As you may have gathered from our article about importing video games, we like foreign goods. So, while scouring (yet again) the Japanese version of Xbox Live Marketplace, we found a demo for Namco’s latest installment of the “Tales” franchise, which will soon appear for the first time on Xbox 360. Tales of Vesperia is an Xbox 360 exclusive, so what do Xbox 360 owners have to look forward to? If you played Eternal Sonata, you have a pretty good idea. And since the demo we played was in English, you shouldn’t have to wonder much longer, as Tales of Vesperia should hit North America’s Xbox Live Marketplace soon.
The Tales series has a fair bit of depth, with a rich and colorful palette that lets not only the cel-shaded characters pop out, but also the items that players can combine, the food they can create and the enemies they can encounter randomly along the pre-rendered an somewhat limited map. The first thing many people ask with a cel-shaded or Japanese game is “how turn-based is it?” Well, the combat in Tales of Vesperia is a real-time affair, and it actually involves more than just pressing a button. Special moves are usually a matter of a button-and-thumbstick combo, although even more elaborate combos can be performed that kill an enemy with one powerful blow.
As an RPG, the game involves the requisite party system and gives players control over their moves, although the other members of your Tales of Vesperia party will fight independently. Players can also select which character they’d like to control in battle; heck, there’s even an option to throw the entire party in Auto Mode and watch as the AI fights amongst itself. This makes level-grinding that much easier. After the end of a battle, players are scored based upon their performance, with grades for things like combos and damage taken.
The “Tales” series has appeared on every platform created other than the Game Boy, NES and PS3, and with that volume, it’s no revelation to say not every game is a great title. The franchise as a whole, however, is pretty solid — the Game Cube’s Tales of Symphonia was fantastic – and this demo version of Tales of Vesperia shows that this one’s also shaping up well. The demo consists of one stage to explore and one boss fight, with gorgeous and silky-smooth combat that’s absolutely crippled by the game’s distracting English voiceovers. With any luck, the final game will ship with Japanese voiceovers and English subtitles.
Yet if everything goes as expected, Xbox 360 owners will finally get a taste of a revered RPG franchise. For those thinking this might be a step in the right direction for Microsoft in Japan, please realize that the Tales series isn’t exactly a Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy in terms of profile. Still, this is a smart series to gamble on, and RPG fans should definitely keep an eye on this. If it turns out to be anything like Tales of Symphonia, then Tales of Vesperia will be a must-play game for Xbox 360.
— Phillip Vollmer