It’s no secret Western audiences have previously received reduced versions of games originally developed in Japan.
Ten years ago, Tales of Vesperia launched as an Xbox 360 Exclusive in all territories. It was a significant moment for JRPGs as Namco Tales wanted to do a simultaneous global launch. The move was unprecedented and it really paved the way for future games to do the same. True, it nearly broke the team in the process but it was a landmark moment, no doubt.
Some things did remain unfinished, though. Ultimately, a lot of the content ended up being left on the cutting room floor.
That is until two years later when a PlayStation 3 version of Tales of Vesperia was announced with full voice acting and extra characters. It was a sizeable upgrade, offering new, engaging content, while bringing life to the existing content as never before.
Naturally, PS3 owners in the West were excited as they thought they’d finally get to share in the same incredible journey their 360 allies had previously enjoyed. Some might have even relished the idea of getting more bang for their buck.
The problem is that the PS3 version never left Japan. Rumours swirled that exclusivity agreements between Namco and Microsoft had been signed for Western territories, though those were later debunked by the studios. Instead, the challenges of producing a simultaneous launch for Vesperia only for the game to sell poorly in the West had taken its toll on the team. Internally, the decision had been made to prioritise and keep it exclusive to the Japanese region because that’s where their primary audience was located.
Sadly, Namco Tales weren’t the only team to think this way and Vesperia wasn’t the only game that kept content region-locked. And over the years, varying factors have played a part in keeping some content exclusive to one region over another. Outside of importing, that meant a ton of interesting, entertaining content has never been purchasable overseas. Until now.
Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition is a significant shift for the global games industry. Back when it first launched, the game didn’t get the credit it deserved. While it was received well critically, sales were limited and sadly the marketing wasn’t completely effective.
Now we’re into 2019, the game re-releases as something of a classic and ranks among the greatest JRPGs ever made. It has newfound momentum and a pedigree to go along with it.
For starters, the graphics have never looked better. The colours really pop on HD TVs, fully upscaled to stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the greats this generation. There’s also some lovely orchestral tracks added in for good measure, while the older tracks have been expertly refined to sound crystal clear through modern speakers.
And to really sweeten the pot, Namco have thrown in some unreleased costume DLC, two new playable characters, as well as mini-games and extra bosses. It’s also appearing on a Nintendo format for the very first time, with Switch, arguably, being the definitive place to play it.
Tales of Vesperia definitely feels a bit dated, though. You can’t control the camera during most scenes and the battle system feels a bit limiting when compared to more expansive modern experiences.
But where it lacks a bit on the technical side, it more than makes up for it with charm and characterisation. Yuri is a bit of a tearaway but generally means well, and his ‘not really a dog’ sidekick is quite the lovable scamp. Where the Definitive Edition really works though, is in giving us more of a chance to get to know these characters and for them to get to know each other.
There are some really insightful new conversations happening throughout the narrative and some interesting revelations which provide context you may not have picked up on before, generally making this a well rounded, more fleshed out adventure.
And that’s what makes this collection so important and special. For collectors and existing fans, it’s a dream come true with all the added extras. And for gamers in general, it illustrates the evolving, adaptive mindset of international companies in their desire to share their true vision with the world. It shows the progress made with JRPGS – and indeed, all Japanese titles – over the past decade, catering to diversifying tastes while bidding to make them more appealing to new audiences.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s still work to do. We regularly report on DLC that stays confined to Japan and seemingly has no chance of making the jump overseas. But Tales of Vesperia proves that Western gamers want the full experience. It also shows that developers are listening, and are more willing to give them what they’re asking for.
A lot has happened in ten years. A decade is a long time, but in the case of Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition, it’s fair to say that it’s all been worth the wait.
Review code kindly provided by the publisher. Played on PlayStation 4.