Tales of Vesperia Finally Gets the Second Chance It Deserves
In 2008, Tales of Vesperia hit North American shelves, finally giving Tales fans a high-def entry into the long-running and much-beloved series. Unfortunately for many of those fans, Tales of Vesperia was an Xbox 360 exclusive. As part of Microsoft’s effort to drum up support in Japan, where the company has never managed to gain much ground, it made sense. The Tales series is the third-most-popular RPG series in Japan, behind Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Getting even a timed exclusive Tales game is a big deal over there. In America, however, the Tales series has only ever garnered a small but dedicated niche audience. And truth be told, many American Tales fans were not the target audience of the Xbox 360, with its focus on sports and shooters. Given that, a great many fans and potential fans missed out on a classic.
However, this great wrong has been righted. Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition is now available on basically every platform: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
By all measures, Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition is an improvement over the original Xbox 360 release. Smoother textures, better framerates, and a wealth of new story and game content from the Japan-exclusive PlayStation 3 version. If you’re new to the Tales series, Vesperia is a great way to get started, and the Definitive Edition is the best version of Vesperia. It got me thinking, though, about other Tales games that are deserving of remakes or remasters. Here are three already-great games that could be made even better with a little current-gen polish.
Tales of Phantasia
I started with the Tales series at the very beginning, the Super Famicom’s Tales of Phantasia. If I had been able to play this game as a fourteen year old, I know it would have blown me away, with its amazing graphics, melodic score, and action-packed battle system. But as a man in his mid-thirties, I found it to be a little rough. Far too many random encounters, two-dimensional characters, and some poorly implemented mechanics made for a game that was an excellent first effort, but one that needed a lot of refinement. The series made those refinements in later entries, but I’d love a return to the world of Phantasia with the Tales series’s modern sensibilities.
First and most obviously, the game would need to eliminate random encounters. Having enemies visible on screen gives the player the ability to choose their own encounter rate. An expansion of the plot would be welcome, too, along with more character development via the series’s “skits”: short, optional scenes that contain funny or insightful interactions between your characters. Truth be told, this remake doesn’t seem likely, as Tales of Phantasia has already been remade and remastered several times in Japan. Still, the only official release we received in the West was the subpar port on the Gameboy Advance, so if Bandai Namco wanted to show a little love for their roots, one final go at the original would be most welcome.
Tales of Destiny
Tales of Destiny was the Western world’s first Tales game. Hitting the original PlayStation back in 1998, it had the misfortune of looking and playing like a Super Nintendo RPG in an era when gamers, particularly American gamers, wanted games that tickled their next-gen itch. But for the dedicated RPG players, there was a huge quest awaiting them in Destiny’s world. Battles in Destiny were faster than its predecessor, and random encounters were toned down a bit (not enough, but progress is progress). The story was a bit more complex this time around, with an ancient war between the heavens and the earth as backdrop and sentient swords guiding our heroes on the path toward saving humanity.
Tales of Destiny actually received a full remake (in Japan only) for the PlayStation 2, and along with a visual overhaul, the game received extra story content, too. While even getting a U.S. release of that game would be great, I think Bandai Namco could do one better. While I wouldn’t necessarily want to see the game brought fully into the third dimension, as the original stuck faithfully to pixel art that I think is better appreciated today than it was at the time of its release, a fully redrawn game with modern 2D aesthetics would look gorgeous on 4K displays. Add in an English voice acting option, and Americans could experience the definitive version of Tales of Destiny. And while they’re at it, maybe they could give us a release of the game’s direct sequel.
Tales of Legendia
This opinion is a little controversial among Tales fans, as Tales of Legendia is often considered to be a low point for the series. I couldn’t disagree with that sentiment more. Released in 2006, three years after the amazing Tales of Symphonia, I guess I can see why people were disappointed. A completely different team worked on Legendia, and it feels if anything like an evolutionary dead end. The series progressed onward in a style much more similar to Symphonia, and Legendia became a strange footnote in the history of Tales. And that’s a real shame. True, it could be seen as taking a step backward in some areas, such as nixing Symphonia’s full-3D battle arenas for a 2D plane once more. But if you can look past that, and a high encounter rate, you’ll find a great and super unique story and some of the most interesting characters in the whole series. (Particularly Shirley; I could write an entire essay on the ways she subverts the typical “damsel in distress” trope in fascinating ways.)
The graphics didn’t age well, so a visual overhaul would be a no-brainer. Aside from that, I wouldn’t object to a tighter combat system, maybe one that adopts other Tales games’ fully 3D environments. Another huge oversight that needs to be corrected: in the localization for the West, the game’s entire second half didn’t receive any voiceover work. It makes the game feel oddly imbalanced. I also would love to see the two “halves” of the game more elegantly combined — breaking things up into a “story”-based arc and a “character”-based arc isn’t the best way to tell that story. If you’ve played it, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, give it a try, and go in with an open mind.
While I don’t think it’s super likely we’ll see any big remakes or remasters from earlier Tales games, it’s fun to dream. Particularly as we’re still waiting for the next big mainline entry to be revealed. Until then, I’ll be enjoying the heck out of Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition.