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CONSOLE: PlayStation 3 DEVELOPER: Namco Tales Studio PUBLISHER: Namco Bandai Games
RELEASE DATE (JP): September 17, 2009 GENRE: RPG
// review by Matt

Brave Vesperia and the Child of the Full Moon.

The PlayStation 3 version of Tales of Vesperia is what you might call a "Director's Cut", an opportunity for the developers to add all the features that they originally planned but were unable to include the first time around. In Vesperia's case, it's because Microsoft scored a timed exclusive with Vesperia to push sales of the Xbox 360, a console that had been failing to make good money in Japan. While this worked for Microsoft and helped push a ton of consoles, players were mad when they discovered an improved version would be coming exclusively to the PlayStation 3 with new features. The manual for the PS3 version even thanked the Xbox 360 players, making them feel like glorified paying beta testers. The fiasco is likely one of many contributing factors to the PS3 version never being localized, despite most of the game already being translated for the worldwide Xbox 360 release.

Thanks to some very resourceful fans at talesofvesperia.net, there is a translation patch that converts all of the PS3 version's text into English, while preserving the Japanese dub and changes made to this version of the game. This means that English speaking players can experience the new party member, added story sequences, and extra items that make the PS3 version so vastly superior.

This is absolutely the most ideal way to play Tales of Vesperia, but it requires the user makes software modifications to the PlayStation 3 console's operating system and a Tales of Vesperia PS3 disc image. While none of this is necessarily a bad thing, naturally any lost data is at the user's risk and this sort of thing is frowned upon by Sony because they like to think they have you locked down and playing by their rules.

Of course, the Xbox 360 version is far more accessible, and it has a very good English dub. It is still a quality experience despite all of the negativity. However, there are significant moments where the game is incomplete or barren, or a sequence seems to cut off early. One particular moment, right before the final boss actually, shows two extra positions where party members could stand — which are magically filled in on the PS3 version by the two members who are missing. This review will focus predominantly on the PS3 version, but most of what I say relates to the 360 version as well. If the Xbox 360 version appeals more to you because it doesn't require some tomfoolery to play in English (or breaking countless EULAs) then you still get a mostly complete experience, just without a more fleshed out story and without the intensely fun Patty Fleur. Oh, and you can subtract like, two whole points from the score. Maybe two and a half.

If you've played (or are at all familiar with) any game from the "Tales of" series, then you're aware that these games are traditional JRPG behemoths that take countless hours to compete and often consist of story where a great cataclysm will befall the world but a group of unlikely folks and a magical princess save the world with the power of friendship and determination. They have never been the harbinger of unique storytelling, but instead excel at giving us relatable characters. "Tales of" games are perfect examples of the old adage, "the journey is what matters, not the destination".

Vesperia is not one to buck the franchise trends, and thankfully so. The story focuses on Yuri Lowell and his dog friend Repede, who live in the slum-esque "Lower Quarter" of the world capital city Zaphias. The whole "Tale" begins when the Lower Quarter's fountain is sabotaged, which acts as the catalyst for Yuri breaking into the castle to try and find the culprit, a mage known only as Mordio. Before long, Yuri makes friends with Estellise, a lady who has lived her whole life confined within the castle. Yuri, Estellise, and Repede set off from the capital to track down the mage who sabotaged the fountain and soon become embroiled in much more.


Learn cool things like how killing is okay, and how to pronounce Entelexia!

The PS3 version adds extra story content in the form of Patty, a young pirate and the self-proclaimed granddaughter of the legendary pirate Aifread...probably. Playing through this version of the game surprised me with just how important to the story she actually is, weighing in with valuable information and insight that makes the whole experience gel together better.

Truly the re-release elaborates so much more in regards to the characters and their relationships, morals, goals and dreams. A ragtag bunch given identity thanks to some much-needed extra time in the writing room. Character development comes in the form of the Skits, sequences where the characters discuss their feelings and thoughts; it is imperative you watch these if you really want to squeeze the most out of this massive game.

Let's move on to the gameplay. The excellent combat system the series is known for returns once more — turning your RPG battles into a side-on fighting game with combos, skills, and special moves (a.k.a. "Artes") that make this game stand out when placed among its contemporaries. If you're playing on Normal difficulty or above, you will be spending a lot of time in battles grinding up those experience points and farming those drops, five hour sessions a piece. If the combat wasn't so fun, I'd be criticizing the amount of grinding involved to give yourself the upper hand, but thankfully this game is incredibly fun even when you're fighting the same enemies over and over to even out the odds a little.

Even the toughest fights can be turned in your favour by using Over Limit, a power that removes casting and Arte usage delay allowing you to spam moves granted you have the TP required to use them. Coming up with a good Over Limit strategy makes crushing bosses much easier, which feels great especially if they've been giving you hassle. But grinding hard while catching up on some good shows or movies will give you an even greater edge and make the time fly by. You've got to be competent with fighting games to get anywhere with Vesperia's combat. but if you're really that hopeless just turn the difficulty down to Easy, combat to Auto and glide through, I'll judge you silently. Yes, anybody can beat Vesperia on Easy, but you won't earn the special points used to by end-game bonuses to carry over into New Game+. You don't really want to fill up the bestiary AGAIN, right?

It goes without saying that Vesperia is a gorgeous-looking game, having aged very well over the past ten years. A few frame rate issues bug some battles with large mobs of baddies and a few spells active, but typically the game runs smoothly. The style is influenced by the works of artist Kōsuke Fujishima, creator of Ah My Goddess!, who also designed the characters for this game and countless other Tales games. The stunning presentation also carries into the soundtrack department, with an intense score that provides emphatic support for even the most emotional of scenes. In short, it's great, dudes.

When you think the game can't do anything else, there's more. You can synthesize new items and weapons or learn skills that unlock extra abilities and tweaks in battle. You can craft accessories for the characters to wear and unlock titles for them. There is an arena where you can fight monsters and bet on battles for some quick Gald, or you could explore any of the optional dungeons for more items, weapons and loot. You could even challenge the colossal sized monsters which yield massive experience points and drop special items upon defeat. There is simply so much to do.

Laugh out loud moments, try not to cry moments, moments upon moments momentarily moment momentously. Are you still reading this? Tales of Vesperia demands attention! Feed the baby! Feed it! Before it FEEDS UPON YOU. Give it your soul!


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