Tales of Xillia
People often say that JRPGs (Japanese role-playing games) are dead, and that the sub-genre died after reaching its peak with Final Fantasy VII. Whilst there is no arguing that JRPGs have taken a hit in popularity with western audiences, there are still a huge number of dedicated fans, eager to experience a well-written story with characters that only a Japanese developer could envision. The ‘Tales’ franchise of games began way back in 1995, with Tales of Fantasia, and though JRPGs might be considered a niche product nowadays, the Tales franchise shows no signs of slowing down, proving popular with both western and eastern audiences and selling over 15 million units worldwide (as of 2012).
Though released in 2011 on the PlayStation 3 in Japan, ‘Tales of Xillia’ has only just been released to western audiences. “Localising”, which involves the minor editing of a game’s story, as well as recording the majority of a game’s voice work, is a lengthy process. Believe me when I say that Tales of Xillia is well worth the wait, and one of the best modern JRPGs I have ever played.
Tales of Xillia tells the story of Jude Mathis and Milla Maxwell. Jude is a medical student who shows great potential in his work, but is occasionally absent-minded and a little clumsy. After missing a class, Jude runs into his Professor Haus, who asks that Jude look after his medical practice while he conducts special research at the palace. When he doesn’t return, Jude decides to search for the professor in the palace himself. Not surprisingly, Jude is denied entry by the palace guards. No sooner than Jude decides to search for an alternative point of entry than he runs into Milla, a strange woman who can walk on water and destroys a gate with magic, opening a way into the palace.
All is not well at the palace, and soon after entering it Jude discovers a conspiracy involving technology that uses the power of spirits. After catching up to the mysterious Milla, Jude is dragged into a struggle between two worlds that co-exist on the same planet. Branded a traitor and a criminal, Jude must accompany Milla to her shrine so that she can regain her powers, right the wrongs, and end a war that threatens the entire world.
Of course, there is so much more to the story than that, and Tales of Xillia has a story so rich and enjoyable, it makes it quite difficult to put down your controller and call it a night. Unlike so many games that prioritise gameplay and attempt to find a balance between familiarity and innovation for the story, Tales of Xillia possesses a story with so much depth and entertainment, that it makes most games seem shallow by comparison. The characters, the humour, and the complexity of the story itself really are a treat, and something that JRPG aficionados will absolutely love.
Visually, Tales of Xillia is bright and colourful, with charming characters and environments. It may not be breaking new ground with graphical advancements, but it isn’t attempting to either. The beauty of Tales of Xillia’s visuals is in the simple, anime-like art direction. Tales of Xillia sports an almost entirely anime art direction, as opposed to other JRPGs like the final Fantasy series and Enchanted Arms, which can at times, struggle to find a balance between realism and traditional western character design. It must be said that Tales of Xillia is the visual opposite of what western games look like. Instead of blacks, browns and dirty in-between colours, Tales of Xillia is a bold but beautiful burst of colour, which is quite refreshing.
The gameplay in Tales of Xillia revolves around travelling from area to area, but as opposed to other JRPGs, where players travel on an “overworld”, Tales of Xillia has a properly scaled environment to explore and travel through. You won’t find any secrets or extra areas to explore, so in that respect, the game is linear. You can, however, explore any areas you have previously visited to level up or grind if you need to. I’ve found that I haven’t needed to grind or level up yet, as clever strategy in combat can see you through a particularly tough battle.
When exploring on the field map, random enemies and monsters will appear and wander about. If a player encounters a monster, a fight will begin. These fights are completely avoidable if the player is quick enough to react, but as with most RPGs, constantly escaping will obviously put you at a decreased level, and therefore, will make story-based fights much more difficult. Where Tales of Xillia really wins me over is the fact you can get bonus experience for quickly defeating a group of enemies in a fight. It makes the idea of levelling up more appealing.
When in combat, players will control either Jude or Milla, depending on their choice at the beginning of the game, and can run around the battle area freely. You have various combos, as well as special moves, called “artes”. Some artes are flashy attacks, others behave more like spells and status buffs or affects. When you meet your second companion, Alvin, you are then able to choose a partner to execute link attacks with, and linked artes. As opposed to mashing to attack button with combos, linked combos are more about attacking in a good rhythm with your partner. Linked artes are extremely powerful compared to artes, and can turn the tide in a fight with a well-timed press of a button.
There is so much to like about Tales of Xillia, while at first, the beginning felt a little slow, the story really pick up when you get past the first major event. The characters are well written, and it feels as though they themselves open up to each other throughout the duration of their adventure.
- Well-written story and endearing characters
- Highly accessible
- Great voice acting.
- Some people may find the gameplay repetitive.
Tales of Xillia tells entertaining story in a fantastic way. Hardcore JRPG fans as well as people new to JRPGs will find something to love in the characters, story, combat and humour. If you have been sitting around wishing for a good JRPG or RPG to sink some hours into, don’t hesistate to pick up a copy of Tales of Xillia.
Score – 8.5/10