For many years now I've taken the week after Thanksgiving off to have a winter vacation. And it's become a bit of a tradition that I'll pick a long-ish game to dive into during that week that I can play at night after my wife goes to bed. I have really fond memories of spending lots of nights with Dragon Quest XI - which is in my mind one of the finest JRPG's of the entire generation.
Because of those fond memories, I had it in my head that I'd get into another JRPG this year. I had it narrowed down to three games, but ultimately I landed on Tales Of Vesperia because it had a bright color pallet similar to DQXI and because the recently released Tales Of Arise has gotten so much good press, so it was more fresh in my mind.
That being said, my experience with the Tales series has been extremely limited. I started Tales Of Phantasia on GBA many many years ago and I don't remember getting very far in it. Nor do I really remember anything about it. So this is all pretty new to me.
Off the bat I'll say that DQXI is a tough act to follow. It's almost unfair to compare the two games, but I couldn't help pitting one vacation game versus another. DQXI was so rich in its writing and had such a lovely open world that I was constantly compelled to keep playing. Tales Of Vesperia did not suck me in the same way at all. I think I fired it up three or four times over a stretch of eleven days.
Probably my biggest issue was the extreme linearity of it. People complain about Final Fantasy XIII being a series of "tunnels" to follow. This is the same deal. But there's also just so little freedom to the story. Conversations happen, but you're never prompted to make decisions on how to reply. It's more like you're watching an anime, then you walk down a path, fight some things, and watch another anime cutscene happen.
But it's not a bad game. There's plenty to like about it. The anime artwork is quite excellent actually. And the characters are fun and varied. The main character, Yuri doesn't really gel with me however. He's honestly kind of a jerk. Meanwhile Estelle and Rita and that kid who thinks he's the leader and that young girl in the pirate hat - they're all fun. Also the dog that smokes a pipe is a dog that smokes a pipe. So there's that.
The combat is decent. It's action based - as is the Tales way. And it works pretty good. But again, it doesn't pull me in with its nuance or anything. It's just mostly serviceable.
When my vacation ended, I thought I might actually push forward with this one some more, as we've met up with Flynn... but then I looked up just how far into the game I am, and it's crazy. It looks like I could easily have another 35-40 hours to play and honestly, I'm not into this one enough for that kind of a time commitment.
That said, I still think that Tales Of Arise looks interesting. And I'm glad I at least checked this one out to cheaply dip my toe into the series. For what it was, it worked out as a fine enough vacation game.