Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition (Playstation 4 Initial Impressions)
The Tales series is one that has often passed me by. As most JRPGs go, they need an inordinate amount of time to see through to the end. Tales of Vesperia was always right at the top of my list; it was available on Xbox 360, it was reasonably available, and it had a dog with a pipe. Yet, somehow, I didn’t really play it. The small group of friends that sang its praise would continue to do so, but I felt fairly far removed from the experience and decided it would be forever wistfully ogled as I made up excuses not to play it because it wasn’t a topic title.
A lot has changed since then, mostly that I have even less free time and that group of friends have stopped talking about Tales of Vesperia or I’ve stopped talking to them – whatever. But even now, a decade alter, Tales of Vesperia has pushed to the front of discussion thanks to its recent remaster. And boy was my assumption on point when I convinced myself I’d never see the end year ago.
After a good 10 hours it felt like I’d barely sunk my teeth in to the overall mechanics, I am not even sure if the tutorial had finished, but I was on my way and that’s all that mattered. Whether or not I’ll ever reach the end is an entirely different conversation, but for now I’ve enjoyed myself.
For first timers like myself, you’ll be caught up in a whirlwind of characters and trying to find the missing link that ties you all together from the word go. You’ll find yourself fin pursuit of the mysterious Flynn as the world around you descends in to madness and you fend off the encroaching monsters. While it spills out as slow as molasses, Tales of Vesperia’s mystique is well placed and keeps you inquisitive enough in the earlier hours to push on and try to get a glimpse of the full picture. The only thing holding back the story is the overreliance on tropes.
Even with such striking character design, like the aforementioned smoking dog called Repede, Tales of Vesperia’s cast mostly feels like a collection of anime tropes. From vulnerable young girls slowly finding their inner strength to young boisterous boys that have barks that far outweigh their bite, it all feels too familiar. It’s a crying shame for a game that, visually, has so many memorable faces.
In spite of their reliance of familiar concepts, your gang of misfits feel most unique when it comes to the combat. Fights are played out in a 3D environment, but movement is traditionally linear unless you opt to hold a button – limiting your ability to use attack chains. It takes a while to grow accustomed to and, much like the story, only truly fleshes out after a generous amount of time is funnelled in. With a bit of ingenuity and tweaking in the menus, characters will be able to learn skills and use the assigned points to maximise their build after they have spent enough time slaying enemies with specific equipment.
It’s this slow accrual of equipment and skills that will absorb a fair chunk of time. Tweaking your build, making sure you grind out the right weapon, and then balancing out the point to use those specific skills are what makes Tales of Vesperia so interesting. It’s a long road, but the combo extenders and skills you learn add a much needed flash to the otherwise formulaic and uninteresting combat.
There are other ways to break up the journey, like playing cooperatively. Players are able to join in the action with a second remote and control whoever occupies the secondary slot within the team composition. While it’s a nice addition, secondary player interaction is completely confined to these instances. There’s no additional character to manipulate in the over world and there’s certainly no other means of interaction. This means that mileage will absolutely vary as very few friends have the patience to sit through the treacherous amount of dialogue and downtime present by Tales of Vesperia.
And therein lies Tales of Vesperia’s greatest weakness, the inevitable delays in action typical of every long form JRPG. Conversations will organically occur between party members, prompted by a pop up on screen, and take up swathes of time. This dialogue is optional, but also integral to character building in the world. Thus, anyone that opts out of the charming quips might miss key background information that colours the relationships of the world. Thankfully these interactions are charming and bite sized with very few feeling superfluous. The only real issue is the quantity and time taken.
I might not see the end of Tales of Vesperia any time soon, but I am adamant I will. It’s colourful, exciting, and the combat teases just enough in the early hours to leave you wanting more. For me, it’s an experience worth having and if I started this journey all those years ago I might have actually finished in the near future, but until then I’ll potter about in what little free time I have.