JRPG’s are notorious time sinks. Anyone that’s spent time with Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest games will know all about ‘the grind’, where you’ll be forced to fight low level creatures over and over again to level up, or simply the length of time it takes to make your journey from wide-eyed adventurer to powerful warrior. The Nintendo Switch’s ability to go anywhere and be played at any time is making it the perfect home for these types of games, and with Tales of Vesperia Definite Edition it’s received another classic.
The Tales series is much-beloved amongst JRPG fans, though in truth it’s spawned as many hits as it has misses over the years. Vesperia is easily a hit, and quite possibly the best game in the series, though there’ll be a bunch of Symphonia fans willing to fight to the death over which should be considered the best one.
Tales of Vesperia follows the journey of cynical swordsman Yuri Lowell and the joyfully innocent noble Estelle and it takes the tried and tested path of starting off small before opening up into a world of supernatural creatures and mystical powers. Tales of Vesperia doesn’t take itself too seriously either, and there’s genuine moments of comedy (and farce) mixed in with all the serious stuff. It’s a brilliant and well-told story, with the Tales series trademark skits – short conversations played out via talking heads – helping to make Vesperia one of the most continually engaging JRPG’s of all time.
Part of that ongoing charm is the game’s action combat, with the Linear Motion Battle System making a return here with the Evolved Flex-Range prefix added for good measure. The EFRLMBS – doesn’t that just roll of the tongue? – turns every encounter into a 3D arena battle, with players able to control any of the available characters and engage in combat that has more in common with a beat ‘em up than most RPGs.
While there’s certainly an element of repetition that begins to set in the further you go, boredom is staved off by the cool enemy designs, the ever-growing range of artes – with the Definitive Edition gaining even more than the original game – and the addition of new characters over the course of your journey. Thanks to a fairly forgiving difficulty curve and sensible grind there aren’t too many points where you’ll struggle to advance either, though boss characters will appear from time to time that will make you wonder if you know how to play the game properly.
Perhaps the only shame about the whole ‘upgrade’ to this generation is that the Switch version isn’t optimised particularly well. Handheld mode is the worst, with the by-now expected reduction in resolution not doing enough to prevent moments of frame skipping and slowdown. Things do improve in the dock, but they’re not perfect.
Fortunately combat doesn’t suffer from these problems, and ultimately the frame rate never makes any portion of the game unplayable, but it’s disappointing in something touting itself as a ‘definitive’ edition not to run better than the original. We can probably assume that they’re problems unique to Nintendo’s platform though and you likely won’t find them in the PS4 or Xbox One editions and their increased horsepower.
If you originally played the Xbox 360 version there’s some clear improvements here, particularly in the amount of voicework that’s included. Every major cutscene and every skit now features voice acting, bringing the characters to life in emphatic fashion. The fact that this is one of the most enjoyable groups of JRPG characters is made all the more apparent, and you can rest easy in the fact that actors like Troy Baker and Michelle Ruff mean this is a game actually worth playing with localised dialogue.
The Tales series has always had a consistently enjoyable art style, and thanks to the timeless nature of Vesperia’s anime-esque visuals mean it still looks fantastic today. Perhaps the only disappointment is that there’s been no work done to update the various locations, and they remain distinctly modest in their aspirations. To be fair the series as a whole isn’t known for its gloriously rendered settings, but when so many RPGs bring beautiful cities and landscapes to the table it’s a shame not to have similar here. That said, it’s only a minor complaint and Vesperia is still more than capable of the odd moment of wonderment, with the world of Terca Lumireis at the very least a solid and believable place.
It’s a huge relief to find that Tales of Vesperia hasn’t just aged well, but continues to prove itself to be amongst the best games in the Tales series. The enhancements made to the Definitive Edition tidy up and expand on an already enjoyable game, bringing the characters to life more effectively than ever before and making it more than capable of enthralling both returning players and newcomers alike.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch – also available for PS4, Xbox One and PC