I had been looking forward to getting my hands on this game since the moment it was announced in Japan. After watching the second, Tales of Xillia 2, come out in Japan without a Western release announcement for the first I had almost lost hope. But, it’s finally here and it’s a good thing it is. The many new and interesting features that Tales of Xillia introduces and also builds upon from previous Tales of games creates a Tales game that can be arguably the best in the series so far. Namco has outdone themselves in terms of game play mechanics that brings a new flavour to the series, but as far as the graphics are concerned it may be the only set-back.
Tales of Xillia has a bright anime-inspired world, and while this is nothing new to the ‘Tales of’ series, I thought Xillia looked especially bright. While environments might have been a little generic at times, but no matter the terrain I always managed to find something nice to look at. But, that just might be my love of the series shining through. While there might be a lot of back-tracking in the game it is not wasted. You can choose to backtrack for side quests that pop up during the main scenario and yield great money as well as fun accessories to put on your characters.
The characters are introduced quite naturally and there are a couple of instances where your party will be split up. It is all part of the story but when characters that you have been using constantly suddenly become unavailable to you then there is all the more reason to continue the story and get them back. The first time this happened to me I was worried that all the experience that I was gaining from battles wasn’t going to transfer over, but never fear! The experience gained while other characters are ‘away’ still gets transferred.
So what do you do with all these levels that you’ve gained? Unlike previous Tales games Tales of Xillia uses the Lilium Orb system which looks a lot like Final Fantasy XIII’s node system. To unlock nodes you gain ‘GP’ when you level up and can spend it to unlock nodes. Once a section of orbs is completed a Skill or Arte will be unlocked. If you are a like me then you will probably end up unlocking everything as it comes up and not focus on just one trait. Otherwise you could concentrate on one or two traits, like defence and attack and expand the board that way. Xillia’s customization doesn’t stop there though.
The shops in the game are able to level up which yields new gear as every new level is reached as well as discounts on the items already in the store. You can level up the shops by donating materials that you find on the field, from monsters and side quests as well as using gald. It can be advantageous to level these shops, especially the Weapon and Armour shops, early in the game in order to make battles easier (especially if you turn up the difficulty to Moderate or Hard). While buying better gear can be expensive it can create a short-term grinding goal that may level up characters or titles. If grinding isn’t your thing then you’ll still find that the shops level up fairly moderately depending on how much materials you put into them. I don’t advise putting gald into the shops early on since you will never have too much of a surplus to level them up and it’s just better to keep it for buying items.
Titles, as I mentioned above, are achievements in-game that correspond to grade and also help to keep track of trophy progress. Grade in Tales of Xillia is used, like in previous games, for New Game plus bonuses. Each title in Xillia is given a value that when completed gets added to your grade. Unlike previous games, this total can be kept track of and controlled. Trophy requirements are also shown in this window. After completing a title, another one will be shown upping the amount of what is required and the points awarded. Sometimes this unlocked title will show a trophy symbol next to it, making it easier to pinpoint trophies in-game. Even if you are not trying to get many titles, the game is long enough that you can rack up a fair amount of grade for the next time around.
Battle, again is a different story with Xillia. This time around there is a mechanic in battle called ‘linking’. This is where you connect with one other character in your party (out of three other members) and they can assist you personally in battle. Looking at the pricture provided you can see on the bottom that the character’s information is surrounded by a blue or green colour. This means that they are linked (blue for Milla and Jude, green for Alvin and Leia). You can switch who you are linked to in battle by pressing the directional buttons on the controller which makes for a great tactical approach to bosses and different enemies. There are things such as ‘Linked Artes’ which are activated by using a specific Arte while linked with another character. Every character has different Artes that are able to be linked with yours, meaning that all of your Artes will not work with everyone. The bar on the left of the screen during battle charges and when it starts to blink this means you are able to preform a Linked Arte.
Of course there are elemental properties in the game and enemies naturally have a weakness to certain elements, but this is nothing too new to the series. There are more mechanics in the game and in battle that make it simple yet dynamic at the same time.
Complaints and Verdict
Graphics. Yes, the only qualm that I really have with this game are the graphics, especially the hair graphics. I understand that hair is hard to program and that it doesn’t always pan out the way you want it to, in Tales of Xillia it just down-right annoyed me. I’ve seen hair go through clothes before and it’s never really gotten to me this much before but in Xillia, where everything is so colourful and bright, I was expecting everything to go just as well. I suppose I hoped for too much. The two year old graphics in Xillia really shows when Milla’s long and crazy hair goes through everything from her shoulders, to itself, to the benches and chairs that she sits in. Rowen’s ponytail wasn’t any better. When moved by the wind (which there is a lot of in this game surprisingly) it would clip into his back or shoulders severely cheapening the game and taking away from the scenes.
Besides the graphics being a bit dated, I enjoyed the rest of the game a lot. I’m not quite finished it myself yet, but I plan on grinding out some trophies and levels before I call it quits…with my first play through at least. I’m interested to see where the story goes and with all the grinding that I’m planning on doing I wonder how long my first play through will end up being. There was much more to the game then what I’ve said here, so if you are interested, go ahead and pick it up!