Tales of Xillia

Until relatively recently, Namco’s Tales series was in something of a dark age outside Japan, with few of its main entries and especially its side entries seeing English localization. Fortunately, its Japanese developers actually started to care about the franchise’s foreign fans, prompting their North American branch to localize more of the series’ entries, with foreign sales actually becoming somewhat better, and ushering in something of a golden age for the games beyond Japan. Among the main entries translated for Anglophone gamers is Tales of Xillia (pronounced x-ill-ee-uh), which provides an experience very much on par with its predecessors.

As with most contemporary entries in the series, Xillia features visible encounters on fields and in dungeons. While most monsters charge the player’s visible character when they draw near, most fights are fortunately avoidable, although the player will certainly have to fight a few times to keep their levels sufficient for tough boss fights, especially on the hardest difficulty (with mercifully adjustable enemy challenge), and depending upon how the player’s character contacts the enemy, the fight can commence with all foes’ HP slightly depleted, begin normally, or start with enemies surrounding the player’s party of four active characters.

As in prior Tales games, the player controls one character while the A.I. controls their allies, with some improvements over prior titles such as A.I. dictating item use should the player have a good supply. Characters have linear targeting of the enemies, although holding down a button can allow an ally to roam the battlefield freely. New to Xillia is a “buddy system” somewhat reminiscent of that in Suikoden III, where the controlled character and an ally attack as a pair and can execute special skills if they meet certain conditions such as executing a particular arte.

Winning a battle nets all characters in and out of the player’s party that are still alive and unaffected by status ailments such as petrification experience for occasional leveling alongside money and occasional items such as monster parts, which the player can donate at shops around the world to expand their inventories, necessary for acquiring better equipment. Leveling characters also gain points they can invest into a matrix similar to the Sphere Grid of Final Fantasy X, with further equippable abilities that dictate things such as elemental protection similar to those in Final Fantasy IX. The battle system ultimately works well aside from one potential frustrating fight when playing as Milla, but otherwise, the gameplay helps the game more than hurts.

The game generally interfaces well with the player, with one major improvement over prior entries being the presence of helpful maps of towns, fields, and dungeons, not to mention a reminder of the current objective. Granted, objectives can at a few points be vague to the point of driving players to use a guide, although there are other solid portions of interaction such as the fact that all shops across the world have the same inventory and simultaneously upgrade when the player has donated enough materials. Another flaw, though, is that cutscene text isn’t always skippable (although entire scenes always are), and while control is this entry’s weakest aspect, it’s by no means game-breaking.

When starting a new game, the player may choose to play from the perspective of Jude, a medical student, or Milla, a female incarnation of the spirit Maxwell. Although other Tales titles have focused on elemental spirits, the narrative nonetheless feels sufficiently fresh, focusing on a weapon of mass destruction known as the Lance of Kresnik, with different events depending upon the chosen character. The game script is mostly free of error and enjoyable, compounding an already-enjoyable plot.

Motoi Sakuraba returns to compose the soundtrack for Xillia, which is mostly above average, although there are occasional parts devoid of music. The voicework, though, is easily top-notch, with only a few irritating voices, although lip-syncing is often off, especially for characters such as the talking doll Teepo. Otherwise, an excellent-sounding game.

Alongside superb anime cutscenes, Xillia features solid visuals easily worthy of the PlayStation 3’s graphical capabilities, although there are some rare bland textures when seen close-up, alongside occasional flickering of the graphics and even rarer errors in the presentation.

Finally, each character’s perspective takes roughly twenty hours to complete, with things such as sidequests and a New Game+ (the player able to choose a different character to play when starting a subsequent playthrough with elements such as retained levels buyable with grade points acquired from battles) potentially boosting playtime.

Overall, Tales of Xillia is another installment of the series worthy of its name, with plenty going for it like solid Tales gameplay, some interface improvements, an enjoyable plotline, superb sound, and nice visuals. It does have a few things going against it, however, such as vague story objectives at a few points, problems with vocal lip-syncing, and graphical glitches, but those that can look past these issues and those that have enjoyed prior entries of the series will most likely enjoy this one, which has been successful enough to garner a direct sequel, one that fortunately would see English release as well.

The Good:
+Solid Tales gameplay.
+Actually has in-game maps for a change.
+Excellent story.
+Superb sound.
+Nice visuals.
+Plenty replay value.

The Bad:
-Objectives can sometimes be vague.
-Voices don’t always match with lips.
-Some graphical flickering.

The Bottom Line:
Another enjoyable Tales game.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 3
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 9/10
Localization: 8/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 20 hours per character

Overall: 8.5/10

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