Written by Michael Damiani
Video Edited by Don Casanova
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro
Available on PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One

Originally released back in 2008, Tales of Vesperia is one of a handful of exclusive JRPGs secured for the fledgling Xbox 360 in hopes of making a dent in the Japanese market. Despite its success, in 2009, Vesperia saw an updated release on the PlayStation 3 which includes significant new content not found in the original version, but unfortunately this iteration never saw a release outside of JapanÖ until now.

Nearly a decade later, Bandai Namco celebrates the tenth anniversary of Tales of Vesperia with the release of Definitive Edition, an enhanced port that includes all of the content from the previously Japanese-only PS3 version, along with brand new English VO for the additional dialogue not found in the original release. If the English dub isnít to your liking, the Definitive Edition also includes the Japanese audio with English subtitles.

Additionally, the gameís resolution has been raised to 1080p on consoles, with a 4K option on PC. Though the battles still run at 60 frames per second on the console versions, everything outside of combat runs at 30 frames per second, except on the PlayStation 4, which offers 60 frames per second throughout the entire game. The action runs as smoothly as advertised for the most part, though there are a handful of instances when the performance dips back down to around 30 frames per second, so itís not quite a perfect update.

For those who only played the original version, there are enough new additions and updates to warrant a second playthrough, and for those who missed out on Vesperia the first time around, this is a great RPG thatís been made even better. Even after a decade, Tales of Vesperia is still one of the best entries in the series, though it shows some signs of aging. It offers a refreshing story that focuses on strong character development and features the greatest protagonist seen in any Tales entry.

Rather than sending you to save the world right out of the gate, Vesperia involves much simpler subject matter, focusing on a group of unlikely companions who grow together over the course of their journeys to become a group of friends. Yes, eventually the story winds up ultimately including the fate of the world, but the slow build definitely pays off by allowing you to get to know the characters better. Seeing their bonds develop feels more believable, and you genuinely feel for each as they go through their various hardships and triumphs.

The main character Yuri, is easily the standout of the group and heís a major breath of fresh air compared to the typical shonen archetype found in most JRPGs. His motivations and actions are those of a vigilante who believes itís his place to dispense justice to those who believe their status in society puts them above the law. More than once he crosses the line into what most would deem morally wrong, but his reasoning comes from a good place.

As solid of a narrative effort as Vesperia makes, it doesnít completely escape the tropes commonly found in most anime-style JRPGs. Thereís still some fan service present, but it isnít as frequent and in-your-face as some of the more recent entries. The writing also falters from time to time with a few awkward exchanges, and the limited character animations only serve to exacerbate the situation. Though at the same time, these more robotic animations do add charm to the occasional slapstick bits.

One interesting throwback is the ability to traverse a world map again. In the decade since Vesperiaís release, subsequent entries have moved away from a traditional overworld map in favor of large interconnected zones. Having a world map to explore feels good, but Vesperia could do more to encourage you to stray from the beaten path.

Another issue with the world map is that it hasnít aged very well. Visually it looks very dated, with enemies constantly popping in-and-out rather than being visible at all times, and weather effects change abruptly, which can really hamper the sense of immersion. For a definitive edition, not smoothing over these bumps in the road is a missed opportunity.

Itís not all bad news when it comes to Vesperiaís visuals, though. The various towns and landmarks you visit still look very good with vibrant colors and gorgeous environments, and the gameís overall art direction creates a beautiful aesthetic that still holds up all these years later.

One of the Tales seriesí biggest strengths is its action-based combat system. There have been numerous takes on it over the years, but looking back at it now, Vesperiaís battle system is one of the best to grace the series. It keeps the basics simple so that youíre not overwhelmed from the get go, but it eventually opens up with more layers, culminating in a very deep and rewarding combat experience that prevents battles from ever feeling stale.

Though Vesperia explains the basics of combat well with nice tutorials, some of the more nuanced layers might not register at first. However, even on the normal difficulty setting, you can get by while neglecting some of these elements for a simpler experience which makes the game more accessible to newcomers. Yet at the same time, there is a higher skill ceiling present for those who want to push the combat system to its limits.

This also includes putting more time into optimizing each characterís skills, abilities, and tactics, which can drastically alter how battles play out, especially when it comes to your AI controlled party members. You also arenít restricted to playing as one character, either. Many of the characters come with unique play styles, whether itís Yuriís punishing melee attacks, Judithís flashy aerial assaults, or Ritaís punishing long-range spells. As with previous versions, you can also play the definitive edition with friends via local co-op that supports up to four players at once.

Another standout component of Vesperia is the impressive soundtrack. From the gentle title theme with its subtle foreboding, to the numerous excellent battle themes, and all the unique town and cut-scene tracks in between, this is an underappreciated score that wonderfully sets the mood at each turn.

Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition lives up to its namesake, delivering new content previously exclusive to Japan and updated visuals that enhance an already gorgeous aesthetic. The fantastic cast of characters, breathtaking world, and amazing combat elevate Vesperia to the highest point of the Tales series. This is the perfect opportunity for veterans to rediscover their love of this great RPG, as well as the best way for newcomers to experience an incredible game that still holds its own.

Score: 8.5 / 10