Tales of Vesperia - hands-on

The next generation of RPGS is here... in Hi-Def

Tales of Vesperia is the first major RPG to be presented in HD, Producer Gouda Tsutomu boasted at last night%26rsquo;s Bandai Namco press event. %26ldquo;[We] have finally realized the ideal RPG that Tales has always tried to be.%26rdquo;

After drooling over that trailer, we heartily agree - Tales of Vesperia is quite possibly the most gorgeous game we%26rsquo;ve ever seen on the Xbox 360, more beautiful even than its distant cousin, Eternal Sonata. If the ideal of the Tales series was to be the supermodel of anime-style imagery, then Vesperia has won the beauty pageant well before the summer 2008 release date.

But what%26rsquo;s underneath the hand-drawn glory and HD character designs? The premier Japanese RPG experience that will convert all Halo fans? A return of the Tales series to its Phantasia roots? Our hands-on experience might have answers...

We started off in a lush countryside setting that somehow looked familiar (*cough*Eternal Sonata*cough*) with four members in our party - the standard emo lead, his pink-haired lady friend, a spunky redheaded chick and a pipe-smoking wolf/dog - plus some plucky, non-playable youth with a huge bag. The guy demoing Vesperia explained we were roughly four or five hours into the game- after the main characters, Yuri and Estelle, have set out on their quest to stop the evil Empire%26rsquo;s bastila-whorring. We waltzed up a forest road to a collection of guards and were rewarded with a wordy, witty cutscene that culminated in us running into the forest where all kinds of monsters were waiting to pounce.

The battle system in Vesperia is the same %26ldquo;Evolved Flex-Range Linear Motion Battle System%26rdquo; from Tales of the Abyss; and like Tales of Symphonia, drop-in co-op mode is available during battles for up to four players. What this actually means is you either have a somewhat limited range of visibility during battles when you%26rsquo;re playing solo, or a pulled-back 360-degree view with multiplayer co-op. Combat is real-time (none of that turn-based crap for this JRPG) and the familiar Overlimit function returns in Vesperia, so you can store up power for a super attack which stacks with other players%26rsquo; Overlimit drives.

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