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After Ni No Kuni: Tales of Xillia’s western assault

Tuesday, 6th August 2013 17:01 GMT By Dave Cook

Tales of Xillia arrives in the west two years after its Japanese launch. VG247′s Dave Cook plays the full game and speaks with director Hideo Baba about why Namco is taking a JRPG charge in western markets.

Tales of Xillia

Developed by Namco Tales Studio, Tales of Xillia is the 13th core entry to the popular JRPG series.

The game stars Milla Maxwell, a spirit god stripped of her powers and Jude Mathis, a shy student turned fugitive.

Together they must roam the lands of Rieze Maxia and Elenpios to stop the Gin from stripping the world of spirits.

Tales of Xillia hits PS3 in North America on August 6 and across Europe on August 9. We’ve got special edition bundle details here.

A sequel – Tales of Xillia 2 – will be localised for the West and released at some point in 2014. Get the details here.

It’s times like these I wish I had dabbled in the ‘Tales’ series long before now, because at the time of writing I’ve just broken the six hour mark in Tales of Xillia and I’m really enjoying it.

The game first launched in Japan in September of 2011 and it’s taken this long to come to Western shores. Namco’s timing couldn’t have been better thanks to the resurging popularity of games that many would deem to be ‘very Japanese’ such as Ni No Kuni, Project X Zone and Fire Emblem: Awakening.

The quick-fire announcement that Tales of Xillia 2 will be localised in 2014 lends weight to the view.

There’s a visible appetite for games hailing from Japan right now and if you’re already a fan of the country’s output then you might not get what I’m talking about, but trust me, I see more and more of you dabbling in – and getting excited about – Japan’s rich array of RPGs and tactical games with each passing month. Tides are certainly shifting.

So what is Tales of Xillia then? Well, it’s a hefty RPG that begins in the world of Rieze Maxia and stars Milla Maxwell, a spirit god who commands a group of elementals called The Four. She breaks into a science facility to destroy a mana-consuming weapon called the Lance of Kresnik and happens across a nervous young scholar called Jude.

Due to the intervention of an mysterious saboteur the plan fails and Milla loses The Four to the device, causing her to effectively turn human. She is then forced to become a fugitive with Jude in tow, which sparks a massive quest across the world that yields valuable lessons about responsibility and what it means to be human. It’s also rife with heart-warming comedy.

Aside from playing final code and talking about it here, I also decided to speak with the game’s producer Hideo Baba to discuss the surging interest of the genre in western markets. I asked him if he could see the genre’s fan-base expanding from all the way over in Japan and he replied by way of a translated interview.

“I think one of the reasons is the world setting that [reminds users of] animes or comics,” he answered, “the unique characteristic of Japanese ways of expression. Western people are great at photorealistic ways of expression, including the Hollywood movies. Of course, lots of Japanese developers introduce the photorealistic ways of expression to describe the in-game world, but this is the big reason why Japanese unique video expression is still supported by western people.

“The representative video game genres used to be shooting, simulation, action and RPG before. The action games are still enjoyed by many people in a various different forms. However, I personally believe that there are still lots of possibilities in JRPG genre, and the more popular JRPG genre, the more activated the videogame industry can get, so I would like to stick to releasing the titles in the west.”

Baba isn’t wrong, Tales of Xillia’s visual style is striking – perhaps not to the same degree as Ghibli’s work with Level-5 in Ni No Kuni – but it does whisk you away to a colourful land that has been visibly influenced by facets of Japanese history and culture. The soundtrack is also a joy, with sweeping orchestral compositions worthy of the genre’s finest musicians. It’s quite simply an aural delight in a sea of murk and grit.

Combat-wise, if you’re a fan of Ni No Kuni’s real-time scraps then you’ll feel right at home with Xillia. In similar fashion you can roam the world and walk into enemies to trigger a battle, which then takes your squad to a battle area that can be navigated freely. You can flick between any of the four characters in your active party while in the field, and link two of them together to create brutal chain attacks.

It all feels a bit button-mashy at first seeing as most early encounters can be completed with melee swipes alone, but once those enemies start to block, flank and dish out punishing area-of-effect attacks you’ll need to start formulating a strategy. I was so addicted to the game’s plot, characters and levelling grind that I didn’t actually care that its combat mechanic doesn’t do much in the way of innovation. It honestly didn’t matter to me.

You won’t hear me saying that I enjoy grinding in games often but in Tales of Xillia it’s massively compulsive thanks to the orb-based levelling system. Anyone who remembers the “Sphere Grid” progression mechanic at the heart of Final Fantasy X will know just how addictive it can be to light up nodes to unlock new skills. The same rings true here, as I found it genuinely difficult to stop playing when I know a few more fights would grant me more of those damn orbs.

And as daft as she looks I also really felt compelled to see Milla’s story through. She’s a brilliant character who – thanks to losing her powers – has to learn how to adapt to the human way of life. It’s like when Thor is banished to Earth in the Marvel flick, or when Arnold Schwarzenegger adjusts to the rules of reality in The Last Action Hero.

The way she becomes enthralled by simple things like feeling hunger for the first time is both quaint and touching. Then you have fellow star Jude who develops from something of a shy wuss into a strong-willed hero, and together with Alvin – who I’m 99.9% sure is voiced by Troy “Booker DeWitt” Baker but can’t say concretely until it’s actually confirmed in writing – make for a hilarious double act.

In fact, Baba told me that Namco’s dedication to translating the game’s plot and dialogue as accurately as possible is why it’s taken so long to surface in the west. “[It's] a fact that we take a long time to bring the game to the western countries because of the big volume of texts, and high-quality localisation to faithfully keep the same meaning of storyline in translation from Japanese texts to each western language,” Baba explained.

He continued, “Moreover, it is difficult to translate some unique Japanese expressions and to find the closest words in each language, which takes us a long time,” and added that he assigned extra staff to the process to make sure it didn’t take too long, which is further proof that Namco really wanted to get Tales of Xillia into your hands.

Speaking personally, I’m glad he did because while I’ve really enjoyed many recent, western RPGs like Skyrim, my heart will always lie with the games like Final Fantasy 7, which was my first real experience of JRPGs back in the day, and while it’s a genre I enjoy the sad fact is I just don’t have the time to commit to it like I used to.

In fact, I think Lost Odyssey – which I regard as my favourite RPG of the generation – was the last JRPG I sunk something like 80+ hours into, and in turn I’m going to try and give Tales of Xillia as much attention as I can. It’s a game that reminds me of why I got into JRPGs to begin with after being bombarded with a mountain of action-heavy shit these past five or so years.

So that’s my humble opinion, but what about those on the fence? Well, while I’m still technically just scratching Tales of Xillia’s dense surface I feel confident that if you took a punt on Ni No Kuni and enjoyed it, you’ll most likely feel right at home with this as well. All of the key ingredients of what has made scores of JRPGs enjoyable are present and correct, and it’s not as hardcore as it may first appear.

I’ll let Baba play us out with his own pitch to anyone who is even mildly keen on the game. Take it away mate:

“Basically I would like to recommend the game to those who like playing videogames,” he said, “but I really would like to have the people enjoy the game who like reading novels, watching movies and adventures or fantasy.

“I would like those who like action games not only to enjoy its storyline but also to try its fast-paced and exhilarating battle system that is one of the biggest appeals of Tales of series. I believe they can find that there is so exhilarating battle system even in RPG. We always keep in mind of developing the battle system that never makes users feel bored.”

There you have it from the man himself. Now, what do you think? Let’s get chatting below and feel free to ask me anything you like about the game and I’ll do my best to answer.

Disclosure: To assist in writing this piece, Namco Bandai sent Dave a PS3 download code for Tales of Xillia. No other advertising or merchandise was offered or accepted.

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19 Comments

  1. dizzygear

    I’m hyped as hell for this game.

    Incidentally i just got the email from bamco they finally shipped my order. :)

    #1 1 year ago
  2. fihar

    Was Awakening really that Japanese? Previous Fire Emblems didn’t seem that Japanese to me.

    It’s the end of Ramadan so there’s little chance my copy would be arriving this week but I’m very much looking forward to this. Visually, Xillia is definitely the best Tales that has made it out of Japan but the impression I got is that it’s a bit light on content. Couldn’t care less either way though because I haven’t even finished either Vesperia or Graces F.

    I hate you for reminding me of Lost Odyssey. Haven’t finished that one either, still somewhere in Disc 3 but I’ve read every single memory in A Thousand Years of Dreams beforehand because they’re just that good.

    #2 1 year ago
  3. actuallyisnotafox

    These games are something special :’) I hope someday somebody gives these guys the money to create something like this for the vita, I would definatly buy that :)

    #3 1 year ago
  4. salarta

    I think a lot of the resurgence of interest in Japanese games and RPGs in particular is because they have something that a lot of games today lack. There’s been a huge obsession with making giant action-based worlds for the player to run around in in the vein of GTA, different gameplay mechanics to do various things.

    Japanese games and RPGs especially, the ones not trying to copy Western styles, put an emphasis on story and making the world feel big and full of interesting concepts and people you want to know. There’s also the promise of a true story, not something that has to be ambiguous and generalized to allow for a wide appeal to everyone’s tastes.

    Japanese games also don’t seem as obsessed with trying to copy whatever’s most popular in gimmicks and trends. There seems to be more interest in and respect toward their own worlds, to hell with trying to become something all the kids have as their latest fad.

    #4 1 year ago
  5. Clupula

    Last JRPG I put a ton of time into was Resonance of Fate. Took me about 115 hours to platinum it. Never was bored, even playing through the game 2 and a half times.

    Picked this and Dragon’s Crown up at Gamestop earlier today. In the middle of doing laundry, but will start playing them after I finish up the errands I have to run for the day.

    #5 1 year ago
  6. monkeygourmet

    @5

    It sucks that Dragons Crown is not out till Oct in the UK?!

    What the shit is up with that if its out and localised in the US now?

    #6 1 year ago
  7. Biscuitpants

    weeboo as fuck

    #7 1 year ago
  8. YoungZer0

    @5: How did you manage that? The amount of grinding you had to do in this game was insane.

    #8 1 year ago
  9. Clupula

    @8 – I would grind in the arena. That was what took up a good deal of my time. I also did every side mission the first time I played. I was determined to beat every single arena mission and, after you beat the game, the missions in it get way, way harder than even the last boss.

    But I experimented with different types of ammo, giving one character two chip damage guns and another just focusing on projectiles, while another had the actual damage gun going on.

    I just loved, loved, loved that game so much, it wasn’t even funny. It’s in my top five games of this gen so far.

    #9 1 year ago
  10. stockops3

    @9 I have to agree I bought it the same time FF13 was out and I played ROF so much more, the combat is just incredible and I love the characters, story voice actor and challenge that comes along with it although I have had the game for over 3 years and only managed half way (so far, but I vow to complete it) but I would pin that as one of my face RPGs on this generation!

    #10 1 year ago
  11. dizzygear

    @10 Dont forget the character customization. The amount of clothes was insane.

    @9 If you want platinum you need to do arena until your eyes bleed. not everyone will want to do that and i cant blame them.
    I didnt bother with arena it until the end and got by just fine just doing the red spots on the map for frame fragments so i could abuse the hell out of hero run.

    It was good seeing RoF characters and stages in Project x Zone. It even had the Leanne statue mission.

    #11 1 year ago
  12. Clupula

    @11 – I loved dressing my characters in that. I’d actually change their clothes every day.

    And I know some people waited on the arena thing. I started focusing on it heavily once I got my ass handed to me by the Jalopy Golem. That taught me that maybe I should start focusing on building a couple skills I didn’t have.

    #12 1 year ago
  13. lexph3re

    @2 they already made 2 tales of games for vita that’s out in Japan. They won’t release them here because of vitas current install base. It’s honestly disappointing because both tales of innocence r and tales of hearts r were in my top 5 anticipated games on vita. And at the current stalemates consumers are at with debs over vita I am losing hope in ever getting them.

    #13 1 year ago
  14. lexph3re

    Also, have my copy of tales right here next to me. I picked it up over DC but I’m buying both vita and ps3 version of that next week

    #14 1 year ago
  15. Ireland Michael

    Looking forward to tucking into this at some point.

    The Tales of Games are interesting beasts. The stories almost always have interesting set ups, and when they get the characters right, they end up escaping their tropes and become impressively fleshed out. Tales of Vesperia’s well developed characters and surprigingly unqiue lead were the thing that kept me playing that game right to the end.

    I still haven’t touched Tales of Graces f. I should probably get on that.

    #15 1 year ago
  16. Clupula

    @15 – I really liked Graces F.

    #16 1 year ago
  17. DrDamn

    I’m looking to try a Tales of game to satisfy the JRPG itch. Will go with one of Vesperia or Graces f – which ever I can get cheapest. Vesperia is meant to have the better story but is still £20 from Games On Demand and very hard to find elsewhere. By the time I’m ready for Xillia it should hopefully be cheaper :).

    #17 1 year ago
  18. fihar

    @15
    Yeah, out of the main Tales protagonists, Yuri is definitely one of the more interesting one although I have to say it’s Estelle that was the star of the game for me. And Raven.

    #18 1 year ago
  19. Majora

    Nice article, I can’t wait to play it, hopefully I will be able to do so starting today.

    @15 – You should really play Graces f, maybe the main character is not as charismatic as Yuri Lowell, but the story is brilliant and the “main antagonist” is, in my opinion, way better than the one in Vesperia. The battle system changes a lot as well, and once you’re used to it, it feels really dynamic.

    #19 1 year ago

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