It's been over 2 years since I bought Tales of Vesperia. As is my habit with JRPGS, I managed to get about 10-15 hours into the game before getting slogged with work and/or bored with the game and moving on. Longtime readers may recall my ramblings on the early portion of the game here
Last week I decided to give the game another go. Let's just say I'm glad that I did.
While the game does revel in moral ambiguity and individualism at some points (ya know, the usual "Just do what you want to do! That's what's important" demagoguery), it also does a fine job of showing how "doing things your own way" can often have negative consequences. The ending, in particular, does a spectacular job of showing the follies of proportionalism - even with the archetypical "save-the-world-from-the-the-evil-lord-of-darkness" plot, there's something to be said about the theme of this narrative and unique "riff" it puts on this familiar plot paradigm.
Still, a game ain't defined by its story, as important as that is. What really makes Tales of Vesperia such a great game a (particularly for those looking for a good "entry-level" Japanese role-playing game) is its accessibility; it really doesn't try to be anything more than an anime-style role-playing game, and it knows this. It is easier to complete than most other role-playing game, and can be enjoyed by 4 players, something which distinguishes it from other games of its genre. While calling it "kid-friendly" is perhaps too generous, the innuendos are mild and the violence isn't really problematic except for the under 5 crowd, which might find it a tad too scary (not to mention too complicated). It's a tad lacking in the tutorial side of things, but Tales has always thrived on a real-time driven battle system - one can easily learn basics by "trial-and-error" experimentation at the exposition of the game, unlike turn-based systems which are brutally unforgiving of entry-level mistakes), and Vesperia is no exception.
Don't expect much of brain workout from this one, though - the thrill of combat is what this game's all about. It's a nice recreational diversion, not meant to be indulged upon en masse. It's basically the sushi bar of video games. Something a little offbeat (especially to American sensibilities), not perfectly healthy, but certainly worth trying out.