Tales of Vesperia was first released for Xbox 360 players back in 2008. It soon earned the adoration of fans, and many acknowledged it as the best instalment in the series. A year later it captured the hearts of PlayStation 3 players too - although, contrary to what was first announced, it was only made available in Japan. And so it came to pass that one of the best games in the Tales of series got a somewhat limited audience in these parts. Ten years later and Bandai Namco is looking to rectify that as the game is being remastered and launched across PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One. And as it turns out, even a reheated meal can have an exquisite taste.
Considering the time that has passed, our initial impression was that the title hadn't gotten old in the slightest. That said, upon closer inspection, certain things weren't so impressive anymore. We're looking at an enhanced edition, for the first time released beyond Japanese borders - as a matter of fact, there hasn't been that much new added to the re-release. Fortunately, as a language barrier does exist, to most of you the Definitive Edition will be your first encounter with the world of Vesperia, but even after all these years, it's still a wonderful and good-looking game. Only former 360 players will notice the differences, and may even be positively surprised by the fact that you can now recruit two previously unavailable characters. These characters, along with new dungeons, challenges and customisation options will expand an already massive game. Yes, this is one of those long games that will keep you entertained for many, many evenings, so get ready for diligent searching through locations and hours of levelling up your team as the game cuts you no slack and often poses quite a challenge.
Connoisseurs of the genre will be pleased by the option of switching between English and Japanese. Although as much as we personally prefer the original voice acting, the dubbing is of surprisingly good quality. It's even better than that of later instalments of the series - if you played Tales of Xillia you probably know what we're talking about. This time there is nothing to fear - characters' voices are not going to haunt you at night. There can't be anything bad said about the soundtrack either, which was composed by Motoi Sakuraba. His music was always regarded by Tales of fans as a strong feature of the series, and once again it's catchy for the most part and perfectly matches the atmosphere of each scene, and, what's more important, it doesn't bore you even after many hours of playtime.
Visually, Vesperia still impresses, without having aged much since the initial release. It's less detailed than later instalments, with less realistic and more plastic-looking models, although it comes with some beautiful backgrounds and animated cutscenes. It comes across like a good, timeless anime. During your journey, you'll encounter a number of short yet fully voiced dialogues, which, although not animated and minimalistic in terms of their presentation, maintain satisfying quality, introducing side stories or simply entertaining us.
Unfortunately, despite the passage of time and porting the game onto seemingly more powerful devices, it isn't free from problems. Travelling across the world, you'll occasionally experience a glitch in the animation. They're caused by the loading of new enemies, which constantly spawn in the area near your avatar. The optimisation does have flaws - but with these textures and simplified graphics, such things shouldn't be happening. Animations lag a bit during encounters with a greater number of enemies, and it takes a while to render some of the locations. The latter surprises, especially since Vesperia isn't rich in multilevel cities or dungeons; most of the locations have a simple layout that's easy to memorise. Let's hope that further updates will fix these issues.
Many will find the combat system problematic as well. Veterans of the series won't have any troubles with it, however executing all of the special attacks through one button and moving the analog stick in the desired direction often leads to a situation where we're aiming blindly, hoping to hit the correct target. Occasionally we can fire off the combos completely accidentally since they react even to the slightest tilt of the stick. Naturally, we get the ability to key-bind the attacks to the desired direction - however, it isn't the best solution and it surprised us that the developer still pushed it through. It's a pity as aside from that, the encounters are dynamic, interesting and satisfying.
Most of the newer titles in the Tales of series gives us rather uninteresting, not quite relatable protagonists. Unlike them, however, it's hard not to find Vesperia's Yuri appealing. A hero so captivating that he immediately pulls us into an adventure that we didn't regret joining even a little bit. Our companions are no worse - the dev gave them enough attention for us to get to know them - and before meeting a new character we find ourselves well acquainted with the most recent one. Although it takes a long time before getting to know the entire team, the game manages to create a bond with each of member of the crew - even those who initially appeared to be a little uninteresting.
The story also pulls us in and, from the first moments, it quickly gains pace. Vesperia has everything that makes the genre special. Terca Lumireis, the world that our heroes live in, is beautiful and rich in secrets. There's something new and curious around every corner; achievement hunters and diligent collectors will feel right at home. There are several compendiums to complete, bestiary and materials included. There's a crafting system that lets you reforge weaponry into some even deadlier. After a few hours of playtime, we will also be able to participate in a number of interesting minigames, which don't feel cheap and would fit right into any Final Fantasy title. Activity-wise, Vesperia is a vortex of fun - despite being familiar with the series, we found ourselves once again captivated by its richness and every moment with the game was well spent.
If you are a fan of the series and you haven't had the chance to dive into Vesperia yet - this is a perfect moment for it. It's out, here and now, on the current generation, and it's in the best quality possible and at a reasonable price. It has been proclaimed as the best instalment in the series for a reason, and it's hard not to agree as we were completely absorbed by a fantastic world that bombarded us with content and, more importantly, an emotional connection to events. It's one of those adventures that will make you forget about the world outside. You'll laugh and cry with the characters, live through their struggles and joys, and after a satisfying finale, you'll immediately start missing them. Well, that's what New Game Plus is for, right? The developers took into account our likely return to the world and added a lot of modifications for repeat plays. We wholeheartedly recommend it.
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