"Tales of Xillia 2, the fifteenth Tales installment, is one of the most enjoyable JRPGs in years."
Despite the RPG world constantly evolving and slowly shifting away from its Japanese heritage, Hideo Baba’s beloved Tales franchise has managed to withstand the continuous western influence on the market. While preserving the series’ roots and simultaneously reshaping its mechanics, the Tales games are a perpetual reminder that JRPGs still have what it takes to capture a global audience. Tales of Xillia 2, the fifteenth Tales installment, is one of the most enjoyable JRPGs in years. Building upon its predecessor’s successful framework, Xillia 2 is not only a gratifying sequel but may be one of the franchise’s biggest highlights. From its gorgeous cel-shaded visuals to the charming cast and immersive combat, Xillia 2 is the embodiment of everything that makes JRPGs so alluring.
Tales of Xillia 2 takes place a year after the events of its predecessor. While it’s best to play through the original first in order to better grasp the universe and its characters, newcomers will find the narrative easy to follow. You play as Ludger Kresnik, a lightly spoken protagonist who strives to become a Spirius Corporation agent like his brother Julius. After failing the admittance exam, Ludger gets involved in a train hijacking by the terrorist organization Exodus where he meets young mysterious Elle Mel Marta. Following the instructions of her father, Elle is on the search for the mystical Land of Canaan. A few fights and a massive explosion later, Ludger and his companions find themselves rescued by a sneaky doctor who demands an absurd compensation for saving their lives. Forced into a contract with a staggering dept and learning that his own brother may be responsible for the train hijacking, Ludger sets out to traverse the world and find some answers.
"The combat appears simplistic at first but quickly grows in complexity as new techniques and linking abilities are introduced."
Much like the previous Tales entries, Xillia 2 has an action based combat system that requires fast reflexes and quick strategic thinking. A large circle defines the combat arena and your character can roam freely within the area. Attacks consist of simple quick button mashes a la Dynasty Warriors but proper use of blocking and special attacks is key to overcoming harder foes. Where the combat gets interesting is in Ludger’s ability to link-up with his companions. This allows strategic flanking and the ability to have your partner perform heal or revive spells when down. The combat appears simplistic at first but quickly grows in complexity as new techniques and linking abilities are introduced. The action-heavy gameplay is what separates Xillia from traditional turn-based JRPG mechanics and may even appeal to gamers who typically prefer the likes of Skyrim and Dragon Age.
"The 2D/3D aesthetic works beautifully and each environment is filled with interactive NPCs and unique architecture."
If there’s one problem I have with Xillia 2, it’s the grinding for cash. By now, I’ve become accustomed to endless hours of leveling up (frankly, I enjoy a good grind every now and then) but Xillia 2 takes it to absurd levels. Because of Ludger’s obscene debt, you’re forced to fight endlessly, completing side quest after side quest only to earn a fraction of the needed 20 million gald (the game’s gold). After a while, it feels like the game is twice as long as it should be and hampers the story’s otherwise superb pacing. Luckily, most of your time is spent with likeable characters and intriguing dialogue. While traversing the world, conversation prompts allow Ludger to address companions’ concerns or simply get to know them better.
"Tales of Xillia 2 is easily one of the best JRPGs of this generation as it does nearly everything right."
Tales games always boasted charismatic Anime visuals and Tales of Xillia 2 is no exception. The 2D/3D aesthetic works beautifully and each environment is filled with interactive NPCs and unique architecture. During certain key moments Xillia 2 switches to gorgeous hand drawn cinematics that further accentuate the game’s alluring style. Even the voice acting impresses. JRPGs are typically notorious for bad dubbing, but Xillia 2 is anything but. The voice actors sound convincing and emotionally invested and even the high-pitched Elle has a certain memorable tone.
Tales of Xillia 2 is easily one of the best JRPGs of this generation as it does nearly everything right. From its engaging plot and diverse cast to its addictive combat and challenging enemies, Xillia 2 is filled with excellent content (even if some of the grinding feels like senseless padding). Namco Bandai and Hideo Baba make a remarkable team and I can only hope they continue this trend through the new generation. Quality JRPGs are becoming a rarity and it would be a shame if titles like these get left in the dust.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Playstation 3