by Alex Layton

Ah Japanese RPG’s, a staple of my gaming life. In Japan, the market is rife with such games (obviously that’s why they’re called JRPG’s), but there’s always been two major series among the countless titles in the genre: Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. There’s also always been one series following right behind those two, and that would be the Tales series. Starting way back on the Super Famicom with Tales of Phantasia in 1995, the series has spawned 14 games in the main series, and 9 offshoots. With the newest North American release, Tales of Xillia 2 upon us, I wanted to check out the original Tales of Xillia title for PS3. After playing through this game extensively and logging in nearly 50 hours, I am feeling primed and ready for the sequel.

The game starts with the option to play the game as either Jude Mathis, a soft spoken goody-good medical student, or the mysterious Milla Maxwell. This will affect certain cutscenes and even some playable events throughout the game. Regardless of who you choose, you’ll end up meeting an ensemble of characters, 6 playable in all. These characters develop and grow throughout the entire game. I found myself even going back to previous towns just to check up on characters that had a role earlier in the story, and was rewarded with reunion cutscenes, something I haven’t seen before. It really makes you feel as if the characters are alive after the main story has passed them by.

Story has always been a strong suit for the Tales series, and it keeps up in Xillia. The main quest line is a roller-coaster of ups and downs, surprises and twists. The game had me on the edge of my seat just trying to mentally prepare myself for what was coming next. The story moves at a quick pace, but not to the point where you’ll find yourself asking “Wait, what am I supposed to do now?”, and even if you do sidetracked, the game has an “Event List” in which you can get a brief summary on the story and everything that has happened so far. The story is truly gripping and consistently interesting.

One thing that makes the Tales series different from the other two franchises I mentioned above is the combat. It may look like the same thing you’ve seen in a typical Final Fantasy game, but it won’t take you long to realize what’s so fantastic about the battle system. When engaging an enemy, the screen transitions to what Tales calls a battle map, four party members are there to take part in combat, but here’s the kicker, the combat plays out like an action beat em up game with RPG elements like abilities and items mixed in. The combat is smooth and exciting, and battles only last from about 10 seconds to a minute, so you won’t get tired of fighting field monsters or grinding levels like you might in a traditional turn-based RPG.

Most people would prefer the good before the bad, so I’ll start with the good: the sound. The sound in this game is absolutely top notch. From the voice acting to the sounds of Jude’s fist-mashing into enemies to the soundtrack; the sound in this game is captivating and I loved every second of it. I can’t say enough good things about the voice cast on this game as every character talks with the appropriate emotions, whether it be happy, silly, sad or angry – they all work perfectly. My favorite voice on the cast would have to be the elderly Rowen as he truly sounds like the gentleman he portrays on the screen.

Sadly, I cannot give the same praise to the graphics. While I understand that this game was released two years ago in Japan, I feel that they could have polished some of the in game textures and cleaned the game up a bit. Sometimes the mouths wouldn’t match up to the words, and other times the animation felt a tad bit delayed. One thing I can say is that the game features great anime cutscenes in the heat of the story. Just when things get to their most intense, Xillia brings the cinematics with some powerful and beautiful animated cinematics. Even though the in game graphics aren’t the best, I can say that some of the areas in this game are breathtaking. I found myself taking a step back just to look in awe of the landscapes pretty often. Overall, the graphics aren’t horrible, but they’re not great either.

The game features many things to do after you’ve beaten the game, from hidden side-bosses, side-quests, to Alfried Treasure’s to collect. Even after completing the story, I’ve managed to put in an additional 15 hours into the game. One notable extra is the additional dungeon, Magnus Zero. Not only is it a whopping twenty floors, but after you beat the boss at the end, you have the opportunity to go through it again at a harder difficulty.

Tales of Xillia is a solid buy for any RPG fan, and even if you only have a passing interest in the genre, this game deserves at least a look. The game gives you what you pay for: a 45+ hour long story with tons of optional gameplay on top of that. Overall, this game is a welcome addition to the wonderful Tales series, and I can’t recommend it enough. Look for it at your local Slackers today!

5-star-turtle