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DESPITE the success of the 360, there have only been a handful of decent role-playing games for the system, with Eternal Sonata, Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey being the pick of the bunch.

Tales Of Vesperia is the latest title to appear and it could be the best yet.

Following an attempt to track down a mysterious figure who has stolen a magical artefact from his neighbourhood, rebellious lead Yuri teams up with a gang of diverse characters and finds himself entangled in a much bigger plot.

It's all standard Japanese RPG fare, but where Vesperia excels is in its visuals, story and excellent battle system.

The graphics may not carry as much charm as Eternal Sonata's, but they are still gorgeous.

Beautifully cell-shaded, not only do the main characters look fantastic, but the towns, villages, enemies and surrounding countryside look incredible.

But it'sVesperia's battle system which is the real star of the show. There are no turn-based battles here, with all fights running in real-time.

Although you are only in complete control over one character at a time, your teammates can be commanded into different formations. They are also pretty adept at healing and getting stuck into fights, which takes a certain amount of pressure off the player.

While a button-mashing tactic sometimes works, victory in battles is easier if you run behind enemies, or flank them from the side.

All the main characters also have access to Artes - special powers which increase their attacks, while certain weapons have unique properties to aid you in battle.

All of this adds greatly to a satisfying and enjoyable experience.

When not roaming the countryside beating up enemies, the player can also synthesise weapons to make powerful items. Learning recipes lets the player cook stat-boosting food for the team.

There are plenty of other distractions away from the main thrust of the game, including a poker game which could net you lots of cash, and a bundle of side quests, all of which add to the game's longevity.

Not that you'll be finishing Tales of Vesperia any time soon.

There is so much to see and do, that repeated play-throughs will be needed before you see all the game has to offer.

Add to that a 60+ hour adventure, and Vesperia is great value for money.

There are also various difficulty levels, which means that even the complete novice player will get maximum enjoyment out of the game.

Namco Bandai have given us a quality role-playing experience and if you're looking for a sizeable adventure to get your teeth into, then Tales of Vesperia certainly fits the bill.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 17, 2009
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