So after playing Tales of Arise I got sucked into the Tales universe after another crazy Steam sale where these games, normally $50, were like $8 lol. I first began with Tales of Symphonia, but I basically ended up ragequitting after 1 night of archaic JRPG bullshittery and moved on to Vesperia. Fortunately Vesperia came with 2 free DLCs that boosted my stats and gave me crafting items to make weapons that I don’t get until end game if I were to do it the legit way. 😈 As usual my husband’s comments are in blue.
So I will start with my favorite thing about the game …is the characters and especially the protagonist Yuri! As an otome game player, I thought damn another Toriumi character but you know what, Yuri was great. I loved his snark and his “I’ll do what I think is right” attitude rather than being a righteous royal asskisser like Flynn. Flynn was absolutely my least favorite character, and even though he got a little better by the end, I still generally didn’t really care for him. Estelle was derpy princess waifu of course, but I loved Judy and especially Rita who were both hilarious and didn’t put up with anybody’s shit. Raven and Karol were of course comedic relief along with Patty who was an original character added for the remaster. All the enemies were forgettable, and we just started calling them “Seymour” or ヤンホモ Zenos for Zagi cause they just kept coming back….over…and over….and over again.
Regarding the story – I was ok with it at first. Like ok, let’s take princess waifu to heal people, let’s help the towns folk who don’t have barriers from monsters. I was all on that stuff but then princess waifu got captured. We had Raven and Judy to fill in the gaps but once we rescued Estelle things went downhill fast. I was just like….what is the point of anything and why is anything even happening as it is. And then finally, the final boss battle against the duke (who we also called “Friend Seymour” cause MOST OF THE GAME he was our friend!!!!!!) who decided to stop being our friend and became our enemy for literally NO REASON. I don’t understand in any way why I wasted time fighting him in his Sephiroth form since ultimately he ended up joining forces with us to defeat that absolutely random as hell bad guy who literally popped out of the sky. And despite us “defeating him” he didn’t die or vanish or do anything interesting. He just became Snow White and lived the rest of his life (?) among furry animals. So overall compared to Arise which I really liked, the ending of Vesperia just felt kind of anticlimatic to me. (´・ω・｀)
I joked with Tales of Arise how the skits were endlesssssssssssssssss, like just trying to rest at a campfire to heal up would trigger like half a dozen cutscenes. But those were probably weird clumps, because otherwise I don’t really recall them piling up like that otherwise. In Tales of Vesperia though the pacing on the skits was way out of wack. There not only felt like there were way too many of them, they would frequently pop up at the most inappropriate moments. Like we’re trying to avoid some enemies so we can figure out a puzzle without getting pulled into a random encounter and meanwhile the game is telling us DON’T FORGET THE NEXT SKIT!!!!!!!!!!!
The other part that made them outlast their welcome is that they often felt either totally redundant or something that probably should’ve just been included in the previous cutscene or dialogue. Like do we really need three separate characters telling us like “I want to find out what’s at the end of this dungeon!” Like no shit we all want to do that, I don’t need a minute or two of interrupts every few steps reminding me of this. It made me appreciate a lot more the kind of setups where this stuff gets relegated to the codex so that you can go read it again at your leisure (or the campfire for recaps like in Tales of Arise.)
As far as the system is concerned my biggest beef was with the quest log. It gave no information on what I was supposed to do next. It was just telling me what I just saw aka “you just talked to Flynn about xyz” but then unless you were paying attention 100% or were playing consecutively you would just not know wtf to do next. We had to actually pull up a guide telling us where to go next. The world map was confusing and unhelpful and I honestly couldn’t remember what town was where and I honestly had forgotten the names of all of them too. Near the end of the game it was like go to Nordopolica and I’m like “where dafuq was that again??” Nothing really stuck in my head, I don’t really know why. It didn’t help too that I’d stop for the night, login to the game the next day and be like “what the hell was I even doing” and had absolutely no way of knowing what to do next. The only way sometimes to figure out what to do was just go intentionally the wrong way and have the game correct/remind you that you should go the other way or find “xyz at place abc first.” If you’re gonna go out of your way to tell players they’re not going the right way then just provide a more helpful quest log please… 🤪
I think we’ve found the cutoff point for when we finally reach the moment when RPGs developed the minimum necessary amount of modern QOL elements necessary to not want to either ragequit them or cheat code through everything. The one that was the most hit or miss though was the journal. I feel like it was not particularly usable because most of the time it told us what we had already done but not what we are in the process of doing. This isn’t even a like qq where are my quest markers qq I can’t figure anything out myself, I just mean basic things like logging back in after not having played for a day or two and wondering just like “where exactly were we supposed to be heading to again?” That also said a lot of the time it was then hard to figure out what exactly the game wanted us to do to trigger stuff. Usually we went with “look around the town for other party members, then if that doesn’t work stay at the inn, then if that doesn’t work try to leave the map and hope that it triggers either the cutscene or Yuri telling us what we’re ‘supposed’ to be doing.”
From what I saw in the guides, this game has a gazillion sidequests, but I’m not actually sure if we ever did any of them. There were some times when we went “oh hey, a random cutscene let’s check this out”, but it wasn’t clear if that was something material or not. Most of these were triggered almost totally at random, like we’re traveling somewhere else and the cutscene popped up rather than because we were actively looking for them. Without a guide honestly I’m not even sure how you’d both come across most of these or solve them, as many of them happen in places that you wouldn’t really have any reason to come back to, and then continue across multiple acts until finally completed. But hey, that still means that they’re better than the bear ass (and sub-bear ass) sidequests in some of the recent games!
While at the start of the game the dungeons/quests were fairly easy to follow all of that changed when I got to that Alexander-esque dungeon where it was a puzzle requiring you to go back and forth between different rooms. Now normally this is not a HUGE deal and the puzzle itself wasn’t that hard, but the issue was the enemy spawns in this game. Basically you can clear out a floor of enemies, but the moment you leave the area and come back they have all respawned again. So in one of the dungeons, the cursed water temple, I was basically forced to fight enemies, press a button, go back to the previous room, press another button, go back to the previous floor and fight those enemies again.(ノ# ﾟдﾟ)ﾉ ┫:･’∵:．┻┻:･’．:∵ The game provides you with an item called Holy Bottle to let enemies basically ignore you as you walk by them…except in the water temple all the enemies were SO BIG they blocked the entire path so I had no choice but to fight the same enemies 4-5 times in every room.🤪 Because of these style dungeons back to back by the time I got to part 3 of the game I was just mentally tired from this tedium and I just wanted to finish everything. Part 3 got slightly better, then I got to yet another annoying final dungeon but I somehow managed to get myself out, after doing some weird pachinko style puzzle?? and fighting the anticlimatic “final boss”.
Part of the problem is because the pacing in the encounter design gets really off later on in the game. It becomes nonstop dungeons and cutscenes (without say, smaller levels, walking around outside, heading back to town, etc.), and then within those dungeons they combine the wombo combo of puzzles plus respawning enemies. Yep, you’re trying to figure out what happened after you pressed a random button and whoops, time to get attacked by someone and lose your train of thought! And if you try to walk around the level to some different rooms to see if any of them changed after pressing that button, too bad! That just respawned all the enemies tehepero!
Now the one thing I did like in terms of the system was that I did quite like the way that gear worked in this game, which kinda reminded me of FFV in a way. The items that you equip usually grant you some additional skills or passive effects while you use them, and then if you use them enough you learn that skill permanently. This made the gear progression process a lot more fun by making it much more likely that you can wring some use out of anything that you found. In a lot of games you’ll find tons of gear, but simply vendor nearly all of it because it’s just got straight up worse stats than whatever you’re using at the time. Here you almost always have some kind of extra bonus you can learn from it, even if it’s something relatively minor like a 5% stat boost or something.
So basically by the time the game finished, I was kinda….disappointed?? It didn’t help that I had stopped right before the final boss and came back the following day thinking there was gonna be this huge epilogue with lots of cut scenes…but I ended up finishing everything in less than an hour lol. It left me kinda disappointed, along with the fact that this game has basically no romance between the main male & female character left me really lacking in enjoyment by the end. (Yea I know JRPGs romance is hit or miss but after Tales of Arise I think I got utterly spoiled LOL.) Still though I don’t regret playing it because I enjoyed a lot of the banter between the characters in the first & 2nd halves of the game and I get that the game is old and still suffers from old JRPG systems. Since it’s super cheap when it’s on sale, I would say to wait for a sale on Steam before buying it as I don’t feel like it’s worth the full retail price. I think I’ll check out the Vesperia movie after this. 🍿
Edit: We watched the Vesperia movie and it was really sad??? Like I legit cried over Repede’s doggy daddy (´；д；`). Anyway feel free to check out my highlights on twitch from the game which was much more lighthearted.