Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition Review – A Timeless Adventure

    Title: Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition
    Developer: Bandai Namco
    Release Date: January 11, 2019
    Reviewed On: PS4
    Publisher: Bandai Namco
    Genre: JRPG

It’s strange to think that so many years have passed since my adventure with Yuri and Estelle in Tales of Vesperia when it released in 2008 on Xbox 360. The game would allow me to introduce my friends to the RPG genre, thanks to the game’s multiplayer support, and would set the stage for what fans could expect from the long-running series for years to come. In that time, Tales of Vesperia holds the highest seat in terms of my favorite Tales game for multiple reasons, but knowing that I never played the complete story, which released in Japan only on PlayStation 3, always left a sour taste in my mouth.

Now, in 2019, Bandai Namco has come through for western fans to release the full Tales of Vesperia experience with Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition. Joining the cast to experience their journey again with the added features sparks joy in every moment of gameplay, and the additional story and characters make it feel like an all-new quest. However, going back to deliver a Definitive Edition of Tales of Vesperia should have included a bit more to make it fit in better with modern RPGs.

Tales of Vesperia begins with a mystery: someone has been stealing Blastia cores from towns leaving them with malfunctioned technology needed for everyday life. A man named Yuri Lowell has been alerted to help after his town’s Blastia core went missing. His idea was to head to the higher class part of town and steal one from their reserves. However, his mission doesn’t go as planned as he’s captured and imprisoned. Eventually, he breaks out and runs into a noblewoman fleeing from the capital named Estelle who is looking for an Imperial Knight named Flynn who is an acquaintance of Yuri’s. Together, the two set out in search of the Blastia thief as well as Flynn, and their adventure begins.

What I enjoy about the first hour or so of the game is that it doesn’t slow down or allow you to feel comfortable with the setting or the characters. Yuri and Estelle don’t know each other, so it’s easy for the game to fill in the blanks of their personalities and backstories over the course of the story. Furthermore, the game makes a proper attempt at giving the player the feeling of going on a real adventure as you break out of prison with a new friend and flee town to the great unknown. Most of the characters haven’t stepped foot outside of the borders of their towns so experiencing the world along with them makes for some great story and character development.

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The adventure evolves as the characters discover new details about the state of the world and work toward uncovering a strange set of events, which ends up expanding the scope of your quest. What’s most important to note is how Yuri hides sides of him from the rest of the party, but this is slowly revealed to them and the player over the course of the story. Tales of Vesperia handles their main group of characters in a way that not many other games do. They are each broken in their own ways and carry personal baggage that makes them not your typical ideal group of heroes.

From a story standpoint, Tales of Vesperia tells one of the best RPG narratives based on how deep these character personalities can get, if you invest time in watching all the story scenes and events. It requires the player to be on board with not having questions answered slowly and in small increments instead of laying it all out for them at once. There’s also the fact that the beginning missions aren’t fueled by the promise of a grand quest to save the world. The scope of the game grows larger as the story progresses and the characters discover more about that world and where they fit in it.

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Gameplay features the iconic action-based free roaming battle system that the Tales of series is known for given the name “Linear Motion Battle System”. Although this iteration of the battle system is dated, players of more recent Tales of games should get the hang of it rather quickly. However, the slow combat, which does get faster as you unlock new skills and Artes, might turn people away with how basic the battle system is for the first couple of hours. It’s not until about 4 hours in that you unlock the full battle system that includes an Over Limit gauge and Fatal Strikes.

The battle system works for multiple reasons, but one that RPG fans can appreciate is how it’s extremely balanced in terms of enemy difficulty, equipment, and skills. There’s rarely a time when you feel like you can’t get through a battle, or that you don’t have the strongest equipment because the game does a great job at making sure that there’s nothing holding the player back from progressing the narrative of the game. With that said, battles are no walk in the park and require the player to use everything they’ve learned to make sure that they survive, this is especially true for boss battles.

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Although the open world features a map, the towns and dungeons in Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition don’t include a map. Although I didn’t mind that this was missing 10 years ago, not having a map in a modern game, even for towns, is disappointing and makes getting around a little more difficult. Similarly, the map does not have a quest indicator to let players know where their next destination is. This means you’ll have to pay close attention to what the players are saying or else you’ll be running around aimlessly until you trigger an event. To help players out a bit, though, there’s a journal that does offer a brief explanation of where players should go.

Sadly, Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition struggles to have the gameplay system standards that today’s players need. Direction on where to go is often left up to the characters explaining it, which can extend conversations. To add to the slow feel of the game, there, unfortunately, isn’t the option to run faster in the game — an option that’s present in most games to get around a little quicker. In addition, there isn’t an autosave feature, which is helpful for a few players who never save or don’t have the chance to save at certain times. Having options like the ability to run and autosave, would have just made it easier for modern gamers to jump in and play. Instead, Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition keeps things as close to the original release as possible, and that could be a good or bad thing, depending on who’s playing.

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In terms of what Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition adds to the game, well, western fans can now enjoy the extended story content that was promised years ago but only released on PS3 in Japan. Although these added stories and dungeons were great to experience and finally play after all this time, Bandai Namco decided to get new voice actors to record the new events that make things seem a little off when a character’s voice changes in only certain events or attacks. I would like to add that it was tough for me to hear the differences, but it is noticeable — if you know what scenes are new. However, the localization team stuck extremely close to the fan translations that I’ve seen and did a great job translating these new scenes, even if some of the scenes with Patty can be a little questionable considering her admiration for Yuri.

The updated graphics are simply gorgeous. The towns, characters, and world map look great thanks to the art direction and anime style graphics used in the original release. I will say that some of the CG FMVs didn’t age that well, but those are few and far between. To put it simply, this is the best version of Tales of Vesperia even with the new English audio, which can be switched to Japanese audio if the player simply can’t deal with it.

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Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition is an amazing adventure that deserved the remastered treatment. Some corners were cut in terms of quality of life improvements such as a map in towns and dungeons, along with a running and autosave feature. Regardless, I don’t think anything can take away from the fact this is a must play RPG for all Tales of fans and genre lovers alike.

Replaying Tales of Vesperia in this Definitive Edition release induced pure joy as I set out as Yuri and Estelle for the first time again after 10 years have passed. I even found new things to love about the game through the added stories involving Patty and Flynn. As a fan, I’m glad to finally be about to play this version of the game that made me a true Tales of fan. Hopefully, new generations gamers can get past the dated mechanics to discover an unforgettable adventure that is worth playing.

Score:
8.8/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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