JRPGs are a genre very dear to my heart. One of the first consoles we had at home was a PS1 and I remember how much I loved playing on it. Of course it belonged to my brother so my game time was limited but even when I couldn’t participate I would still sit and watch him play games for hours. One of those early titles I recall with great sentiment was a game called “Legend of Legaia”. It was a turn based RPG with a really interesting story, lots of fun mini games and great music. I still remember how happy I was when my brother customized the names of the characters using my real name, making me a part of the game. Back then I was a serious noob and I could absolutely not play the game without extreme god like cheat codes.
A couple of years later though, when I first began playing games more seriously, my brother introduced me to more JRPG games such as Final Fantasy 7 or Grandia 2. Ever since I have been a solid devotee of turn based combat style and stopped playing JRPGs when they turned towards more action based mechanics. At least that was the case till most recently I got my hands on Tales of Xillia.
As I learned, the “Tales” games are a long standing series that originated back on the Super Famicom in 1995. I’ve known couple of the entries by name but I have never given them a second thought. Most recently I have been searching for games with good, interesting and surprising plot lines. It didn’t matter whether it was action, adventure or any other imaginable genre, even match 3 would do. In my search I burned through Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea, which was quite satisfying. I went through a couple of amazing visual novel games such as Danganronpa and Zero’s Last Escape. Those were great but limited in terms of gameplay. Finally my fiancee bought me Tales of Xillia and 2 more entries of the Atelier series, knowing how I always whine about wanting a good RPG. I began with Atelier Ayesha but finishing the game didn’t impress me all that much. Since it turned out there was a lot of extra conditions one must fulfill to get optional endings and the interesting back story my experience was somewhat limited and short. On a roll, I launched Xillia and decided to give it a shot.
After first 10 minutes I hated the game. The combat system seemed chaotic. Characters running on a battlefield in real time, executing commands based on button mashes, control over one person at a time. This is not the way it was meant to be!
Despite the first impression I decided to push myself a bit more to give it a chance. I got immersed in the story and was curious of the further developments. I began to grasp the battling thing. I began to understand and play around with the interesting leveling system which grants skills and combat moves based on the stats one chooses. Everything felt new and fresh. It felt like discovering a new land. For the first time in years I felt like a game was pushing me onto unfamiliar grounds and forcing me to adapt to it. It was fascinating.
The story centers around Milla Maxwell, a pretty 20 year old woman who is God incarnate. While on her mission to save humanity, fate throws her together with a shy and awkward medicine student Jude. The two end up travelling together, helping each other out, making new friends and trying to create world peace. The story is full of twists and turns, colorful characters, cute mascots and everything one could wish from an anime universe. It is light and positive but at the same time very strong and realistic. There are no good and bad guys, there are people with different perspectives and ideals. Under the coat of cuteness and bad puns, the game takes on topics such as individual freedoms, importance of individual vs collective well being and many many more. It may in some places fall into cliches, but it is still satisfying. Every other hour I was convinced the story was about to draw its conclusion but it kept twisting and turning giving me more and more enjoyment as it went on.
The characters are unique and lovable. The battle system is easy to grasp but challenging and fun to master. The story is exactly what I wanted it to be. To top it off, the game has an amazing soundtrack and it is really visually pretty. The environments you visit on your journey are varied yet somehow all make sense together. I may be overly positive since I just finished the game yesterday and I’m still on the happy ending hype but all I can say is that I have already began gathering money to buy the recently released sequel “Tales of Xillia 2”.