For its 10th anniversary, the Japanese-developed Tales role-playing game (RPG) series has released its first high-definition instalment exclusively for Microsoft's Xbox 360.
Tales of Vesperia, created by Namco Tales Studio and published by Namco Bandai Games, features gameplay additions, an upgraded battle system, nods to previous entries in the franchise and incredible, anime-style HD graphics.
The game is set on the planet Terca Lumireis, where people and the ruling Empire rely on an ancient technology known as 'blastia'. The capabilities of blastia - which can power ships, generate water or erect barriers to protect cities from monsters - are harnessed through devices created with a substance called 'aer'.
Players take on the role of a former imperial knight of the Empire, Yuri Lowell, who delves into a shadowy plot to use blastia to control civilisation, or destroy it. It is a quest that takes him outside the cities and into a dangerous world, where he explores the complex relationship between blastia, the government and the people.
The game is long but well-paced, with great character development and a captivating plot.
It also significantly updates the series' real-time combat system, so players can learn special attacks tied to individual weapons. New finishing blows allow players to take down enemies in a single hit with correctly timed button combinations. But focusing on just the button-mashing could spoil the fun.
Players can also give detailed commands to the rest of their party to set up cohesive combat strategies on massive battlefields. Mission-based battles increase the tactical depth of each encounter - players gain unique items when certain objectives are completed.
The game delivers high-quality HD character models and environments that surpass traditional hand-drawn animation. The character designs are by Japanese artist Kosuke Fujishima, who is responsible for such popular manga series as Ah! My Goddess and You're Under Arrest.
The soundtrack is mainly credited to veteran video-game music composer Motoi Sakuraba, whose scores and battle themes are amped up by the game's Dolby surround sound.
Hard-core RPG fans will be pleased with the long but satisfying journey and interaction with the artificial intelligence-based characters.
Pros: Fantastic anime-style graphics, great storytelling, likable characters and action-packed battles.
Cons: Button mashing could spoil the fun.