Friday, 17 January 2014

Tales Of Xillia

Gamespot Score: 7.0 (Good)

My Score: 8.0

(+) Pros: - Great battle system that introduces the cross link feature, - Graphics are the best in the franchise so far, - Character cast is excellent (better than Graces' cast), - Excellent English dub, - Decently lengthy and challenging at the right times.

(-) Cons: - Requires two playthroughs to see and know EVERYTHING, which should not be the case in ANY game, - Post game content is lacking compared to previous games in the franchise.

Gameplay time: 30-40 hours

The "Tales Of" franchise is one of the best JRPG franchises ever made. Running for almost as long as the "Final Fanatasy" franchise,  it certainly grows and pulls in fans as the franchise itself gets older. I myself have been a fan of the series since "Tales Of Eternia" (or as I played the US release, "Tales Of Destiny 2"), though I haven't played every single "Tales" game since then, because you know, Namco is kind of stingy when it comes to bringing the games to the English speaking audiences. Luckily for us, they've been rather attentive lately, listening to all the fans, since they've been bringing most of the recent "Tales" games over, which makes me a happy man. "Tales Of Xillia" is the 15th anniversary game for the franchise, and it has received HUGE amounts of praise in Japan. So how does it really do?

Like most other games in the franchise, "Tales Of Xillia" focuses on telling a generic JRPG tale that involves around saving the world of some big deal right? Though it twists the storytelling and switches up the way the plot'll end up like this one way or big deal, since the storytelling for the games have always been excellent anyway, and the end product has always been satisfactory ("Tales Of Eternia" hit me HARD as a kid). 

Anyway the story this time centers on Jude, a young med student, and Milla, the vessel for the lord of spirits Maxwell, that watches of Rieze Maxia. Jude wanders into a military facility after learning about his professor's death to investigate, and runs into Milla, who somehow broke into the facility to destroy a weapon of mass destruction. Both of them become victims of the weapon itself, and barely escape with their lives. They become national, wanted criminals, condemned by the government. They run into Alvin, a mercenary, and the 3 of them are on the run....

The game looks great, as you'd expect.

The "Tales" games have always had great battle systems that undergo change every time they enter a new game in the franchise. It happens too in "Tales Of Xillia". Combat is mostly similar to that in previous games. You get to free run around the arena, target onto enemies and attack away. Either you hack at your opponents at the cost of AC, which regenerate quickly after depleted or attack them with artes. Artes are the mainstay of the "Tales" games, and they are the terminology for the skills that you use in battle. Artes will vary depending on the user, be it artes that involve your character hitting an opponent with a flair of physical strikes, or a charged spell that inflicts damage on your enemies from afar.

Of course, the artes vary depending on the user. Jude uses mostly artes that rely physically striking his opponents with his gauntlet, and having a small variety of healing abilities (he is a med student after all). Milla is all about flaying her sword around with quick elemental strikes and casting spells based on the elements. Other characters use different artes, but the beauty of "Tales Of Xillia"'s system doesn't come from this alone, as its mostly present in the previous games. Enter linking, a new mechanic that allows you to dynamically partner up with another character during battle.

Cutscenes look good too.

Via linking, two characters will partner up, and they'll work with one another using their character specific battle traits. When attacking as a paired link, both characters will flank the target, allowing for a more sophisticated attack pattern. Characters will assist different during a link, which allows for many possible combinations. Jude will heal and recover you when you fall down, Leia steals from her target when you knock them down, Alvin breaks the enemy's guard, and Elize recovers your mana with Teepo. Also available during linking is link skills.

Certain artes between both characters that are linked can be combined into a link arte, a special combination attack that does major damage. This requires the link gauge at the side of the screen during battle to fill up...when its full, you get to enter cross mode, which basically allows you to spam link artes....or use a mystic arte, which is an ultimate move of has always been in ever "Tales" game and will continue to be I guess. Though the mystic artes are as powerful as ever, I found the spamming of link artes to be more efficient in battle, because mystic artes are unlocked quite late in the game. Everything is centered around the lithium orb, which allows you to progress though nodes for stat boosts, skills and artes (similar to FF 10's sphere grid, FF 13's crystarium, "Unchained Blades"'s leveling system...and many more).

Don't just stand there! Help me you jackasses!

Probably the biggest improvement coming out of "Tales Of Xillia" however, isn't the gameplay. It's the f**king graphics. Everything looks gorgeous as hell, even more so than the previous games. The transition to the PS3 for the "Tales" series was truly made when "Tales Of Xillia" hit the market. "Tales Of Graces F" was merely a port over from the Wii, so that didn't really count...we can safely say that "Xillia" was the franchise's true debut on the system. The character models for the characters are the best that they've ever been (Milla is SO f**king sexy), the environments are more detailed than in previous games (though I'd say that variety in environments is somewhat lacking), and the monsters look fabulous.

They completely changed how cutscenes work. No more of the floating text boxes during major cutscenes and simple voice overs during them. Now we have fully rendered cutscenes, characters talking at their own pace, action going on at the same time...its a nice improvement that makes cutscenes a lot more relevant. The skits are the same as always though, just character images talking to one another. But skits are skits, I love them for what they are, and they shouldn't change. It's something exclusive to the "Tales Of" franchise that I really like and I hope that they never go away.

Sexy lady walking down a path...nothing to see here.

The character cast for "Tales" games have always been strong, and "Xillia"'s cast sure pulls its own weight in the story. To avoid spoilers, I won't go too deep into it, but the character personalities sure are...a lot more varied this time around, rather than having 6 stereotypes. The girls are kind of just there, and may not be the powerhouse heroines you expected...except for Milla though, she's one of the protagonists, of course they'd put considerable character development into her. The guys are the stars. Jude is a VERY typical shounen hero, though Alvin and Rowen are very badass in their own ways.

I'd also like to comment on the English dub of the game...its excellent, one of the best dub over jobs for a JRPG since the likes of "Persona 4". I expected everyone to say way worse than they should, but the English VAs did a solid job...especially Sam Riegal on Jude, because Japanese Jude was just....not to my liking. You know me, I'm a f**king sucker for Japanese voices, but I didn't quite like Tsubasa Yonaga on Jude at all. The rest of the Japanese cast was decent...but for now, I'll take the English cast any day (though I still love Miyuki Sawashiro as Milla and Tomokazu Sugita as Alvin).

You technically have to play this game twice, one with each protagonist.

The biggest flaw of the game is the fact that it introduces two protagonists, you can choose to either play as Jude or Milla, and have a different view of the story. However, many times in the game, Milla and Jude will split up. When they meet up again, they very briefly explain to each other what happened while they were gone...its sad. If you play as Jude, you don't know what happen when Milla splits up from you, and vice versia as you play as Milla. These events are GROUND BREAKING! Character deaths, character recruitment...imagine all of those being skipped in an RPG just because you were playing as the other character. Also, the post game content is saddening. Compared to the likes of "Tales Of Graces F" or "Tales Of The Abyss", "Xillia" has a pathetic amount of post game content.

"Tales Of Xillia" is a great JRPG with a lot to like. Being the most beautiful "Tales" game in years, and having in incredibly fun link system in battle, the game gives you one of the more extensive experiences that you could ever ask for in the franchise. There are issues here and there, but the game is still great for what it is. The sequel is already announced for an English release, and let's just hope that it's better.

Happy gaming!