(Note: PS4 Review Code provided by Bandai-Namco)
It has been too long since I last talked about the Tales series. This is a very important occasion for I am about to review an entry in the franchise I long thought would not get localized. The one entry in the seventh generation of video game consoles that would elude me due to my not being interested in an XBOX 360. Fortunately Bandai-Namco dropped a bombshell in 2018 when they announced a remaster of the formerly Japanese exclusive PS3 version. This entry is also considered by many Tales fans as one of the best in the franchise. Having played it myself I am here to share my thoughts on whether this statement is true as we take a look at Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition.
Note 1: Previous Tales game I reviewed is Zestiria.
Note 2: Having played many Tales games I will be referencing others to help illustrate certain points.
Developer: Bandai Namco Studios
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Genres: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, JRPG Sci-Fi.
Platforms: PS4/Nintendo Switch/XBOX One/PC
Length: 45-60+ hours (First playthrough. It depends on how many of the side-quests players choose to search for.)
Plot Summary: Vesperia is set in the world of Terca Lumireis, which uses an energy source called blastia for all its needs, including creating protective barriers around its cities. The story focuses on Yuri Lowell, a former Imperial soldier who chases after a thief that stole the lower quarter of Zaphias’ aqua blastia core. During the chase he runs into and aids Lady Estellise (Estelle for short), a noble woman on a mission. What started as a chase to reclaim what was stolen becomes a global journey for Yuri and the friends he makes along the way as they face off against various groups from the Imperial Knights to several Guilds who all have their own goals involving the control of aer or other things. Yuri will also come across his longtime friend and rival Flynn Scifo who joined the Imperial Knights and both having their own ideals on how to do the right thing.
Most Tales games features one or two antagonistic organizations. One of them being the big bad group. In Vesperia however, there are several. Some helpful but many will oppose our heroes. Each of them, be they friend or foe, have their own goals and ambitions. The goals range from the self-serving to the noble. It is all about how they want to achieve their objectives that determine whether our heroes face them or not. Of course the motley crew themselves have their own secrets they keep from each other and the players. While the setup of the story is a faction war there are many secrets about Terca Lumireis eventually uncovered that drastically up the stakes and it becomes much more than a fight about “who gets to be in charge”. Suffice to say it is quite the story with a mostly simple setup but with multiple layers to it.
As is often the case in Tales games the really interesting parts of the story come from learning more about the characters during the main story, side-quests and of course the vintage skits. Be them discussions about current story events or Rita secretly planning on visiting her Estelle after the journey was over. More on the characters in a bit.
This being an HD Remaster the graphics look the same as they did in their original 7th generation releases but crisper and mostly running at 60 frames per second. I say mostly because there are a few cut scenes where it goes back to the original 30. Besides a few cut scenes there are also certain sections of one or two towns/cities that run at 30 instead of 60 but again they are few. Keep in mind I played the game on the PS4 so I do not know if this is similar for the other versions. As for in-game graphics they look pretty good. I would say they are on par with later Tales entries after the original Vesperia releases but that is because the graphics have not changed very much since. I do think the overall character designs in Vesperia are some of the best. Personally think Flynn is the coolest of the “spiky blonde hero” archetype in the franchise. While I consider the locales in Tales of Graces f to be the best in the franchise Vesperia has its fair share of really cool locations such as the researcher city of Aspio and the cherry blossom town of Halure. The soundtrack, as is often the case with Tales games and myself, fits the mood with a few tunes that stood out.
Next up is exploration. Of course there is the “head to the key location” or “talk to this person” to progress the story but there are also other Tales traditions to keep track of during side-quests such as going back to towns/cities (and sometimes dungeons) visited for extra scenes and/or rewards at certain points in the game. Not all the time of course. There is also the “Inn Tradition” meaning at certain points resting at inns will unlock extra scenes, meaning it is worth revisiting towns. Not consistently but every now and then. It is especially important for one Key Item in particular found in the Desert Town. Keep in mind there are some side-quests that get locked for the rest of the playthrough if players did not follow required conditions before a game changing plot moment. This is especially important for the female swimsuits side-quest. Why they made that one almost demand a 2nd playthrough is beyond me. Maybe the developers were aware of how important sexy times are. Going back to plot progression for a bit the game is split into 3 Acts (the 2nd being the longest). What is interesting is that while the game remains the same each Act feels different in its own way. Without giving anything away the most notable example comes in the 3rd Act when a “Day to Night” cycle is introduced. This adds not only monsters that only come out at certain points but also certain items and side-quests are only available at night. Things like that. Some side-quests are locked behind “New Game Plus” however so to get everything it is required to play through the game twice. Then there is the return of transportation at some point in the game. I say return but it is more like after the original release vehicles seem to have been removed from later Tales games. It is not a personal necessity for all entries to include a transportation in the Overworld (boat or airship for example) but it is nice to see one again after playing several entries that did not have any or replaced it with fast travel.
The combat in Vesperia is a 3D free roaming action game where battles are initiated after approaching or being approached by an enemy. First of all I commend Vesperia for having the most comfortable playable party in the franchise. What I mean is that most of the characters I could play as and win battles with. In other entries I could maybe feel comfortable playing as three characters at most whereas in this one I could play as six with no trouble…except Karol (who I pronounce Carl or Karuru, not Carol). Besides the standard attacks, Artes and later Supers there are Skills characters can use and obtain via primary and secondary weapons that can be permanently learned after earning enough EXP and then usable again if the character has enough Skill Points. The skills range from universal (such as Attack and Magic boosts) to unique ones such as Judith’s aerial combat enhancing Skills like a Double Jump or performing certain Artes in the air. Enabling a certain amount of a colored Skill (Red, Yellow or Blue) unlocks an additional benefit to the player and even Party. The combat itself flows quite smoothly, as is the case with most entries after introducing Free Movement in Tales of the Abyss (if I am not mistaken). The Over Limit bar also got a bit more interesting with it having levels, each with its respective perks besides using Super and Ultra Moves such as temporary invincibility along with repeated strikes and Base Artes. I would say the combat in Vesperia rivals that of Graces f in fun factor though I have a bit of a soft spot for Berseria’s.
Time for my first nitpick. That being how much the game’s bestiary consists of color/palette swaps. Players will be surprised by how many different colored/shaped enemies there are. I think I counted nearly or more than 10 different types of Knights, Thieves, Heavy Swordsmen and Mages…and those are only counting the human enemies. Do not get me started on the monsters. Luckily boss battles are a different story with each one, even rematches with antagonists players fight more than once, has its own challenge. A nice bonus is what the Trophies/Achievements call “Secret Missions” where exploiting a boss’ weak point or getting rid of their advantage not only makes the battle less difficult but nabs players bonus points after the fight. One example is a boss who calls reinforcements during the fight. To stop this players must destroy the four mechanisms that operate the bridges for said reinforcements to cross over to the arena. This is one of the more obvious Secret Missions. Others involve finding a way to get a hard knockdown on the boss or other objectives to figure out. Point being these add a very nice extra spice to battles besides avoiding big bosses when they go Over Limit.
Moving along to the main cast I have no doubt in my mind when I say this is one of my favorite group of heroes in the franchise. Top 3. Each character has their fun traits, attitudes that need adjusting, personal obstacles to overcome (some greater than others) and of course skit moments.
We have main man Yuri who is like a Robin Hood character determined to help the weak…even if at times he goes way beyond the law to do so.
Repede the dog with an attitude who acts like a human (No he cannot speak human) and is like the Samurai of the group.
Karol is a lad who wants to become a respected member of a Guild but has strong fears and doubts that tie him down.
Judith is the beautiful warrior who acts polite but is quite sassy. It is difficult to explain but basically someone who often speaks in a sarcastic tone. She is fully aware of her incredible figure and sometimes takes full advantage of her beauty. Having said that she is not exactly super social.
Raven is the token ladies’ man and middle-aged pervert who has a laid back personality but plenty of skeletons in the closet.
The former PS3 exclusive newcomer Patty (I call her Krabby Patty) is a loli pirate complete with pirate jargon in the Western translation and is the comedy relief of the group. Even more so than Raven. Of course like everyone else there is much more to her than just being an adorable swashbuckler…and it is not just her having the most unique and tricky fighting style in the entire franchise.
Flynn (Not included in the above image) is the honorable knight who took the opposite direction of Yuri. Instead of playing by his own rules Flynn hopes to bring positive change to the Empire without breaking the rules. Because of this the two friends often have disputes over difference in morals. They both want to do the right thing but how they go about it is entirely different. The other reason I chose an image without him in it is because he is an on and off party member who unlike Patty joins the party on separate intervals. Patty leaves the party a few times but becomes a permanent member in due time. Flynn on the other hand comes and goes till he finally becomes a permanent member near the end of the main story.
One last nitpick before the main event. The party split up often and it is announced every time…only to be reunited one or two scenes later. This mainly happens in towns.
Image source HERE.
And now we are at the main event. Before RoLisha there was RiStelle, Rita X Estelle. The well-mannered but sheltered pink haired ojou-sama (No laugh though as she is too nice) who thanks to Yuri went out to see the world and learn her purpose in life. Then there is Rita, the blastia and aer otaku who is so obsessed with her research she cared little for other people. That all changed when Estelle came into her life and was overjoyed to befriend a girl the same age as her. Without giving anything away Rita’s sole objective was ensuring the safety of all the blastia cores across the globe to “Blastia and Estelle” (and friends I guess…) with the latter given top priority over time.
I am certain some will ask “What about Estelle and Yuri?” to which I respond, same thing as Sorey and Rose, super chummy but not romantic. Also Estelle has many more scenes, main and side-quest, where she is intimate with Rita, including a certain night scene with a child. Heck there is one skit where Yuri kind of acknowledges their relationship.
To give an example from an anime RiStelle’s relationship development is similar to that of Hibiki and Narumi from Re-Kan, complete with self-awareness from the show/game and the tsundere (Rita) being afraid of ghosts.
Basically this couple was hyped to me for a long time and after seeing them in action myself I have become part of said hype.
Overall Tales of Vesperia lived up to the fan praise as one of the best in the franchise as I now consider one of my personal favorites. #2 to be exact. The story has a simple setup but multiple layers, the presentation is pretty good, the gameplay and cast are one of the best in the franchise and RiStelle are wonderful together. Highly recommended to Tales fans who have either never played it before (like me), those who only played the XBOX 360 version but were not able to enjoy the many extras of the PS3 version and of course the curious who found this review compelling.
PS: There are typos in the translation but nothing game breaking. It is like the typos found in a major visual novel localization by a competent studio. Nothing serious.
PPS: This is the only Tales game where I preferred the Japanese dub over the English…mainly because of Estelle. The Western voice acting is also good so do not take this as me bashing the English dub. Not at all.