Tales of Vesperia got my attention for two reasons: it had 4-player coop on the box, and I was a fan of the "Tales of" games in the PS1 era. This game was a disappointment to me, and I will be steering clear of "Tales of" games for a while.
I had a friend (saxoraros) come over for a night of coop gaming, and we decided to give this game a try. We had never played it before, and we expected a 4-player game in the style of Marvel Ultimate Alliance or D&D Heroes. This game is nothing like those games.
We started the game, and we loved the intro. In fact, we watched the intro twice before actually playing the game. Unfortunately, the in-game scenes were not as exciting as the intro, and the dialogue was terrible. Adding onto the annoyance, the camera was fixed to specific angles, and only one player was allowed to walk around.
When I finally got to fight, it was a tutorial, and the tutorial was confusing, not helpful. The entire time, we were asking each other, where's the 4-player part?
We saved the game and went back to the main menu to see if there was a coop option. We also checked the game settings. We found nothing.
After unlocking the second character, a clueless princess who stands away from the battle, healing the main character, we thought we found the coop part, but it didn't let anyone play as her. We looked at the manual and again at the game settings and all that. We couldn't figure out how to play as the healer. After a few battles, we accidentally signed another profile into the game (a second time) and it assigned that profile to the healer.
Finally, after about 2 hours, we had coop battles, but they were not fun. The healer wasn't able to damage the enemies very well, so I kept her on the sidelines while the main character rapidly attacked the enemies. Furthermore, the controls were still not explained to us, so I didn't know how to heal anyone but the healer herself.
The controls were confusing. We actually needed explanation, which says something to the developers: design a better control scheme. The manual had to be read countless times, and usually, we learned the controls through experimentation. Let me tell you, it was not a fun experience, it was a headache.
Unlike previous "Tales of" games, Vesperia featured a 3D movement engine, and the battles didn't lend themselves well to the extra dimension. For the most part, I found myself confused where to point the joystick, because the movement was not relative to camera position. Instead, you press left to back away from the enemy and right to run toward the enemy. This was OK for a 1-on-1 fight, but when you start having group battles, you get very confused. There was a button for "free roaming" during battle, allowing you to run wherever you need to go, relative to the camera. I used this button all the time, just to avoid getting confused, but I had to let go of the button often to target enemies.
Despite the unintuitive controls, battles were the only reason I continued playing the game, and sometimes, the battles could get slightly interesting, but the game was obviously not meant for even two players, because coop battles have a lot of annoyances.
When you win a battle, you get a quirky joke during a victory pose. Depending on who strikes the final blow, a different character says one of their jokes, and another character usually responds. These victory scenes were slightly funny, but after a while, they just got annoying, because we heard them too much.
The characters consist of a rogue warrior-type, his human-like dog, a clueless princess, and a boy who thinks he's bad-ass, even though he sucks. More characters appear later in the story. We got too bored to play that far into the story.
To recap, this game is a decent single-player romp through a cliche J-RPG environment, but it does not offer much depth to exploration, and the multiplayer aspects are very disappointing.
I'm giving this game a very generous 3/5. The game is simply too boring. It might be best suited as a single-player game, but it was not marketed as such. If you want a decent single-player RPG with that anime charm, this game might fit the bill, but I think you should rent first.
If you want a 4-player RPG, I recommend D&D Heroes. It has the dungeon-crawling goodies and the character customization you'd expect from a D&D game, and it's easy to play. Just keep in mind that the best coop games are not RPGs.