|Dev: Namco Bandai|
|Pub: Namco Bandai|
|Release: TBA 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
Whenever you think of great JRPGs, you probably think of names like Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and maybe even Star Ocean. But the real hardcore JRPG fans think of one word: Tales. Tales of Phantasia was one of the first Japanese-only games that fans translated in ROM form, and the hype surrounding its traditional story and unique fighting game-style battle system eventually punctured the culture barrier and started a slow trickle of Tales releases here in America. In the beginning, there was Tales of Destiny, but then as time went on we saw more releases such as the GameCube hit Tales of Symphonia, the PS2's Tales of the Abyss, and Tales of Vesperia, which practically sold the Xbox 360 in Japan. As awesome as is was to see all these games stateside, there are still many more Tales games that didn't migrate westward yet, even though hardcore fans have been aching to see them. Now, the new Tales of Xillia, the latest Tales mothership title, promises to be one of the best Tales games ever made. If this doesn't come out in the States, Namco Bandai is going to have a riot on their hands.
For those of you who don't know, the Tales games are made by two distinct teams. Team Destiny made many of the old school games like Tales of Destiny and Tales of Eternia, and Team Symphonia made many of the newer games like Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Vesperia. Tales of Xillia is the first game since the DS's Tales of Hearts that involves members of both teams working together. Each team's character designers created a main character, and thus we get a unique dual-protagonist game.
The story takes place in Liese Maxia, a word where humans, spirits, and demons all live together in supposed harmony. The first main character, Jude, is a young man who attends medical school in a bustling metropolis. When "spirit arts" (magic) suddenly start backfiring one day, he sets off to investigate. This is where he meets Milia, the second main character, who claims to be the reincarnation of the great elemental spirit Maxwell. She was sent to protect the world when she felt the annihilation of a large number of spirit forces. Together, these unlikely allies set off to find out what is happening to the world.
The game, much unlike previous Tales installments, will not be viewed from a top-down perspective. Instead, the game will be seen from a behind-the-back point-of-view, more similar to Final Fantasy XIII. The environments have become much more detailed, reflecting this change in perspective. These are some of the most beautiful environments we've seen in a Tales game to date. They are interactive as well. You will find yourself climbing up cliffs, shifting into first-person POV to wander through tight tunnels, and even ducking under branches and walkways in dense forest. The environments look far less linear than they were in previous tales titles, and that's a breath of fresh air in this day and age of extremely linear JRPGs.
The battle system is called the DR-LMBS or Direct Raid Linear Motion Battle System. It's a combination of many past Tales battle systems. The action will still be in real-time, with attacking, dodging, and blocking taking center stage. Aside from TP (Tales's version of MP) characters now have AP, a counter which slowly reduces as you combo attacks together. This basically allows your techniques to continue chaining together as long as it doesn't reach zero. There is also a new type of technique called Resonance Artes. Essentially, these are dual techs that are executed similarly to Mystic Artes from Tales of Vesperia. The only difference is that they use two characters instead of one, and they are activated when two characters execute a certain move in close proximity.
The teams went to great lengths to make the game as cinematic as possible without hindering gameplay. Skits, one of the Tales mainstays, no longer require you to stop in place to view them. Instead, they automatically activate as you roam the world, with characters in your party talking to each other as you move, without interrupting game flow. During battle, characters also speak to each other, hurling around battle quips as close-ups of their faces get imposed over the upper left corner of the screen. Battles themselves are initiated when you contact an enemy on the field. You can see every enemy before you fight it. Random battles are so 2005.
Tales of Xillia is scheduled for a September 8th Japanese release as a PS3 exclusive. We still don't have any word on a U.S. release, but the tales team has said that that they want to be more consistent with their Tales localization, and that we should see this hit our shores eventually. Hopefully, they will reveal more about the game at this year's E3.
Angelo M. D’Argenio
CCC Contributing Writer