Tales of Vesperia
Characteristic Genre: Enforcing One’s “Justice” RPG
- Xbox 360 (2008)
- PlayStation 3 (2009)
Playable in English via:
- Xbox 360
- PlayStation 3 (Fan-translation)
Tales of Vesperia, probably tied for second most well-known entry with Abyss, tells the story of Yuri Lowell, an ex-knight in the Imperial Capital of Zaphias, as he journeys out of the city in pursuit of a thief that stole the Lower Quarter’s fountain’s blastia core. As he’s escaping prison for breaking and entering in search of said thief, he encounters and protects princess Estellise Sidos Heurassein, shortened to Estelle, who joins him on his journey outside, in order to find his old friend Flynn Scifo. Along the way, they gather a party of friends and form a guild, Brave Vesperia, as part of a coalition of guilds that form the society outside and, generally, in opposition to the Empire. Brave Vesperia then takes on missions from Estelle and searches for ancient creatures called Entelexeia (pronounced En-te-luh-kay-uh) after she’s attacked by one, to learn more about her mysterious ability to use magic without the blastia that everyone else needs, and the effects it can have on the world.
This is a great entry. Great characters, great interactions, a fun take on the Tales combat system, an interesting world, and one of your party members is Yuri’s dog, Repede. (What a good dog.) The 360 version is the only version available for English speakers, sadly, and despite the
near-completion (EDIT: As of March 14th, 2015, the patch is available, though it requires custom firmware and is thus kind of a pain to get running!) complete status of the fan-translation for the PS3 version, you’ve gotta have some severely outdated PSN firmware to even run it, as far as I’m aware. This is a real shame, because the PS3 version properly writes in a completely new playable character alongside putting Flynn in the endgame party instead of you getting to have him for the single battle he’s part of the party in the 360 version. Past that, there’s new content, including characters and locations from The First Strike, a prequel movie that the West actually got, dub and all! It details Yuri’s time as an Imperial Knight and his reasons for leaving. I definitely recommend watching that movie if you enjoy the game!
Tales of Hearts
Characteristic Genre: A Meeting Between Hearts RPG
- Nintendo DS (2008)
- PlayStation Vita (2013/2014)
Playable in English via:
- PlayStation Vita
After Kor Meteor finds a pair of siblings, Kohaku and Hisui Hearts, on a beach near his hometown, and a mysterious villain attacks them, Kohaku suffers infection by a creature called a xerom; Kor attempts to save her with a tool passed down in his family meant to destroy the xerom, a Soma, but accidentally destroys Kohaku’s spiria in the process. The shards of her spiria, or heart and source of emotions, get lost to the corners of the world, and Tales of Hearts encompasses the journey the group makes all over to piece Kohaku’s heart back together.
The only version available in English is the official localization for the Vita, which has… a few notable issues. The blog of the person who was doing most/all of the work on a patch for the original (DS) Tales of Hearts, now on hold due to the official release of Hearts R, suggested some improvements the western side of the equation could attempt to fix in the R version of the game. Of course, they didn’t exactly listen, and even made some baffling decisions for name localization on top of that. A few days after its launch, the same person published a lengthy essay on things the localization did poorly or just flat-out wrong.
I can’t comment on it personally because I lack a Vita! Fun stuff!
Tales of Graces
Characteristic Genre: Discovering the Strength to Protect RPG
- Nintendo Wii (2009)
- PlayStation 3 (2010/2012)
Playable in English via:
- PlayStation 3
Tales of Graces tells the story of Asbel Lhant, a young knight in training who, in his youth, met an amnesiac girl in a field of flowers, after which he named her; not long after, on a trip to the capital, he and his group of friends witnessed her death. Seven years later, he returns to his hometown after his father’s death to attend to his newly inherited role of its lord, and finds the girl once again in the field of flowers in the midst of an assault by a neighboring nation on Lhant. The game leads into a conflict between Asbel and Richard, a prince and Asbel’s friend, and his abnormal ego-maniacal rage after he regains the throne; the flower girl, Sophie, and a strange power given to those who were in contact with her when she died, are the centerpiece for a story about family and gaining the strength to protect your friends.
Tales of Graces f, the PS3 version the West got, comes with an after story, called Lineage & Legacies, which follows the events of the party six months after the end of the main game, with more character interactions and a focus on some romance between the party members! It’s quite good!
This game’s story is really tenuous, but the characters and their interactions are wonderful; if the game wasn’t trying so hard to have a Serious Story About Friendship And Hardships, I think it would be an excellent comedic or lighter-toned RPG. As it is, the mechanics and characters alone have to pull most of the weight, and oh god, do they. If the story were stronger it would be tied with Xillia 2 for my current favorite, but as it is, it’s just probably the most hype-inducing battle system of the series for me. It’s loads of fun, especially in the endgame and EX dungeon.