Tales of Xillia
Current generation game, last generation ideals
Played to completion on Normal difficulty with most side quests completed
The Tales series has been a constant in my life since the venerable GameCube classic Tales of Symphonia hit in 2004. Symphonia is one of those defining games of my childhood. In the nine years since Symphonia hit US shores, Iíve become a completely different person. In contrast, the Tales of series has remained almost identical, and Xillia is no exception. It has everything youíd want in a Tales game: Fast paced real time combat, likeable characters, and a generic anime-esque plot. Itís a Tales game through and through, and I couldnít put the controller down.
Xillia opens with a choice. You have to choose which of the 2 main characters will become the actual main character of your playthrough. Picking the naÔve young med student Jude will reward you with the best all-around plot experience. Picking the mysterious beauty Milla grants you a less cohesive story overall, but has tons of interesting background information and character development tidbits. Either way you go, the main game remains the same.
Gaze upon your god!
Xillia has an incredibly slow start. Learning all the systems and experimenting with the brand new link artes, (Combo abilities involving 2 party members) keeps things interesting for a while, †but it doesn't take long for the game to hit a relatively long lull. I was bored for a lot of the first 20 or so hours of Xillia. The combat is fun but can get repetitive and the plot goes almost nowhere. Then somewhere around 2/3ds of the way through the game goes into overdrive. The story takes some awesomely dark turns and the boss battles come fast and furious. Itís suffers from whatís known as FF13 syndrome, although itís not nearly as dreary as that game gets. Even during the boring times you get the occasional funny skit or interesting side quest. Speaking of side quests, this game almost has a split personality when it comes to the types of quests handed out. On the one hand you have the standard fetch/kill quests that add almost nothing to the game. On the other hand there are side quests which consist only of going to specific spots and watching a quick cutscene. These quests are almost universally interesting and build the backstory of your traveling companions.
The humorous skits help fight the boredom
Itís hard for me to find any fault with the main cast of Xillia. Sure the dub could be better, but in the overall picture that doesn't even matter. The characters are so well written and believable that I fell in love with them at first sight. Jude seems like the typical naÔve protagonist at the start, but he shows himself to be capable and smart, and those traits only improve as the game proceeds. Milla plays the typical fish out of water type, but the execution is so great that you canít help but be drawn to her. She is by far the best female main character of the entire Tales series, but the real standout of the cast is the charming rouge named Alvin. His shifting loyalties and questionable actions keep the story interesting, but itís his awe inspiring end game actions that really make him so interesting. The only shame is that his standout scene is only shown during Judeís playthrough. The rest of the cast all have interesting and unique personalities, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about them all.
The music is still buzzing around in my head. The game has dozens of distinct pieces that remain memorable even after the game is over. If only the game looked as good as it sounds. It still boggles my mind how bad this game looks. The textures are muddy and bland and the environments have a ton of recycled pieces that become very noticeable after 40 hours. Considering the fact the game was made from the ground up for the PS3 itís strange that it looks worse the last game in the series Tales of Graces f, and that game is a Wii port! Itís not like it ruins the game, but it really brings me down when I see the same muddy textures reused for the umpteenth time.
Namco once again shows how to make relevant DLC
Tales of Xillia left me wanting more. The games comes to an end so quickly that I couldn't help but wish that I had a little more time to spend with my party. At 40 hours with nearly all side quests done the game is standard RPG length but not up to the Tales of standard. In those 40 hours of game time I spent more than half in a sort of haze, just playing like a zombie waiting for the next bit of stimulation. Then when the game picked up and summarily ended I was disappointed that it was over. Tales of Xillia has its flaws, particularly its severe cliffs and valleys, but it is a fine entry in the Tales of series.