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‘Tales Of Vesperia Definitive Edition’ Review: A Heartfelt & Truly Timeless JRPG

Posted: 09 Jan 2019 07:00 AM PST

Tales of Vesperia may just be one of the most charming JRPGs ever made. Enriched by a cast of characters that forgo the tropey nonsense of the genre, who are pulled through a world that exists before and after their presence, Tales of Vesperia is a bright, breezy breath of fresh air in a gaming scene so often weighed down with apocalyptic, world-ending crises.

Tales of Vesperia manages to get down on its haunches and examine the dirt under the fingernails of its world. From the opening quest – a heartfelt effort to repair the water main in a small, poor district of an opulent city – right through to its end, Tales of Vesperia is a game built with spirit and sizzling creativity, resulting in a game that doesn’t just serve as a satisfying JRPG, but also a surprisingly valid piece of social commentary.

With a battle system that's involved enough to keep your fingers twitching but readable enough for even RPG newcomers to get their heads around, Vesperia is a well-rounded, well-balanced RPG. The top-heavy bloat that made Octopath Traveller a slight disappointment last year is nowhere to be seen here – mini-games, side quests and supporting content weave in and out of the simple, well-communicated well story to deliver a game that's just as fun to walk your way through today as it was a decade ago.

 I Put Estelle On You

More than a decade later, 'Vesperia's cel-shaded aesthetic remains just as charming as it's cast of kooky characters.

Let's start with the protagonist. In something of a JRPG rarity, Vesperia‘s Yuri is an almost-adult hero– brimming with early-20s enthusiasm yet headstrong enough to have the cockiness of his teens in his blood, he's a great Byronic hero. A strong leader whose heroic intentions are weighed down by his willful attitude, he's likable and refreshingly relatable – a far cry from Square Enix's stock of brooding emos.

Though the campaign is slow to get started (it is an RPG, after all), you soon begin to assemble a ragtag bunch of unlikely allies as you trek through the vibrant, charming world. Each character comes with a slew of new surprises – Namco Tales Studio somehow manages to just about subvert lazy character tropes with almost every member of the main cast, offering something familiar before writing a curveball in at the last minute.

Tales of Vesperia will keep you on your toes as far as characterisation goes – yes, the story might eventually devolve into a typically grand RPG showdown, but the interactions of people in your party, the development of the protagonists (and antagonists!) and the cosy, familial unit you end up with is nothing short of heartwarming.

RPGs of late have neglected how important these interactions between characters are – it was our main complaint in the Octopath Traveler review we published last year – but Vesperia seems to make a point out of making sure you know exactly how each of these characters feels about each other.

Whether it's newcomer Patty's opinion on the surly-yet-loyal canine Repede, or the uncomfortable romantic chemistry between protagonists Yuri, Flynn and Estelle, there's always some interesting social dynamic bubbling away just beneath the surface. It gives so much life to the game, it's astonishing more JRPGs didn't take their queues from Vesperia going forward.

Though the game was originally released for the Xbox 360 back in 2009, it still manages to sting with some pretty sharp social commentary, even in 2019. The themes of classism, xenophobia and fascism are all explored… and honestly, they're explored with more nuance and depth than we remember (or maybe they're just more relevant now than ever before? Hard to judge past our rose-tinted glasses).

 Eat Your Artes Out

The frenetic real-time combat feels just as fun in 2019 as it did in 2008.

On the gameplay side of things, despite going back in time by almost a decade, the title still holds up. The game introduced Artes and Fatal Strikes into the Tales Of series, and nailed it first time. Combat is satisfyingly fluid and responsive – what you'd expect from an action-RPG on the Switch – but also scratches the strategic itch that some skill-based games forget to address, too.

It's still a bit grindy – come on, it is an RPG after all – but thanks to the lack of random encounters and the 'Encounter Link' system that lets you chain enemies on the overworld together (resulting in troves of experience at a time), you are in control of the battles and the pace of which you level up. Determining which enemies you can encounter and having the option to stun and bypass them in the overworld makes up for the in-dungeon backtracking you'll have to do from time to time, too.

Once you've expanded your cast of characters, setting yourself absurd little challenges also becomes quite fun: a team of all mages taking on a set of 20 enemies? Sure, why not! It's this level of freedom and expression that Tales of Vesperia excels at, and the enemy variety and the satisfying pop and bluster of the special moves (Artes) makes each encounter feel interesting and – to a point – unique.

The little victory screen flourishes – where every character interacts in different ways depending on who you have in your party – also makes winning each encounter a treat. In may not have the Victory Theme of Final Fantasy to rouse you, but this consistent, charming focus on character never gets dull… and is such a huge part of what makes this game so memorable.

Modern Twist on a Classic

While Bandai could have just slapped a higher resolution on the game, there's actually a refreshing amount of new content on offer here.

Back in the day, Tales of Vesperia won accolades for its impressive voice work. The Definitive Edition adds in Flynn and Patty as fully playable characters this time around, and we're happy to report that in both cases, the voicework lives up the acclaim that the game garnered before, and the script is just as tight as ever with all the new story elements weaving in without an issue.

The new mini-games (the Repede racing one being a highlight) are so-so – Tales Of Vesperia was never particularly rated for its side content, but they're pleasant distractions from the combat and exploration gameplay loop that you'll have been used to from the 360 original.

End-game content has been bolstered from the original 360 release, too, and there are now more bosses, secrets and rewards for those who dare to go off-the-beaten track. Still, depending on which version of Vesperia you played, it might not all be entirely new. The majority of the ‘new’ content in this edition is taken from the Japanese PS3 re-release, which came two years after the worldwide launch of the game on 360. As such, for brand new players or those that want to refresh their memories of the game, this modern redux is an undeniably good value proposition.

New dual artes and extended over limit keeps combat feeling fresh for 'Vesperia' veterans.

One cosmetic – yet oddly satisfying – bonus the Definitive Edition grants you is a set of new costumes that you wouldn’t have had the chance to play with before… dressing Yuri up as Mitsurugi from Soul Calibur just feels so right and using his samurai-inspired Artes in battle? It's a joyous love letter to Bandai Namco games that we didn't know we needed in our lives.

New dual Artes for Yuri and Flynn and an extended Over Limit max level (it's now eight!), combined with some amazing ‘Tales Of’ series boss cameos and a bit of welcome spit and polish applied to select dungeons make this version of the game one that feels – almost – unrecognisable from the blurry version that ran so smoothly back on the 360.

Is Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition any good?

Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition is a worthy purchase for anyone that enjoyed the original or simply anyone that enjoys heartfelt, compelling RPGs. There's enough new content — weaved in with remastered visuals and remixed locations — to appease even the most stingy of Remaster skeptics out there.

Thanks to these improvements — alongside the entirely different flavour this JRPG offers compared to the other fare available at the moment — this is a game that, by all accounts is still worthy of your attention. In 2008, Vesperia made for one of the most interesting and refreshing role-playing experiences of the Xbox 360-era. The fact that it still feels just as essential today is a testament to how timeless this role playing classic truly is.

‘Octopath Traveler’ Review: A Love/Eight Relationship

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‘New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe’ Review: A Faithful Port With Clever Upgrades

Posted: 09 Jan 2019 06:30 AM PST

With a name as convoluted as a Kingdom Hearts spin-off, at a glance, it's difficult to know exactly what New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is. Well, aside from being a mouthful, this title is a port of the fourth entry in the 'New Super Mario Bros.' series that started way back in 2006, aiming to be a faithful, modern evolution of the original Super Mario Bros. Games from the 1980s.

New Super Mario Bros. U was a 2012 launch title for the Wii U, and this reconfiguration brings it up to speed with Nintendo's current console architecture. Deluxe offers both the main game and it's standalone DLC, New Super Luigi U, in one tidy package.

The main addition from Nintendo is a new power-up, the Super Crown. This sent the internet into a collective state of emergency when it was announced late last year (remember Bowsette?) Sadly, Nintendo has since clarified that the only person who can don the transformative headdress is Toadette, a brand new character exclusive to Deluxe.

Peachy Keen


On the character selection screen, Toadette is tagged with 'Easy', and operates as such. She is more stable when on ice, can swim with ease and thanks to the Super Crown and even has the ability to turn into Peachette — who can float and double jump with the spin button.

If you're looking for a reason to take this adventure again, Peachette is a worthwhile change of pace. This is a delightful addition to a game that is, pardon our French, bloody difficult. Testament to this, we played through all of Deluxe and still hit some serious brick walls.

That isn't to say that the moment-to-moment platforming wasn't enjoyable though. Typical of Nintendo, New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe has some wonderfully imaginative levels. From the murky, Van-Gogh inspired Painted Swamplands to the misty, precarious heights of Meringue Clouds, you will hop, skip and jump your way through this bubbly landscape, facing new challenges in every location.

Clever motion control wanders into the fray in the later stages of the game, as well as platforms that stop if enemies land upon them, forcing you to duck, weave and take part in damage control when a bob-omb decides to make a home next to you. When this happens, you're left at the mercy of the wall of lava quickly encroaching the screen, which creates an adrenaline-pumping atmosphere and in turn, some of Deluxe's most memorable moments, the ones that involve playful shouting and laughter between friends.

The map isn't so linear once you get to the mid-game, which means you can make choices about which worlds you want to tackle. For example, we saw an upcoming water world and made a hard, almost Colin McRae-esque rally drift into the ice world, hoping for something a little bit more forgiving. Luckily, this still offered surprising new challenges, like the pernicious penguins who stay long and low to the ground, flaunting cool shades that taunt Toadette as she falls to her doom.

Every swift movement in Deluxe feels absolutely fantastic thanks to the HD Rumble upgrade, to the point where getting kicked out of the level door after a crushing defeat feels good in your palms. It adds another pleasing layer of veneer to a game that was already functionally sound.

Old Habits (Make You) Die Hard

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe

The levels weren't always consistent though, and at points, I did tire of parallel gauntlets that often wavered dramatically in difficulty. The ghost mansion levels stand out as the most cumbersome, where most of the experience boils down to frustrating trial-and-error, a far cry from the joyous exploratory platforming of other levels that are far less claustrophobic. The supernatural misdirection from the Boo's would be charming if it wasn't so frustrating.

The fun is heightened with the addition of more players who fill the screen and make the gameplay even more mad-cap than usual. Deluxe as a package seems designed to make the game available to all skill levels, a necessity given the 'Super Mario Bros.' design principles that are still baked in after nearly three decades.

However, this is also where one of the game's problems first rears its head. By exiling the Blue and Yellow Toad characters from the original, the game runs the risk of putting different demographics off. In the main game, this means that for your fourth character you have to pick an 'Easy' character in Toadette who has a clear advantage over everybody else. This is more troublesome in New Super Luigi U, a game designed as a challenging step up from the main game.

Due to the removal of Mario, you have to pick both Toadette and the invincible Nabbit if you want to play as a four, which doubles the timer and tends to undermine a lot of the level design. It's a double-edged sword. If you have young family members who want to play with low consequences and you're just looking to have fun, this will please you, but it’s a move that doesn’t really consider long time series fans who are seeking a challenge in this upgraded port.

Nabbit Season


If something is really frustrating you in Deluxe, you can always rely on Nabbit to help you out in a bind. A strange new addition to the lore, he's a rabbit criminal with the greatest vice of all, currency. He also happens to have some sort of strange, stalkerish obsession with Mario, who he studies intently from his home on Secret Island. Seriously. Nabbit is also completely impervious to damage, and clearly, some kind of god. We don't know what this bandana-toting bunny did to secure his spot on Mount Olympus, but let's be honest, they're a pack of criminals at the best of times so we imagine he'd fit right in.

The only way to shuffle Nabbit from this mortal coil is to get him trapped in geometry or drown him in lava, so he's absolutely perfect if you're looking to coast through a level that has frustrated you one too many times. Truly, it's only your personal pride holding you back this time around. In a game as difficult as New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, it's a breath of fresh air, especially considering you can always go back to the mission once you've honed your skills on other challenges later down the line. This is coupled with a helpful hints section and an exhaustive suite of videos guiding you through each level and it's associated collectibles. It's a shame then that you can't fully remap the controls and add true accessibility options beyond swapping your jump and dash buttons.

Visually, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a joy to look at, but if you scratch the surface you can tell that this is a port of a game that is now seven years old. The environment minutiae like the ruffling flowers and the clever enemy designs mitigate this slightly, but looking at any of the main characters pre-mushroom is a bit ghastly. There's nothing wrong with the visuals, but they're not eye-popping. Don't go in expecting the same kind of delightful aesthetics you’d see in Super Mario Odyssey.

This tracks for the score too. Most of it is forgettable. Peach's Castle did stand out though, with its wonderfully dark remix of the castle theme from Super Mario 64. This whole world had a fantastic oppressive atmosphere to it and some challenging but deeply rewarding levels. It's a shame the best was saved for last.

Due to the nature of the single-screen setup on the Switch, Boost Mode has been turfed out for this port. It's a shame as using the gamepad to place platforms was heaps of fun and added a lot of depth to the original Wii U title. Yet, a whole suite of challenges are still in the package, alongside Boost Rush and Coin Battle, which offer meaningful ways to flip the switch on the levels you will know very well by the end of the game. You can even edit Coin Battle courses with Coin Edit, which was so seamless it just left me hankering for Mario Maker Switch… Make it happen, Nintendo.

Is New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe Any Good?

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe

Despite dashing the dreams of Bowsette fans everywhere, this is a great game made more palatable for gamers of all skill levels, and although sometimes it threatens to be too easy by grafting in characters without really thinking about it, there is a blockbuster amount of content here that is fantastic fun solo, only to be made more exciting by the four-player multiplayer.

Whilst this isn't the most essential Wii U port to come to the Switch compared to more inventive titles like Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is easily the best modern Super Mario Bros. game, and if you're looking for that kind of fix after the 3D heights of Super Mario Odyssey, this 2D golden oldie is worth your money and your time.

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