigilante spirit." "Sure, Vesperia's filled with traditional tropes (plucky princess, sly trickster, buxom warrior chick), but most of them are inoffensive at worst and wholly charming at best," Fitch continues. "And, yes, many 'surprises' are telegraphed right from the start -- but not all of them. Yuri's tale of vengeance includes some surprisingly mature themes and twists, and I actually felt some empathy for the final foe during the requisite last-battle speech." Fitch finds Vesperia to be a worthy adventure for fans of the series, despite some technical and localization issues. "The English script feels somewhat rushed, and it's clear that some lines of text were translated without any context at all, leading to quite a few awkward, stilted exchanges," he warns. Otherwise: "Vesperia succeeds as well as any Japanese RPG this generation." While many modern RPGs are criticized for their outdated gameplay and reliance on genre clichés, reviews claim that Tales of Vesperia manages to sidestep both complaints with interesting characters and a satisfying, innovative battle system. Critics describe the title as a worthwhile purchase for Xbox 360 owners in search of a quality RPG experience.

About the Author(s)

Danny Cowan

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Danny Cowan is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist for Gamasutra and its subsites. Previously, he has written reviews and feature articles for gaming publications including 1UP.com, GamePro, and Hardcore Gamer Magazine.

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