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Just as good as everyone said it would be.

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    Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition

    Rating: 5.0 – Flawless

    Just as good as everyone said it would be.

    Tales of Vesperia is one of the more beloved games in the Tales Of franchise. Having played it, I can certainly see why. Please note: I did not play the XBox 360 edition because I don’t like XBox hardware (ie, red ring of death). So this re-release was pretty great for me. I would have had to buy a whole other console otherwise.

    I’ve also played several titles in the Tales Of series (with the exception of Berseria). So I have a general idea of what it’s like, and what to expect. This one does not disappoint, at all. It’s better than several of the previous entries that I’ve played, and it’s clear that a great deal of polish went into the game. Being that it’s a re-release and not a brand new title, there are no first month bugs to worry about. Nor is the game designed to sell DLC packages. At the time of this writing, there were only two DLC packages on offer- both of them free- for the title. While this doesn’t mean that future packages won’t be developed in the future, it does at least mean that the designers made a complete game that doesn’t need extra content added for the whole experience.

    Additionally, watching the anime Tales of Vesperia: First Strike (a prequel) is not required and has no bearing on the story presented in the game, except to highlight the backstory of some of the characters. If you went into the game without watching the anime, you won’t have missed anything important.

    The game itself is not a turn-based RPG. In battles, players move around as much as they like and can hit an enemy whenever they feel like it. Unlike other Tales Of titles, this one features a few new additions. Non-controlled characters will often ask for items to be used. Pressing the R3 button lets them use it. Or you can ignore their request and do it yourself. From the beginning, you can control whichever character is available in your party, though you won’t be able to set anybody you want as the leader outside of battle until you synthesize a special item.

    There is some long-ish exposition to begin the game. I spent perhaps an hour going through the first area in which the main character, Yuri, sneaks around a castle. There isn’t a stealth system involved. You can either run away from knights or fight them. Fighting them doesn’t set off alarms or anything, and there’s a heal point nearby in which curry has been left behind in a kitchen. So you can train as much as you want in the opening area to get used to the battle system.

    Each new mechanic, some of which familiar and some of which are not, are often introduced by a playable tutorial. These will sometimes involve situations with humorous, incompetent enemies who accidentally show you how to beat them up. The game doesn’t just throw everything at you all at once. These mechanics are gradually introduced and unlocked as the story progresses, much like Persona 5.

    The graphics in this game are very good. Whether they’re up to 2019 standards or not, I can’t really say as I don’t play many new games. What I can tell you is that the graphics are definitely better than counterparts of its time, such as Tales of Xillia and Tales of Graces F. While the characters still retain a cel-shaded anime look, their facial expressions, body movement, and reactions are all top notch. There was a scene where one character got knocked out by flower pollen as an example of how to knock out a boss later on (which unlocks a trophy). Studying the reactions moment to moment makes it clear that a great deal of effort and thought went into making the characters appear as though they are invested in each individual situation (unlike Mass Effect Andromeda where the characters are bored).

    The story is a long one. The addition of two new recruitable characters opens up scenarios for each. There is still the same bonus dungeon, though whether it’s still as difficult to access as it was on the XBox I can’t say (I haven’t gone that far the game yet). When you play it, just bear in mind that a very specific set of conditions need to occur in order for it to open up.

    The music is about as good as I expected. There are times when it’s not even noticeable, and there are other times when I just sit there and let the music play rather than advance a scene because I’m enjoying it so much. The victory theme I thought came from Tales of Graces F, but it turns out that equipping Sophie with the pirate costume causes the Vesperia theme to play in Graces F. Otherwise, the music score is top notch.

    For replayablity, whether in a second playthrough or revisiting the game after playing it on the XBox, cutscenses can be skipped. Skits are optional and can be played with the use of the wide middle button between the D-pad and the options button. Characters encounter enemies by bumping into them on the screen. Most of them can be avoided simply by running away from them. Boss fights are not always signaled by save points nearby; sometimes a save point will be in the middle of the dungeon rather than right before a boss, so it’s best to go back and save again if there’s an obvious boss (such as a gigantic golem) nearby.

    The game does have 21 unique Secret Mission trophies that are achieved by unlocking certain conditions in a boss fight, such as protecting a female character or knocking a boss over the side of a ship at sea. This adds a bit more flavor and depth to the fights rather than just the usual strategy of "level up until ready, crush the boss when needed." The addition of strategic actions makes things a bit more fun. What’s more, another trophy asks players to beat the game at level 15, suggesting that it’s possible to be severely underleveled and still win against each boss.

    The towns are sprawling and unique. One of them is a castle town, another is a settlement around a magical tree, still another is an underground city of scholars, and another is a dual city split between a bay with ports at each end. The designs for the towns are unique and original- unlike Tales of Xillia, where every port looked exactly the same as one another. The amount of effort and thought put into the game’s design is difficult to deny.

    Overall, I’m glad I had it on pre-order and picked it up the day of the release. I was expecting a really great, unique experience. I have yet to be disappointed in any way at all. I will probably hold off on playing Kingdom Hearts 3 to focus on Tales of Vesperia: Definition Edition for a while. It’s just that good.

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