Fans who have been clamoring for a port of Tales of Vesperia can be put at ease as Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition is one of the series’ best.
I made the jump from Xbox 360 to PlayStation 3 a short while after Tales of Vesperia launched. Having experienced short bits of the game with friends in the past, I was always curious to give the game a go myself. Many fans of the Tales of series regard Vesperia as one of the best entries, and while it ultimately still holds up, it’s got a few shortcomings that are simply a product of its age.
Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition’s storyline has aspects that are unconventional as well as things that aren’t too out of the ordinary. You play as a young man named Yuri Lowell (voiced by Troy Baker pre The Last of Us), who finds himself in a conundrum after a device that provides the people around him with water is stolen. It’s a simple start that goes in a direction one wouldn’t see coming.
Yuri’s a ragtag ex-knight and his past is ever present throughout his character arc in Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition. Additionally, Yuri’s longtime friend Flynn (a new addition to the party, but not the overall narrative, in Definitive Edition) took the path of a knight, and while the two are friends, their personalities and ideologies clash throughout the entirety of the game. On that, I won’t go too into Flynn’s role in the overall story, but there are times where Yuri will make decisions that go against everything Flynn believes. While you have no role in controlling Yuri’s actions, it’s an interesting dynamic of the character that I found entertaining throughout, albeit not necessarily original.
The remaining seven party members are all quite likable. But with this being a Tales game, their character arcs move quite slow and it can take some 10 to 15 hours before you really begin to appreciate the relationships these characters develop amongst one another. This world has a well-established history that gets fleshed out as the story goes on. However, the world is ever-changing and the party ultimately finds themselves adjusting to such. Some have a bigger role to play than others, but they’re ultimately all just trying to find their place in this world while helping each other along the way.
Speaking of which, we should probably talk about Patty, who was entirely absent from the original version of Tales of Vesperia. Patty is a very young girl, who dresses like a pirate and claims to be the granddaughter of a legendary but infamous pirate named Aifread, who’s long deceased at this point. Her backstory is quite interesting, and I was motivated to see it to the end, but ultimately, I felt conflicted towards her personality. At the same time, she goes against the conventional archetype of what players might expect from a character that’s a pirate, but she can be a bit annoying at times. It’s worth noting though that it almost feels as if she was never absent from the story at all and her new scenes flow into the narrative quite well.
I’ve had experience with both the Nintendo Switch and PS4 versions of Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition; ultimately playing through the game in its entirety on the Switch. I can definitely say that players looking for the most visually appealing version of the game may feel happier going with PS4, Xbox One, or PC. Vesperia doesn’t necessarily struggle in any capacity on the Nintendo Switch, but it’s hard to not notice some of the uglier visuals during certain sections. Handheld mode is by far the worst way to play the game in terms of visuals. But as far as gameplay goes, it holds up just fine and I enjoyed every minute of it. With that in mind, I think it’s safe to say that if you’re looking to play Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition for pure enjoyment, you’ll find that on whichever platform you tend to already prefer.
Vesperia uses a cel-shaded art style unlike the entries that followed, which I’m always a sucker for. This art style can give games longevity and make them a joy to go back to in later years (Wind Waker, Okami, Jet Set Radio). This mindset embodies just how I feel about Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition visually. Even on the Nintendo Switch, the game has a very appealing look to it, only showing its age in terms of the overall scale, not style. Cities and dungeons, however, can feel rather small in size, making exploration feel limited compared to more modern entries in the series.
Combat in Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition is a surprisingly fresh look back at Tales games from the previous two console generations. Battles move at a slightly slower pace but do away with a lot of the things some of the newer titles have added. I’m all for refinement, but even now, I’m still fuming over the abysmal combat in Tales of Zestiria, so Vesperia’s combat is really a godsend. It’s not all too simplistic though as this is a Tales game; you’ll be introduced to newer mechanics as the story progresses. Additionally, the game offers players the ability to strategize outside of battle and really customize how their party members will react during battles. Going up against tough enemies feels all the more rewarding once you clobber them with a great battle strategy.
Furthermore, while you only control one party member at a time, all nine are playable. Each one is extremely varied in play style, but I ultimately found myself most comfortable using Flynn and Yuri, the more conventional warriors of the bunch. You can chain together physical combos and Artes (magical abilities) to really pull off some epic stuff. Seeing yourself become finely tuned to Vesperia’s systems is one of the main reasons Tales games can be so much fun. There’s a sense of growth here that’s key in a massive JRPG like this.
Soundtrack wise, Vesperia offers some really solid tunes. The tracklist feels really old-school in a lot of ways, so it feels unfair to compare it to some of the more superior soundtracks we’ve gotten in recent JRPGs like Nier: Automata, Persona 5, Final Fantasy XV, etc. It almost feels weird saying that but the genre has really outdone itself time and time again as the years have gone on. Nevertheless, there’s an immense amount of charm filled throughout each song in Vesperia whether the moments in the story are dire or cheerful. It doesn’t stick out in today’s market but Tales fans will definitely find it to be a treat to the ears.
If you’re returning to Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition, you’ll have a whole slew of new content to discover on top of the additional party members. From the get-go, all players will have access to a wide variety of really awesome costumes that were initially exclusive to the Japanese PS3 version of the game. There are also new bosses as well as additional dungeons that you’ll be able to tackle. On top of all that, new equipment, skills, and mechanics have also been thrown into the mix. It’s far too much to list off every change whether they be big or small, so I’ll say just go play the game for yourself and enjoy discovering them all.
I think players will find that the most controversial change to Definitive Edition comes in the form of new voice actors. The biggest of which being Yuri a.k.a. Troy Baker who did not return to record additional dialog. As I did not have too much time to play the original version of Vesperia on Xbox 360, I got used to the slight change in Yuri’s voice at times. What Bandai Namco decided to ultimately do was to include Baker’s original recordings while simply adding in the new voice. It’s a bit jarring in the later game as new scenes become more prevalent, but this doesn’t really hamper the overall game.
Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition remains one of the best Tales of games to date. Once you get through the opening, Vesperia never lets up throughout its 40 to 50-hour runtime. It continuously finds new ways to expand upon its story, allowing for something that feels like a tremendously fun journey. If you’re a fan of JRPGs or action RPGs, do yourself a favor and pick this one up.
Now, I’d like to end this review with a classic Bandai Namco tweet that can finally be put to rest:
@Baffan yeah not that one
— BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe (@BandaiNamcoEU) September 28, 2015