Developed By: Namco Tales Studios
Published By: Bandai Namco
Platforms: PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
The Vesperia Shine
Every year there is no shortage of JRPG’s especially when we live in an age where old titles are being brought back to current platforms. The Tales series is no stranger to avid JRPG followers. The series over many years has been well known for sticking to its anime styled roots whilst not deviating too much from the classic JRPG storytelling. While developer Bandai Namco remains faithful to the formula of the Tales series, not every entry in the series clicked well with fans and alike.
Tales of Vesperia was originally released in 2008 for the Xbox 360 as a means to enter the Japanese market and it was a major hit with fans. A year after, the game saw an updated release on the PlayStation 3 which to this day remains as a Japanese only title. Tales of Vesperia remains one of the best entry to the series and fans were perplexed as to why there was no western release despite the huge demand. Finally coming into 2019, Bandai Namco, in celebration for the game’s tenth anniversary has – like finally, released in its best complete form under the name Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition. What a long wait it was and the wait was definitely worth it.
As mentioned, Vesperia is touted as one of the best in the series for various reasons and the Definitive Edition adds to that with all the exclusive content from the previous Japanese PS3 version. Aside from that, there are new voice-overs on English and Japanese for additional dialogue and not to mention the ability to switch to Japanese audio with English. Despite being a decade old title, this is considered one of the best JRPGs ever to grace today’s consoles.
Being a remastered title means there is bound to be some improvement in performance and visuals. On the Playstation 4, it runs 60 FPS in 1080P throughout the whole game. The Nintendo Switch on the other hand, will display at 1080p while docked but drops to 720p in handheld mode. Xbox One however is able to display 1080p throughout but like the Switch, 60 FPS is exclusive to battles while other situations will be in 30 FPS. While this may sound that the Playstation 4 has an upperhand, there are times where the framerate will drop when the battle gets a little too intense. On the PC side though, the framerate is very varied but can support up to 4K resolution.
What a hero
What sets Vesperia apart from the rest of Tales let alone the whole of the JRPG genre is how it lays out a unique identity in its character building. Yuri Lowell, the main protagonist, is easily one of the freshest takes on the hero archetype that the series has ever produced. Unlike, many shounen archetype that most JRPGs tends to lean on where you will be stuck with a hero that you will either hate or it’s hard to grow on to until the story picks up. Yuri, on the other hand, truly stands out even from the rest of misfits you gather. From the sarcasm in his words to his cynical manner towards certain people comes out somewhat refreshing to me. One can also easily put him under the anti-hero label as he has the notion to take matters through his own take on justice even if it means that it is viewed as wrong to the other characters.
Furthermore, unlike many main protagonist in the Tales series, Yuri has a more fully developed personality due to his matured age. Thus his actions and words made more sense rather than judging things based on the typical “hero justice” that many shounen characters tends to exude almost all the time. Hence, even till this day, Yuri remains a fan favourite amongst the fans of the Tales series. That said, Yuri himself is also surrounded by many well-developed characters including Estelle, a noble whom is super naïve but grows eventually and Flynn who is a good friend of Yuri has a contrasting personality that tends to clash with Yuri and often times argues along the journey. As a matter of fact, the rest of characters that joined up the party comes with their own set of ideology and views that many of their interactions ended up head butting with each other regularly. This gives a truly unique dynamic of party interaction that many JRPGs often times do not have.
A Fresh Tale
Vesperia still follows the typical shounen anime type of story of saving the world. However, what makes it different is how it really takes its time to properly build up the development of each character very well. It may somewhat feel like a drag as the pacing of the early parts of the story is rather slow. However, as the story progresses, you will find that the changes and growth of each character made more sense. Many other titles even the other Tales, tend to skip certain parts of the character build up in order avoid the sense of drag in the story but in turn, it makes certain characters hard to follow and easily forgotten. This to me is one of the appreciating points of Vesperia.
As far as gameplay goes, Vesperia follows the same mechanics like the rest of the Tales series. In battle, you have a button to attack, another for guarding, another for Artes or Magic. You can also press and hold a button to move around the battlefield instead of moving in two directions only. It is a typical Tales setup. The beauty of Vesperia, however, lies in its simple and understandable mechanics. Over the course of the game, it will introduce more mechanics that add more layers to the battle however it never over-complicates the whole experience. You can still go through the game without fully utilizing every mechanics at your disposable. Does that mean that there is no deep complexity in the battle mechanics? It does reveal itself to be once you have fully grasped every battle mechanics like utilizing combos and Artes in between and timing with your party members to pull out devastating moves. It makes every battle fun and experimental. The game knows how to reward those that want a casual experience and to the hardcore enthusiast that wants more out of it.
Skills and nothing but skills
Vesperia features a character skill system that seems to borrow from Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy. Skills are divided into 4 categories – Attack, Guard, Move and Support. Each skills has a different SP or Skill Point cost hence there is a limit in how many you can equip on. You can extend the amount of SP by leveling up. You can also learn new skills through a weapon that is equipped. In order to equip the skills without the weapon is by earning LP or Learning Points. Once you learn the skill, the SP cost of the skill will be revealed. As your skill repertoire increases, you will open up huge customization options to suit your liking. It is actually a fairly simple and straightforward system but it works especially when the difficulty can really spike on certain boss battles.
In addition, there is also a local co-op supported where you can get a buddy to participate battles with you. In all honesty, the addition of the co-op feels more like a novelty rather than a value added feature.
Like most JRPGs, soundtracks are usually one of the main highlights and Vesperia, in this part, does not disappoint. The soundtracks featured here are a standout all by themselves. From the battle themes to unique tracks in different towns, oozes with a catchy flair. Not to mention the opening theme song is subtle but amazing even in both English and Japanese versions of it. I can’t help to keep humming to it each time i pop in the disc.
Not all is perfect
With all the deserving praises that Vesperia has, there are still certain areas where it misses the mark. First and foremost, it is still a very old game and parts of the game show that it did not age very well. Certain animations can still appear to look very stiff and awkward. Certain dialogues and voice acting can also sound very inconsistent especially for those who have played the original release back in 2008. Adding on to the inconsistency is Yuri’s voice actor Troy Baker was not called back for the additional dialogues but instead we have someone that tries his best to impersonate his voice. Anyone that is familiar with Troy’s voice work would easily spot the difference. Yuri is not the only one as the rest of the cast of characters also has similar problems. Many of them were done by new voice actors that could not even do a good job in maintaining the same voice consistency. What’s worst is that some of them didn’t even try to hide the fact that their voices sound vastly different from the original actors. The jarring inconsistency can really take you out of the whole experience in the game. A shame but nonetheless it is still not a huge deal breaker.
Secondly, the game still features what most JRPGs do which is to offer fan service. This might be a plus point to anime fans, but it is this writer’s humble opinion that the Tales series should go beyond that and offer a more mature take to show how far the series has grown. Though the fan service in Vesperia is not as bad as other games personally I feel it kinda cheapens the experience and puts the well-rounded cast of characters in danger of falling for the same tropes which can be a hit and miss for many other JRPG titles.
Last but not least, travelling in the game is pretty standard as you are given an open world map to traverse complete with enemies moving around for you to battle. Nonetheless, I do wish there is more to be done in the overworld map like hidden dungeons or unique sub-quests that encourages for more exploration. You still can find a treasure chest or two but that is as far as exploration goes here. I can’t help but feel this seems like a wasted opportunity considering the vast space the map has. Nonetheless, certain locations are memorable enough to make it feel unique from one another.
Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition still serves as a good benchmark for fans to know what kind of quality Bandai Namco should pursue if they ever release another Tales in the near future. They can still retain the anime quality but also should try out different ideas in order to reinvigorate the series further. Despite the decade-old gap, Tales of Vesperia: Definite Edition can still hold its own along with the more newer JRPGs that have been released. While the game still has the small annoyances that most JRPGs tend to suffer but the quality characters and easy to pick up battle system more than makes it up for it. If you have not played the series before or if you are looking for a good JRPG to play this year, Tales of Vesperia: Definite Edition has more than enough on offer to sink your teeth in.