I quite enjoyed Tales of Vesperia the first time it released. Needless to say, I’ve quite enjoyed the heavily demanded Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition, too. The “Tales” series, despite its massive popularity, hasn’t really seen much love as of late, or at least not on Xbox hardware. That said, Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition is everything that you need to scratch that proverbial itch, providing of course, you can overlook a few issues that are victim to the game’s original state. Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself, so, from the top.
The game primarily revolves around Yuri Lowell, a seemingly obnoxious ex-knight, and his quest to retrieve his city’s stolen blastia core; blastia being the world’s magical essence. Yuri pursues the thief to the city’s upper-class section, only to imprisoned whilst the thief flees freely. Ironically, Yuri also manages to escape and bumps into the princess (because, there’s always a princess, right?) before continuing his pursuit. However, what starts as a simple journey, soon spirals out of control as larger political-like powers begin to surface all over.
Yuri, along with the princess, Estelle, and his dog, Repede, find themselves at the mercy of a dangerous and twisted adventure that takes them across the known world, far beyond their initial means and capabilities, in an attempt to save it from destruction. I think it’s safe to say that the stakes are high here. Luckily for them, they eventually encounter a sizable range of diverse new party members to help them along the way. Now, before we deep-dive into what lies ahead, let’s touch upon what this Definitive Edition brings to the fold.
The Definitive Edition includes upscaled resolution, two new fully playable party members (Flynn and Patty), along with additional content that has never been released outside of Japan, such as additional locations, costumes, and scenarios. Yes, this goes fairly beyond what we come to expect from a traditional face-lift, ensuring that it appeals to those that want to revisit the world of Terca Lumireis. I’m quite a fan of RPGs, and if there’s one thing that hasn’t quite satisfied me this gen, it’s the lack of RPGs that stand out from the crowd.
Tales of Vesperia has undoubtedly achieved that, which for a game that’s ten years old, is one hell of an achievement. First and foremost, you should know that this game is cutscene mania. Seriously, I shudder to even think about counting them, let alone the short dynamic interactions that the player can trigger frequently, to withdraw more world and character building. That’s not a bad thing by any means, in fact, it goes well in the game’s favor. The amount of depth as far as this is concerned in Tales of Vesperia, is simply through the roof.
That is to say that if you, like me, enjoy the journey of an adventure more than the payoff, you’re going to love what’s on offer here. I especially enjoyed watching the bond between characters strengthen as time moved on, reminding me why I enjoyed this particular adventure all those years ago. Even Yuri, who comes across as an asshole to begin with, mellows out and shows a softer side as you climb deeper into the fields of play. Hell, I can share that deserved commendation with pretty much every character that follows suit.
Sure, there’s some moments that are cringe-worthy, that’s pretty much a given, but for the most part, Tales of Vesperia doesn’t just come back with a bang, it comes back and shows many of its peers how it should be done. Much of the plot is fed to the player, as alluded to above, through an abundance of cutscenes, with character background and growth, largely spared for the skits that you can activate at will, when present. You’ll even witness unique battle celebration dialogue that tends to adapt and evolve as you make more progress.
That said, there’s some cringe-worthy dialogue throughout. I recall finishing a tough fight, only to hear one female character say to another “they bounce”, followed by “I wish I bounced”. Furthermore, and far harder to overlook, dialogue that’s expressed during battle is a broken record. Several times during any given fight, you’re likely to hear the same speech, over and over again, until the battle’s end. That’s a small gripe, but a gripe that pissed me off enough to make me turn down my volume so it wasn’t as head ringing.
Outside of that, the only other issue with the game is that of its framerate and its, at times, delayed transition from a battle’s end, to the screen you were on beforehand. These delays are only momentary, and indeed infrequent, but it does break immersion ever so slightly. I can describe the framerate in exactly the same way. There’s a minor stutter when traversing larger areas, more so when you’re moving from one screen to the next. Once again, however, this is easy to overlook, given that it doesn’t tend to last more than a few seconds.
Now, back to basics. Tales of Vesperia does a wonderful job at feeding you into the fields of play and giving you a firm understanding as to what everything in this world signifies. It’s never made complicated, or overly complex. The game’s main characters, or most of them, are instantly interesting, as indeed are their relationships with one another, providing the tale with even more grip. Taking the game’s age into account, the crux of play is quite traditional in the sense that this was first created when RPGs were shifting in core concept.
The game’s world is depicted as a world map, in which your party leader traverses from one location to the next, à la Final Fantasy VII. There’s minimal restraints as to where you can go, however, you will indeed need to meet certain requirements through the story before specific locations allow you to make entry. Whilst you’re on the world map, enemies and monsters will be visible, oftentimes spawning in within peeing distance – giving you just about enough leeway to decide whether you want to evade them or tackle them head-on.
The game’s world is chock-full of diverse beasts, varying in both power and capability. That being said, so long as you follow the rules of a tradition RPG, which is to say that if you battle the majority of foes set out on your natural path, you’re own power and capability will remain on-par with expectations. Throughout play, you’ll move from one area to the other, before the story determines where to go next. Rinse, and repeat. That may sound basic on paper, but in practice, thanks to the game’s wonderful story, it rarely grows old.
I’ll reiterate, the game is cutscene heaven. Often will you visit a new cave, mountain or city, take a few paces, and be met with a story beat of some sort, before being given another just a few paces more. That said, the game knows exactly when to loosen up and give you the freedom to explore and fight as you see fit, with no barriers whatsoever, breaking up the pace. It pays off to explore and interact with as many of the game’s NPCs and vendors as possible, especially the latter, seeing as they offer those all important wares and benefits.
I found the balance here to be well set. There’s no shortage of Gald (currency) to farm from battles and general exploration, which can then be spent on those aforementioned goodies; new weapons, stopping at the inns, stocking up on useful supplies that aid you in battle, and so forth. You can even buy food for the use of cooking. You’ll find recipes hidden all over the world through one outlandish hide-and-seek vendor. Cooking these various recipes will grant you with some buffs that can prove useful when utilized at just the right time.
One gameplay element that I thoroughly enjoyed was its light puzzle sections. There’s a few instances in which you’ll need to use your head to make progress, and although the answers or layouts are typically in plain sight, it helped to break up the pace a bit between battles. The battle system itself is relatively satisfying, too. You can take four of your party members into battle, with the player controlling a single member at a time, whilst the other three party members are controlled by a customized set of A.I. commands and behaviors.
You’re free to swap between the four characters at any given time during a fight, performing a bevvy of both physical and magical attacks throughout. During battle, your physical attacks are tethered to the B button, with a short cool-down between combos to maintain fairness. Arte attacks, on the other hand, are tied to the A button. These tend to cause more damage than your standard attacks, but come at the expense of TP. Once your TP is depleted, you’ll need to rely on your standard attacks or utilize your Overlimit.
The Overlimit gauge will fill up (several times over later on) as you take and dish out damage. Once this is full, you can trigger it to enjoy an unrestrained cluster of attacks – with no cool-down – for a limited amount of time. This comes in handy when you’re taking on the game’s well designed boss encounters, many of which come with unique attack patterns and specific parameters. You may also find some secret missions whilst taking these on, should you tackle them in unique ways. This all opens up later into the overall adventure.
Throughout the course of the game, you’ll learn new Artes and obtain new capabilities, all of which can be tied to a custom prompt so that you can set your own commands and truly build the characters in a way that suits your style of play. These varying Artes come with pros and cons, so it pays off to assign Artes with variation, to get the most out of your build. Play right, and you’ll be able to utilize Mystic and Burst Artes, allowing you to further damage your opposition with devastating output. It all comes together quite nicely.
Combos can be a pain to maintain against the wrong enemy, or indeed, a cluster of enemies, but if you can achieve a good combo, you’ll be free to quickly utilize a Fatal Strike. You’ll know when you can do this as a colored symbol will flash on the screen momentarily, giving you a small window to hit RT to pull off one mighty attack. You’ll also need to be mindful about where your enemy is positioned. In fact, it’s imperative that you identify their attack and movement patterns early on to see the battle’s end sooner than later.
For instance, a flying enemy will need to be uppercut – achieved through physical attack and pushing the stick upwards. If you just attack whilst pushing the stick in their general direction, chances are your attacks will not connect. The same applies for enemies that stay low to the ground. It’s a simple system to say the least, but it all adds to the overall depth nonetheless. Your melee weaponry will also alter how you fight, with the majority of weapons offering their own combo patterns. Speaking of, there’s the skill system too.
Weapons come with their own skills, which if held for long enough, will be learned permanently. Should you move through the game and throw away a weapon as soon as you see a more powerful one, you’re likely going to miss out on learning a new skill. This helps to keep the battle system grounded and consistent. These skills can be assigned through the use of skill points, with each skill costing a set amount of points to assign. This improves as you level up, allowing you to make the most of having even more benefits.
Despite my description of Tales of Vesperia being quite traditional, the actual combat is more modern than anything else. You’re not stuck in place, nor forced to wait for a turn-based timer. Instead, you can freely move around the immediate environment, enabling you to get an angle on whatever enemy sits in your path, or fast swap between selected enemies to take on more than one foe at a time. The controls can be a bit clunky at times, but in the grand scheme of things, Tales of Vesperia’s formula works remarkable well.
When a battle is over, you’ll be met with a grade screen that charts how well (or poorly) you battled. Much like everything else within, the game does a good job at feeding you these explanations. Should you need to revisit some intel, the game’s menu allows for browsing a wide range of useful tips, alongside keeping track of your quests and your story so far. There’s a great deal of replay value to be found here, heightened even further by the game’s wide range of side-quests and secrets, should you have the stomach to seek them all out.
When all is said and done, this is well worth a trip down memory lane if you played the game the first time round, and equally, if you’re a newcomer and a fan of RPGs, this should certainly be on your radar. Tales of Vesperia boasts engagement, simplicity, and depth, in such a way that’s both unique and compelling from start to finish. There’s hours upon hours of content to work through, content that manages to remain exciting from the get-go. Whether you’re here for the story, the diversity, or the fun, this is bound to entertain you.
I was half expecting the visuals to have aged to some degree, but mercifully, they stand out as brightly today as they did a decade back. The game’s treatment ensures that the whole trek is both sharp and vibrant, bolstered further by its well detailed locations of varying design. The voice acting can grind from time to time, but even this stands firm for the most part, in both English and Japanese. I’ll extend the same level of appreciation to the game’s soundtrack, which goes on to capture the mood and the vibe of the game sensationally well.
Despite the occasional flaw, the game does a remarkable job of keeping things simple and easy to understand, at the same time as embedding depth through its fluid, interconnected gameplay elements. Whether you’re here for the satisfying combat, the deep and engaging story, or the vast and diverse quests within, Tales of Vesperia will certainly deliver. That, together with its additional extras, makes this edition a must have.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.