Tales of Vesperia, a stalwart entry in Bandai Namco’s long-running Tales series, will become available on Xbox’s games-on-demand service on Thursday. Better yet, it’s the definitive edition, a 2019 re-release that offered high-definition graphics, more playable characters (at least stateside), and exactly the same amount of Troy Baker’s iconic silky pipes.
Like many of the other Tales games, Tales of Vesperia is a third-person action role-playing game. You play as Yuri Lowell, a former knight who, like so many other Tales protagonists, has a strong moral compass and likes to do things his own way. In short order, you team up with a rebellious young noblewoman named Estelle and embark on a quest that can be boiled down to “saving the world.” Along the way, you accrue a motley crew of characters who have little in common outside of a shared, irrepressible idealism.
Tales of Vesperia has all of the ingredients that make up the typical Tales cocktail, but it’s shaken to perfection here. Though the narrative is steeped in grandeur, it always remains grounded thanks to a compelling rivalry between Yuri and his childhood friend, Flynn. The rest of the characters are also a delight. Case in point: Repede, a battle-hardened canine who constantly smokes a pipe and is one of, like, six genuinely good dogs to ever show up in a video game. (Yes, you can play as Repede.)
The gameplay, too, is a highwater mark for the series. Some of the more recent entries have introduced needless complexities to the combat system. Tales of Vesperia doesn’t have the volatile Soul Gauge of Berseria or the silly “Armitization” mechanic of Zestiria. It’s just attacks and artes—the same basic formula that helped establish Tales of Symphonia as such a landmark near the turn of the millennium.
Among the Tales games, Vesperia is certainly one of the strongest. My colleague Mike Fahey even ranks it, albeit incorrectly, ahead of even Tales of Symphonia, but that’s a conversation I’ll have to have with him in private. And the Definitive Edition offers a chance to try the best version of the game—or, for those who never got a chance to play it, basically, a touched-up remaster of the Japan-only PS3 version.
For starters, Flynn is fully playable, as is a show-stealing young pirate woman named Patty Fleur. New voice lines were recorded for many characters, significantly expanding the vocal track. (Controversially, Troy Baker, who voiced Yuri Lowell in the original Xbox 360 game, was apparently not asked to return for the definitive edition, but Bandai Namco kept his original lines, so you have two actors voicing the same character. It’s a strange wrinkle in an otherwise tightly made remaster.) As a technicality, yes, the graphics are all done up in high-definition, but it doesn’t make a terribly noticeable difference. Cel-shading that was pretty last decade is still pretty this decade.
Oh, and get a load of the introductory animation:
That alone should be enough to convince you to play first thing come Thursday.
Tales of Vesperia isn’t the only terrific game en route to Game Pass. Thursday will also see the addition of Katana Zero, a 2D action-platformer with cyberpunk motifs and time-manipulation elements, to all Game Pass platforms, while PC users will be able to play the definitive edition of Age of Empires III. And next week, the gripping yet brutally unforgiving Scourgebringer will see its official console debut. (The popular roguelike was briefly playable during this summer’s Xbox Games Demo Event.)
But as the Game Pass gods giveth, the Game Pass gods taketh. Among other departures, on Thursday, the fun puzzler Felix the Reaper will become unavailable, as will Saints Row IV: Re-Elected and the remastered version of Metro 2033. Then, at the end of the month, After Party, Tacoma, and The Lord of the Rings: Adventure Card Game will follow them out the door. Even though I still haven’t, and would like to, beat Felix the Reaper, this collection of sacrifices at the Game Pass altar is fine by me—as long as I’m allowed to keep Tales of Vesperia for a bit.