When I got home from work this evening about three hours ago - I opened my laptop to catch up on today's gaming news, to read on Kotaku that a wonderful surprise had occurred - Namco-Bandai had released a 'Tales of Vesperia' demo on Japan's Xbox Live Marketplace!
So off I scurried onto the Marketplace to check out what was going on over there - and I found a whole tonne of content that hasn't yet made it to British English shores.
Content such as:
Armored Core: For Answer Demo
Raiden Fighters Aces Demo
Mobile Suit Gundam: Operation Troy Trailer
As well as some nice free 'Puyo Pop Fever' dashboard themes and gamer pics.
Obviously I grabbed the aforementioned 'Vesperia' demo too.
I've been wiping the drool away from my mouth for a little while now, anticipating a 'Tales of..' game for the Xbox 360 - but to be honest this demo has made me take 'Vesperia' off my wanted games list.
Don't get me wrong, it's an astonishing game. It's gorgeous. It looks like a Studio Ghibli animation in a videogame - with some beautiful Nintendo-esque introduction sequences and trails into and out of new areas.
However, it's got to be said - the voice acting was just plain awful. Awful.
Where do they find these people who do the voice acting is these games?!
The voices all sound like they're coming from a little American girl - and perhaps it might even be the same American girl that Namco have been exploiting in all their RPGs of late?
I seem to remember that 'Eternal Sonata' had equally bad voice acting - but that won me over (though not enough to actually purchase the game) by it's frankly brilliant battle system.
'Tales of Vesperia' however didn't manage such a feat - though I do bear in mind that this is merely an early demo - the battles seemed frantic and flailing, I was unsure of which enemy I needed to hit and when, there was no order to the battle at all as if it couldn't quite make it's mind up whether to try to rival Final Fantasy's gameplay or Ninja Gaiden's!
All in all, from the frankly lack-lustre introduction to the story - which just dragged from the start, not engaging me even slightly - to the repetitive, button mashing gameplay - I remain distinctly unimpressed.
Don't get me wrong, I'm hoping for a UK release of 'Tales of Vesperia' even now.
I'm also hoping that they include the Japanese voice actors on the DVD as well as the English ones - and that they can tighten that gameplay mechanic too.
Perhaps the battles are more complex than I could see.
Perhaps theres some hidden depth that I failed to uncover.
Namco, if that's so - for goodness sake - let the player know about it with a battle system tutorial - that quickly and briefly informs the player of what's going on without being a laboured lecture as so many RPGs seem to manage.
Returning to the topic of the voice acting - I don't think it would be that bad really if the developers tightened up the transition between characters speaking.
I found that by pressing the A button when I think that currently vocal character has finished their sentence - causing the next person to start speaking immediately - made the conversation seem far more natural and fluid..
Because. To. Be. Honest. Natural. And. Real. Conversations. Don't. Generally. Have. Lots. Of. Pauses. In. Between. Sentences. And. Between. Participants.
In closing. This game is a landmark title for the 360 - the 'Tales of' series has a huge following and I'm really glad that a JRPG as big as this one has made it's way to my big white friend. I'm especially, just, blown away, by the fantastic graphics on display - but then equally brought back to reality by the shocking voice acting and lack of gameplay definition.
And that's without even mentioning the music.
'Tales of Vesperia' is available in demo form from the Japanese Xbox Live Marketplace today. The demo is also available in many other Asian countries.