Ever since that Kyoryuger episode broke all of my hope for the series, I needed to get a game to completely finished to get myself in the typing mood. Xillia has an interesting story since it was originally made in 2011 for Japan only. The localization of this game took a while as Xillia came to other countries in this year. The same thing happened to Graces, well the PS3 version which was made in 2010, but became available in the year 2012 for other countries. I tried looking this up and I couldn't find anything so I would guess it was hard or something held the team back ever since Graces F. So how does a game that was originally made for the year 2011 stand up in the market during 2013?
The first thing that is very different about this game is how it starts. There are actually two sides to the story mode as you can pick the hero Jude, or the heroine Milla. Now don't expect a complete different story for both of them. Even with having the choice to see who's viewpoint there will still be very similar things happening in both of their stories. This isn't a bad thing because the overall story of this game is very enjoyable so I had no trouble revisiting the game. The story starts out with Jude a student of a medical school as he carries out his studies far away from his hometown. One day he stumbles into a major problem, while looking for his professor it seems that he is in the building, but for some reason the guards are saying he left. Jude finds a mysterious girl who sneaked into the area with the use of her spirit, Undine. Jude follows her and finds out that his professor is trapped in a container and he sees the man quickly die and evaporate. Then a girl in red appears and attacks him and soon the same girl saves him. Millia story starts out with her breaking into the building and we start to learn about her mission. Her mission is to destroy a weapon called the Lance of Kresnik which uses up mana to build up power. This not only takes the mana from people, but it also kills spirits and Milla needs to destroy the lance to protect both humans and spirits. The thing is that Milla isn't an ordinary woman, she is actually Maxwell, well to be exact the successor to Maxwell. For those who don't know Maxwell has been used before in the Tales series and he is usually the lord of spirits. So why is Maxwell here in a human form? Continuing on with the story, Millia gets a surprise as her most useful aid, the great four spirits are taken away from her! Without these spirits, Milla is unable to fight for herself as she had the Great Four do things for her. Jude helps her even more, but this just gets him into a further mess since he just attacked guards of the country and thanks to what Milla was doing, the two quickly become the most wanted criminals in Rashugal. There is a lot to be answered here as our two heroes keep fighting their way through to solve the problems and their own.
Now what is a Tales game or any JRPG without the other playable characters. The first man to help the two out is a mercenary named Alvin. He is a very relaxed man who just follows the money trail as that is his motif of work. The bad part about this is that he can be rather be too hard working as Alvin has a constant problem with other people and himself. Next, is a young girl named Elize who carries around a talking doll called Teepo. Elize has no memories of who she is and there is no answer for why Teepo can even talk in the first place. The young girl can even wield spirit artes and Teepo actually can help her while battling. Rowen is the fifth character who is a simple butler who helps his lord. Rowen is the oldest playable Tales character of so far with the age of sixty-two. This old man has a lot of tricks though as being a butler is not his true calling. The last ally to join is Leia, Jude's childhood friend. She meets Jude when he comes back to his hometown and quickly helps him out when he needs it. Along with that there are a pretty good amount of villains like King Nachtigal who we find out abuses his powers and easily uses his own people. He is the man who is behind the Lance of Kresnik and wants to use it so he can take down the opposing country, Auj Oule. There are many differences between the two countries like how one is more advanced while one is still developing. Either way though there is a powerful force in Auj Oule and that man is Gauis. He is the king of Auj Oule, but unlike Nachtigal he is man who wants to reunite all of Reize Maxia and will take many means necessary to do this with his team, the Chimeriad. Now there is a lot of unknown presences in this world as well as I will leave most of that as a secret. Overall the characters in this game were very well done, the playable characters all have their connections and moments. Even if Jude and Leia don't have much history with the problems, they make themselves be fully involved.
The gameplay of this action JRPG is probably one of the best I have seen. If you played Tales game before there is quite a mixture here and a lot of new elements as well. First is the usual Hit Point and Technical Point bars as one shows how much damage you can take and the other shows how many special moves you can preform. Xillia even brings in the AC counter which shows how many moves you can preform in a combo which was carried from Graces. You can increase this counter if you use weaknesses on the enemy or by special moments like blocks and dodges. Every playable character has many artes to them, but getting them is rather different. In past Tales games, one got new moves by how they preformed in battle. For example, in Tales of Symphonia, you could have completely different moves based on how you fight as there were many upgraded versions of moves, like Fierce Demon Fang and Double Demon Fang. With Xillia, getting artes is done with the Lilium Orbs. These orbs hold great powers like new moves, but they also contain skills and stat boosters. Xillia even gets a new bar for Skill Points which give each character a list of skills to equip to themselves. These skills can be elemental resistances, extensions to their stats, or even varied skills that help a character in battle like different types of guards or some help using magic. You can expand the orbs as well as when a character level ups there will get points to put into their orbs. So this time the character can grow much more than just simply leveling up. Another new feature that the game brings is linking. Thanks to the orbs, each character can link to each other as they fight together. There is another new bar that shows how much linking is being used as when it shines you can preform a link arte. If you use the right moves each character can combine their moves to preform a much bigger attack. I had a lot of fun with this as it really made testing out every character interesting and don't worry the CPU's in your party can do this as well or not if you want to. When you unleash a linked arte when the bar is full you will go into Over Limit where you can preform link artes right after another and you can even change around your links during this so it's easy to get some great combos. Along with each character having their own moves and special link artes, they even have their own abilities. Jude has a dash and dodge move which you can preform by perfect timing and this will get you behind the enemy. There are many variations between each character and this made it great to play as each character, so have fun testing out who your favorite is.
There really was a lot of new things for Xillia as it's a big step forward for the franchise as I can't wait to see what Namco is going to do after Xilla. Now this game does have some faults here and there. First even though there are a lot of scenes with voice acting, the acting can vary here and there. There is no terrible performance, but there are major differences between the pros and amateurs. The game really holds a lot of content in the main story as side questing does get affected by this. There are not a huge amount of side quests as most of them happen in the main story anyways. Now what is nice that some side missions can be done whenever you want to. There are some though you will have to do during certain chapters of the game as if you miss anything it will go away. What helps is a fast travel method as you can get to any city, dungeon, or road with ease. Now this can be limited during certain times of the story so don't expect to get free control with fast travel. Also the world map has a huge change as the Tales series usually has a bird's eye view camera for the world map. This time however the viewpoint is way closer to the ground and focuses more around the your character. This can lead to some problems exploring around as you can easily miss something if you are not a detailed adventurer. The camera for the combat though is great as it focuses on your character or can easily zoom out when you run around the map. You can actually stay in a 2D pattern until you go into free roam which has you walk around the whole stage with ease. Now for a game made in 2011 is still does look lovely as it's style is great. It does remind me of Graces, but with a lot more added details. During some moments the game can slow down during combat, but mostly when the field is swarmed with monsters. The biggest problem is that the atmosphere can feel odd at times and I would say it's because of how it was localized. Some scenes though can cut shorter than expected and there will be many moments when you can get bored with managing the orb since teammates can leave the part at certain times. Luckily there is an auto-leveling engine for the orb management, but I wouldn't recommend it since it's better to do what you want to do since you will be playing as the character. Even with some of these flaws this game really does carry itself with what it brings to the table as I hope the sequel can fix some of these problems.
Overall, I was very happy with Xillia. It was a huge step forward for the franchise even if they did have to cripple some parts like side questing. There is still a lot of content in this game as the main story took me 40+ hours and there is some good replay value thanks to having different viewpoints of the story with Jude or Milla. The animation was very top notch as some levels were really good to look and some the best anime cut-scenes I have seen. I would highly recommend this game to big JRPG fans and even the whole Tales franchise, it knows how to advance properly and hasn't given me any issues like Final Fantasy as in the recent years. The Tales franchise has a lot of strong standing titles and have some good gripping stories with some of my favorite video game characters, as some in the Xillia cast got in for sure. Tales of Xillia 2 will be coming out by Spring of 2014 so make sure you play the original before that.