Tales of Vesperia has been a long-awaited entry for anyone who never got their hands on it during the 360’s lifetime. Many of us, like yours truly, had to wait and wait while tons of other people praised Vesperia as being one of the best entries in the Tales of franchise.Ten years is a long time to wait, but the game has finally landed on PlayStation 4 under the banner, Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition. Is it too little too late for Brave Vesperia?
A Tales of classic finally lands on PlayStation
Over the last few years, I have spent a fair amount of my free time delving back into old games. These are both games I have played and games I have missed. In particular, I jumped back into the likes of Tales of Symphonia and Graces f. I had a lot of fond memories of both games, but those memories rooted themselves at least ten years in my past. I had so much trouble getting into those games that I did not continue playing them. They are slow and kind of clunky when compared to the likes of Berseria’s fluid, action-packed combat.
Then Vesperia landed. I grew worried that I would hit similar fatigue with it, as it launched a year before Graces. What made Vesperia refreshing is how it is both very rustic and dated all while being wholly refined in what it does. What I mean by this is that combat–combos and attacks and combat flow–are responsive and active enough to get the point across without being over-the-top or too complicated. In all honesty, combat here is incredibly straightforward compared to what has come out since.
Tales of Vesperia is simple yet deep
This plays to Vesperia’s benefit, honestly. This style helps the game as a whole hold us as well as its art style. Looking back on the franchise, Vesperia was the first major enhancement to what Symphonia had done. It is simple and accessible but more action-packed and responsive. Vesperia landed in a sweet spot for the franchise. For me at least, Vesperia is the first change into the franchise’s modernistic style. Progress is incremental, though, with each release offering a little more than the last. Vesperia was lucky to have such a sweet spot. Combos and attack patterns are still important. Either way, it has more of an action-RPG feel rather than an action-arcade feel.
Combat has its fair share of issues, though. As I mentioned before, the game is on the positive end of dated. However, combat offers a great deal of down time. In particular, when enemies are knocked down, they have a period of immunity as they stand up. This brings combos to a standstill. Granted, you benefit from the same kind of immunity, but it breaks the flow of combat quite often. An argument can be made where this increases the reward for practice and proper execution. At the same time, there is a fine line between risk-reward and time sink. Granted, Vesperia is a ten-year-old game. Regardless, it is being re-released in 2019. Time and preferences can change.
One key aspect that I truly appreciate about Vesperia is how it handles tutorials. Many of the recent games try to sprinkle tips and tutorials here and there, which can be helpful. Still, that method is so jarring. It halts progress so the game can talk about how complicated it is. Vesperia, on the other hand, has a wonderfully natural way of conveying information. It does this in two ways. The first is how the game has informative information built into the natural narrative somehow. The other is that any text bubbles of this ilk are brief and succinct. What helps this matter is how simplistic Vesperia is in comparison to the newer titles, but the true depth to it is learning the skills and chaining them together. It’s not so much about acrobatics but rather tactics and executing those tactics.
A wonderfully dark story
Even better still is how narratively intriguing Vesperia is. All in all, Tales of games have hints and nods to darker themes, but the kind of things Vesperia brings to the table threw me for a loop a fair few times. I know the game is old, but there are enough people who haven’t played Vesperia, so I won’t go into details. However, doing things like “dirty work” and questioning ethics play a big part in how the war begins to form. Several times throughout, I found my jaw in my chest by some of the themes. And I mean that in the best way possible.
What Vesperia does well on that front is it makes both the characterized narrative and the overarching narrative all feel important. In Final Fantasy XII, the overarching narrative took the foreground. In Dragon Age, the world revolved around you. Here, everything seems to moves with or without your involvement. This allows the mythos, ethos, and pathos of the game to feel palpable and organic most of the time.
Another dated aspect to the game is how empty zones tend to feel, world map included. NPCs and monsters are all over the place, but they don’t do much without you interacting with them. Many conversations can be had with random citizens, which adds to the immersion, but it’s up to you to find the depth of the game’s mythos.
In defense of the previous point, there is a charm in having to go the extra mile in games like this. For every pursuit, you are rewarded with either characterization or narrative beats or equipment. The narrative itself is engaging enough, but it gets even better the more time you invest in sidequests and finding extras.
In regards to sidequests, what could be considered endgame to Vesperia is rather cumbersome. There are other questlines available, but most of them cannot be completed after the game is over. Most have to be done at particular times in the game, and the game does not identify those times or give prompts. Completing everything basically requires a mountain of extra exploration, wasted time, and some dumb luck. Vesperia offers no quest menus to help either. Not everyone is into this side of RPGs, but this is the kind of thing that diehard RPG fans look for in their games. Vesperia comes from a different time, for sure. That just has to be kept in mind.
Tales of Vesperia is an everyman classic
All in all, though, Tales of Vesperia is a potent entry in a beloved series. Fans will undoubtedly play it, but what I like the most about Vesperia is how accessible it is. Instructions are simple and their basic execution is, too. Vesperia is the perfect entry for anyone with even the slightest curiosity, despite its signs of age. Tales of Vesperia is a special kind of endearing that only classics convey.
Review code provided by publisher.