An excellent offering

Font Size

Game Time

Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition
PlayStation 4/Nintendo Switch

ALREADY IN the process of winding up the development of Tales of the Abyss, Namco Tales Studio first planted the seeds for Tales of Vesperia in the middle of 2005. As the Xbox 360 was then about to be launched, it felt it had its medium of choice. Time and timing certainly helped it make a decision, what with specifications for the PlayStation 3 and the Wii not yet available. And it saw a natural, if productive, marriage with Microsoft, one of convenience but likewise of opportunity: It frequently enlisted the hardware manufacturer’s support in aiming to maximize the processing power of the seventh-generation console en route to the release of the latest entry in the Tales franchise.

It would take Namco Tales Studio three more years to shepherd Tales of Vesperia to completion. As the force likewise behind Tales of Symphonia and Tales of the Abyss, Team Symphonia wanted to get things right by incorporating the best of previous efforts and learning from constructive criticism to improve on aspects that weren’t as well received. And, judging from the extremely positive critical and commercial reaction, it did: The fruit of its labor garnered praise for presentation and gameplay while actually enabling the Xbox 360 to capitalize on first-mover advantages and gain headway in Sony- and Nintendo-leaning Japan.

Given Tales of Vesperia’s storied past, its enhancement for, and rerelease in, the latest platforms come as no surprise. And, as before, time and timing play crucial roles in the Definitive Edition’s turnaround to retail; a decade has passed since the title first made its way to store shelves, allowing Bandai Namco to offer its upgraded version via the new batch of consoles. All the content that were subsequently added to the PlayStation 3 port hitherto available only in Japan makes its way to the 10th Anniversary iteration, as do technical upgrades that enable much-improved visceral feedback.

To be sure, Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition leans on the same narrative to propel gamer interface. Thankfully, its richness holds up well. The planet Terca Lumireis derives energy from blastia cores that likewise provide protection to cities by sealing off the Adephagos, monsters capable of sucking life forces. Antihero Yuri Lowell, a former Imperial fighter with a colorful background and whose unique brand of morality extends beyond the legal, is thrust into the proceedings following the theft of his town’s precious blastia. While in pursuit of the pilferer, he crosses paths with Estellise Sidos Heurassein, princess and heiress to the throne. Their meeting becomes the precursor to the creation of the Brave Vesperia and sets off a chain of events in which the fate of the world is at stake.

In unfolding the character-driven plot, the Definitive Edition of Tales of Vesperia benefits from its more robust material. It boasts of characters that interact with each other well, steer away from role-playing-game archetypes, and inject unpredictability and depth in the proceedings. Moreover, it gains immensely from technology-driven improvements; even as 4K resolution is available on personal computers, it has 1080p as the default resolution in console versions. And, for the most part, it runs smoothly; it stays at 60 frames per second outside of the rare drops on the PS4 Pro, and occasionally downgrades to 30 fps whenever practicable on the Switch. Even while playing undocked on the latter, it remains smooth, albeit off relatively subdued visuals.

In any case, the graphics of Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition are much improved vis-a-vis its predecessor’s. Clearly, significant work was done to make the anime art style pop from the screen; protagonists and locations exhibit vibrant colors and standout sharpness. Not to be outdone are the excellent audio tracks. The new English voiceovers for characters in the Japan-only release are nothing short of excellent and complement the remastered ones. Meanwhile, the music sets the right tone and helps bring out the setting-appropriate reactions from gamers.

Given the eye and ear candy, the gameplay of Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition perks up as well. Admittedly, it does hold its own by itself, with its combat system a clever amalgamation of Japanese RPG and traditional fighting-game elements. Which, in practice, is far less complicated than is initially apparent. Newcomers are given the assistance they need via informative tutorials and expedient options to forego the usual climbs up the upgrade trees. For the more inclined, it presents a rewarding resource-management mechanic that enables hefty buffs and strategic combos for extraordinary damage.

For good measure, Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition supplies artificial intelligence that actually holds up. Brave Vesperia’s battle group becomes more formidable in the face of first-rate programming; outside of the gamer-controlled character, the others in the party of four are properly used and thus pull their weight in the crunch. Conversely, opponents present the desired challenges — offering incentives for upgrades but not to the point of being so unfair as to require near-incessant grinding.

All told, Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition is an excellent offering that deserves its place in any contemporary gamer’s library. For those who haven’t played a Tales game before, it’s an ideal title with which to be introduced to the series. At the same time, those who already finished it on the Xbox 360 will find the new content and audio-visual enhancements compelling enough to merit another look. It’s at least 50 hours’ worth of engrossing gameplay tucked in an absorbing narrative, more than enough to justify its $49.99 price tag. It’s not Tales of Berseria, but it’s close.

• Story and gameplay hold up even after a decade

• Presents all content released to the title, including those not previously available to Western audiences

• Upgraded visuals and sounds

• Runs smoothly on the PS4 Pro, and even undocked on the Switch

• New voiceovers for the additional content dubbed in English can lead to jarring disconnects

• Grinding required, especially for completionists

• Visuals not as sharp on the Switch

RATING: 8/10