The Asian demo of Namco RPG Tales of Vesperia went up on Live today, so we thought we'd let you know how it plays. After the link.
The graphics instantly reminded us of Eternal Sonata: not just the cell-shading but the height, build and gait of the characters. However, unlike Eternal Sonata the environments were bland and lifeless. Although tri-Crescendo's excellent JRPG was visually flat places, it was illuminated by bright colours and some of the best lighting we've seen on a modern day console. Namco Bandai's Tales of Vesperia on the other hand, lacks these qualities which makes for pretty unimpressive viewing.
The demo's audio is region-specific so we had to endure the English dub. It's horrible. After all these years of Japanese imports it's an area that still needs tons of work. Hopefully the full game will allow Japanese language with English subtitles.
There are no cut-scenes as such in the demo, only in-game interactive movies which boil down to you having to press the 'A'-button after each bubble of speech. This means on repeat playthroughs of the demo you have to sit through the opening sequence - or basically tap A repeatedly as we did - as the story elements can't be skipped.
Other similarities to Eternal Sonata include the narrow pathways which the game funnels you through, guiding to player from a to b. Sometimes you're given multiple paths to choose from, which end with random battles and loot.
Battles are triggered by simply running into monsters on the map. Some are avoidable, but we like a good fight and took 'em all on. Yeah!
Combat is confusing initially, as we're used to the turn-based stuff, but in Tales you only get to control one character. The game does allow you to adjust your allies' battle formations and AI, but no direct control is given to the player.
One thing that draws us to JRPGs is the atmosphere. That doesn't just mean graphics, but soundtrack as well. However, while Tales of Vesperia seems to have disappointed in the graphics department, it doesn't try and make up for it in terms of musical score. The music is twee and lifeless; almost sounds as though it's mono, in the background somehow. The accompaniment in the title screen does allude to something more but after you've pressed start the feeling quickly fades.
Tales of Vesperia is just one of a number of Microsoft JRPG exclusives we have to look forward to, and while we weren't entirely put off by this very short (270Mb) taster, we're hoping that future games such as Infinite Undiscovery display a much higher production value: we choose quality over quantity every time.
By Mike Bowden