Tales of Xillia 2 (Japanese Edition) – Game Review
Title: Tales of Xillia 2
Alternative Title: テイルズオブエクシリア2
Developed By: Namco Bandai Games
Published by: Namco Bandai Games
Based On: The fourteenth flagship title in the long-running Tales franchise
Sequel to: Tales of Xillia (2011)
Console: Playstation 3
Review Conditions: Physical Playstation 3 Copy. Japanese First Print Edition with additional book and codes for DLC costumes.
Special Thanks: A copy of this title was purchased out of my own pocket.
Released in Japan during September 2011, Tales of Xillia was met with a strong reception and some of the strongest sales that an installment in the series has ever received (Since at least Tales of Destiny 2 in 2002). In December last year I wrote up a review for the game, for which the game received a solid score of an A with favorable reception in regards to both the visuals and design, as well as replayability potential given you could choose either Jude Mathis or Milla Maxwell to follow during the games storyline.
While Tales of Xillia is not due for release internationally until next year, Namco Bandai Games went ahead and released a sequel simply titled Tales of Xillia 2 in Japan a short while ago. While we have no word on if we will be receiving this sequel or not internationally (I would sure hope so), I have decided to check out and review this title. Given this is a Japanese-only release at this point – my usual requirements stand… I will not touch upon the actual plot events given potential translational errors on my part (As well as potential spoilers for the games original release which many of you would not have had the chance yet to check out) and a full review should be written up if and when the game gets launched in PAL regions.
Without further ado, lets review!
Characters / Storyline Progression
Tales of Xillia originally featured a well-balanced set of six playable characters (Jude Mathis, Milla Maxwell, Leia Rolando, Alvin, Elise Lutus and Rowen J. Ilbert) who remained the same irrespective of if you followed Jude or Milla’s storyline routes. All six of these characters received ample character development and their fair share of the screen time. The events of Tales of Xillia 2 takes place about a year after the first, with the characters having taken up new lifestyles since then – for example Leia is now a journalist and Elise has to an extent cast off her shy personality enough become a student. All return as playable characters alongside Gaius and Musee who have been promoted to playable character status from being storyline-only characters.
However, while this leaves them with a main character cast of 8… none of them star as the main characters in this game. Instead, the storyline primarily focuses on two new characters – the 20 year old Ludger Will Kresnik and an eight year old girl Elle Mel Mata who appears before him after some rather tragic events which occur over the course of the games introductory sequences. The development team seem to have taken a leaf out of the Persona series and made Ludger a mostly mute character, instead throughout the game providing you with dialogue options which seem to try and give the illusion that you are controlling the storyline. There are some occasions where this has a major impact on the gameplay (Eg. Determining if you get sent to the games Bad End), but mostly provide slightly different dialogue and a relationship boost for your characters – leading to a few gameplay goodies down the track.
They have recorded dialogue for Ludger but you need to finish the game before unlocking it…. I would have liked the option to play through it. Otherwise Ludger at least in the first playthrough is a rather bland protagonist especially considering the wealth of other characters and storyline aspects this game has to offer. Elle who is not a playable character served as a much more interesting character.
While I am not going into specifics, the storyline was well written and at the very least equal in quality to Tales of Xillia with a complex plotline and is one I would much like to read more into when the game is localized into English. The major limitation of any RPG when dealing with so many characters is how to handle character development and gameplay with each of them without feeling like the game favors certain characters more than others. While not perfect, the game includes a number of character specific chapters – which generally focus on a single character and provides not only gameplay opportunities focused around select characters but ample character development for each of them.
In addition to this, for a sizable portion of the game you will have certain characters locked into your party and/or be provided with specific characters to undertake certain events with – meaning you will not be stuck with the same four character party until much later. The game does not come with character-specific endings but has five in total depending on select events during the game.
But in the end, the games storyline and character development were both dominant factors in the title, and more importantly was of significant quality. It is however a text-heavy experience so to fully appreciate this game you will need to be relatively fluent in Japanese or be left spending a fair amount of time translating. With any luck sales of Tales of Xillia 2 will warrant a fast (and quality) release of Tales of Xillia 2 in the English-language market.
Visually Tales of Xillia 2 retains the same visual style as its predecessor, which as I noted in my original review far outranks any of the previous Tales game releases despite each installment having their own unique charms. The environment designs are stunning and well detailed while all of the returning characters have had an aesthetic change meaning they haven’t just carried over the designs from the previous game. If these are not to your tastes however, you can unlock original costumes as well as carry over (the expensive) DLC costumes from the original. As with most games in the Tales series, you are able to bring in a total of four characters into battle, and the animations and visual effects work equally well at carrying these moments without any noticeable slowdown.
While the game comes with new regions, all of which maintain the visual style that doesn’t leave them too out of place for this game, they have fallen into the problem many sequel games have by recycling far too many resources from many of the environments to monster designs. To be fair I can understand where they are coming from by doing this – it is a game set in the same world so everything should be the same…. but I would have liked to see more innovation on their part.
In-game animations as well as the opening sequence were produced by the team at Ufotable and asides from me feeling there were not enough of them, there were no issues I could pick up with any of them.
Music / Voice Acting
Ayumi Hamasaki returned to provide the opening sequence theme song for the game titled “Song 4 U”. The sequence which you can see above, is of a high quality and the song goes rather well with the animation and the overall theme of the game. In terms of actual music quality in the game, Motoi Sakuraba also returned to provide a new sizable track list which left just as much impact as in ToX. There was a solid mix of battle themes, story themes and general themes with something to suit every mood.
The games original voice cast all return and reprise their original roles, all of whom compliment the characters well. While it is hard to point out any particular voice cast members to note – I would say I loved the voices provided by Haruna Ikezawa as Tipo and Tomokazu Sugita as Alvin.
The first thing that must be noted is that a sizable chunk of the core gameplay system from Tales of Xillia has been carried over in this release. Despite this, the development work wasn’t just building a storyline around the same system and does provide quite a lot that has been improved or new. The Battle System for one is the same standard battle system that they have used for many years now, but as they do in almost every installment they have shaken things up a little. ToX made use of a battle system known as the Dual Raid Linear Motion Battle System, while ToX2 makes use of a variant named the Cross Double Raid Linear Motion Battle System (or XDR-LMBS for short).
What does this mean? The XDR-LMBS system opens up several new gameplay tactics to take into consideration during midst battle. For one, Ludger is not limited to a single weapon but instead able to shift between the generic sword, a hammer and dual-guns. Later on in the game you are also provided access to special transformed states exclusive to Ludger which allows him to become overpowered and invincible. Enemy weaknesses to particular weapons, new Hi Ougi skills, new mystic artes and sidestepping also make their appearances in this title. Unfortunately as you may have noted, all the main improvements have been exclusive to Ludger – meaning it does at time nudge you to control him rather than the other eight characters in the game – and for certain boss flights almost required you take control of him.
The battle system is however as good as it always is, and even at the start I was expecting the battles to be a lot slower than they turned out to be.
As with many RPG’s on the market you are left at times to battle boss monsters at free will, level up your characters and take up quests from the inhabitants of the world. Unfortunately while in other games this comes down to storyline or optional quests…. Tales of Xillia 2 forces you to take part in them. Very early in the game, Ludger acquires a 20,000,000 gald debt and this isn’t something you can ignore…. the game won’t let you. At certain times during the game you are given the message that you have to pay off a certain part of your debt in order to progress the storyline and potentially save the world.
To earn this money you can do this through selling items or defeating enemies, but for the most part you will be left with quests asking you to collect X of an item or defeat Y of an enemy, go back to the quest board and get your money. Granted at least some of this can be paid off with items you collect through your journey, I found it detrimental to the flow of the storyline as it can take up quite a bit of time to scrounge up the gald to pay off a portion of the debt alongside acquiring new equipment and items to do so. This is not something I would like to see become a trend in the series, even if it does build up game hours.
Due to events which occured during the first game, the original Liliale Orb system is no longer viable in the chronology. Instead, the new skill building system titled “Arrowcell Orb” requires you to collect elemental orbs which depending on what absorber each character is equipped with will be converted into points which can unlock specific skills, stat boosts etc. While not as straight forward as other comparable systems, it does its job well and you do get the hang of it. The game also sees you collect cats…. which you can send out to obtain new materials and other goods at times.
Aside from the games five endings, there isn’t as much on offer in terms of replayability as there was in ToX. However there is a nice selection of post-game content if this takes your fancy and the usual grade point system for a New Game. If you want a new visual experience, Namco Bandai have also offered a selection of new DLC costumes and accessories for both new and returning characters which do come at a hefty price.
Overall, Tales of Xillia 2 features many improvements over its predecessor and once again provides a high standard of quality across the board that myself and I am sure many others have come to expect from a Tales game. But while this game succeeds in several areas it also falters in others. The decision to have Ludger as a silent protagonist made him come across bland, and having him overpowered battle system wise meant you were more or less locked into using him during all major battles. In addition, the debt system hindered the experience and while it is game time building up – it is game time I would have rather spent doing something more meaningful.
But if you look past all of this, you are provided with something that meets the standard I would have hoped from a sequel to easily one of my favorite Tales games. I look forward to reviewing Tales of Xillia’s English release in the new year.
Storyline: Check out the English ver. Review when it Launches
Storyline Delivery: B+
Music/Voice Acting: A
Personal Opinion: A-
Overall Score: A-