- Namco Bandai
By Julian Aidan, Daily Arts Writer
Published September 16, 2013
Being the 13th game in the expansive “Tales” series, “Xillia” had a lot to live up to: The series is regarded as the third most important worldwide, with sales exceeding 15 million units. Shattering pre-order records for the series and receiving critical acclaim following its Japanese release in September 2011, “Xillia” appeared to have lived up to the hype. Almost two years later, the first copies of “Tales of Xillia” meant for a North American audience hit shelves nationwide.
Tales of Xillia
Namco Bandai Games
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As the game starts up, a Japanese pop-rock song sweeps through your speakers, with artist Ayumi Hamasaki’s voice preceded and supported by soaring strings. An intro straight out of an anime, the camera pans over cute, drawn renditions of the cast.
Four options, ranging from “toddler-friendly” to “repetitive-motion-injury inducing” present themselves to the player. You’re presented the option of incarnating one of two protagonists: Jude Mathis, a promising medical student, or Milla Maxwell, the physical incarnation of the Lord of Spirits. The former is a nerdy brawler with an awesome habit of punching people out, the latter is an elemental spirit-summoning deity of sorts with hair that defies conventions like gravity and logic.
In Rieze Maxia, the isolated land where “Xillia” takes place, two nations — Rashugal and Auj Oule — enjoy an unstable peace. Jude, spurred by the disappearance of his professor, stumbles upon Milla trying to enter the very military research facility Jude was headed toward. Within, they find Spyrix technology: Advanced and dangerous weaponry with the potential to destroy the world as they know it.
As the story unfolds, the pair encounters a diverse cast of friends and foes — stalkers, mercenaries, kings bent on world domination — in the ultimate goal of maintaining stability between the inhabitants of Rieze Maxia and the spirits with which they coexist (and in many ways depend on). Gameplay is split between various optional side missions, including social relationship-based character development, and exploring areas as you journey from plot point to plot point.
Areas outside of villages are populated by monsters and rife with treasures. Glints of ore, sacks of loot and chests are well within reach of players with a careful eye. Battles are instanced and begin after characters come into contact with enemies, with factors like whether or not the player-character manages to catch the enemy off-guard, affecting the beginning circumstances of the fight. As a bonus, the flashy, button-mashing 10-second fights feature the energetic guitar riff-laden battle music that makes “Tales of Xillia” fit right in with JRPGs of the past.
Combat is simple enough that one can get away with not learning any of the intricacies on any of the lower difficulties. However, the rewards for properly utilizing the various resources (which correspond to the amount of abilities the character is able to use) and synergies between characters are enormous. For tougher fights, using chains of abilities between characters make short and cinematic work of otherwise impossible enemies.
Players gain experience through combat and gain new abilities and stats through a spiderweb-like system they place points into with every level-up. There’s more than enough to distract and satisfy the most meticulous completionist, with in-game titles and trophies rewarding the devoted.
Unfortunately, “Xillia” is a little graphically dated, even for a 2011 game. The in-game combat dialogue can be an earsore and the voice acting occasionally leaves something to be desired. Though this doesn’t detract from the depth and complexity of the gameplay and its plot, it does make the experience less enjoyable aesthetically.
In Nov. 2012, “Tales of Xillia 2” was released in Japan, and is expected stateside in 2014.