A summation of a game about a pimp who kills bitches, and hangs out with some interesting peeps.
The lead of this tall tale is Yuri Lowell. He is, by far, one of the strongest, and most interesting game heroes I've had the pleasure of ... controlling? One, Yuri is not a pansy like Cloud or Tidus. Don't get me wrong, I love Cloud and Tidus, but they seemed to be missing a sense of ... what is it ... inner strength. Tidus is a blindly confident teenager with a serious emotional issue, and somewhat of a hidden inferiority complex. Cloud is a manic depressant who gives up, has zero confidence, and seems lost in whatever space/time he inhabits. Yuri? He is confident, but not without his reservations. He doesn't zero in on himself, but he zeroes in on what really matters. Sure, Yuri has his problems, but we aren't manipulated into feeling sorry for him. I was almost convinced that Yuri was a real person through the game play. His voice actor, Troy Baker, gives the man a thick, rich speech pattern. Yuri speaks with confidence, and approaches each situation with enlightenment and clarity. He doesn't fuss. He doesn't complain. He doesn't fail, and he knows what's happening. He fights to win. Cloud and Tidus are boys. Yuri is a man.
I would suggest that Square Enix recruit some of the writers from Banzai Namco, seeing that Enix has been releasing a string of duds these days. It's not that I don't like Cloud and Tidus, they seemed like honest guys to me. It's that I don't like Capell from Infinite Undiscovery, whose unwarranted rage and cry-baby rants made me want to throw the game out of a window at a sharp rock inhabited by flesh eating ants. It's that I don't like the way we, the gamers, are tricked into stooping ourselves into feeling something for these characters. We pity them, and hope they pull through. I've heard from gamers all over that Sephiroth's killing of Aerith made them cry. Don't make me vomit. Several clowns die in this game, but not without an understanding of why. Aerith could have lived in FFVII, and the story line wouldn't have to adjust itself too much. Tidus didn't HAVE to be a dream. Those are all gimmicks added in for the teardrop effect. When shit goes down in Tales of Vesperia ... shit goes DOWN for some damn good reason. The gamer takes it at face value, and decides for his or herself what this event means.
Hmm. Maybe it'd be a good idea if I took a few steps back. Let's begin here: Tales of Vesperia is an expertly made game with stronger story telling than you'd expect to find in a game, stronger character development that you'd expect to find in a game, and expertly crafted gameplay. There is only one pitfall to Tales of Vesperia, amidst all the exceeded expectations, and unfortunately, it's a big one. Those cutscenes (the supposed "epic" ones that are supposed to have the gamer sit in shock and awe) are an eyesore. It really is a grave disappointment to, seeing that the rest of the game is beautiful. These cutscenes are done in the anime tradition, and in comparison to the gameplay, it's like taking two steps back in the animation department. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of anime works that I find to be wonderful, but they lie in the realm of story-telling. Not story-telling interspersed with game play. I find (and this is all personal opinion) that most anime is lazy and uninspired. Here, it's no different. Lots of stills, lots of shortcuts, minimal movement. Anime has this thing that they do, and I hate it. When we are watching a conversation, we tend to focus on the face of the person that is being spoken to, opposite the speaker. OR! We have a far away visual of the conversation. This is a gripe I have about many an anime.
Tales of Vesperia is no difference in terms of cut scenes. It really is sad to see such a great game go to waste on this tradition. It's not a lame tradition by any means, but it's distracting, it's jarring, and it doesn't flow right. I'm sorry, Tales fans. It just doesn't work for me.
I wouldn't say that, excatly. I found that despite the cutscenes, the game itself plays out VERY well in almost every other department. The gameplay is smooth, and Yuri is one of the easiest characters to use, and figure out. There's no complexity in his fighting skill in terms of animation. The man is swift, silent, and lethal. In terms of character, he's funny, a tad troubled, but doesn't take himself TOO seriously. There are moments where he must cut the shit and get to the bottom of whatever it is they are doing, and in tight spots, he is focused. But in conversation, he's just another joe figuring out what he is doing and why he is doing it.
This pretty much sets the tone for every other character in the game. Let me see if I can get through them for you.
Estelle: The lady princess whom Yuri befriends as he is escaping a dungeon for some crime he has committed. One may consider her to be a possible love interest, until that one realizes that Estelle may be intelligent, but she is very naive. She has an unharnessed compassion for most everyone in the game.
Repede: Yuri's trusted pet who tends to think of himself as a little more than a dog. The two have some unspoken way of communication.
Raven: A character whose motive remains a mystery through most of the game. An fun, optimistic character who knows when to park it when there is a tight spot. There is a lot of mystery behind this character, and the nuances in his speech are so well defined that he may as well be an actual person.
Karol: By a LOOOOOOONG shot the most annoying character in the game, but the boy grows on you. He seems a bit cowardly, even if he is 12, and you wonder why no one cuts him any slack since he is at such a young age. Still, he grows more and more self-motivated and involved as the story continues.
Judith: Is a sexy mistress of seduction, and they milk it for everything it's worth ... so to speak. Her demeanor is not so far from Patrick Swayze's in Roadhouse, but you like her more because she isn't a condescending, ego-maniac who thinks she has something important and profound to say, even though she doesn't. Not to mention, she's much smarter than Swayze in Roadhouse.
Rita: Is your run of the mill genius 15 year old mage. She is so well spoken (out-spoken, really) and so well versed that it was very, very, tough for me to accept her as a 15 year old girl. She has the demeanor of a woman in her mid-30's who's holding down a six-figure-a-year job and trying to be taken as seriously as her male co-workers. That said, she's fun, and funny, and fits right in with this group.
Each character has something different and defined about them that makes them something more. For one, Raven is so optimistic and high-minded that he often reminded me of Sally Hawkins playing Poppy in the film Happy Go-Lucky. The characters given here have so many complexities, it's almost as if you are witnessing the exploits of a team of human beings. It's the animation that is standing in the way between the humans, us humans, and the world we inhabit.
Don't assume. It makes ... well, you know how the joke goes. The story is actually pretty well rounded what with all the side quests and characters. There are a lot of characters, but none who deviate from the exploits of who we should be focusing on. You don't end the game with a shit storm of characters, which is wonderful. Though, there are some tough spots that had me sort of disappointed. For one, and this is a bit of a spoiler(SPOILER) I was a tad bummed out the way they handled Duke's character in becoming the final boss. There never is an undercurrent of possible mischief, though there could be, and it becomes too apparent too early when we find that Duke is the guy who must be stopped.(SPOILER END) However, that's one gripe out of, what, two? There isn't much to complain seeing that the characters, the story, and the game play does much more than merely completely make up for the games' faults. One of the best gaming experiences I've had in a long, long time.
|Gameplay||Swift, smooth, effective. Yuri will occasionally try to pose, which is annoying, but it comes few and far in between.||4.5|
|Graphics||The gameplay graphics are beautiful, and surreal. The cut scenes, while expertly drawn, are jarring and intrusive.||4|
|Music/Sound||Great, energetic and bright soundtrack. Sets each mood perfectly in tonality.||4.5|
|Replay Value||Already considering starting over as soon as I get my copy resurfaced. :( Tripped over my charge cord while playing it. Fuck.||5|
|Originality||Wonderfully original with whimsical characters and brilliant voice acting.||5|
|Final Verdict: 4.67|