Before I get into Tales of Xillia, I dare you, DARE YOU, not to say that headline in Yoda speak.
You know you want to.
Fine, back to business. This would be a full on review, but unfortunately for me about 50% of the way through my PS3 (a refurbished original style one) decided to die on me, and because I didn't have my files backed up on a flash drive, I lost all of my saved data.
Cue the Debbie Downer sound.
While, thankfully, I got a sleek and slimmer version of Sony's console swapped out for it, unfortunately there was nothing that could be done for my lost save, and while I truly enjoyed my time with the game, it might be a minute before I can play my way back there and beyond. That said, I had a great experience with Tales of Xillia, and I feel like talking about it.
While I wouldn’t call Xillia a slow start, its not quite lightning fast either. Depending on which character you pick, either Milla or Jude, the game starts you in a different location, but ultimately the two end up together for most of the adventure. Still, I love the idea, and hopefully this will be expanded upon for Tales of Xillia II.
One of the hallmarks of any JRPG worth its salt is the... let's call it "uniqueness" of the squad you control, and Xillia delivers a well-rounded, if not spectacularly different, group of heroes. There are several stand outs, such as Milla, Leia, and Alvin, and Jude actually does grow on you over time, but Teepo is a poor replacement for Repede and should be banished to the island of misfit sidekicks. Even if the other characters fall neatly into their respective roles, what Namco Bandai does extremely well in almost every Tales game is make the banter and camaraderie between them all so entertaining, not to mention endearing, that you can’t help but love them. Even someone like Teepo, who is just pixelated hate bait, goes from a papercut to just a hangnail. Annoying yes, but at least it's not bleeding.
The combat has always shined in Tales games, and it excels here too. The Artes system contains some slick abilities, and being able to link with a partner during combat, each with a different boost or ability, livens things up. For example, when Milla is linked with Jude he will heal you if knocked down. If she’s linked with Alvin and an enemy is blocking he will charge up and knock the enemy out of its defensive stance, allowing you to knock him into the air. Each set of characters also has artes that can be comboed and linked, allowing for some devastating and graphically impressive effects.
While we’re on the subject, this game is beautiful, as are the animated cutscenes that pop up throughout. The art is distinctly stylized, but I love that sort of thing. The game also allows you to customize your characters in some unique ways, including random things like dog tails and stuffed dragons. I admit I had alot of fun with this, and its nice to see that the game doesn't take itself too seriously.
As for the story, the game has a solid premise (up until the great PS3 crash of 2014 anyway, and no, I’m not being dramatic) to get things going, and there is one point in the game that I admit blindsided me, as it was something that I truly didn't expect. That event actually leads to some nice character moments, but other than that I can’t say I was too surprised with how things progressed. What truly keeps your interest is the likable cast. You end up caring about what happens because you care what happens to them. You care that party member who will remain nameless recovers, you care about Jude and why he constantly takes abuse from his dad (who, spoiler alert, is a giant tool). You care about the fact that someone should tell Alvin it's 80 degrees outside so stop wearing the scarf! Okay, maybe not that one, but you get the point.
For those who haven’t experienced the game, do yourself a favor and grab it as part of PlayStation’s 14 for 14 sale, going on now. The game is $20 and just $10 for PS Plus members, so there really is no excuse. You’ll love the combat, you'll laugh out loud a few times, and you’ll be left with a fantastic gaming memory to start 2014.