When the topic of classic Japanese role-playing games is brought up, people tend to focus on a set few titles. Final Fantasy VII will forever be etched into the history of the genre for obvious reasons -- as is the case with several other entries in Square Enix's beloved series -- and most would probably give nods to properties like Dragon Quest, Suikoden, Breath of Fire, and specific titles such as Chrono Trigger and Xenogears. All of these games are considered classics for a reason, but only every so often does Bandai Namco's long running Tales franchise enter the conversation.
Believe it or not, Tales of Vesperia is over ten years old. It began life as an Xbox 360 exclusive, back in the days when Microsoft was looking to gain some sort of foothold in Japan -- a strategy that ultimately didn't amount to much. Needless to say it was later ported to the PlayStation 3, but much to the disappointment of many, this enhanced re-release never made it West.
It's worth noting Vesperia's age because now, in 2019, it falls into a particular category of games. It's now old enough to be remembered especially fondly by those who played through it when they were teenagers or young adults, but it's not quite a "classic" in the same way that the previously mentioned JRPGs are. And really, that's a bit unfair, because there's a reason Tales of Vesperia is widely regarded as one of the best titles in the series.
But as hinted, the Tales franchise has never found itself traversing the same JRPG landscape as the titans of the genre. By and large, it's always been regarded as a kind of "b-tier" property. If JRPGs were food, Tales games would be reasonably priced takeaways. They taste good while they last and they certainly fill you up, but they're not the best grub that money can buy, and chances are, they won't last long in your memory. That is, until you order another one.
And we're not going to sit here and argue that the series should be revered in the way Final Fantasy is, or that Tales games in general are criminally underappreciated, but we will stick our neck out and say that Tales of Vesperia is a cut above the majority of its brethren. If any Tales title can be considered a classic, based on age and quality, it's got to be this one.
So thank the gaming gods that we've got Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition on PlayStation 4. This is the re-release that some of you have been waiting a decade for, complete with the additional playable characters and story scenarios that were packaged into the PS3 port all those years ago. It runs at a silky 60 frames per second, the updated graphics look pretty, and most importantly, it's still a darn good JRPG.
What sets Vesperia apart from its kin is its rather unique personality and feel. It features a primary cast of misfits that are all lovable in their own way -- a band of stubborn weirdos who just want to find their purpose in the world. It tells a story that deals in a fair amount of cliches -- world altering crystals and all that, obviously -- but it's the characters that you stay for. Yuri, the game's protagonist, remains one of the best realised heroes in the series, his aloof exterior hiding relatable insecurities, a dangerously dark streak, and a passion for dumb jokes.
Yuri's surrounded by a party that you can't help but care for as their motives clash and their relationships bubble. Estelle, a noble who's spent her whole life reading books behind castle walls, is indecisive and incredibly naive, but Yuri and the gang's stern support guides her through a great character arc. The fact that the main cast butt heads so regularly gives them a dynamic that you don't often see -- especially in JRPGs -- and it's refreshing when one of them has to put their foot down and tell it like it is.
It gets to a point where you're not even sure whether you're actually playing as the good guys. Yes, there are designated baddies scattered throughout, but there's a greyness to Yuri and the gang's actions that keeps things interesting. Right or wrong, the party's journey raises some surprisingly thought-provoking themes.
But for all the praise Vesperia deserves due to its characters and engaging plot points, there's no getting away from the fact that its storytelling can be hit and miss. This is largely down to janky cutscene animations that haven't aged all that well, and patches of awkward dialogue and voice acting that scream "this game was first localised in 2008".
What's more, the scenarios that were added in the PS3 re-release have all been freshly dubbed in English. That in itself is a good thing, but it leads to some jarring inconsistencies. For example, in the original, Yuri is voiced by the one and only Troy Baker, but according to Baker, he was never asked to come back for the Definitive Edition, and so we're left with a replacement actor doing his best Troy Baker impression. It sounds fine until you eventually catch on, and then you'll never be able to stop yourself from thinking "hey, this isn't Troy Baker, this must be a new scene!" Needless to say, it takes you out of the experience.
Yuri's not the only character who suffers, either. Several secondary characters have also been thrown into the hands of new voice talent, and some don't even try to hide the fact that they sound completely different. Fortunately, you can play through the whole game with the Japanese voice track, but it's obviously not an ideal solution for those who want to hear the story acted out in English. All in all, the discrepancy isn't a deal-breaker, but it's a damn shame.
Moving on, how does the gameplay hold up over ten years later? Well, we won't lie: we found ourselves wishing for any kind of minimap when traversing towns and dungeons, and going back to a zoomed-out world map when moving from place to place feels archaic in 2019, but aside from that, Vesperia's traditional JRPG gameplay loop has aged well. Locations are memorable and exploration is almost always rewarded with a treasure chest or two, and the game's skill system, which lets you customise your characters with various boosts learned through equipping and wielding specific weapons, is straightforward and effective.
Of course, tying exploration and character progression together is the title's action-based combat, which, while not as fast or as fluid as the fighting that's found in more recent Tales games, stands strong as a tactically nuanced and combo-heavy hack and slasher. The somewhat methodical pacing of battle can take a little getting used to -- attacks tend to leave you open once they're through so correct timing and spacing are important wrinkles -- but it feels fantastic once you're up to speed.
That said, difficulty spikes during early boss fights can be an issue, but it's a minor complaint in the grand scheme of things. Before long, you'll have a wide array of powerful special moves and combos at your disposal, and you get a real sense of accomplishment upon mastering each new mechanic that the game sends your way. And if you're only here for the story, you can just hit up the easy difficulty at any point and save yourself the trouble.
Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition brings one of, if not the best Tales game to PS4, and that alone will no doubt be enough to persuade fans of the series. But really, ten years after its original release, Vesperia deserves more credit than that. It's a borderline classic Japanese RPG, and one that still holds up in 2019 thanks to a great cast of characters and some finely poised action.
If anyone's got any questions about the game or the review just let me know.
Best Xbox 360 game to me. I really wanted to get it on PS4 but the collectors edition was sold out.
I'll def ring a bell when this game is by my side on Friday.
Nice to see the review,since I was wondering about it
Anyway I guess it's time for the cliche question: would this game Be a good entry point for newcomers or would you recommend another entry first?
@jdv95 Near perfect entry point if you're a newcomer.
You probably know this already but (most) of the main Tales games are all separate from each other. Different stories, characters, worlds, like Final Fantasy.
One thing iam not looking forward to is backtracking like a mad man hopeing i didn't miss any costume titles because i went to far into the story
@ShogunRok thank you for the clear answer!
I'm thinking about checking this out, because I've always wanted to get into the series at some point. I remember when Symphonia came out and it got a good amount of hype. Since then I've wanted to break into the series.
I loved this on the 360. The opening theme tune is ace.
Just got my dispatch email 👌👌
@ShogunRok First review of Push Square in 2019? Now I will finally play this game, I just played Tales of Symphonia and it’s pretty good.
Two questions primarily. Do any of the party members aside from Yuri sound off in English?
And does Patty feel tacked on, or like a genuine member of the party?
I saw this is coming out at a good price point but Zestiria and Berseria are going super cheap in the sale, any suggestions?
Does it have pro enhancements?
And it runs much better than the Switch version. Take a look (it’s German though):
https://youtu.be/YXZQklFM7-E (Starting at 9:40)
PS4 version for me.
@Sakisa As far as I know (and could tell), none of the main characters aside from Yuri have different voice actors in the new scenes.
Patty does feel a bit tacked on at times but she's mostly well implemented and by the end she definitely feels like a proper member of the party.
@Spectra no it's definitely the best Tales game.
@PS_Nation Yep, first review of 2019 for me and a good one to start with. I'd be happy reviewing 8/10s for the rest of the year!
@ShogunRok alright, cool cool.
Gonna stick with English then. Thanks for the response.
The best tales game and the best rpg on xbox 360
Already play and finished it on xbox 360 so I'm not buying it at full price, but if there's good discount I think I'll replay it again on ps4.
@PS_Nation yep I'm still playing tales of symphonia chronicles.great games on my ps3.word up son
@Sakisa Yeah playing in English is fine for the vast majority of the game, and I dare say you get over Yuri's change in voice eventually. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
I absolutely loved this game when it first came out on Xbox 360 and I can't wait to love it again. Question is do I buy it for PS4 for its smooth performance and 60fps, or do I get it for Switch for the ability to take it anywhere, play in bed, and have more readily available controllers for co-op?
@MightyDemon82 Zestiria and Berseria feature very different combat styles compared to the main series. Zestiria is also very hit and miss, with lots of weird systems, niggles, and experiments that people either love and hate.
It feels more like a prototype to Berseria, which is a pretty good game in the series. Just be aware that they're both very different from the rest of the series.
@Cassetticons thanks I might pick up Berseria and Vesperia then.
does the base ps4 also run this on 60fps?
@jdv95 Yes, I believe so, I think it just runs at a higher resolution on Pro.
@ShogunRok again thank you.
Best Tales for me so far is Symphonia, so good luck to this game trying to convince me otherwise. My wife got me Tales of Destiny on PS1 for Christmas though and Tales of Destiny: DX PS2 (japanese-language only though) so another Tales game so soon is great news.
@Cloud7794 Well the good news is that if you love Symphonia you'll love this. Very similar in terms of structure and combat.
@Cloud7794 Tales of Symphonia is good but I prefer Tales of Vesperia much more.
@ShogunRok Yeah I've seen, same "team" as Symphonia too. I'm sure I'll very much enjoy it.
@tabris95 The Switch version has some performance issues at the current state (version 1.0.0 and 1.0.1). I’ve linked a video in a post above. Don’t know if they’re going to patch it though.
@ShogunRok Thanks for another great review. Definitely picking this up on PS4 next month, once I've gotten KH3 played (January's an indie binge month for me this year!) Any further word on the possible remasters/ports or the Xillia collection yet? Would love to see more Tales games either remastered or ported to PS4 (especially Symphonia).
@MistressTonberry No more on that yet, but if Vesperia does well I'm sure Bamco will be thinking about it. I'd love a remastered collection of Xillia/Xillia 2.
Something to keep an eye out for this year, for sure.
Thanks for the review. Well done, as always. I’ve been asking about the Tales series but there is a general lack of buzz about it compared to its JRPG brethren. This review is a great intro for those of us who are curious and considering taking a dip into the series.
My only experience with the Tales series is about ten hours of Tales of Graces F on PS3 (I'm not even sure if that was the name - it was something F) and I got really bored. But I love me a JRPG. So was that one a bad one for me to start with and will I like others more, or is Tales just not for me?
@johncalmc Tales of Graces F is definitely one of the weaker ones; I'm a fan of the Tales series, but that one bored me too. Tales of Vesperia is a brilliant game, though – I know I'm repeating what others have said, but it's also my favourite entry into the series. I say give it a go if your a JRPG fan.
@ShogunRok Thanks for the reply PS4 has been the age of the remaster (as well as some of the best ever new PS exclusives), so here's hoping we get some more JRPG remasters on the system before PS5 comes out! either way, Vesperia is a definite buy for me come mid-Feb.
@johncalmc I'd recommend Berseria - the story is quite dark for a Tales game and I really liked the main character too. It's very cheap at the mo on various PS stores' January sales.
@johncalmc Yeah like @Jake3103 says Graces F is a bit crap. I know it has its fans, but if you're anything like me then you thought it was cliche as hell. Main character is absolutely terrible as well.
Symphonia, Vesperia, and Xillia are easily the best of the bunch, in my opinion.
@ShogunRok hate Xillia but love Tales of the Abyss.
@ShogunRok I've actually got Xillia on PS3 but never played it. Maybe I'll hook it up again if I can remember how to do that.
Thanks for the honest and in depth review, will definitely pick this game up at some point during a flash sale etc.
If there's one new game I might jump on before it goes on sale, it's this one, never played it then. I'm finishing up Symphonia on Gamecube right now.
@ShogunRok In your opinion, which are the best Tales of Games from best to worst?
@Oscarjpc That's a tough question.
Purely on a personal level, my ranking would be...
Xillia > Vesperia > Symphonia > Berseria > Xillia 2 > Zestiria > Hearts R > Abyss > Graces f
They're all the Tales games I have a good amount of experience with. I've played a few others, too, but not enough to rank them.
@ShogunRok Thank you it is always great to read your lists.
@Spectra Disagree. Vesperia & Symphonia are the best, without a doubt.
Xillia and Berseria I couldn't even finish, although Berseria is not a bad game, but I couldn't bother to finish it.
@shogunrok hey, how long did it take you to play through?
@fuzzy833 I think my playtime was around 50-60 hours. It''s longer than that if you want to do absolutely everything, too.
Out of the Tales series I have only played Symphonia, and that game beats the crap out of these weeboo wet dreams of late. Save a few exceptions, modern JRPGs are becoming unbearable. Not only I'm getting older, the current target audience for this games is turning out to be a lot weirder too. With all that said, Symphonia felt like a classic, true JRPG the way they used to make them back in the good old days, I skipped Vesperia on the 360 but I'll make sure to pick it up this time around.
@shogunrok eeeek, I need more free time
@IBeAGamer do you still have the 360 version and an Xbox 1 X?
@ShogunRok I love levellling up so best farming spots please! Ta.
@Kiloman74 I have it on both but no longer have an Xbox 360.
@IBeAGamer do the comparison man! The old 360 version played on xb1x, then the remake on the same machine or a PS4 pro and/or switch?
@ShogunRok Questuon’s a little late, but how long is this game?
@Jaz007 About 50-60 hours or so. Maybe a little more if you take your time and try to do everything.
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