Ray Willmott reviews Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition…
RPGs have changed substantially over the last decade – in terms of how they control, the form of narrative and the way it is conveyed to the player – and that soon becomes clear when you jump into Tales of Vesperia in 2019.
In this Definitive Edition of a former Xbox 360 exclusive, the game glistens like never before in stunning HD. You can also hear the difference in the music, remastered with a fine tooth comb and with a few extra tracks added in for good measure. It certainly looks and sounds the part on PlayStation 4, and yet this is a game that quite often shows its age.
The big adjustment for most people will be the reliance on a single analogue stick. You’re not in control of your view for the most part, and simply have to worry about moving your character through a series of stunning environments.
The game will track your movement, choosing an appropriate camera angle for you. While disorienting at first, this often serves as a good reminder of the freedom we’ve been allowed in more recent adventures like Ni No Kuni 2 or Kingdom Hearts 3.
Real-time combat also feels a bit confined and sluggish now, often resorting to charging in and button mashing. It certainly adds a dynamic edge to the game and as enemies grow, you’ll need to adapt and evolve your gameplan, but the movement is restricted to moving left and right across the screen rather than having the liberty of exploring the whole battlefield.
Fortunately, you can change the ‘Arte’ skill of your character – a series of moves you can perform in combat – by mapping moves to stick motions, ensuring you don’t regurgitate the same move set over the 60-hour duration.
Moves are earned as you level up and have different properties and TP costs, such as being able to attack enemies off in the distance or using a firm uppercut to send them reeling backwards.
If you so choose, you can also set it so that all your party members can perform their moves automatically, tweaking their behaviour to suit your playstyle, or do it all manually depending on how much control you want to have over your actions.
Strategies can be tweaked as well by assigning commands to the D-Pad. Here, you can tell your allies to back off and let you take on the fight yourself. You can also have them conserve TP if their energy bars are low, be defensive if it’s a harder fight and health is low or by going all out to bring a foe down as quickly as possible.
Tales of Vesperia is a fan-favourite for a reason, though, and that’s due to its heart-warming story and eclectic cast of characters, thriving in a world powered by an energy known as Blastia. This is used in the creation of protective barriers and other renewable sources, but it also anchors the story, seeing a struggle for supremacy which slowly starts to tear apart a fractured world.
As Yuri – a former Imperial Soldier – and Repede – his faithful doggo sidekick – you set out to reclaim the Blastia Core used to power your primitive neighbourhood but end up trespassing in a noble’s house. Before Yuri and Repede know it, they’re behind bars and become unexpectedly involved in a chain of events which will determine the fate of the world.
Along the way, Yuri will meet some memorable characters like Estelle, a healer who is perhaps too loyal for her own good, Raven, a grizzled war veteran, and Karol, an unsure young man low on self-confidence, yet aspiring for greatness.
Tales of Vesperia is almost fully voice-acted, and you can now decide whether to listen to it in English or Japanese, another bonus of the Definitive Edition. However, the game also has some very special, wonderfully crafted cut-scenes, and even side-dialogue which can be accessed by pressing the touchpad. While slightly archaic in design, the sentiment appropriately presents three-dimensional characters for a three-dimensional world.
Despite its limitations and drawbacks, Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition remains one of the best stories in the genre and comes highly recommended if you’ve never experienced it before.
The Definitive Edition also adds never before seen content in the West, such as two brand new playable characters, Artes, skills, bosses, and even unreleased costume DLC. On that merit alone, it’s a must for collectors and a perfect jumping on point for newcomers.
+ Graphics have never looked better
+ Story and characterisation are as compelling as ever
+ Lots of new content for the first time in the West including new characters
– Control scheme now feels quite dated
– Combat feels aimless at times and degrades into button mashing
– Loading times and transitory screens sometimes slow
Platform reviewed on PlayStation 4