XXXX: “So… who’s gonna be my second?”
Yuri: “…It would be my honor.”
XXXX: “Guess yer stuck doin’ a job nobody much wants.”
Yuri: “You too.”
XXXX: “Heh. No kidding. Yuri. I was lookin’ forward to watchin’ ya go places. I’ll make sure to save you a spot in hell.”
Yuri: “I don’t think they’d let me into the hell you’re going to.”
XXXX: “Hah. I won’t forget that attitude, boy.”
-Yuri, the main protagonist of Tales of Vesperia (other name censored to avoid spoilers).
If you’re a fan of RPGs you should play Tales of Vesperia and with the Definitive Edition now available for order on Switch, XBone, PC, and PS4 (with remastered graphics and ALL the bonus content) there’s never been a better time to play than now.
The unique thing about this RPG is the exceptional quality. Aside from being one of the best titles of the titular “Tales of” series and therefore one of the best titles of the one of the most popular RPG series in Japan, it manages to break from a large number of entrenched RPG stereotypes with characters and a story that are still refreshing today, 10 years after its initial release.
People like RPGs for various reasons, but if you like RPGs for ANY reason, this game is for you. If you enjoy the:
Tales of Vesperia sports an unusual cast. The main protagonist is a disillusioned thief who’s savage burns cut as sharp as his sword.
But there’s so much more to the character!
Right from the get-go, we see him paired up with his faithful, knife-wielding dog companion. It’s hot in the slums where they live and the water has gone out.
You instantly build up a love for the character’s relationship with his dog and the people of the slum as he ventures into the unfriendly upper areas of the city to retrieve (steal back) the missing part they need to restore running water to the slum.
What sets him truly apart from most RPG protagonists is that he fundamentally wants to be a good guy and do the right thing. No matter how jaded he becomes, his better nature shines through. This conflict between the reality of his world and his desire to do good leads him to make some tough decisions and makes the character memorable and believable.
At times you want to root for him, at times you want him to see a little bit of light, for something good to happen to him and for everything to turn out alright.
Throughout the course of the game, you’ll discover his backstory, how he came to be so jaded, and you’ll watch his character grow as he witnesses the consequences of his own choices.
Keeping him in check along the way is Estelle, a naive and good-hearted princess. Their dialog is magnificently written with Yuri’s palpable jade countered by Estelle’s undefeatable optimism.
She gets a lot of jokes played on her throughout by various members of the cast, but it’s all in good fun and you get to see her really grow and develop from a two-dimensional rich, naive princess into a true world-traveler with a more enlightened perspective.
You’ll meet an intriguing cast of characters, each with their own goals and perspective and you’ll watch each of them grow on their journey to save the world. Even some of the villains are incredibly well-written.
If you like humorous dialog, or dialog that is just well written, then this game is for you. Here are just a few out-takes from the game:
Skit (Estelle and Repeede)
Estelle: Hey, why is he letting Judith pet him?
Raven: Maybe the little pup’s a fan of pretty girls.
Estelle: B-But I’m a pretty girl too! [Repede moves away from Estelle as she moves towards him.]
Judith: My, my.
Estelle: Why doesn’t he like me?
Skit (Yuri can cook)
Karol: Yuri’s croquettes are the BEST!
Rita: How strange…They’re just balls of mashed potatoes, but..
Judith: There must be a secret ingredient
Raven: Oh yeah? What’d you put in it Yuri?
Rita; Agh..*Hack* *hack* Ick, blech!
Karol: Wh-who are you and what did you do with yuri…?
Raven: My hearin isn’t what it used to be. What’d you say was the secret ingredient?
Yuri: Love! The lady who ran the inn I lived at always said cooking was all about love. I put as much love in them as I could. So eat them with care, okay?
Karol: Yuri’s loved filled croquettes….
Raven: I wish they weren’t so good.
Judith: A secret ingredient is a cook’s greatest treasure. You did not want to tell them did you?
Yuri: Actually I didn’t put anything special in there at all.
Skit (We know what Raven likes)
Estelle: This figurine is lovely!Yuri: A figurine? Id say its more of a toy, really.
Karol: You must not of seen many things like this in the castle , Estelle.
Estelle: Id like to see more of these figurines.
Yuri: and thus a figurine collector is born.
Judith: Oh some people are just more interested in aesthetics than others Yuri. Its not all that unusual.
Rita: Yeah, I really don’t have any other inrests outside of blastiea.
Karol: ive always been a fan of cool guild emblems myself.
Estelle: What about you Yuri.
Yuri: Huh? Ive never really given much thought to artistic sorts of things. I never really looked at anything in art.
Raven: ask me, ask me! Ask me what I like
Rita: We know that’s right.
All of this optional dialog that brings out the personality of the characters, reveals their self-conscious tendencies, their likes, and even surprises you wouldn’t have known.
I’ve chosen this dialog to avoid spoilers for anyone who has not played game, but it goes without saying that the best moments of the game are tied closely with developments in the plot. Even as they face down a great threat to their world, the characters are always growing and learning about each other.
By the end of the game, you really feel like you know all the characters and the dynamics of relationships well. It feels like playing a game where your friends are the main characters.
The gameplay is on-point for Tales of Vesperia. The controls are easy to learn and the party dynamics are easy to change.
What I like about the Tales Of series is that their combat is always energetic and involved: you control a character and move them around the battle while using special moves, attacking, or casting spells. You can even switch between characters if there’s one you really like playing or you need to control directly.
Trying out different party combinations is rewarding for the in-combat dialog alone, but your characters will also deepen their bond as they fight alongside each other, potentially unlocking more side quests and dialog options so can really get to know your favorite characters.
Inventory management is also pretty trivial. I recognize that a LOT of modern RPGs make this aspect kind of a pain, especially with resource gathering and item forging mechanics, but (fortunately) Tales of Vesperia ins’t bad about it! The only place where it gets kind of hairy is with weapons: always keep at least one of each weapon, you never know when you’ll need it again.
You can quest for better items or get them from enemies, but it never feels like a grind and you’re never waiting for that one drop with a 1/50 chance that hasn’t dropped in the 150 times you’re been farming this one monster. Instead the emphasis is always on the developing the story, the characters, and the world and even the item side-quests reflect that.
Each quest will deepen your experience of the world, characters, or the story while enough humor is seamlessly blended in to make it feel light-hearted between touching moments of deep emotion and characterization.
The characters are well-written, their development and interaction makes each of the main cast, and some of the villains, feel real and alive. Throughout the game it’s a true joy to feel their relationships change and develop as the characters learn about each other and overcome their own pasts.
The world is interesting and unique and you really get a feel for each region and city with it’s own ‘personality’.
The gameplay is fluid, easy, and energetic with very little inventory-management non-sense to bog down the game.
This game deserves a 5 out of 5.
If you like RPGs at all, for any reason, you owe it to yourself to give Tales of Vesperia a try. With the updated graphics and content of the Definitive Edition, there’s never been a better time to play.