BADGP Reviews: Tales of Xillia
Tales of Xillia (Namco/Bandai Games)
Released: August 6, 2013
November 9, 2013
Review: Xills that Kills
What is Tales of Xillia?
Tales of Xillia is the first Tales game that I have ever completed, and only the second one I have had hands-on with (2012’s Tales of Graces f being the other). Tales of Xillia is an action JRPG versus the typical turn-based gameplay found in Final Fantasys, Dragon Quests, and Shin Megami Tenseis. The combat develops nicely over the course of the game. It starts out incredibly basic, but slowly layers in more and more complexity, and by the end the options are plentiful, if not overwhelming, and the gameplay is quite satisfying. Perhaps the most novel gameplay feature is how the shops in the game work (however, I am not sure how they work in other Tales games). All shops carry the same inventory, a welcomed addition that eliminates unnecessary moving back and forth for specific items or equipment (I’m looking at you Pokemon!). The player gathers materials from the environment and from defeating enemies to upgrade specific types of shops (items, food, weapons, armors, etc). Each type of shop has its own level and inventory is unlocked as they upgrade. This is cool system that I felt sets Tales of Xillia apart from the typical JRPG pack. It also allows for substantial and noticeable boosts to the teams strength when grinding.
The game looks fantastic aside from the severe graphical pop-in. The use of color and animations are excellent. There are many little touches that aid in giving Tales of Xillia more of a distinct personality. There are mini conversations that are activated via the “SELECT” button and are entirely optional. These discussion and debates are often where the best writing in the game is to be found. Ranging from hilarity to deep philosophical deconstruction, these “Skits” as the game refers to them as, flesh out much of the game’s story and character motivations. Other little things include the inclusion of the total playtime and the session playtime from the main menu, which is greatly appreciated. I also greatly enjoyed the three battle themes that take place over the game’s major acts. Each piece is distinct, memorable and engaging. The music of Tales of Xillia is a highlight, but is not the best in its genre. The player may find or receive cosmetic changes that can alter the characters of the game. These changes appear in cut-scenes and can often be hilarious. For example, I found horns, so, I placed them on the ever-shady and mysterious character named Alvin for the rest of the game. Monocles, sunglasses, rabbit ears, a doggy tail, goofy glasses, a sword, there are many little ways to personalize your team and it adds a lot more the overall experience than I thought it would. Seeing Milla in her sunglasses looking so cool and serious all the time made me smile every time, similarly seeing Jude in his bunny ears and doggy tail always looked completely ridiculous.
The voice acting is a mixed bag. Xillia certainly has some big names like Troy Baker (Batman: Arkham Origins, Bioshock Infinite, Final Fantasy XIII, Catherine, The Last of Us) and Ali Hillis (Mass Effect, Final Fantasy XIII, Shin Megami Tensei IV, Saints Row IV, FUSE, Gear of War: Judgment, Kid Icarus: Uprising, Ninja Gaiden 3). Milla’s performance is a little robotic, but it fits with her character of being secluded from most of humanity her entire life. She also has a noticeable lisp, but I got used to it over the 30-hour adventure. And the character of Teepo may prove to be insufferable to some players with his loud and often annoying voice. The different styles of anime eyes for some of the characters kind of took me out of the experience early on in the game.
Tales of Xillia starts a little slow, like most entries in the JRPG genre, but not too slow. I found the game to be quite generic and not terribly interesting until about the 9-15 hour mark. From about hours 15-20 expect nonstop action and excellent story telling and pacing. It slows down from there before the final ramp up to the end of the game. It was from the 15-hour point onward that Tales of Xillia really stepped up its game and became determined to be noticed.
Let us take a look at what is important in the makings of a good JRPG and see how Tales of Xillia stacks up:
The Look – Tales of Xillia looks fantastic. Its art is beautiful and there are some cool enemy designs that may rip off Pokemon too many times. +
The Music – Tales of Xillia’s three impressive main battle themes carry my opinion of its music a long way. Aside from those three excellent tracks, the soundtrack is “okay to good” at best. +
The Story – Xillia may take a while to build up to its narrative payoffs, but I found them to be more than worth the time investment. A solid cast of characters and the fantastic journey and the character of Milla Maxwell makes the game worth experiencing. There are also two playable sides of the same story from the perspectives of Jude or Milla. +
The Gameplay – The combat is deep and rewarding once everything is finally unlocked and the tutorials come to close. The action is fast, and the boss battles are challenging and rewarding. +
Tales of Xillia passes the four above conditions to make it a great JRPG. If I were to add a fifth category, it would be “X or WOW factor.” It is here that Xillia might not pass with flying colors. Though it does much to stand out, it is certainly not the best JRPG of 2013. Ni No Kuni, Fire Emblem: Awakening, Pokemon X/Y, and Shin Megami Tensei IV would all be better picks over Tales of Xillia. Despite comparison, on its own virtues, I find that Tales of Xillia is still a great game that did not start amazingly, but it picked itself up and stepped into greatness before the credits rolled. With all that said if one likes JRPGs, then one can do a lot worse than Tales of Xillia.
Two last points worth mentioning:
1. Tales of Xillia 2 has been out in Japan for about a year. Given the state of the world at the end of Xillia 1, I am not sure how this is going to work.
2. An optional tagline for this review: Tales of Xillia: Where defeating “god” is not enough.