Title: Tales of Xillia
Developed By: Namco Bandai’s Tales Studio
Published By: Namco Bandai (Worldwide)
Based on: The thirteenth installment in the Tales series
Console: Playstation 3
Classification: PG for Mild Fantasy Violence and Coarse Language
Review Conditions: Australian Edition, Playstation 3, Physical Copy
Special Mention: Namco Bandai Games Australia for providing me with a review copy of this game
Tales of Xillia follows Jude Mathis, a clever medical student attending school in the capital city, and Milla Maxwell, a mysterious woman accompanied by four unseen beings. Players will be able to choose either Jude or Milla at the outset of their adventure through the world of Rieze Maxia, where humans and spirits live together in harmony. The kingdom of Rashugal has been experimenting with a powerful source that led to draining the mana from the world. Realizing the harm it is inflicting on the world, Jude and Milla set off on a journey to destroy it and restore the mana back to the world.
I has over a year and a half since Tales of Xillia was first released in Japan, and after all this time Namco Bandai have finally managed to finish the localization process and get the game out on store shelves in both North America and PAL regions. While I have had the Japanese edition sitting on my shelf since its Japanese launch and had even written a review of it – I was more than excited to see how the game would handle once localized.
It is finally time to give Tales of Xillia its final score…. and see if the games tentative score of “A” sticks.
Tales of Xillia is told through the perspective of two characters – young medical student Jude Mathis and the “Lord of Spirits” Milla Maxwell. Rather than have the attention shift between the two of them one of the first decisions you make when starting the game is whom of the two you with to focus on. That means the start of the game and any occasion where the pair go their separate ways you will focus on the character you selected. It was an interesting idea from the start and rewards you with additional content should you decide to replay the game a second time. Irrespective of whom you choose, the overarching plotline remains very similar, so if you are playing for a single run, the experience won’t be too heavily different.
With his supervisor away one day, medical student Jude Mathis is left to handle a spate of mysterious cases regarding artes not working. After work he discovers his supervisor has won a prestigious award which leads him into following a mysterious woman (Milla Maxwell) going through a side entrance of the cities closed off laboratory area. Discovering actions of human mana extraction and a powerful but dangerous weapon known as the “Lance of Kresnik”, Jude is drawn into Milla’s mission to rid mankind of such a weapon.
I won’t delve into the plot any further from there, however the events I mentioned above are what is included in the first half an hour or so – with a consistent stream of similar storyline elements from there as the characters (In true Tales Series style) travel around the world in their quest. Tales of Xillia delivers a good balance of complexity and light-heartedness, while making strong use of its six party member main character cast and a wealth of side-characters and antagonists.
Jude Mathis and Milla Maxwell are completely the opposite in terms of personality given their different lifestyles and upbringing and are joined by four other very diverse characters who are amply developed and even if it seems to be that way at first – are not just a group of people who the pair pick up along the way. There is the mercenary Alvin who barges his way into their quest, the butler Rowen J. Ilbert who joins up after certain events unfold, the “childhood friend” character Leia Rolando and finally Elize Lutus and her talking doll Teepo who with conflicting personalities makes for two of the more interesting characters to see in the usual Tales series “skits”.
There are certainly better storylines out there on the RPG market, however the concept and delivery of Tales of Xillia were both very good and I think left a lasting impression. While there are RPG’s on the market that offer gameplay-oriented reasons to play through the game a second or third time, the decision to split up the storyline in sections between Jude and Milla was a wise idea. I found splitting them up encouraged you to play through a second time as there are occasions where it purposefully leaves you wondering what Jude / Milla were doing while the other was occupied doing something else.
In comparison to the other current-gen Tales games, “Tales of Vesperia” and “Tales of Graces F”, I think Tales of Xillia would easily be the best hands down. The designs looked a bit more realistic and without the cel-shading / colourful designs used in the previous games, came across a little more sophisticated and mature.
The character designs were developed by both Kosuke Fujishima and Mutsumi Inomata, each of whom were responsible for designing three of the six main cast members. While Milla has inadvertently ended up as the skimpy clothed mascot which is alluded to several times in the game, I think they pulled off a nice set of character designs, each of which matched the characters skills and personalities.
As with previous installments, you are also granted the opportunity to collect costumes and accessories to decorate your character with. While the costumes are pretty much limited in number without DLC, the accessories are relatively plentiful through questing and while some may seem to have been added just for the sake of them – if you spend your time outfitting the characters you can get a very unique looking party. Anyone want a party of catboys and catgirls? It is possible!
The environment designs were also a highlight in regards to the games design. While some of the more general areas in between dungeons and towns may come across a bit cliche and dull in terms of both visuals and design, there are a variety of different themes they decided to go with and many of the areas provided a non-linear dungeoneering experience and individualized towns / regions of the game world.
To go with the fact there are two protagonists in Tales of Xillia, they decided to include two different opening animations with a focus on either Jude or Milla. Unlike earlier Tales series releases there was no localization on the games theme song, instead with Namco Bandai opting to keep Progress by Ayumi Hamasaki.
The game itself has an extensive track list filled with the song styles you would expect in any RPG, and overall were performed well thanks to the talent of Motoi Sakuraba – who is responsible for the soundtracks in several of my personal favourite games. You may recall me mentioning DLC costumes in terms of design. Some of the DLC costumes also have unique battle themes attached to them which is a small but nice gesture to warrant the rather hefty price of DLC – however I can confirm that the Maid/Butler set which I recently purchased DOES NOT come with any new battle theme.
Surprisingly Namco Bandai have chosen to only include their English dub with this release. Having played through the game with both dubs I must admit that I prefer the original Japanese dub over the included one. While the English dub is by no means terrible, I felt the recording quality sometimes shifted between characters and that not every character reached the tone I have come to expect from the Japanese cast.
If I were to pick special mentions out of the English voice cast it would be Sam Riegel as Jude, Matthew Mercer as Alvin and to my very own surprise Erin Fitzgerald as Teepo. I didn’t think anyone could impress me as much as Haruna Ikezawa as Teepo, but while Fitzgerald voices Teepo differently she still carries across the same personality I have come to expect from the character.
For the most part, the gameplay system is the same as every other installment of recent Tales games, a system they have more or less perfected however with a few nice additions which is sure to appeal to fans. Using a party of four members, you must use both normal attacks and skill artes (Attached to different L and R analog sticks) to reduce your enemies HP while taking into account your own magic levels, your assault counter (The number of attacks you can combo at any one time), enemy weaknesses and the different play-styles of each character, and ensuring your 3 NPC party members do not get themselves killed as well.
The games battle system is known as the Double Raid Linear Motion Battle System or DR-LMBS, which differs from previous systems as it involves two party members teaming up in combat, allowing greater damage dealing to the enemy the player is attacking. The system is pretty effective and the AI does not screw up all that often, and while it is a system you can sort of forget about, it offers another layer of tactics for the higher difficulty settings where each partner character has his/her individual strengths and perks.More importantly though is the ability to use Link artes through filling up the Link Gauge and allowing characters to perform unique paired attacks. However, if you have played any Tales of games before, there is nothing all too different and the learning curve isn’t too bad.
Character development does not rely on a random or pre-defined system of stat giving. Instead a mixture of each skills, arts and stat points are granted through a grid “web” based system known as the Lilium Orb – that according to the storyline is an item that gives the characters the ability to effectively attack monsters. Every level you earn gives you Growth Points which can be spent on levelling up different stats on a grid (Usually one of the six stats – Strengths, Vitality, Intelligence, Spirit, Agility and Dexterity) through their use, and growing one section of the web can unlock bonus artes, skills and stats boosts. It is not a new system, but allows you to tailor your skills to your liking and is pretty effective in ensuring your characters are not too underdeveloped or overpowered for their level.
The skill system is pretty much the same as other games where you unlock Skill Points which can be invested and de-invested in different skill boosts ranging from defense bonuses to HP/TP increases. Another factor to your success is through weaponary and armor. You can go through the entire game without a single weapon unlock in the shops – therefore to unlock items in shops and ensure success you must invest your random pick-ups off the field and from battle and/or Gald into one of a number of item categories. Investing earns the category points which as they level up will grant you access to better items and weaponary in all the stores across Rieze Maxia.
As I mentioned above, provided you don’t mind going through the game a second time, you can get a relatively different storyline experience through choosing the alternate protagonist and it does come with a fairly different conclusion to boot. The gameplay does not change a second time round and depending on how successful you were in the previous playthrough (Through obtaining titles etc) will determine how much you can carry over to the second game, as you are given X points to unlock certain boosts or carry-over elements into the New Game. The gameplay is overall your normal Tales experience, but by now if you are still into it then you will enjoy this installment and its slight improvements.
Personal Opinion / Final Words for Tales of Xillia
I have been excited about seeing how the localization of Tales of Xillia fares since by original review on Boxing Day 2011. Fortunately having the chance to play the game more than a year and a half later I was still left impressed with what I played. While every Tales game offers something different, I think Tales of Xillia attempted to set itself apart even more than its current generation predecessors and succeeded.
The good news is that once you have played through both Jude and Milla routes of the game you won’t have to say goodbye to the characters for good. Due to ToX’s strong sales in Japan it warranted a sequel which has been confirmed for international release next year by Namco Bandai. If you want a peek ahead at what is to come, check out my review of Tales of Xillia 2.