Give JRPGs a chance

Turn-based RPGs have their time and place and neither of those is in Tales of Vesperia. The combat style is the more edgy action RPG version made popular by Tales of Symphonia and adopted by Kingdom Hearts, Eternal Sonata and half a dozen other “new” JRPGs.

Stop, groaning, strategy nerd - Vesperia still gives you the freedom to min-max and menu-scroll your way to victory. Like Final Fantasy XII’s gambit system, Vesperia uses a combat style menu that lets you set up a party dynamic for all playable characters. You can be as specific as you want (“Use Apple Gel: Always / When My HP is Below 50% / When my HP is Below 20% / Never - die in a fire”), or more general with “semi-auto” and “auto” default settings. We actually got a little freaked out by the detailed party menu, but the PR guys assured us that we would never have to look at that screen if we didn’t want to.

Tales of Vesperia is a layered experience. On the top there’s the button-mashing, fast-action RPG you could give to your kid sister for Christmas and on the bottom there’s an extensive strategy element that changes gameplay significantly. You could squeak by the whole game using only the first layer (and you’d notice that Vesperia is a bit harder than other Tales games), or you could go nuts with combos, menus, crafting, cooking and other stuff that’s not central to the storyline for the complete “hardcore” experience.

Oh and speaking of storylines…

We challenge the assumption that Paul Ryan can read andwe doubt he can summarize Grapes of Wrath.

But enough character assassination. It’s true that most JRPG plots start out simply enough (see “plucky youth out to save village” quip), but the plot tends to fall apart around hour 20 - usually right when the bad guy takes your body, shanks your lover and then leaves you stranded in an alternate reality.

Will that be true for Vesperia? We really can’t say until we’ve played to hour 20, but from the opening we watched and the Japanese demo we played (which drops you in around 5 hours into the game), things don’t seem that complicated.

Yuri and his faithful dog/wolf Rapede are trying to recover a stolen water blastia that controls the water supply for the lower quarters of the city. After a tutorial/misadventure, Yuri is tossed in jail where he meets Estelle. Yuri convinces Estelle to bust him out so they can 1) go after the blastia thief 2) find Flynn, a friend of Yuri’s who might have some info and 3) let Estelle see more of the world. You can figure almost all of that out from these vids: