Late last week, Namco Bandai, known especially for the “Soul Calibur” and “Tekken” series, released their English-language trailer for “Tales of Xillia,” the 13th installment in its“Tales of” franchise. The game was originally released in Japan in fall 2011 and is being released internationally later this year. Before hitting North American soil, “Tales of Xillia” already has a confirmed sequel, which means fans’ expectations skyrocketed since “Tales of Xillia 2” was announced.
For those who have never played a “Tales of” game, here’s a little of what can be expected. Each game in the franchise has an incredibly involved story. The story itself can be altered by choices that are made in-game. For example, in “Tales of Symphonia,” one choice alters the story by killing off a playable character. In addition to the involved story, there are numerous side-quests and skits furthering the player’s connection to the characters as people in a story.
“Tales of Xillia” actually begins with a question of who the player would like to set as the main character: Jude or Milla. This alters some cut scenes and the general focus of the story. The story this time around is about Jude and Milla discovering a secret about the military and being chased out of town. After they escape, Jude and Milla meet up with many different characters during their journey. All of the characters have their own backstories that often cross into the main story.
The main story may be compelling, but the player is able to learn so much more about the party and the world they live in by undertaking various side-quests. These side-quests can vary from a simple delivery to monster extermination. “Tales of Xillia,” without revealing any spoilers, includes another secret dungeon players can unlock by completing a bunch of other side-quests. Often these side-quests have prizes ranging from new weapons to new costumes. The costumes are often a swimsuit costume, a previous “Tales of” game cameo costume or a popular anime costume.
One interesting thing about all of the “Tales of” games is that all of the female characters in the party have unique weapons or fighting styles. “Tales of Xillia” is no exception: Milla fights with a sword and can readily use elemental spirits while swinging her sword; Elise, another member of the party who joins later, fights with a stuffed animal and a staff; and Leia, Jude’s childhood friend, uses a staff that can grow. The battle system, like the weaponry, is also unique.
The “Tales of” battle system has evolved from basic linear movement to free-movement within a bound area. As the games have been created, small changes have been made, like adding unison attacks where the party attacks the enemy all together at the same time. “Tales of Xillia” is no exception to the constantly updating system. The addition this time is a battle tactic called “Linked Artes,” where two characters are joined by a line and can create “Altered Artes” when attacking together. The connecting lines can be changed with the simple push of a button to make the line connect two different characters. After getting my hands on a Japanese copy of the game, I can personally say that the “Linked Artes” are a little complicated at first, but once you get the hang of it, they become indispensable.
While battling, each character has a special characteristic that allows for a different variation of fighting. For example, if Jude dodges an attack right before it hits, he shifts behind the enemy and can attack. These special characteristics will create another level of strategy in basic party-planning and in the heat of battle.
In addition to the “Linked Artes,” leveling up has taken an interesting turn. After leveling up, the character has a set amount of points that can be applied to a web-like ability tree. The web has different nodes on it, allowing the character to gain new abilities as well as extra stat increases. This will force the player to prioritize the skills each party member should receive. This is a level of direct character customization no “Tales of” game has ever tried before.
The battle system isn’t the only part of the game that promises changes. The “over world,” the physical world outside of a town where monster encounters can occur, had a bit of a makeover. The camera in the over world follows behind the character, like an over the shoulder camera, instead of looking from the top down onto the over world and the character. There is also an increase in treasure present which makes traversing the enormous over world a little easier.
Overall, “Tales of Xillia” is expected to be one of the best “Tales of” games, rivaling “Tales of Symphonia,” the only other game in the series with a direct sequel. Since nothing is perfect, “Tales of Xillia” has flaws. I have played the Japanese imported version of the game and, after seeing the English trailer, the voice acting for the North American version seems to be lacking. The battles can be drawn out, and bosses have insane amounts of health. “Tales of Xillia,” despite the flaws, is a highly anticipated game and will likely be selling similar to the expected powerhouses of 2013.
Christian Moberg is a junior studying Japanese and computer science.