by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
It occurred to me the other day that I never beat a single “Tales of” game. Not even this one. I’m still going through my personal playthrough as we speak, but as of this review, I’m 30-40 hours in. I originally played this on the Xbox 360, but I red-ringed before I got to the end. But out of all of the Tales games I’ve tried, Tales of Vesperia stuck with me the most. The main character wasn’t a bland Shonen Jump anime character – he had depth, he was interesting! The cast has varying motivations for what they do, and tend to come and go with their own needs. This isn’t to say I dislike the Tales series, I just haven’t given the “best” ones a fair shake. Perhaps with the success of Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition, some of the older Tales games will see remakes. Wouldn’t that be interesting?
Tales of Vesperia is set in a world that feels like it’s bordering on a civil war. There’s the big Imperial Empire that controls most of the world, and then there are the Guilds. Guilds are made up of people who decided the Imperial Life wasn’t for them. Instead, they went to cities controlled by these guilds, and make their living that way. It seems, on the surface that the Guild life is a more pure one, where people work together, cooperate, and live life their way. That isn’t entirely true, as you discover through playing the game. The Empire doesn’t really care about the ordinary people, and there isn’t even a leader on the throne! This has given way to a great deal of corruption, that Yuri Lowell wants to change, in his own way. The story feels very compelling, and every single member of the main cast grows in some way, emotionally speaking.
Plus, this version of the game is the Japanese edition (released on the PS3), which means there’s a lot of content that wasn’t in the original game. New abilities, some post-game content, and more importantly, Yuri’s “best friend” Flynn Scifo is also playable. I won’t reveal his role in the game for those who have not played it before, it’s one of the things I was most excited for, after playing the original. Your team is made up of a wide assortment of characters – The Imperial Heir-Apparent (Estelle), A Dirty Old Man (Raven), Mysterious, Curvy Other-Race Woman (Judy), Ill-Tempered Genius Mage (Rita), A Short, Tough Cowardly Boy (Karol), and a Very Very Good Boy (Repede). You can have four party members out in battle at one time, and luckily, non-party members also gain exp (more if you equip a skill to enhance it).
The game goes out of its way to teach you the really important combat features, usually at the expense of a pair of goofy, sad knights who want to arrest Yuri. So if you’re new to Tales, or haven’t played older Tales games, this will get you going. Fans of older Tales games will probably enjoy this combat far more, compared to the more current titles. Tales of Vesperia is an action MMO, so when you encounter an enemy on the map, you and your team will appear in a small arena area, where you attack using your attack button, your various Artes buttons, and use items. Combat is very fluid and smooth, but on any difficult over “Easy”, there are certainly fights that can feel brutal and unforgiving. Your team acts on AI, and you can manipulate what things they do and don’t do (like waste all of my Orange Gels, thanks Rita. . .).
In fights that have a great deal many enemies, you can be stunlocked it feels, and just get overwhelmed by hits and damage amounts, so learn the system well, and use it to your advantage anytime you can. On that note, there are also lots of hidden “Special Objectives”, for achievements and pride. The Fatal Strike system (timed hits for big damage), and the Over Limit System (releases your combo/arte chain limit for a period of time) are also a lot of fun. This does lead me to one of my very few minor complaints. Yuri’s combo amount for his melee hits is very low at first (3 hits), so combat is predictable – hit, hit, hit, arte, rinse and repeat. Eventually, you can increase this number, or use Over Limit to get the really big combos (and stunlock bosses), but the early fights feel a little bland. The more Artes you unlock and skills you gain, that will shake things up.
As your purchase/synthesize weapons, on that note, you’ll gain skills. Artes are special combat abilities, and Skills are passives to increase various stats and skills. Skills are typically attached to weapons and will have a meter that grows as you do battle. As long as you have the weapon equipped, you keep the skill, but the moment you swap it for something else, you’ll have to spend SP (skill points) to keep it active. There’s a lot of juggling of skills, but there’s no real wrong way to do it, so equip what works for you. You can have Estelle use more physical-attack related skills, or you can keep her focused more as a healer since she can wield both wands/staves and most of the same swords Yuri can so that just makes things interesting.
All of the things you’ve come to expect from the Tales franchise are certainly here too and in full swing. Hilarious cutscenes, hidden objectives, crafting weapons and cosmetic items through the Synthesis system, and solid, enjoyable combat. One of the other things about this game that drives me up the wall though is being in towns. Almost every time you enter a town, the party splits up, and you have to get to the next objective, talk to everyone and go through their cutscene, then you can move on with the game. Doing it occasionally is great because I love the character interactions. But by the 15-hour mark, it was really starting to get on my nerves. Every single town doesn’t need to do that!
The Grade system is also back (not that it went anywhere)! Grade is a rating you get in battle, based on how you did – whether you took damage, your combos, whether you used items or not, et cetera. You can get a negative Grade if you do poorly, and a high grade (9, 10, or much higher still) if you do very well. The game keeps track of your total Grade, and it can be used to change settings in your New Game+ runs, keeping the game pretty fresh. You won’t actually know what your grade is until much later in the game when you can visit a town that informs you of it. I wish it weren’t this way, but it’s not such a big deal. But one thing you do need to know about Grade is this – You receive no Grade at all. You can change your difficulty on the fly too, though in your settings. Lower difficulty makes enemies have less HP, hit you for less, and in general, as the name implies, is much easier. Easy Difficulty makes fights be +0 Grade, so if you need to lower it, do it as long as you need and put it back to Normal, and bam! You’re getting Grade again.
There’s one more thing I want to point out because some people are raving pretty hard about it. Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition has the JP dub and an English dub. But the English dub has some new dialogue for characters like Yuri, and let’s face it – Troy Baker’s voice is iconic. He does not, however, voice the new lines. Some people have said it’s incredibly jarring and ruins the English dub experience, and others have said it’s not so bad, and the new VA is similar. Personally, it doesn’t bother me that much. At first I noticed it, and it did admittedly bug me. Then I relaxed, figured there was a good reason for it, and just resumed enjoying the game. Though I do love the English dub for this game, most of my time has been spent with the Japanese voice cast, because it’s new to me (and it’s an incredible cast of VAs). That’s something people should be aware of but honestly? It’s not that big of a deal.
We are Brave Vesperia! 4.5/5:
This has easily been one of the best Remakes/Remasters that I’ve ever played. It’s up there with Final Fantasy X HD for me, and that’s saying something. This game already looked pretty, since it was released on the Xbox 360/PS3, but the art has certainly been cleaned up, the assets all look sharp and pretty, and I’ve yet to encounter a single game-breaking bug, glitch, or anything that made the game just not worth it. The Normal/Hard difficulties can be very trying for people new to the franchise, but thankfully they did set it so you can swap difficulties outside of combat at any time. This is a nice, long RPG too. The story is broken up into story arcs, and there’s so much going on. If you get overwhelmed or forget what you were doing, there’s a log/diary that talks about what occurred in previous/current chapters of the game.
There’s a lot of stuff I didn’t cover here, from cooking, synthesis (so glad you don’t have to discover recipes), side content/side quests, and more. This is all stuff that you will discover for yourself, as you join up with the Brave Vesperia team. There are lots of titles to unlock (several of which change your characters outfit), fun optional cosmetics, and so much more. Whether you’ve ever played a Tales game before or not, this is not a remake you should stick up your nose at. It’s got fun combat, a beautiful visual aesthetic, awesome music, and great character development/dialogue. The new content is neatly interwoven with the current content, so it doesn’t feel out of place. Don’t skip Tales of Vesperia.
A review copy was given for purposes of this review.