Tales of Xillia Review
For weeks, I've been glued to my copy of Tales of Xillia and still find myself as excited as the day I went to pick it up. My initiation into the Tales series first came with Tales of Symphonia back when the Gamecube was around. While I never beat it, I enjoyed the anime visuals and the combat system, which was fast paced and simple to learn but had much depth to it. Tales of Vesperia was the first of the series I actually beat and from this moment on; I knew I was hooked on the series. The day I heard Tales of Xillia was finally being brought over to the US, I just knew I had to get my thoughts out on it. As a Tales game, Xillia fits right in with the visuals, fast action battles and of course, somewhat expected plot. What I wasn't ready for was the amount of serious content in terms of character development and situations. Being genuinely surprised by the mature nature of the story really caught me off guard here but it works in Xillia's favor. It's a nice change of pace from the usual tactics used in one of these games (there's no "hidden" princess here).
Normally by the halfway mark, there's a couple of characters I'm not too fond of in JRPGs. Whether it's the do-gooder or confused helpful friend, there's always a character that doesn't sit right with me. Through the use of excellent character development, both of those types are present in Xillia and oddly, don't bother me. Jude Mathis is one of the main characters the player can control and at first, he appears to be the stereotypical do-gooder I'm not fond of. Even right from the beginning, the game makes it known that Jude is a medical honor student and a teacher's pet. He sticks his neck out for people because of his do-good nature. By all rights, I should dislike his character because of his very nature but thanks to the excellent character development, I can SEE why he develops more into himself and I even encourage it. With all that happens to Jude right from the start, I can empathize with him and what he has gone through. Same goes for Leia Rolando, who happens to be Jude's childhood friend. She's that typical nagging friend and often plays the role of the comic relief. Both of these characters have the types I dislike and yet... I actually like both! The beauty of Xillia is how it crafts a well written story and presents it to the player. I have nothing against the other Tales games but most of the time the plot is predictable and leaves no room for twists. So far, Xillia has offered me little predictability but a whole lot of twists and turns. Don't get me wrong either, Xillia has a lot of moments where I sat back and wondered why this particular scene was included. These moments aren't game breaking or anything; just a bit cliche. What else do you expect from a JRPG?
Tales of Xillia happens to have my most liked story within the Tales series (sorry Vesperia) but not only that; the combat system is addictive as well! With every RPG or JRPG I play, I make sure to fight and grind my characters' levels up high to avoid any trouble down the road. Xillia is no exception... I even go out of my way to fight extra battles! The standard system is still in place where the player controls his/her team in real-time combat. Imagine having full control of a character and by utilizing button presses mixed with analog stick movements, pulling off combos while combining said combos with your artes and allies' artes. That is the basic definition of how battles play out in Xillia. Of course, there are more advanced techniques like the "Links" mechanic. By "Linking" with allies, new artes can be used, creating linked artes which have devastating effects on foes. The stronger you grow, the more artes to be learned and ultimately, mastered. As stated before, the combat system is simple but complex, requiring a full attention to detail to reach the road for mastery. It took me about a couple of hours to reach an understanding of what was required from me during combat. Before long, I was pulling off insane combos and linking artes together; obliterating enemies within the battlefield.
However, when I wasn't destroying monsters, I was navigating the 3D field. Like most other JRPGs, there are two major areas where the game takes place: The battlefield and the field map. During your time traversing the field map, players can stock up on necessary items, powerful weapons, defensive armor and other little trinkets to give the edge in battles; especially those tough boss fights. Obviously, to buy all the necessities one would need, one would have to have Gald (game's currency) to do so. Defeating monsters and finding treasure chests is one way to go about it but undertaking side-quests nets you gald as well as some other goodies used to customize characters' looks. Want to add some bunny ears to Leia? No problem. Jude looks good with a samurai eyepatch? Put it on him! These optional customizations even stick around in the cutscenes too!
Like most Tales games, skits are a big portion of the game as they tend to deal with anything from character development, main story dialogue to miscellaneous events. Skits are told through text and voice dialogue with the characters images reacting according to what is being said. Some of the skits made me laugh, while others offered insight to the problem/task at hand. Suffice it to say; skipping through the skits would be an unwise decision. I probably witnessed about a hundred skits and never got bored once. They are most definitely well worth the effort to watch.
Something I'm not used to with JRPGs in general is my ability to care for the characters I meet along the way. Besides the main character and one or two others, I typically tend to treat characters like cannon fodder or just cheerleaders from the sidelines. I first noticed my affection for my allies when I would periodically switch them into combat after a certain amount of time. To give you some insight as to why this is a big deal, I normally keep my favorite allies with me at all times and the ones I don't like, I just leave them on the bench. Depending on what characters are linked together, a unique victory animation can occur, which shows off the relationship between said linked characters. To give an example, if you have Leia and Alvin linked together, by the end of the battle, they might just do a special victory handshake. Mostly all of the unique animations are entertaining in some way and do change as the story progresses. So for me to actively switch and have each one of my team members grow evenly; I was borderline shocked. Even during the cutscenes, I was fully engrossed with what was happening on my screen. Wasn't checking my phone, looking up stuff online or anything; my eyes were glued to the screen. Tales of Xillia is one of the few JRPGs I've played that has been able to strike a chord in me to this level. I probably won't feel this way again for a long time coming.
I was only able to beat Xillia with just one of the main characters and even that took me quite some time. I invested 70+ hours into this game thanks to the amazing combat, my urge to complete almost all of the side-quests presented (I didn't even get a 100%!) and for the game roping me in for a really fantastic time. I still have to go through for a second time to see the story from a different perspective with Milla and to maybe attempt the 100% completion. The one thing I will note about Xillia that I wasn't too fond of was the bland environments. I could tell that not a lot of time and thought was given to the creation of these settings because each area felt like a rehashed location; just given a different skin. There were plenty of moments where I became bored of passing through what looked like the same area I was in. Nevertheless, this shouldn't be a gamebreaking factor for anyone but it does damper some of the mood.
- Superb combat system
- Interesting plot and twists
- Memorable characters
- Plenty of replay value
- Some moments are forced
- Boring Environments
No doubt, Tales of Xillia is my favorite Tales game to date. While I'm sure that could change in the future, the present is most definitely set. It was saddening to know my time with it came to an end but as I realized that I still have another campaign to work through, I felt the smile spread across my face. I recommend this to any Tales fan or even JRPG lovers in general. There is no set place to jump into this franchise seeing how each game has it's own story. Tales of Xillia has something for everyone, both dedicated fans and newcomers alike. With the sequel set to release for the PS3 in 2014, people have plenty of time to explore Rieze Maxia... The world of Tales of Xillia!