The best Tales game yet. Easily.

A friend first introduced me to the Tales series. The game was Tales of Symphonia. I had initial doubts about the game, but when I finally played, and beat it, I found it was a good, enjoyable game, plagued by bad storyline, and characters. It was a shame, because the game play, the sound, the everything, other than those to aspects, were wonderful.

I've played around with Abyss, with the same friend. The game is enjoyable. The characters seem a bit better. But this is not an abyss review. As far as I can see, we have the same story problems. But now comes Tales of Vesperia. Hoping to shove the bad plot aside and start fresh. Does it solve the problem?

In Tales of Vesperia, you take the role of Yuri Lowell. He is an ex-knight, because he's tired of trying to make 'change' that way. He now lives in the lower quarter, with his faithful companion, Repede, who just so happens to be a dog with one eye. Yuri wants to find a way to change how things are in the world, and so does his best friend Flynn. However, Flynn is in the knights, Yuri is not. Very quickly, Yuri finds himself in trouble with the law, and has to leave the capital.

Sounds... promising? The story has 3 parts to it, actually. The first, starting part is the one trying to settle things (Bad guys. Thieves. You know the drill.) With enemies. Part two, he needs to settle things with a certain someone, and save, a certain someone, and stop, a certain someone. In part 3, it's your standard save the world. Now part 1, and 2 were great. The were fairly unique, in terms of standard RPG's stories. There was lots of plot twists, and events, it kept you wanting to play. But when Part 3 rolls around, it really seems like the designers got lazy. They borrowed the plot of Tales of Symphonia. Tweaked it, and bam. Part 3. I also noticed many similarities to Final Fantasy 7 in the game. But that's a debate for another time. In the end, the story is quite good.

The characters are a huge improvement from Symphonia. Yuri is a very likeable main character. He is a bit troubled, and eventually realizes (Ala, Dark Knight) he can't hold to the law, if he wants to protect people. He's torn between his best friend, his group, and the right thing to do. He's vengeful to those who hurt the innocent. Underneath it, he's a sarcastic, sassy guy. He has a personality. Which is bounds better than Lloyd Irving.

Estellise, or Estelle, is your next character. She gains a strong bond with Yuri. And she fills the role of damsel in distress. However, there's more to her than "I'm sorry." or "I'm clumsy" (You know who I mean, *cough* Colette) she has depth. She's a genuine good character. She wants to help the hurting people. And eventually, realizes that she can't. She's constantly torn between what to do. To return to the capital, or stay with Yuri. She has a few plot twists to her, which I can't reveal without spoilers. But really, I liked her a lot.

Repede. There's not much I can say. He *never* says anything in the game other than "Woof!" "Bark!" "Grrr!" he gives off the personality of a badass, following his own will. It does seem however, that he and Yuri understand what each other are saying. Aside from that, Repede is fine.

Karol... The first impression you will get is that he's an annoying kid. But wait up. As the game progresses, he gains character. He's a true, loyal, brave person. Even more so than Yuri, in my opinion. He brings comedic value, as he's always picked on. I ended up loving Karol.

Rita. She was a character talked about a lot. She's very popular. Yet, I don't like her. Her "I know everything, hence I am like god" attitude, really pisses me off. She reminds me far too much of Genis, and that's not a good thing. She never shuts up. How does *no one* ever say something about her? Blah. As the game goes on, she changes a bit, but it doesn't make things much better.

Raven. Now he's a lot of anime/game clichés rolled in one. That's what you'll assume at first. But he aside from his age jokes, and perverted nature, is a plot twist. The plot twist really changes Raven. I can't explain, it's a huge spoiler. But please, play it, find out. You'll like him more in the end.

Judith. I didn't think I'd like Judith much but... I think she's my favorite character! She has a great personality. She's kind, but when it comes to the truth, even if it's something someone won't admit, or not wanting to, she's very blunt and to the point about it. She has a few plot twists herself. And on top of it all: She's hot.

One of the most unique things, that Tales of Vesperia has, I've never seen to this extent in a video game. The characters, question their motives, they question why they are traveling together. Never have I seen you have to stop in the middle of a game, and have everyone find the reason for going on. They each have their own motives (Some are unclear, until later) and they do question themselves a lot. That was a wonderful touch. It really adds to the game.

So far so good. An improvement on the story, and a HUGE improvement on the characters. What about the rest of the game? I'm happy to say: The rest is still amazing.

The sound and music is wonderfully done. Most of the tunes are melodic. But they are all really… really great. They set the mood quite well. The battle music (The third one) is great, and pumps you up too. Then there's stuff like Halure Village's theme, which is calm. It sounds like something from ToS. That's a good thing. Now to go to Voice acting, I think a good… 80+% is voice acted? The skits are too. And the voice actors, are very, very well done, and picked. Most, if not all the lines are said very well, and not too awkward.

Game play is fairly similar to ToS. Except you can move all around the battlefield this time, by holding down the left trigger. This is VERY useful to avoid an enemy's fireball, or magic attack. Not to mention certain bosses mystic artes. Other than that… it's nearly identical to ToS battle system. And that's great.

All right. So Good characters, good story, great music, great game play… this means great game? One more thing though, that is Replay Value. The game's a good 40 hours (At least for me) and that's without side-quests. There's New Game Ex, which you can use Grade to make the game easier, and get things. Not to mention, get some stuff you missed before. And… it's probably a good idea. The game is great.

So I mainly touched the characters and story, but the rest is very similar to ToS, and other tales games. This is easily the best Tales Of ________ game yet. If you have an Xbox 360, and not this game, you're missing out.