Wow: the funny thing about these “Tales of…” games is that at this point they are so numerous you could likely insert “Fantastical Torture Porn” after the “of” part of the title, and I would hardly turn awry. Darkness, Symphonia, World, Legendia, Abyss… the list goes on and on regarding the games which this pseudo-sub-genre covers. Some are good, some are bad, and most are insipid. So needless to say I was not expecting a great deal with Xillia.
In all honesty I only purchased Xillia to have something to play over my school break; I wanted a return to JRPGs as well as something loaded with content, really just something to level the field away from all the mind-numbing first person shooters. I selected Xillia because the artwork and graphic design was eye-catching and the story was supposed to be more inspiring than your usual Tales of adventure. Additionally, I found it relatively cheap, so that was a plus as well.
When I had finally to play the game I found it enjoyable. I was not expecting it to be awful. So this was a positive sign- a terrible Tales of game indicates the death of the sub-genre, after all; if the developer cannot even maintain a simple JRPG than heaven help the Japanese gaming industry. The graphics were indeed beautiful with the artistic direction of wilderness zones reminiscent of Valyria Chronicles (though not as quite beautiful). The music was not anything special. Just your typical fare: while it sometimes evolved into something memorable these moments were few and far between. Likewise, the battle system was standard too. You encounter enemies in a field, touch them to enter an enclosed battle space, and fight them in real time while controlling one character with the three others controlled by the computer following battle strategies you imposed el a la Final Fantasy XII style. You have seen this before.
However, as with any JRPG, the real meat lies in the story and with Xillia… it has its ups and downs. To be fair, it is not a terrible narrative- it is expansive, packs several dozen hours of gameplay, and takes the player on a far flung journey with a few twists worth watching. And yet, there also is not much original about it; yes, the energy crisis plot is more refreshing (even if it is a bit played out at this point) than, say, your damsel in distress cop out. The role in the plot played by medicine and myth add originality to the story but, even so, the characters are still essentially just cut outs from others games and fused archetypes. Though the cast takes some unexpected turns which I am not sure you would see in many other JRPGs, the resolution to these twists is as conventional as you would imagine and ultimately culminates exactly as you expect it to. So though there is a hefty amount of development regarding how the characters interact and their personal stories, none of it seems genuine. You have seen these developments before if you are an avid player; everything is predictable and falls well into convention. Don’t get me wrong, there is humor in the writing, but other than that, nothing much else.
So, if you are looking for a solid, somewhat gripping, conventional Tales of JRPG, then look no further. You will not find many surprises here but at least you can rest easy in understanding that what surprises there are, are bereft of negativity. Good or bad, Tales of Xillia is an enjoyable JRPG which will slate any Japanophile’s sweet tooth.