The Tales of series is one of the best examples of a series with consistently fun and enjoyable characters. Each entry manages to deliver a cast that I'll remember for years to come. No other cast has stood out more than Tales of Vesperia's: they're a bunch of mismatched individuals who form an unlikely friendship in order to save the world. Each party member in Vesperia brings something to the game that makes them lovable and memorable. They bounce off of each other perfectly, and each enhance one another's character development for the better.
Anyone who's played Vesperia immediately thinks of Yuri. He's the series' best known — and best loved — protagonist. He's a man with ambiguous morals and he's not afraid to get his hands dirty. If a job requires him to kill, then he'll do it. He bears a heavy cross throughout the journey, but it's one he's aware of. But you'd do wrong to ignore the rest of this oddball bunch in favour of the protagonist. The game's heroine, Estelle, is the white to Yuri's black. She's a naïve and innocent princess who's clumsy and curious. She softens Yuri's gruff exterior, and shares more than a touching and platonic heart-warming moment with him. The relationship these two build alone is wonderful to watch, preferring to lean towards friends, and this works in their favour. Yuri learns a lot about compassion, whereas Estelle learns a lot about the world and herself. She takes on more responsibilities, and is more than just a damsel. She is by far my favourite heroine in the series because she's as strong as she is kind.
Then there's the younger members of the group. On the surface, Karol wants you to believe he's a courageous, powerful member of the Hunting Blades, a guild of monster hunters. Underneath this exterior, he's a cowardly, squeaky 12 year old. Karol's inclusion in the cast is perfect, and he goes through the biggest development arc out of the entire group. Through Yuri's guidance, Karol eventually creates his own guild called Brave Vesperia, which encompasses the values of the group — that they want to live in a world free of constraints, where people can go where they want and feel safe. He's a character who doesn't get enough love throughout the series, and definitely deserves to be celebrated. The other youngster, Rita, is the complete opposite. She's a shut-in; a bookworm who'd rather study ruins and read tomes than socialise. However, she's extremely intelligent and very hot-headed. Rita is a vital hub of information for the group, and she's very protective of the technology she's studying. Her passionate, temperamental attitude adds some much needed friction to the group dynamics, as well as a welcome dose of comedy relief. She's frequently batting away Raven and his attempt to wind her up, or squabbling with Karol like a child. There's never a dull moment with these two youngsters around.
[The cast] bounce off of each other perfectly, and each enhance one another's character development for the better.
Speaking of Raven, he's the token "old man" of the series. He's a high ranking guild member, and overall insufferable whiner who will try to do as little as possible to get what he wants done. It's hard not to compare his cynicism to Yuri's attitude — Raven will do anything for himself, but Yuri is selfless. He's often the butt of the jokes in the group, but Raven brings yet more laughs, and perhaps even a surprise or two. Judith, on the other hand, brings mystery and beauty to the group. She's a blastia hunter, seeking to destroy the ancient technology the world is abusing. While she's a woman of determination and strong morals, she's also a woman of class and sass. Her unwillingness to join the group initially comes from their clashing ideals, but she warms to the gang, and eventually both sides meet in the middle and begin to understand why the other has pursued their path. Together, Raven's and Judith's maturity balance the group well.
There's one last character I couldn't just ignore. While only briefly playable in the Western release, Flynn deserves all of the recognition he gets. He's a friend of Yuri, and one who still upholds the justice of the knights; whereas Yuri has found his own justice. In an adventure that focuses on the many kinds of justice, Flynn's moral compass versus Yuri's vigilantism is one of the game's biggest draws. It's interesting to watch as he wavers between his obligation as a knight, but also recognising that, at times, Yuri is right. He's as much a main character as the rest of the party.
I could gush about the cast of Vesperia for ages, and I don't think my description does them justice. The party start off as a mismatch of ideals and morals, but by the end of the game they've come together against adversity, and proved that people can change. They have fought for the weak, battled for justice, and overcome hardship to save the world that they love. I haven't even touched on the villains, who themselves embody their own form of justice to do what they think is right. Tales of Vesperia is a fantastic example of how to do a JRPG cast right, and how through one big adventure, a group of strangers can make the biggest impact.
Also, how can I forget Repede? Best RPG mascot and dog of all time.