STAFF REVIEW of Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition (Xbox One)

Wednesday, February 6, 2019.
by Adam Dileva

Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition Box art Tales of Vesperia was one of my favorite JRPG’s from last generation. The long running Tales series surprised everyone when it was originally an Xbox 360 exclusive before being ported to PS3 about a year later with added content that Xbox owners never saw. Well, it’s the game's ten year anniversary and Bandai Namco has released Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition. I know what you’re thinking, yet another Definitive/HD/Remake edition that’s most likely a simple and lazy upscale with minimal bonus content, but you’d be wrong, as lots of content we never got to experience outside of Japan is finally available for fans.

Main protagonist, Yuri Lowell, is an ex-knight who is thrust into a seemingly easy journey to recover a stolen Blastia, essentially a crystal that provides a safe barrier around cities and towns from outlying monsters. Unaware who stole the Blastia, he pursues all his leads but ends up in jail when captured. Of course, when he breaks out he runs into a princess, and thus a small quest turns into a lengthy adventure that will take, at minimum, 40-50+ hours to complete.

Along the way you meet new comrades that will accompany you on your quest, each with their own personalities, battle style and reasons for joining your ragtag crew. To say the narrative is lengthy is quite an understatement, as the half dozen members of your party will each have their own back stories, quests to undertake and add hours of dialogue you’ll need to sit through. If you love cutscenes and story, you’re going to absolutely love Vesperia, as there’s absolutely no shortage of either.

Cutscenes are frequent and quite lengthy. There are even optional dialogues that you can trigger with the ‘Back’ button at certain points of the story that aren’t necessarily pivotal to the narrative, but more add some flair between each of the characters. These conversations are where you start to see the personalities of each character shine, be it Estelle’s naivety, Rita’s brashness and slaps, Yuri’s internal thoughts and more. I enjoy these sections, but they always seem to happen right after a lengthy cutscene, and it’s as if you get 20 minutes of gameplay for every hour of cutscene at times.

So, let’s quickly delve into what’s new, as returning players, like myself, who enjoyed it last generation are probably wondering if the added and improved content is justification for the fully priced game. First and foremost, the graphics and native resolution have been updated to full HD. To say this is a beautiful game is an understatement, and there’s no way you would be able to tell it’s a decade old simply from its visuals, which is quite impressive.

Even more seamless is the inclusion of all of the DLC, such as extra costumes, characters, locations and more that were previously only released in Japan. Also new is that the extra content was translated and voice actors recast, but that’s a separate issue I’ll delve into later. Fans now get to play as Patty and Flynn, each with their own unique personalities and combat skills, along with a handful of unique costumes to add a little more flair to your adventure. Better yet, all the bonus content has been seamlessly integrated into the main narrative, so instead of doing a lengthy sidequest to get Patty in your party that might be forgotten or missed, it’s simply a step in the main quest now, so you get to experience all of the content in the proper order it was meant to be.

Mechanics are eased into the gameplay, not overloading you all at once. In fact, even at the 30 hour mark you'll find new mechanics are introduced, allowing you to become accustomed to combat before dumping more on you. There’s a lot to take in, and it’s a great thing that they keep you on a pace where you’re able to do what do slowly, as it would simply be too much at once, especially when you start to learn how to create items through synthesizing and learning new skills.

Every weapon has its own abilities attached to it; while the weapon is equipped you will have access to those abilities, but use it enough and you’ll actually unlock the skill and can equip it to your loadout to use whenever you wish. So, a great strategy is to buy every item and weapon that has skills attached to it until you learn them before swapping them for another. Doing so will allow you to bank a huge amount of skills that you can swap whenever you wish, like more physical damage, defense, special abilities and a huge amount of unique characteristics and bonus to tweak your party just how you want. You only have a certain amount of SP (skill points) per level though, so the better abilities require more SP to equip, while the basic ones not as much.

Artes are your combat abilities that can be mapped to specific button combinations. You’re only able to equip a certain amount, but there’s a ton of different kinds to test out and practice with, finding what works best for your play style. While most will likely stick with playing as Yuri, as an offensive fighter, you’re free to control any of the characters in your roster if their play style suits you better.

You’ll eventually have four characters in your party that can be brought into every battle (and yes, non-participating members will still earn XP), able to freely swap and change them whenever you want. While I enjoyed having a rounded party of a tank, a healer and two attackers, you’re free to build your party however you wish, then augmenting them with certain skills and artes as well. You’re able to set up strategies for your AI controlled members, and for the most part, they do quite a decent job in their respective roles. You may have to tweak things a bit, as early on, my healer was gobbling down TP (mana) pots like they were going out of style.

Battles aren’t random, as you can see the enemies on the overworld map as you explore, and you can choose to engage in battle or not. Regular battles won’t have you breaking a sweat, but bosses, and optional side-bosses, will surely put your combat skills to the test, something that I really appreciated. Again, I simply stuck with playing as Yuri from beginning to finish, but feel free to experiment with each to find the one you like best.

Visually, this Definitive Edition is stunningly gorgeous. Sure, there’s a few graphical hiccups like some minor clipping and rough animations, but keeping in mind this is a decade old game with a new coat of paint, is still quite impressive. The world, and the characters found within, are wonderfully vibrant, bright and colorful and it’s simply a joy to look at.

Then there’s the audio. Now, the music and soundtrack is amazing, but there’s a major issue with the game's voice work. The voice acting itself is fine, even wonderful at times, and all of the original voice work from the original 360 version was left intact. Where the issue arises is that all of the new content has had some rework done to the voices, which normally wouldn’t be an issue, but the original voice actor wasn’t used, so there’s some scenes that sound vastly different and ‘off’ from what we’re used to. There’s a whole drama about it, one that I’ll leave out for you to google yourself, but the fact that two different voices are used for the same character is quite jarring and confusing at times.

Gameplay is fast and fluid, but the overall experience is bogged down with hours and hours of cutscenes and dialogue. While some will enjoy the heavy emphasis on narrative, as I usually do, it does get to be a bit much by the 30 hour mark. I don’t mind its anime-like visual approach, but I know it may turn some others off. Mechanically it’s great once you’re used to combat and every character is completely unique and memorable in their own way.

If you loved the original Tales of Vesperia on the Xbox 360 and want to experience it again, this is obviously a no-brainer, as you’re given new content on top of a shiny new coat of HD paint. It may be pricey for a ‘Definitive Edition’, but the added content does boost its value to make it worth experiencing. If you want a great JRPG that you may have missed last generation, then Tales of Vesperia should be high on your list if you’re looking for a new game to dump 50+ hours into, as long as you can handle a dialogue and cutscene heavy experience.

Overall: 8.5 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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