If you're a role-playing game fan who's been hankering for a more traditional experience than what's currently available on the Xbox 360, Namco is cooking up something that just might suit you. Tales of Vesperia is the recently announced Xbox-exclusive RPG that marks the first installment in the Japanese developer's Tales series for the console. We recently had the chance to try out a work-in-progress demo of the game to see how it's shaping up and are excited at the prospect of high-def RPG action.
The limited demo kicked off shortly after the proper start of the game and found us meeting up with main character Yuri and his motley crew of a party: Karol, Estelle, Rita, and gaming's most awesome canine character since Amaterasu, Repede, a pipe-smoking dog. The quintet arrive at an area known as Ehmead Hill, and after some hijinks ensue (Yuri's a bit of a rebel and sort of a wanted man), they set out to do some exploring. The real-time cutscene already featured full voice, with passable voice acting. Namco reps also noted that the skit interactions between the characters will feature full voice, which is a first for the series.
Gameplay was pretty much what you'd expect from a Tales game. There was exploration and, when we came across enemies, combat. Battles still play out in real time with the option to stop the action to make item choices. You'll be able to assign attacks and spells to the controller buttons to let you string together your own unique attack combos, which is always a good touch. New to Vesperia is a much more timing-based combo system that will require you to mash buttons quickly and in the right combinations. It's an interesting new wrinkle to the system that will take some time to absorb. We're curious to see how it works out in the final game. Finally, we were able to confirm with Namco reps that cooking will appear in Tales of Vesperia, so we look forward to getting our sandwich on.
The game's graphics are similar in spirit to Namco's recent Xbox RPG Eternal Sonata, but feature their own distinct art style that uses less dark lines and outlining. The characters feature the anime style we've seen in the last few Tales games and have a familiar feel to them. The environment we saw followed suit with a similar style and a lush color palette. Combat was bolstered by a host of special effects to supplement magical attacks and spellcasting.
The game's audio is coming along. We heard some low-key tunes and decent voice acting. There was also a decent amount of ambient audio and plenty of effects during combat to sell the hectic pacing. At the moment it doesn't look as if the game is going to break much new ground, but it should have all of its bases covered.
Based on what we played, Tales of Vesperia is shaping up to be a comfy fit on the Xbox 360. The visuals are stylish and crisp, with a rich color palette that sells the beautiful art. The gameplay is very much classic Tales and delivers a solid real-time feel to the action. The tweaked combo system keeps things interesting; we're not totally sold on the timing just yet, but we're anxious to see if we can master it. If you're a fan of the Tales games or are just looking for a more traditional RPG experience, you'll want to keep an eye out for Tales of Vesperia when it ships this fall for the Xbox 360.