Tales of Vesperia was an early standout JRPG for the Xbox 360, part of a genre that would come to be a rare commodity on Xbox consoles as time went on. A subsequent enhanced PlayStation 3 port never received a western release, its extra content locked away from English-speaking audiences – until now. Bandai Namco has finally released the full Vesperia experience in both English and Japanese as Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition for not just PlayStation 4, but also Xbox One, Switch, and Steam.
Tales of Vesperia’s story doesn’t connect to other Tales games (though there is an animated prequel movie on Blu-ray), so Definitive Edition functions as a perfect entry point for the series. The game takes place in a fantasy world with mild science fiction elements. Humanity and other races live in settlements protected from the wild by blastia, a scarce and sought-after technology whose origin is revealed later in the narrative. Individual people can also utilize portable blastia devices to wield magic and enhance their combat ability.
After a beautiful anime introduction, the game begins with lead protagonist Yuri, a former knight, volunteering to hunt down a mage who stole an important blastia from his neighborhood. Themes of classism quickly emerge as Yuri and his pipe-chewing dog Repede’s investigation leads them to the high-born district of town. Our hero soon encounters Estellise, a noblewoman with enigmatic powers. The two share a common friend, the knight Flynn, who Estellise desperately wants to find.
As the game progresses, a total of nine characters join the party. Only four can participate in battles at any time, but everyone gains experience, thankfully. The Definitive Edition features two more playable characters than the Xbox 360 game. Teenage pirate Patty Fleur is a completely new addition, whereas Flynn, who only participated in one battle in the original version, graduates to fully playable teammate status. The high pitch of Patty’s English voice might annoy some players. But to the pirate lass’s credit, she fits organically into the story rather than feeling like a throwaway bonus character.
Speaking of voice acting, Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition allows players to select between English and Japanese voices. The English voice acting captures plenty of emotion and charm, even if an occasional line reading falls flat. There are tons and tons of voiced cinematics, including countless optional conversations that pop up at various intervals throughout the party’s travels.
Many scenes that were not previously voiced on Xbox 360 now get the spoken treatment, which leads to the Definitive Edition’s most controversial element. Bandai Namco kept the original voices intact while recording new lines for the previously PlayStation 3-exclusive content. Unfortunately, the publisher opted not to invite Yuri’s original voice actor, Troy Baker, back to record the character’s new lines. His replacement, Grant George, usually matches Troy’s voice quite well. But he occasionally sounds a bit off, which can be distracting when you notice it. Still, I consider the difference fairly minor overall.
Casting weirdness aside, Tales of Vesperia is a natural fit on current-gen consoles. The colorful anime-style characters don’t show their age at all, though I wish the environmental textures had been upgraded. The towns the party visits all display a great deal of personality, even if their layouts tend to fall on the small side compared to most JRPG towns. Enemies show up on the world map and in dungeons, so random battles don’t bog down the pace of the game at all.
As for the combat, I’m not crazy about it. Vesperia features a 3D fighting game-like battle system in which you can directly control a single character’s movement, perform combos with two attack buttons, unleash simple special moves, and jump and block as necessary. But the responsiveness is much too slow, so actually doling out combos and blocking doesn’t feel as good or intuitive as it should.
Players can switch the combat to automatic, thankfully, which greatly alleviates the issue. By default, however, AI party members like to burn through consumable items too quickly for my liking. On PlayStation 4, clicking in the right stick to cancel their item use when prompted doesn’t seem to work, annoyingly. Also, the constantly rotating camera angles during auto-battles might cause motion sickness in some players.
Despite the unpolished battle system (which other players don’t seem to mind so much), Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition has a lot going for it. Its story, characters, and world still stand out these 11 years after the original release. The gameplay offers a strong level of depth, with a robust system in which characters learn skills by wielding different weapons, a cooking system for creating consumable items, a “title” system in which characters unlock different outfits for completing various goals, and much more. Throw in the Definitive Edition’s hours of voice acting, additional characters and outfits, and new minigames, and you get a role-playing game that’s worth playing for new and experienced players alike.
Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition
- Charming characters and an intriguing world
- Fantastic English and Japanese voice acting
- Lots of old and new content for JRPG fans to savor
- Automatic battles are quite convenient.
- Battle system is clunky and unresponsive when not playing on auto
- Protagonist Yuri’s English voice changes in new cinematics.
- The story takes a while to really get rolling.