As for “new stuff,” what we saw was limited, or maybe we were just blinded by the HD. We were told that characters can learn new special attacks from their equipment. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see that in action - but we did get to see the new Fatal Strike function. And we got to see what a “dynamic cutscene” looks like.
The dynamic cutscenes struck us as pretty spiffy. Because Vesperia allows you to wander around and explore instead following a linear path, the developers worked in cutscenes that would occur when they needed to occur regardless of where you decided to go. For example, in the forest, we chose a right fork and came to a poisonous flower. A cutscene occurred, demonstrating how poisonous the flower was when the redhead shoved the plucky youth straight into one (bitch). Later we died and replayed the demo right back to this point, only we chose the left fork. Again, we came to one of the flowers, but from a completely different angle. And we got the same cutscene - but it looked completely different because of where we were standing.
While we marveled at the awesome power of this new cutscene system, we were attacked by one of the roving creatures in the forest and got to try out combat.
We had a rough start because the control scheme took some getting used to. Each of the 360 controller’s buttons, bumpers, sticks and D-pad directions has a purpose. The face buttons are obvious- B for attack, X to guard, Y to bring up the battle menu and A to activate whatever Arte you’ve got mapped to the right stick. The left stick is for moving, but if you really want to get somewhere on a battlefield, you’ve got to hold down the left trigger to activate Free Run, so you can sprint. A nifty thing we liked was the left bumper- during battle, AI-controlled party members have to ask permission to use items and you can veto them by pressing the left bumper- so no more blowing Apple Gels, damned overzealous healers! The right bumper selects a target, the right trigger activates the new Fatal Strike feature and the D-Pad activates the Overlimit.
Right away, we figured out that button mashing wasn’t paying off the way it does in other Tales games. After getting owned by a few foxes and a bird, we discovered we had to carefully select our targets (instead of trusting the AI to do it for us) and make sure our healers stayed out of harm’s way and our attackers didn’t get pinned down on one side of the battlefield. And we also figured out that in Vesperia, if two enemies on the world map approach you at the same time- you have to face both at the same time.