In recent years there seems to have been a surge in the popularity of JPRGs. They get delivered to the bit-tech office at such a rate that Santa Claus himself must be managing the number of deliveries. The front covers are invariably laden with pointy-eared young nubiles of an androgynous nature who are inevitably going to save the world from planet-sized monsters even though they're skinnier than a bunch of Hoxton trendies and have clearly never even heard of armour.
In fact it’s become something of a ritual to pass them around the desk laughing at their generic qualities before throwing them in the recycle pile. Tales of Vesperia's box indicates it has all the stereotypical characteristics of a bad JRPG, so we’re not sure what inspired us to give it a shot, but we’re glad we did.
A great job has been done on continuing the Manga-style animation from the intro and cut scenes throughout the game
JRPGs haven't always been bad; one of the best games ever made was Final Fantasy VII. There was something about it that struck all the right chords and it hit the market at exactly the right time. Maybe it was the beautifully rendered full motion video cutscenes, maybe it was Cloud’s ludicrously massive sword or Tifa’s equally massive boobs. The combination of magic and technology captured the imagination capturing and the ‘materia’ combat system was deeply tactical and satisfying to use. Add in the beautifully drawn backdrops and wonderfully moody music and it just couldn't fail.
Hey wait a minute! This isn’t a review of FFVII! Well, the reason we brought it up is that Tales of Vesperia is heavily influenced by the game to the extent that we wonder if the two games share vital staff.
The story begins when the JRPG-typical, super-feminine protagonist, Yuri, is called upon to help block the game's equivalent of a burst water main. Someone has stolen the magical blastia core that runs the water source, resulting in an overflow and potentially causing a flood. Blastia’s are ancient stones of magical abilities dug up from an ancient civilisation and they power everything from water pumps to weapons. This trivial local problem quickly leads to a hunt to find the stolen Blastia and an adventure that spans the world map.
Nothing like a little Vaseline on the lens to blend together the characters with the pre-drawn backdrops.
Yuri is a very believable character who, despite his girly appearance, quickly develops in to the everyman of the game. Repede, his pipe-smoking, sword-wielding sidekick bares a striking resemblance to Red XIII from FFVII and is the first member of the quickly-growing party, but others soon join the mission - including, of course, an innocent and super-cute princess-like character.
Graphically, the game adopts an anime theme which drenches everything from the intro scene to the combat encounters and dialogues. It's something a lot of games have tried but the cel-shaded artstyle and manga-like characters are perfectly realised in Vesperia and the game as whole looks absolutely stunning.
In a bid to blend the sharper colours of the cel-shading filter against the softer colours of the pre-drawn backdrops a Vaseline-on-the-lens-style soft lighting technique has been applied. The result is a breathtakingly beautiful game world that, along with the moody and atmospheric soundtrack is truly a pleasure for the senses. The audio is awesome too and we’d bet a good chunk of change on the fact that it was made by the same person responsible for FFVII's music. Thankfully it’s nowhere near as embarrassingly cheesy as the intro track.