Tales of Xillia is a Japanese RPG from Namco Bandai, and for those who not know, a series that started way back in the Super Famicon in Japan. While it doesn’t garner the same popularity as Final Fantasy its popularity grew a lot over the years not only in Japan but also in the West.
Story & Characters:
In this game of the series you have the option of playing as one of two protagonists, Jude, a young medical student or Milla Maxwell, the lord of spirits.
The story does start kind of slow and it can get a while before you get involved into it but once it does it has a way of grabbing you and not letting you go until the end. It can also get a little complicated at parts, especially when the characters start using terms from this created world and these words are so similar sometimes you can’t help but to feel confused. Nevertheless, the story while good is not something to be impressed but the characters are all very well done and likeable.
This for me was a particularly good point of this game. For reference, I played the last game in the series released for the Playstation 3, Tales of Graces, and in that game the characters were in my opinion so boring, bland and uninspired I could not for as much as I tried get attached to them.
In Tales of Xillia, you can rest assured because all of them, in each particular way good characters, even their voices seem to match each of them well.
And a very good thing the characters are good because in Tales games there is something called “skits”.
Once again, for those not familiar with the series, skits are small scenes which happen with the characters portraits interacting with each other but as opposed to the regular cutscenes in the game, these are all optional, some happen at random and others after a particular event. You trigger them by pressing select at your leisure. In short, they are a great way for the characters to interact with themselves and for you to get attached to them, and some are quite funny so they are worth to watch.
The last thing about the characters I think I should mention, without spoiling anything, is the main villain. I will not say who he is so I won’t spoil anything for anyone who haven’t played the game, but I have to admit I was surprised on how good he was. This character wasn’t just another villain who is evil for the sake of being evil, or a maniac, or anything of the sort. He is well thought, well constructed and he has very good reasons for his actions, so good in fact you may even think his reasons are better than the reasons of the characters you are playing as. This character was a breath of fresh air for me, as I have been playing Japanese RPGs for ages and it is rare to have villains like this one.
I think it’s refreshing when there’s a leveling system in an RPG that allows you some customization. Sure the developers should make a few restrictions so you don’t break your own game but it’s always nice when you have the option to skip even if not all but some abilities you don’t care or at least don’t think your characters will benefit from having and Tales of Xillia gives you this option.
Your characters gain level in traditional way of RPGs but as you level you get some points to spend on a grid. Think of it a mix of Final Fantasy X’s sphere grid and Final Fantasy XIII’s Crystarium system.
In each node there are stats, and when completing some of them, in a spider net style, you gain an ability. It’s simple but it works very well.
The Battle System:
Now, this is the part where the game shines. Most games of the Tales series shine here but this one in particular is for me the best.
The combat in this game is amazing, simple as that. You see enemies on the map, and when you touch them the fight begins in a closed arena, but everything is real time, you have control of each particular action of your characters. You can mash buttons and have a great time, but take a bit of time to understand what you’re doing you can start making long and flashy combos. The game even rewards you for playing better, making it possible for you to string more attacks one after the other, restore TP and HP.
There is also a system called “link” where the character you are controlling can pair with any other, not only each character helps you out in a different way, which can be healing you, breaking enemy guard, stealing items from fallen foes, but the can also assist you when you use your artes (the spells of the game), but here you can combine them for an even more effective spells which has new proprieties and is much prettier to look at. There are even more stuff that makes the combat feels awesome but I feel like just describing it is a disservice, if you don’t believe me, watch a video of the combat and believe when I tell you, even if you can’t be as amazing as some of the veterans of this series, you can still do amazing stuff and every single fight.
In all, this game is a blast to play, with a slow beginning but really fun all the way to the end.
It does have a few shortcomings. One thing is if you start paying attention it feels like many areas of the game are the exact same with a simple color swap and a few added items. The visuals can’t compete with Final Fantasy XIII, hell, I don’t think, at least artistically even Gust games look better, games which have much slower budgets but considering there are so many stuff on the screen and the gameplay if fluid I think it’s perfectly understandable.
The other is the music which far from being bad, which it isn’t, isn’t memorable either. I don’t think there’s one single track that you will want to hear again. Playing this after Bravely Default where almost all songs are at least great makes it a little sad.
Regardless of these little shortcomings, this game is a fantastic RPG I highly recommend, for veterans or newcomers alike. A good story, an excellent antagonist and an exceptional battle system, makes it easy to recommend.
+ Battle System
+ Unispired Music
+ Some assets are reused a little too much.