Tales of Xillia

After fangirling about Loki for the past three weeks, the fires of his awesomeness have cooled. They have not faded, because Loki is awesome and he looked very cute as a catboy as well, but I can now move on to other things. Those other things are video games. I figure – I have a blog. Why not try my hand at reviewing?

So, Tales of Xillia was released yesterday (8/6/13) here in America. I posted a few impressions of it to my personal facebook page but I feel I should expand upon them now that I’ve played more. For disclaimer’s sake, I have played 11 hours (with perhaps three hours of that spent paused), recruited 5/6 party members, and did several sidequests. Additionally, I started with Jude.

The Tales name carries with it a set of expectations. My first Tales game was Symphonia back on the Gamecube and from there I have had an impression of this series. That impression boils down to three things: impressive real-time combat, gripping characters, and a fantastic story. Genis Sage, that bratty little half-elf mage, remains my favorite character to this day. Graces didn’t quite live up to those expectations (World map! Where are you?), so how does Xillia fare?

The combat is odd and takes some getting used to. I am admittedly a button masher and so I spend many fights alternating between mashing X and tapping O. With Xillia borrowing the CC system from Graces (now called AC), I find myself performing far longer combos than I am used to in the beginning stages of Tales games. The AC system in Xillia servers as a combo meter and dictates how many combat moves the character may use in a row. I can’t remember what I started at but I am now at 6 AC for Jude. I feel as if I am attacking for an insanely large amount of time before having to pause. The AC system also allows players to chain “artes” (special attacks) in with normal attacks. I attack, use Demon Fist, attack again, use Aqua Sweep, and can just go on like that until I run out of AC. In previous games it took special skills to be able to chain artes together and it feels a bit jarring. Graces managed to make chaining artes fluid, while in Xillia I find myself stalled.

Xillia’s combat trademark, however, is its link system. In battle you can choose another character to link to. Doing do yields bonuses, as some skills you equip are shared between the linked characters (Earth resistance, for example). In the midst of battle, when you approach an enemy, your linked party member will run around to flank the enemy. The only bonus to this is an increased chance for your party member to land a critical hit, though it does help when surrounded by enemies. Your partner will focus on the enemy you’re currently attacking until it’s dead or you switch targets. In some instances, your party member will attempt to defend you from an enemy that sneaks up on you, though I haven’t been able to pay enough attention to see how it works outside of the tutorial. Choosing your partner to link with is also important, since each party member has his or her own special skill.

As for characters, starting off with Jude was refreshing. He and Milla are co-protagonists and the player can choose which one to start as. He’s a medical student and hand-to-hand fighter, which makes him one of the very few non-swordsman Tales mains and the only male (to my knowledge) to start off with a healing skill. I was so used to not being able to heal at first that I forgot I could until after I joined with Milla in the game. I liked him immediately when I started, for his introductory scene has him barreling through a hallway of students. He’s in an obvious rush, but when he knocks over a student’s papers he stops to pick them up. He’s courteous and kind, but he doesn’t allow injustice to stand. It is this sense of justice that drags him into Milla’s path and into the plot.

Milla, on the other hand, is one of my favorite female characters to date. I tend to hate Tales females because I find them annoying (Looking at you, Cheria) but Milla immediately caught my heart. She’s a strong, no-nonsense character who (so far) hasn’t fallen back on any cliche female tropes. What made me like her the most was when she found out that, due to plot reasons, she could no longer use any of her high-level spells. Where most women in games would have pitched a fit (“How dare they?!”) or had an existential crisis (“How can I be of use without my powers?”), Milla accepted the situation calmly. She was like, “Okay, I can’t use my powers. Let’s change how we do things.” I only hope that as part of her “character development” she doesn’t lose this calmness and strength.

The story isn’t anything special, yet. Normal kid gets caught up in things, can’t go home, has to accompany girl instead. Sounds kind of familiar, right? There are hints of political intrigue but some of the tech speak is just kind of headscratching. What’s a mana lobe, again? Still, I’m at the point in the story where it seems like the over-reaching plot might finally be revealing itself so I shall be watching and waiting. It’s not a bad story, mind. It’s just not my favorite.

My last few notes are these. In a first for the Tales series, you cannot talk to everyone ¬†you meet. Only the ones with little smiley face bubbles over their heads, or exclamation points, will allow you to interact with them. Another first is that once you’ve spoken to these people, the smiley bubble changes. This allows you to see who you have already spoken to and streamlines the process by which you explore towns.

The level design reminds me partly of Final Fantasy XII and an MMORPG, with a dash of the original .hack thrown in for flavor. The cities are packed and crowded like FFXII, but the feel of them reminds me a lot of .hack. The map levels would feel right at home in Eden Eternal or any other MMO. I do, however, like that the levels have a vertical component. Instead of just running around you must now climb ladders and ledges to get to every part of the area. In that respect it felt similar to Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

Also, I like that the opening theme wasn’t changed. Kudos to Namco-Bandai for figuring out that we didn’t mind the Japanese.

I’m not going to do a number rating or a “You must play this!” I’m enjoying my time with the game. If you want to buy it, it’s available online or in stores like Gamestop. Until next time, see everyone later!

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