3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A Worthy Addition to the Tales Series,
This review is from: Tales of Xillia (PS3) (Video Game)
Tales of Xilia is a lot like other games in the Tales series. Whether you liked those previous games or not will play a big part in whether you appreciate this game. To those coming at the game fresh, the Tales games are a JRPG series that goes back to the mid-90s. Along with Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest it is one of the top three series in Japan. It has a lot of standard JRPG elements with a few interesting twists. For example instead of fighting through turn-based combat the game goes into a battle mode where you fight the enemy in a more traditional action-game style. Other commonalities are centered around the plot, which generally features two worlds connected through some means, as well as bureaucratic religious organizations and Anime-like characters.
When I say this game is like previous incarnations I mean it. There are very few additions or improvements to the basic gameplay mechanic. Which is fine really, as the series had a pretty good mechanic to begin with. The only change from earlier games is that the overworld map is gone, replaced by basic paths to other levels. I kind of miss the overworld, which while cheesy I never minded. It was a cheesy I could accept. The style of the game is heavily Anime-inspired, which I really like. The look of Fennmont city and the wonderful ships absolutely took my breath away. This seems to be the most popular approach since they first tried it in Tales of Symphonia, although they rely less on cell-shading now. It provides an easily recognizable style for these games. There are some elements that are a little bit too familiar however. I'm getting a bit tired of how the main character always looks exactly the same except for occasional changes of hair color. Jude in this game looks Asbel from Tales of Graces but with darker hair. I don't just mean faces, Jude's costume is just a black-dyed version of Asbel's which was in turn identical to Luke's from Tales Of The Abyss. I miss the days of unique character designs.
That said, the plot can always be relied upon to be complex and unique. I've never seen a franchise able to keep so much of the same style while making each entry uniquely different. This game is no exception. I will say that it has a much slower start than some of the previous games. As much as I love the beautiful city of Fennmont, they don't do much with it at the beginning. When the action does pick up it seemed a bit unbelievable and forced. As with previous games in the series the plot can move a bit too slow at times so that they can drag the game out for 40+ hours when it really only deserves half that. There are the usual moments where one character could explain the entire plot from the very beginning, but they decline to because the plot says so. If this didn't ruin previous games there's no reason it should ruin this one. Just be prepared for the plot to continue for longer than you expect.
The characters in this game don't shine as much as previous games. Alvin is a good deal of fun as the adventurous rogue, but he's the main one to stand out. Milla (as one of the two possible PCs) had the potential and dialogue to stand out, but the voice actress is so flat and uninspired that she drains all energy from the character. Jude (the other possible PC) seems to be the logical development of the Tales series protagonists. He has no personality apart from being very Japanese, and all the characters seem much more impressed with him than he deserves. He does get some moments to prove himself later on, but they come too late to prevent this early impression. You know that picture of him looking cocky and confident on the cover? Don't expect to see him act like that in the game. He's quite meek and unassuming. The main character advancement is a typical coming-of-age story, where the lead must learn to grow up and take responsibility for himself. A lot of this is cultural so it may make more sense in Japan, but I find it a bit wearisome and yearn for the days of Yuri in Tales of Vesperia, who knew how to handle himself and was going through a different struggle. This game and Graces have really over-focused on the coming-of-age story.
Another amusing quirk of these games is the names. They range from perfect and fantastical to ridiculously out of place. Character names tend to be taken from Western sources, but since they're all just cool sounds to a Japanese audience they can be hilariously out of context. Thus for the leads we get the relatively normal Western name Jude for the hero but Maxwell for the heroine. Maxwell is technically her last name, but since nobody is really on a first name basis with a goddess they always refer to her that way. Then you get the cities and or organizations which are given either awesome made up names like Rashugal, or else utterly random names like Exodus (replacing the somewhat more random Japanese Ark Noah). These names don't symbolize anything, they're just there because the creators thought they sounded cool.
As with previous games, the best bits are the random character skits that pop up throughout. These show up as a message at the bottom-left of your screen and you hit the select button to watch them. Then you get to watch a brief skit as the characters chat to each other in animated 2D images. They are insightful, frequently amusing, and always worth it.
I wouldn't normally complain about the graphics in a game like this, which isn't trying to tax the graphics engine at all and is more intent on looking pretty than looking expensive. And indeed, the locations and characters look perfect with just the right balance between necessary 3D models and Anime character designs. The problem isn't with the looks, it's with the extremely outdated level design. As I said before, none of the graphics in here come even close to stressing the PS3's capabilities, so why does each new area require changing screens? Sure, it's done almost instantly because the PS3 can handle it, but why does it exist at all? The PS3 is more than capable of handling levels twice the size of even the largest one here without it being split into sections. But here you go a hundred feet and the screen will cut to a different model as characters slowly appear to populate it. They're just lazily recycling the engine from earlier games designed for systems that couldn't handle it. I understand that this is the first Tales game designed for the PS3 (Tales of Graces is a port from the Wii) but they should know better than that. It's a lot more irritating than it sounds, possibly because the rest of the game feels so fluid and natural that these constant pauses remind us that it's a game.
Overall I liked this game a lot, but I felt it was relying too much on elements from previous games. It's almost like a Greatest Hits album at some points. I understand that this is the most popular game in the series in Japan, so future installments are likely to borrow much from this. I do hope that they make some improvements the next time round. I enjoyed this one despite its failings, but too many more that suffer from the same problems and that tolerance will likely fade. Still, that's for the future. At the current moment the series is still quite good. If you liked previous games I'd give this one a try. If you enjoy JRPGs but haven't tried a Tales game yet you could do worse than this one, although I'd recommend you start off on Symphonia or Abyss.