Archives for posts with tag: Tales of Xillia

Tales of Xillia Milla and JudeThe Tales of series evolves slowly. If you’ve played one, even one of the earlier 2D titles like Tales of Eternia, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from the latest in the series.

While many will see this as a negative, for fans of the series it’s often quite the opposite; they already know they love the franchise, so they can be confident they’ll enjoy the next one. These games are jRPG comfort food, continuing to give fans a healthy dose of what they crave even when the genre began to shrink in size and importance. Over the last few years, Bandai-Namco have obviously seen a gap in the market to exploit, too: as the fortunes of the Final Fantasy series have dwindled somewhat, the Tales of series seems to have stepped into the breach to take advantage of the situation. It seems the publisher has renewed confidence in the series’ chances of success outside of Japan. Yes, now is a good time to be a Tales of fan.

Leading up to last week’s release of the latest in the series, Tales of Xillia 2, I decided to dive back into 2013’s Tales of Xillia for a second playthrough. Playing it for the first time last August, I absolutely loved the game, greedily devouring every side-quest and sub-event on my way to the final showdown in the Temporal Crossroads. Having almost exhausted the game’s content then, my plan for a replay was to quickly run through the main storyline before Xillia 2 released, but I was surprised to find myself drawn in all over again, gravitating towards much of that optional content against my best laid plans.

Tales of Xillia begins in a world called Rieze Maxia, a place where humans and spirits live in harmony. The humans of Rieze Maxia possess an organ called a ‘mana lobe’ that allows them to wield magic by offering a spirit some of the energy produced by this organ. In turn, the spirit is nourished by this intake of mana, and so the world keeps turning. Despite this, Maxwell, the Lord of Spirits has been sensing the death of many spirits. Fearing that humans have re-discovered spyrix technology, something that had apparently led to disaster in the past, Maxwell takes the form of a young woman named Milla and makes her way to the city of Fennmont. There, she meets Jude Mathis, a young medical student looking for his missing teacher at a secretive research facility. Discovering a conspiracy that could lead to the world’s end, Milla and Jude team up to tackle this threat, recruiting friends and allies along the way.

Tales of Xillia Alvin Xian Du

Xillia is notable for having two central protagonists, each with their own ‘campaign’. You can play through the game as either hand-to-hand brawler Jude or the magic-wielding Milla, and though the game plays out much the same across both, there are points where the characters split up. It’s best to play through as Jude first, as you will miss out on some fairly important plot points that simply go unexplained in Milla’s story, but if you have the time for two playthroughs it’s definitely worth seeing Milla’s side of the tale through. There is one very big point where the party splits, and it’s interesting to see what happens to Milla during her absence.

On the surface, the characters are a grab-bag of anime clichés. There’s the stoic protector, the uncertain but principled teen, the hyperactive sidekick who’s secretly in love with the protagonist, the distinguished older gent with a hidden past, the magical girl and the untrustworthy rogue. They’re all well-drawn though, and fleshed out through fairly extensive character-specific sidequests that shed some light on their pasts and their current motivations, while the game is also rammed full of the series’ trademark skits that further give the party identity. These skits are often a great source of humour, and it’s nice to play a game about a group of people staring down the end of the world that is handled with such an upbeat tone. Shoe-gazing is kept to a minimum, and the interplay between the characters is often played for laughs. It makes the party feel more human.

Tales of Xillia can be seen as both an evolution and a step back from Tales of Vesperia; its battle system is a neat evolution of that game’s Linear Motion Battle system which ups the tempo a fair bit, taking the best elements and streamlining them somewhat (it’s easier to determine an enemy’s resistances and weaknesses, for one) while also adding the excellent Link Arte mechanic. Link Artes allow two party members to group together to perform a stronger special attack by triggering specific artes at certain points and hitting the L2 button when a prompt appears. They also play into the series’ now-familiar Overlimit system: this time, the Overlimit gauge is segmented, and in order to fill it up, you’ll need to perform Link Artes at each threshold. Failure to do so means the gauge’s growth will stall, limiting your battle tactics. If you want to pull out those super-powerful Mystic Artes later in the game, you’re going to have to get used to arte linking.

I mentioned that Xillia can sometimes be perceived as a step back from Vesperia, and it’s generally felt in the environments. Gone is Vesperia‘s lavish world map, to be replaced with small zones populated with enemies to defeat and materials to scavenge. And whilst these areas do make the world itself feel smaller and more confined than Vesperia‘s (seriously, why is every field in Rieze Maxia hemmed in by canyons, anyway?), it is actually a step forward from its needlessly reductive predecessor, Tales of Graces. That game’s ‘fields’ were essentially long corridors with nothing to do but fight enemies on the way to the next cutscene (and everyone hated Final Fantasy XIII for that, right?), and its dungeons were even worse, often consisting of even narrower corridors with 90 degree turns that conspire to make the game-world feel as if it’s made from copy and pasted square tiles. Xillia has a handful of dungeons that feel like this (hello, Helioborg Fortress), but thankfully most of the game’s environments feel much more expansive and hand-crafted than those in Graces.

Tales of Xillia doesn’t quite reach the heights of Vesperia‘s beautiful visuals, either. That’s not to say it’s not a pretty game though; all titles in the Tales of series are very anime-styled but Vesperia, with its flat, almost-cel shaded aesthetic, often looked like an anime itself rather than an anime-inspired video game – it’s just a bit more stylised. Xillia is also a more muted game in terms of its use of colour, giving the world a more subdued feel, with areas like Fennmont, which is supposed to be under a blanket of perpetual night, bathed in deep ochres and dark greens. It still does a decent approximation of video game anime styling, but it’s just not as bold as we’ve been previously treated to. It’s also a bit of a mixed bag in it’s environments, with some areas being drenched in fine detail while others, most notably the field areas, can often look rather bland and drab.

Items and gear have also been streamlined somewhat. Typically in the genre, better items and equipment will become available when you reach a new shop in a new region, but in Xillia, shop inventory is mirrored across the entire world. The caveat here is that you have to level up the shops – through donating either money or the materials you harvest on your travels – and higher levels yield both new equipment and discounts on older gear, providing a system that is much more elegant than Graces‘ painful eleth mixer. It’s a great way to keep you tied into the world through both exploration (by searching out materials) and its development, and your reward for doing so is more powerful weapons, armour, accessories and food items.

Tales of Xillia battle Milla Condemnation

Ah yes, food. Long a component of the Tales of series, the cooking system has also seen a degree of simplification. In fact, it’s been simplified to the point that you don’t even have to cook anymore; you buy ready-made food at one of the aforementioned shops, and then use them to confer buffs upon your party for a set number of battles. So if you’re unprepared for a fight, you can gobble down some potato salad to increase your attack and defense stats, or if you’re really prepared you can eat a spicy chicken roll to earn double the experience from that battle. Again, it’s an elegant simplification that’s far easier to grasp than in previous entries and empowers the player to actually get to grips with the full range of tools at their disposal.

Players will often look down their noses as developers simplify or streamline systems in their games. Often, it’s taken to mean that a product has been ‘dumbed down’ to gain a wider audience. I don’t feel that that’s the case here; jRPGs are well-known for having dozens of arcane systems in place – often to do relatively simple things – and these can sometimes be so bewildering that even genre veterans ignore them. The changes that have been made in Xillia mean that everything the game offers is accessible to the player, enabling them to use all the systems to their advantage while also getting on with the fun stuff – the battling, following the twists and turns of the story, and of course becoming engrossed in the lives of a likeable bunch of characters. I think Tales of Xillia might just be the first jRPG I’ve played where I’ve fully understood how everything works, and I’ve been playing them since Final Fantasy VII and Panzer Dragoon Saga.

As much as I love Tales of Xillia (and I do utterly adore it), it’s not my favourite in the series. I feel like Vesperia was Bandai-Namco giving the series a damn good push before settling into a more focused (read: scaled back) design approach. Graces was a huge step back in many ways, and while Xillia clawed back some of the openness, it still feels like it’s on a smaller scale to 2009’s sprawling, 80-hour epic. But with the series seeing greater fortunes outside of its homeland, it looks like Hideo Baba’s team is willing to push at the boundaries again with the upcoming Tales of Zestiria, and this time they’re really pushing hard. Zestiria will launch next year, and it seems like the developer is looking to the Wii’s Xenoblade Chronicles for inspiration, with the game taking place in a huge, truly open world. It promises to be something a bit special, and likely the biggest shake-up the series has seen since it moved to 3D with Tales of Symphonia.

But going back to Xillia for a moment, and if there’s one criticism I can level at the game, it’s that an area called Elympios that opens up towards the end of the adventure is incredibly underused. It’s a massive plot point, but we see so little of this new environment that it’s difficult to get a sense of what it’s like and to begin to truly care about the place and its fate. Tales of Xillia 2 promises to fully address this criticism, showing us more of Elympios and its way of life, while also allowing us to spend more time with a great group of characters. Now that it’s here, I can’t wait to get started.

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This time last year, I was unboxing my Tales of Xillia Milla Maxwell Edition, and now here I am with a look at the equivalent edition for the game’s sequel, which this time comes in an even larger box.

However, stuffed into that box is a collectors edition that is improved in many ways over last year’s Milla Maxwell set, with an additional item thrown in, a far better art book, and the game and soundtrack selection this time housed in a nice steelbook featuring Ludger’s overweight cat Rollo. I like steelbooks, but it does mean I won’t be able to get this game signed in the future, like my copy of Xillia.

Obviously, the headline feature of this edition is the figurine of protagonist Ludger Will Kresnik. Like last year’s Milla figure, it’s good quality (though not quite up there with Alter’s line of Tales of figures), but it’s not quite as striking as Milla, for me. That’s mainly because I feel Ludger’s design is more conventional than that of Milla, and, dare I say it, a little bland. Still, it’s a nice figure, and you can get a decent look at it below.

Ludger Kresnik Edition Figure Xillia 2

Next up we’ve got the art book, which is a massive improvement over last year’s. This time, it’s not only a full-size book, but it’s hardback too. I’ve mentioned many times that I much prefer larger, hard-bound art books, so I’m very, very pleased with this and it reminds me a bit of the book that came with the Bravely Default Collectors Edition. I’ve yet to take a proper look at it as I don’t want any accidental spoilers, so it’ll sit on my shelf until I’ve finished the game.

Tales of Xillia 2 Ludger Kresnik Edition Artbook

That extra little trinket I mentioned? It’s a replica of Elle’s pocket watch from the game. Except it’s not actually a pocket watch – open it up and you’ll see that it’s actually a compact mirror, with clock detailing on the other side. Made of metal, it’s a nice, weighty piece and a fun in-universe extra. I don’t know that I’ll ever use it for its intended purpose, but then I’d never have used a pocket watch either. It comes in a nice black presentation box which also includes a small black pouch to keep your trinket in.

Xillia 2 Elle pocketwatch Ludger Kresnik Edition

Lastly, there’s the steelbook, which houses both the game disc and soundtrack selection. I’ve not looked at the second disc yet, but I expect it’ll hold a small handful of tracks from the game (the disc that came with the Milla Maxwell Edition was 12 tracks, for instance). It’s a nice steelbook, featuring the face of Ludger’s rolly-polly cat Rollo on the front, as well as a few skit portraits on the back. As I said above, I like steelbooks – I’ll usually seek them out if there’s an offer for one somewhere – but I actually prefer the steelbook that comes with the game’s Day One Edition, which is covered in colourful art from the game. I have to admit that I very nearly ordered the Day One version in addition to my Ludger Kresnik Edition just to get that case, but thankfully came to my senses.

Xillia 2 Ludger Kresnik Rollo steelbook

Overall, I’m pretty happy with my purchase, just as I was with my Milla Edition last year. And now I have yet another character to add to my Tales of figure collection, which you can see in the gallery below, where I’ve added a few more images of the Collectors Edition. Now all I need to do is finish my second playthrough of the first game before I can get stuck into Ludger and Elle’s adventure in Tales of Xillia 2.

xillia2bannerIt’s a good time to be a Tales of fan.

I seem to be saying that a lot recently, but this week it really is a good time to be a fan of Bandai-Namco’s long-running jRPG series. We’ve had plenty of new info on the upcoming 20th anniversary game Tales of Zestiria, finally got a release date (and a collectors edition!) for this year’s Tales of Xillia 2 and, best of all, we actually got confirmation of a Western release of Tales of Hearts R, one of two Vita titles that I honestly thought would never see the light of day outside of Japan.

It was not always thus. Releases in the series have generally been a bit spotty; 1995′s Tales of Phantasia, the first game in the series, only saw release outside of Japan in 2003, whereas 2005′s Tales of the Abyss was made available in 2006 in the US, but remained unavailable in Europe until its 3DS port hit shelves in late 2011. Meanwhile, titles that did make it to our shores, such as Tales of Symphonia (2003) and Tales of Vesperia (2009) only did so in very small quantities – quantities which quickly disappeared, meaning those games were effectively unavailable to anyone that hadn’t thought to pre-order a copy.

Happily, things have really turned around recently, with reissues for both Abyss and Vesperia suddenly popping up on store shelves just months before we got a lovely Day One edition of Tales of Graces f. More recently, fans have been able to show their support by grabbing excellent special editions for both last year’s Tales of Xillia and this year’s Tales of Symphonia Chronicles. In turn, Producer Hideo Baba showed his appreciation by spending much of last year travelling around the world, attending European and American conventions, interacting with fans and giving presentations on his team’s work.

This greater focus on a worldwide audience was brought to a head when Tales of Zestiria was announced last December, with Baba-san immediately confirming it would be released in North America and Europe shortly after its initial Japanese launch. The game is set for release in 2015, 20 years after Phantasia debuted, and details have been sneaking out here and there about the characters and world. We can expect to hear more about the game from June onwards, but for now here’s the latest trailer, which aired just a few days ago at the NicoNico SuperConference. In it, we get a glimpse at the battle system in action and another look at what appear to be rather expansive environments. Check it out below. Needless to say, I’m excited.

Also this week, we finally got a release date for Tales of Xillia 2. I had been expecting it around August going by previous releases (Graces f in August 2012, Xillia in August 2013), and August it is – the 19th in North America and the 22nd in Europe. We’ll also be seeing a ‘Ludger Kresnik Collectors Edition’ that looks very similar to that of the first game, with a figure of protagonist Ludger, a replica of Elle’s pocketwatch, an art book and some other goodies. You can see an image below, and this is certainly the edition I’ll be going for, being something of a fan of Tales of figures.

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There’ll also be a Day One edition, with steelbook case and soundtrack selection CD for those that have no interest in figurines and such, and I’m guessing this will be the same deal as the publisher’s other Day One editions, where you’ll get the extras for no additional cost so long as you pre-order or buy on day one.

I’ve heard mixed reactions to Xillia 2 from those that have played the Japanese version. Some say it’s better than the first (which I adored) while others say it’s not as good, and I’ve also seen concerns about Ludger being a silent protagonist. I’m really excited to get my hands on it though; as I said, I loved Xillia, but I did feel that Elympios wasn’t quite as fleshed out and explored as much as it could have been. The sequel seems to address that, not only letting us get more of a feel for Elympios and the people that live there, but also giving us a glimpse into the lives of the original cast while introducing new characters to get to know. I plan to play through Milla’s side of the story in Xillia before the sequel arrives, and I’m sure I’ll be more than ready to jump in come August.

Finally, the biggest piece of Tales of news of the last week is undoubtedly the announcement that Tales of Hearts R is actually coming west. I honestly never thought this would happen. I guess Sony’s Shahid Ahmad’s #JRPGVita Twitter campaign really paid off – indeed, when Hearts R was announced last week Ahmad took to Twitter to specifically call out the initiative, pointing out that Hearts R was the most-requested game in his informal poll. So just remember that the next time someone in the industry asks you what you want!

For those not in the know, Tales of Hearts R is one of two remakes of DS games for the Vita (the other being Tales of Innocence R) that were released in 2012/2013 in Japan that Bandai-Namco had been fairly adamant would not see release outside of their home territory given poor sales of Sony’s handheld. Nothing has been said about Innocence, but considering a week ago we were getting neither of them and now we can look forward to Tales of Hearts R, I’m not complaining.

The game stars Kor (called Shing in the Japanese original) who has a bit of an accident while trying to remove a curse on a mysterious young woman called Kohaku. When things go a bit wrong, Kor must set out on a journey to make things right. We don’t have a date yet for Tales of Hearts R but we can expect it in winter; that means there’s a chance that we’ll be playing Hearts R on our Vitas early next year – after all, they probably don’t want it to be in competition with the release of Tales of Xillia 2 towards the end of this year. Check out the below video to see Baba-san himself announcing the localisation, and go here to see the announcement trailer.

Again, it’s a great time to be a Tales of fan. But it’s also a great time to get into the series if you aren’t yet a fan; there are a number of strong games in the series to try out and at least a few more on the horizon. If you’ve ever had an interest in the Tales of franchise but haven’t yet jumped in, now’s the time to join us.

xilliasequelHave you recently finished the thoroughly excellent Tales of Xillia? Are you now waiting with bated breath for its direct sequel? Me too! Worry not, Namco-Bandai have got us covered with an atmospheric new trailer for the upcoming Tales of Xillia 2.

Titled ‘The Pocket Watch’, it’s a little darker than usual for the Tales of series, and focuses on Elle, the young child that main character Ludger (although it sounds like he will be called ‘Luger’ in the localisation) has to protect throughout the game. It seems her father has entrusted her with a very important artefact – the titular pocket watch – before it can fall into the hands of Exodus, the group that served as a major antagonist in the first game.

It also sets the scene somewhat for the continuing tale; Elympios plays a greater role in this sequel (Hideo Baba has recently said in interviews that he wanted players to see more of the other world), and despite the events of the first game’s conclusion, Exodus continue to be a problem, opposing the fragile peace between Elympios and Rieze Maxia. As you can see in the image at the top of this piece, all the characters from the original game will be returning for Tales of Xillia 2. That’s great news for me, as I absolutely adored the cast of Xillia – even Teepo!

The trailer, embedded below, also gives us a sneak peak at some of the localised voice-overs we’ll be enjoying in the new game, which is due out some time in 2014. I’m really looking forward to it, and the music in this trailer really helps to get the blood pumping in anticipation.

In other Tales of series news, it was announced at NYCC that Tales of Symphonia Chronicles will be getting a special edition in the US. The collector’s box is much the same as the Japanese LaLaBit Market edition but adds a multi-disc soundtrack. The image below shows that Japanese edition, along with a couple of blank CDs for illustrative purposes
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The box set will be limited to 15,000 copies in the U.S. and will sell for $99.95. That’s great for fans in the States, but there’s currently no word of a European release for this set. Needless to say I’ll be all over it if it makes it to the U.K, and I’m hoping for an announcement next weekend; series producer Hideo Baba will be at the London MCM Comic Con on the weekend of the 26/27th, and given that the U.S. set was announced at NY Comic Con, I’m hopeful that we’ll hear something then.

No dates have been given for either game yet, though Symphonia Chronicles will be available in “early 2014”. I’m guessing we’ll be seeing that around March, and then Xillia 2 will likely follow in August if Tales of Graces f (August 31st 2012 in Europe) and the original Xillia (August 6th/9th) are anything to go by. Either way, it’ll be a Tales of-packed year!

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Yes, Tales of Xillia is here! The game isn’t officially out until tomorrow, but a lovely courier just dropped off my Milla Collectors Ed a little while ago. I’m working on an unboxing/quick look video, but here’s a quick sneaky peek until I can get it up on youtube. I’ll update this post when the video has been published.

EDIT – The video is now live! Watch it below:

When the Day One and Collectors Edition were announced, I said that I’d just get the D1 edition as I already had a Milla figure. Well, I changed my mind, ok? It was Namco-Bandai’s fault, really: they published some shots of the Milla figure on Facebook and pointed out that reception of the Milla Edition would influence future Tales of special editions. Way to manipulate me, Bamco!

Anyway, have a couple of bonus shots, including a nice close-up of the Milla figure, and if you’re getting Xillia this week, enjoy!

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Namco-Bandai have published a new trailer for this week’s release of Tales of Xillia. The clip, called ‘Two Heroes, Two Nations, One Destiny’, focuses on the RPG’s dual protagonists Milla and Jude, as well as the two warring countries seen in the game. I suppose ‘one destiny’ refers to the characters coming together to save their world.

What’s interesting is the length of the trailer: at around 30 seconds, it’s perfect for TV. Will we actually see television advertising for this instalment of the long running franchise? I certainly hope so, but given the game will be released in five days (in Europe; two days in the US), they’d be leaving it a little late. I’m already very excited for Tales of Xillia (I’ve even switched my pre-order to the Special Milla edition, despite already owning this), but seeing an ad on TV would probably push me over the edge.

I’m also ready to get stuck in as soon as it turns up, as I’ve finally finished Tales of Graces f. Indeed, my backlog is finally starting to see some traction, as I’ve also finished The Witcher and made a start on its sequel. Now all I need to do is finish some more games before adding any more – not an easy proposition with new consoles on the horizon!

xillia2We’re about a month out from the Western release of Namco-Bandai’s Tales of Xillia, and the company has announced that its sequel, imaginatively titled Tales of Xillia 2, will also be making its way to the West.

It was my understanding that a potential release of Xillia 2 would hinge on sales of the first game; perhaps Namco-Bandai are very happy with the pre-orders they’ve seen so far. Either way, this is great news for franchise fans, and with both of these titles and the recently-announced Tales of Symphonia Chronicles on the horizon, it’s a good time to be a fan of the series.

Tales of Xillia 2 takes place a year after the first game, and follows protagonist Ludger Will Kresnik. Returning characters, such as Jude and Milla, have new designs which can be seen in the game’s Japanese opening, below. Tales of Xillia 2‘s theme song is ‘Song 4 U’ by Ayumi Hamasaki, following on from the first game, which used her song ‘Progress’.

In other welcome Tales of news, it’s been announced that, in a first for the series, Tales of Symphonia Chronicles will have dual audio. Typically, I’d play any game in English where available (in contrast to anime or foreign film, where I’d always go with subs), but having watched the Symphonia anime recently (and having never played either Symphonia game), the Japanese voices are already ingrained in my mind and associated with those characters. Assuming the game and anime used the same cast, I think that’s what I’ll be doing.

I’m really excited to get these games in my hands and increase my Tales of collection. We can expect both Tales of Symphonia Chronicles and Tales of Xillia 2 sometime in 2014. It’s going to be a great year ahead for the series’ fans.