Originally released in 2009 on the Xbox 360 exclusively, Tales of Vesperia got lost in the shuffle. An attempt to endear Microsoft’s masculine shooter-focused console in Japan much like Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey before it, it was a no frills traditional RPG from the long-running franchise that many of you would have never played. Now, with Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition available across all modern platforms, a new audience will surely be found, but it may prove to be too traditional for some.
When it comes to Tales games, Tales of Vesperia is heralded as one of the fan favourites. Some may prefer the more modern twists that come from RPGs today, but there’s certainly something charming and comfortable about sticking to your roots and delivering a quality experience, like with the recent Dragon Quest XI. This game falls into that category, but those looking for something new may find themselves tiring of the cliches and tropes quite quickly.
Main protagonist Yuri is likable enough as he goes on his world-saving quest with new friend Estelle, and this definitive edition straight away boasts full voice acting in either English or Japanese, a big jump up from the silent characters of the original. This adds life into cut-scenes that were previously static and dry, and allows you to feel the development of their relationship as it progresses through optional dialogue. Along with the audio enhancements, visuals have also been given a boost, showcasing a lovely cel-shaded style that jumped off the screen of my Switch in docked or handheld.
As far as JRPG’s go, Vesperia is more linear than most. There aren’t a lot of side-quests or additional things to do beyond the main quest-line apart from perhaps some grinding to get from one level to the next. Your appreciation of this may vary, but I personally have had my fill of open-world games with too much in them recently, so being able to focus in on the adventure given to me and enjoy it without distraction is actually a pleasure.
The combat isn’t something I liked very much straight away, partially because of some intentionally tough battles to progress the story near the beginning of the adventure. Once I knew what I was doing, I fell into a bit of a rhythm that had me taking down groups of foes like nobody’s business. More like a hack ‘n’ slash with cooldown on abilities in an area that allows you to move around, block and counter, there are times when it frustrates, like when enemies hit you mid-strike, forcing you to retreat, block or try again.
Once you get a handle on attack patterns and settle in with a larger party of characters healing you and helping with large mobs this becomes less annoying, but overall there is a pace to some battles that I found meant that it was sometimes better to run around and avoid confrontation rather than getting stuck into offensive moves, which is not normally how I like to play.
Battles are quick and less RPG-like than others in the genre. more similar to a fighting game chaining together combos. Given you’ll be spending a lot of your time battling, your mileage will depend on how much it resonates with you. I didn’t catch this one the first time around on Xbox 360, so even though it feels slightly dates in some aspects, that doesn’t take away from my overall enjoyment. It also includes all of the DLC, more characters to play as and more Artes to use, which is a bonus for longtime fans.
Normally a definitive edition of a game like this isn’t something I’d rush out to be excited for, but the reality is that Tales of Vesperia never really found its audience on the Xbox 360 ten years ago, and for JRPG fans, it’s definitely worth experiencing. While in many ways it doesn’t do anything particularly original, its foundations are solid, making for a linear, enjoyable adventure that doesn’t get bogged down in trying to add meandering side-quests or other distractions. If you like the genre, I have no doubt you’ll like this one.
Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition is available now on Switch, Xbox One, PS4 and PC.