Ten years after the Great War against the demon-beasts, the empire rules over the world and prosperity relies on the massive use of aer.
Yuri Lowell and Flynn Scifo are two young men who have just enrolled the ranks of the prestigious Imperial Knights. One day, they are sent to the town of Ceazontania, where abnormal aer activity has reportedly caused the proliferation of horribly mutated beasts, with serious threat for the whole region.
Meanwhile, the Knights Supreme Commander Alexei Denoia and the naive Princess Estellise are involved in a behind-the-curtains struggle for power in the capital. The situation in Ceazontania deteriorates as the garrison of Imperial Knights finds that they cannot expect any immediate support from the capital.
Then, Niren Fedrok, commander of the Imperial Knights in Ceazontania, takes an unexpected decision that is going to change Yuri and Flynn's destiny forever.
What are the secrets behind the extraordinary events that are happening around Yuri and Flynn? Will they be able to defend the innocent people of Ceazontania and stay true to their beliefs?
In recent years video games, be they console or PC based, have moved to the forefront of popular entertainment. One of the upshots of this trend has been the a marked increase in the number of adaptations and spinoffs that can be found in manga and anime (and that's without including the doujin market). The major problem though, is that studios, production companies and storytellers are doing nothing more than recycling an existing concept, and while the adaptation may actually be pretty decent in some cases (Tears to Tiara for example), more often than not one is served a big plate of mediocrity (I'm looking
at you Ragnarok et al).
However, while outright adaptations are rife, prequels and sequels to games are actually quite rare, and it's here where Tales of Vesperia ~The First Strike~ separates itself from the horde.
The story takes place a few years prior to the game and follows two of it's main characters, Yuri and Flynn, during their early careers as knights of the empire in the town of Shizontania. Unfortunately the town isn't as safe as it used to be, and their captain, Niren Fedrock, suspects greater forces are at work.
One of the criticisms that people may throw at this movie is the fact that it is very open ended, however given that this is nothing more than a prequel to the game, the reason for this is understandable. The story itself is pretty straightforward, with a remarkable lack of convolution that can sometimes appear in game adaptations and spinoffs. The main advantage of this is the fact that it is easier to tie the events in the movie to those in the game, however the downside is that the plot lacks a degree of depth that simply can't be hidden, which is often the reason why such terrible plot convolutions occur in thefirst place.
Thankfully first time director Kamei Kanta and writer Yoshida Reiko have kept things simple and direct, and because of this Tales of Vesperia actually manages to become interesting to a degree, enough to at least enjoy the movie and maybe consider buying the game (more on this in a bit). The one thing that most surprised me though, is how very different the feel and tone is from the game, and while both have lighter and darker moments throughout their respective stories, there is a certain brevity inherent in the movie that the game lacks, partly due to the RPG nature of the latter, and partly because of the need to wrap the story up within 110 minutes.
Many people will be familiar with the work of Production I.G. and it's nice to see that they've maintained their standards in terms of art and animation.
Maintained though, not bettered.
Overall the show is well put together, with some nicely detailed backgrounds and atmospheric settings thrown into the mix. The characters are modelled along the lines used for the original game for the most part, with the two leads and sundry other characters who appear in both looking pretty much the same. It should be noted though, that there are a number of characters who only appear in the movie (for example, the twin female knights Shastele and Hisuka Aiheap), a fact which may confuse some fans of the game. Be that as it may, in terms of design the movie is pretty solid, however that is as far as it goes because of the design limitations placed upon it by the source material.
One thing I should point is that this movie is far more graphic in its depiction of violence than the game, and doesn't shy away from some of the more greusome occurences which have only really been shown in a very sanitised manner within the Tales series thus far.
As for the animation, while the majority of the film runs very well there are some scenes where things just feel off kilter. This unfortuantely occurs in several scenes which involve CG animation of some sort, and while the problem isn't large enough to warrant major criticism, it is noticeable so it bears mentioning.
The sound quality is very good throughout the movie, especially when it comes to choreography. The music is, for the most part, absent from proceedings, however this serves to enhance its effect when it is used. The choice of tracks is also well thought out, and while there is a degree of genericism about those used for dramatic or action scenes, overall the quality of the pieces adds to the scenes.
One point I should mention about the music is the surprising, and pleasing, choice of theme song. Like the original game, the Tales of Vesperia movie has "Ring a Bell" by Bonnie Pink as the title track, a fact which may please fans of the game.
In terms of acting, this film has a big plus in that the characters of Yuri, Flynn, Estellise, Rita and Raven are played by the actors and actressses who took on the roles for the game. This factor adds to the sense of continuity that is needed in any direct prequel or sequel, especially as the seiyuu in the other, movie specific roles are equally as comfortable with their lines as their more experienced colleagues. That doesn't mean there's hamming it up, but for those most part the acting is pretty natural and flowing.
The biggest problem with Tales of Vesperia is the characters. Because this is both a movie and a prequel to a larger story, there is little in the way of major development. That said, the two lead characters do grow to a degree, and anyone who has played the game will no doubt find the additional information about them pleasing. However, those who have had neither the opportunity or inclination to play the game will probably find there is a distinct lack in this department.
That's not to say that the characters are bad though. As a stand alone movie they work fairly well, however the open ended nature of the tale leaves one feeling that more could have been done with the time. In essence, the fact that this is a prequel, something which in terms of plot content is an advantage, becomes a flaw when considering the the characters as they an "unfinished" quality about them comethe end of the film.
Be that as it may, I found that I actually enjoyed the movie, however I should point out that I have completed the game, so for me the additional story was a bonus. Unfortunately, it's all too possible that many viewers will find this less of an enjoyable experience, mainly because the story is open ended. If one were to be very harsh, then it's possible to consider the movie as nothing more than a glorified advert for the game. This seems an unfair criticism to me as while there is a clear message to play the game should one wish to complete the tale, the story is original enough to warrant a degree of separation.
The major plus point though, is the fact that the effort has been made to enhance the game's storyline instead of regurgitating it. That said, making a prequel or sequel doesn't always work in terms of content (Advent Children - looks awesome, and that's pretty much it), so it's nice to see that the main aspects of the tale have only lightly been covered, and that the focus is more about showing where the lead characters came from.
On the whole, Tales of Vesperia ~The First Strike~ is one of those movies that you can't fully appreciate unless you know the full story, and that's its biggest flaw. People don't really want to be burdened with having to complete a game that they may not even be interested in just to find out what happens next, which plays a major part in whether one can enjoy this movie or not. The more rlaxed viewer may not be overly concerned with the lack of a true ending, and the movie does have a good degree of entertainment value in its own right, but in all honesty, this is one for fans of the game and the Tales franchise.
Whatever the opinion though, this movie deserves some credit for being not only a prequel, but an original tale, as it could very well have been just another adaptation.
What amazing luck. I happen to complete the game the same week the movie comes out. This caught me completely by surprise, but I was extremely excited. When I initially started the game, I thought it was a bit corny and maybe even childish, but a few hours in and there was incredible character development and storyline threads stretching across, to the point where I even cared for the villains. Truly an exceptional experience from the game.
If you are a fan of the game, then there's no doubt you will love this movie. I went in with no expectations, except knowing that
it's a prequel. That being said, I was very impressed by not only the quality of the movie, but the pacing, character development, seamless crossover between the prequel and the original game, while introducing new characters without harming the original.
The story was simple. But very effective. I really enjoyed the Yuri/Flynn bond throughout the game, and it was great seeing the roots of it in this movie, while also getting some more backstory on Flynn's past. This movie had be laughing at loud at some parts, and crying at others. It was a rollercoaster of emotions, but it was a complete package.
I didn't feel cheated or upset by the way things were done, in fact, I think many other game to anime adaptions should look at this movie as a role model. Simply perfect.
I really enjoyed it, and I'm certain so will you, perhaps even if you have not played the game. Definitely check this out!
"Trust me the feeling is mutual, I still don't get why you even joined the knights at all!"
Tales of Vesperia, the game that is, happens to be a very special game to me - sure, its story isn't its highest selling point and the game really drags towards the end, but overall, I had a blast experiencing the world of Terca Lumiries - especially the characters, Vesperia has one of my favourite video game casts ever, particularly Rita Mordio - who I have a great adoration for, being my favourite female character in any form of media to date. However, until necessary, I won't let
how I feel about that particular character have an effect on this review.
Instead, I'd like to bring your attention to another character: Yuri Lowell.
Yuri, in the game, was an extremely interesting and compelling character. He's that rare, cocky, competent "I could kick your ass any day of the week" guy that is so hard to find these days, and whilst I certainly don't agree with some of his actions later in the game, it doesn't change the fact that Yuri was, is, and always will be one of the best characters in the game, as well as many people's favourite character, which is perfectly understandable - he's a total force of nature to be reckoned with in the game, a character that has very well defined the standard for me to consider a character "badass".
With all this in mind, I should have loved the Tales of Vesperia movie, if not loved at least thought it was pretty good, but I didn't and there is a very good reason for that - wait, scratch that, two very good reasons. The first being that, this movie is really pointless. The second is that they completely undermined everything that makes Yuri Lowell the character that he is.
I'll cover the second point later on, but first and foremost, my first point: First Strike is supposed to be a prequel to the game, right? Now, a prequel, in most cases anyway, is supposed to be used to set up events for whatever comes next in the series - First Strike doesn't do that at all. When I went to watch this movie, I thought I would have a better understanding of Yuri's deep-seated hatred for the knights, why it is that he chose to leave them, why Flynn decided to stay and why it is he believes that he could change the knights by using the system, I got none of that whatsoever.
The issue with First Strike is just how irrelevant and pointless it really feels, those of you reading this who've not played the game should know that the events of First Strike are never even remotely alluded to in the game, at all - those of you who have played it should already know that, hence my frustration. If there was even some mention of the events that happened in First Strike at any point in the game, I would have understood why it is that it was made and why the events happened the way they did, but it isn't, and First Strike doesn't just come across as one, but really does feel like a lame cash grab for Namco Bandai to cash in on the success of Vesperia.
However, the thing that frustrated me most about First Strike isn't just that it feels irrelevant, it's the ending. I don't dislike the ending because it was open-ended, I dislike it because the reasoning behind Yuri leaving the knights is incredibly stupid, especially considering that he really doesn't have good reason to do so. Keep in mind, the reason why Yuri left the knights, at least, according to the game, is because he couldn't stand the injustice and corruption that was so rampant throughout the ranks of the knights, hence why he left. The people in Yuri's squadron in the movie are all good people, and practically embody everything that Yuri sees as the ideal knight - it annoys me to no end that Yuri left these people to pursue his vigilantism, it's one of the many things that undermine his character.
If there are any positive things to say about the story in First Strike, it's that the story does at least show how Yuri meets Repede (who, I should add, looks incredibly adorable as a little puppy). It also introduces Hisca and Chastel, two characters who, sadly, are not in the game, which is a crying shame as their inclusion in the game could have made for some incredibly amusing moments as well as what could have been some very interesting moments of characterisation for Flynn and Yuri, as they could have ended up questioning each other about the different paths that they end up choosing and why they chose them - they're definitely the kind of characters that I would have liked to see used again.
Animation wise, First Strike is handled by Production I.G, who also did the anime cut-scenes for the game, which means that the standard that is used in the game itself is used here.
In short, Vesperia looks decent, the anime scenes in the game were never really that spectacular and there really aren't that many differences here - there are some cool uses of CG in the movie, characters look good upon close ups and the action scenes do look good, and also serve as a reminder that Yuri is actually an awesome fighter, even without the usage of Blastia.
Sadly, when the camera pulls away from the characters, the quality seems to drop - there was one moment in particular that the characters just completely lost their faces even though there was dialogue going on, but aside from this, First Strike does what it needs to do in the animation department.
I could tell pretty much straight away that Akira Senju had had some involvement in the music of the movie, I've had enough experience on Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood to know his orchestral style - it does sound good, but it's not really anything mindblowing, it also seems somewhat out of place too. Sadly, there's no inclusion of any of the battle themes from the game, which is a shame because I was always a fan of Vesperia's music, and I think it's a bit of a missed opportunity that they didn't opt to include the music from the game - or at least remix it a bit.
At least Ring a Bell managed to make it into the movie, I don't think I'd be able to forgive the soundtrack were it not for its inclusion.
Voice talent wise, it's pretty solid, well, except for Luci Christian and Jonathon Brooks, who I will cover shortly. Troy Baker and Sam Riegel came back for the movie, and by this point, Baker feels so natural as Yuri that it's pretty much impossible for me to imagine him being voiced by anyone else - it's clear in his performance that this is definitely one of his favourite roles to do, there's a definite passion for the character in every facet of his vocal performance, so I'm glad he came back to voice him. Sam Riegel is also great as Flynn too, he's always been a man who's a bit hit and miss with his performances, and Flynn was always one of the better characters he performed as, similar to Troy Baker, I don't think I'd be able to handle anyone else voicing the character.
Trina Nishimura, Leah Clark and Christopher Sabat all do well as Hisca, Chastel and Niren respectively, their performances definitely don't match the level of Troy Baker's or Sam Riegel's, but they do quite well in the screentime that they're allotted. Estelle's cameo isn't worth mentioning considering she's in for all 20 seconds of the movie, but they changed her voice actress too, she sounds slightly deeper but nothing too inoffensive.
As for Luci Christian and Jonathon Brooks...well, I'll cover Brooks first, his voice is simply too deep for Raven, Joe J. Thomas (which I'm pretty sure is a pseudonym, feel free to prove me wrong) was at least one octave higher than Brooks in the game, and it makes Raven sound at least 10 years older than he actually is (considering one of the gags in the game revolves around how old he feels, I suppose this could be amusing) - he isn't terrible as Raven though, he just feels rather miscast as the character.
Then there's Luci Christian, my word, there's butchery of a role and then there's this. Part of the reason I loved Rita's character is because of Michelle Ruff's performance, and it saddened me to no end that she didn't come back for the movie - for some reason, I (incorrectly) thought that Luci Christian actually sounded kind of similar to Michelle Ruff, I have no idea why, and I figured that she'd make an at least appropriate replacement.
But I was wrong, incredibly wrong.
When I heard her performance as Rita, I knew there and then that my favourite character in the game had just had her voice violently butchered, trodden on and then tossed around in the air for good measure - I never, ever thought I'd be saying this, but First Strike actually made me want Rita to shut up, I love the character to bits but hearing her voice being ruined so cruelly was a pretty heartbreaking thing for me to endure, surely, someone, anyone could have done a better performance than this?
Jonathon Brooks is a miscast as Raven, but I'm slightly willing to forgive that one; Luci Christian has all but violently murdered one of my favourite characters, she sounds at least 20 years older than Rita actually is - how could anyone think that it was a good idea to actually think she was okay for the part? The Rita I heard in First Strike was not the Rita that I loved so much in the game, and I honestly want to think of her as a different character, but I can't, sadly.
The only reason I haven't scored the characters anything less than a 5 is due to Hisca and Chastel, who are the most interesting characters in the film and I do really feel sad that they didn't make it into the game.
Frankly speaking, First Strike managed to totally undermine Yuri's character - and Flynn's for that matter too, but I'll cover him in a bit. Yuri in the game was an interesting, well defined character who had great reasons for hating the knights and the way they do things - I can tell you right now that this most definitely isn't that Yuri Lowell, here, Yuri comes across as bratty, slightly childish and his reasoning for leaving the knights seems less likely that it's because he didn't like the way they did things and more likely that he cannot stand dealing with authority figures - a far cry from the character in the game. I'm aware that this is meant to be a younger Yuri (although, frustratingly, the movie never states explicitly when it's set), but the clear contrast in character makes it incredibly difficult to accept - there isn't even a moment in the movie when Yuri's ideals are even remotely shaped.
Truthfully, there are small flashes of what Yuri eventually becomes, such as when he ends up fighting the monsters that attack the village, or the barfight scene, which is the closest thing that we get to Yuri being himself.
The movie also manages to undermine the Yuri and Flynn relationship too. Far from being childhood friends turned friendly rivals, the movie depicts them as bitterly hostile towards each other, nearly every single encounter ends with them arguing or fighting in some way - it made me seriously wonder how it is they became so buddy buddy in the game. The Yuri and Flynn relationship was always the one relationship in the game that was sadly never explored as much as I would have liked, but, even when they ended up fighting each other in the game from time to time, there was never this much hostility between them - there were always moments that show the underlying friendship between the two of them, fights they ended up getting into were merely due to circumstance rather than because they wanted to. There was respect in the relationship; they cared.
It also frustrates me that the movie never really explains how they patch up their relationship - rather than it happening naturally, it happens for the convenience of the plot, meaning that the development (if you can call it that seeing as it was never really there) comes across as incredibly forced and unnatural, there isn't even a gimmicky montage to show that they're all of a sudden the best of friends, it's something that just happens and no proper explanation is given.
The irrelevance of the plot events and undermining of the characters really hampered my enjoyment of the movie, it has its moments with cool action scenes, but it never feels like it's ever contributing to anything bigger - I managed to get some enjoyment out of simply hearing Troy Baker and Sam Riegel reprising some of their best roles, but it was limited enjoyment considering how badly they managed to butcher Rita.
A prequel is usually supposed to set up the events of anything that follows it, and I really thought that's what First Strike would do, I thought it would go into detail as to why Yuri hates the Knights so much, talk about his relationship with Flynn, and just why it is he decided to be a vigilante rather than follow the system - I thought it would explain why Flynn chose the system rather than break away from it, and also explain why he believes he could change it from the inside, I thought it would actually do things that would set up Vesperia.
But it didn't, and I am left feeling really angry and annoyed at how irrelevant it is to the entire story of Vesperia as a whole.
*Review is biased since I played the game*
As a Tales of fan, I knew exactly what to expect watching this movie, and I got what I was expecting. Since Tales of Vesperia is one of favorite games, I was quite excited, and my expectations were ultimately met, with only a bit of expected disappointment. Fans of TOV will be happy to learn more of the back story of Yuri, Flynn, and Repede, while newcomers will be amazed by the greatness of the Tales of series.
To be fair, The story was cliche, with some points that adds more flair, however, the art, animation, and music were
absolutely fantastic, which completely masked this factor.
The story revolves around Yuri Lowell, a few years before the events of TOV, his best friend Flynn Scifo, and his platoon. The world, Terca Lumireis has a substance called aer, which a tool called blastia can harness. However, recently, the aer has been becoming dense, causing monsters and strange beings to begin attacking the already weakening barrier blastia that defends a town. To solve the problem, Yuri and his imperial knights platoon try find the cause of increasing aer density, and solve it.
The story is carried out by the simple, "there is a major problem, and we fix it format," and is forgettable with a few exceptions, but the other features of the movie makes you completely forget it. The fight scenes are done incredibly well (but also realistically), and the music is majestic, and fits the world and movie quite well. And of course, the movie carries the badass and arrogant Yuri Lowell and the righteous and heroic Flynn from the game, adding lots of spice to the movie.
*Spoilers, Gamer's Rant*
Although The First Strike was done incredibly well, from someone who had high hopes from the game, I was disappointed. You will not be seeing any azure edges (I like to think of them as demon fangs), tiger blades, first aids, or any artes for that matter. One main feature from the game is nearly completely removed, and the movie is primarily based on melee combat without magic or artes, making the fight scenes not as dynamic as the could be. I guess this is because the producers wanted the movie to be more true to the world since blastia were said to be rare, but come on. Basically the only named arte I got to see was force field. Another disappointment was that some characters from TOV were added just to make the fans happy, and were more of breif cameos than anything else. Estelle, Raven, and Rita all appeared and their roles were nearly insignificant (except for Rita, and not by much). Although I am happy that I got to see Repede's history with Yuri.
All in all, Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike, is a great movie, with amazing battle scenes, art, and music. Although the plot is a bit cliche, you will forgive that factor, as the good points will be overwhelming. And honestly, I recommend that you should watch this before playing the game, as it guarantees that you will not be disappointed.