Sat. May 21st, 2022

Long before Xbox vs Sony, or even Sega vs Nintendo, there was rivalry between East vs West. Western empires and cultures sought trade and influence with their eastern counterparts, leading to all sorts of spicy historical events like genocide and slavery and also somehow the five-second rule.

You had silk roads and spice routes that ran across the largest contiguous landmass on earth, so that after thousands of years and billions of interactions, man could finally Google hentai. And it was in the spirit of this noble tradition that a small American startup known as Microsoft decided to seek its fortune in the East when it released the Xbox 360 in 2005.

Microsoft definitely beat over its weight by trying to go thumb-to-thumb with legendary Japanese heavyweights Sony and Nintendo. Sure, the Seattle-based giant did well in the US, but it wanted more (value for shareholders). The Japanese market had enormous potential. Millions of enthusiastic players who spent billions on Microsoft’s rivals every year. But how could Microsoft get their attention away from Sony’s impeccable PlayStation library? What could it do that Nintendo does not? What if they released an exclusive console? Not a new IP, but something from a beloved franchise. Could they pull it off?

They did.

Tales of Vesperia is the tenth (!) entry in the series from developer Bandai Namco and was originally released as 360 exclusive in the US and Japan in 2008. A final release, including remastered graphics and content that was once exclusive to Japan, dropped in 2018. That version is now available on Game Pass, but will not be much longer. Tales of Vesperia is scheduled to leave the service on October 16, presumably because a new installment in the series, Tales of Arise, is now available. So why should you play this ASAP?

The series is wildly popular for a reason. On the surface, the aesthetics are a perfect JRPG design (especially in the remaster). Loving characters like Yuri and Repede, his pipe-smoking dog, pop on screen and wonderful voice acting drive a deep (perhaps too deep) and engaging story. Loud drama, humor, rivalries, it’s all here.

Bandai Namco

Fans of the series also love the unique combat system. Most JRPGs have a standard turn-based mechanic, however Tales of Vesperia uses an “Evolved Flex-Range Linear Motion Battle System.” What do you say? It’s actually quite simple. Instead of turn-based attacks, players are played into a battle and are free to run around enemies and crush various attacks. The complexity lies in how you combine certain attacks and make them form long chains of attacks from you and your AI-controlled companions.

This works both ways, and the lack of a parry skill (and a not very big block skill) means that it is also possible to be merged. Spelling wheels have a bit of a drawback as their attacks use longer animations that are more easily interrupted, but most players are able to navigate these shocks and figure out a playing style that works. You can really also get into the weeds with your equipment and the skills that different weapons offer. If you are typically put off by the fighting speed of these games, you will really enjoy this system. It’s fast and / or furious.

Tales of Vesperia is a meaty game with a 50-hour story campaign and another 10-20 hours found in deeper exploration. It found some success in Japan for Microsoft, but was largely overlooked by American audiences, as you would probably spend most of your time on PlayStation if you were into JRPG-style gaming. That makes it a nice hidden gem among the Game Pass library, which unfortunately will soon be gone. All the more reason to play it ASAP.

Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition is available on Game Pass and for sale on PlayStation, Switch and PC.

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