Tales of Xillia 2 (PS3) Review – It’s not “Exillia”, it’s “Zillia”!

Aside from my duties here at COG, I work in retail. Most anyone who has worked in retail can tell you just how fun and rewarding it can be. The general public treats retail workers super well. (Is it just me, or has it been made suddenly apparent that written language direly needs a method to indicate sarcasm?) I am joking of course, but there is some truth to that statement. There is always an asshole that has to be heard. Sometimes there are two assholes. Sometimes you get three scoops of asshole in a waffle cone with venomous lie sprinkles that demand to speak with your supervisor. While I can say with utmost confidence that the ragging’s of these wonderful human beings have never gotten to me on a psychological level, they are certainly severed to make me a more jaded person.

I have a small list of tiny inconsequential things that people do which drive me up the wall. Way, way, way up at the top of this is the way people pronounce the letter X. I understand that the letter X is scary. It is used roughly seven times in all of English, and is commonly synonymous with grumpy old baby boomers and chemicals that make super-powered girl-children, and if you stand on one you’re liable to be attacked by pirates…or have a piano fall on your head.

Anyone who has been following my reviews will know that this isn’t my first walk in the Tales of park. I’ve always dabbled in the series and always had fun. Tales of Xillia 2 (“Zillia”, because that’s how you say it) is Namco-Bandai’s latest entry into their premier action-RPG series. Set one year after the events of Tales of Xillia, you find yourself following the adventures of a young man named Ludger, his pudgy cat Rollo, and the mysterious little girl Elle. Along the way you encounter old friends and environments from the original Xillia. You may also have to find a stray cat or two.

Combat is mostly unchanged in Xillia 2 from its predecessors. It’s a real-time action type combat involves both standard and special attacks, or “artes” as they are called. Up to four artes can be assigned to your circle button by combining it and one of the four directions on your joystick. Artes use up a resource that each of your characters possesses called MP (I know RPG fans…DUH!). When your MP runs low it can be replenished by using standard attacks. Each successful strike with a standard attack will grant you a single point of MP. Each party member also features a number on their character frame which indicates how many attacks you have left in your current attack combo. This is especially helpful for coordinating special attacks.

Your party consists of four members, one whom you will control manually, and three whom are AI controlled. One of the most compelling features of the Tales of series that that at any point of the game you can switch which character you want to command on the field by toggling each party member between manual and automatic. This also allows you to have other players step in the command another member of your party by switching additional characters to manual. Anytime during combat you can freeze time and use an item or command another party member to use an item or a spell.

Without going into story spoilers, Tales of Xillia 2 has one glaringly awful standout nuisance that will nag at you every five minutes. Literally…and her name is Nova. Early on in the game you get caught up in a rather large loan; twenty million gald to be specific. Twenty Million of anything is a lot. Luckily, you seem to earn in-game money a lot quicker than in most games I’ve played, but this does little to ease the resulting frequent jabber. Each time you pass a certain threshold of money earned Nova calls you up and demands you pay some of your loan. Due to the sheer scope of the loan, and frequency you earn money at, the constant calls get annoying fast. Only a couple of hours into the game and I had already started to hear repeated dialogue. The main functional purpose of this loan is that the more you pay off, the more places you unlock for travel, which reminds me…

Something that is notably missing in more of the recent Tales of games is a traversable world map. For me this is more than a little disappointing. Large grandiose “save the world” RPG games feel less grand when there doesn’t appear to be a world that needs saving. Symphonia and Vesperia were great in that regard and that may serve to explain why those two remain my favorite to this day. Slightly newer titles like Symphonia 2 and Xillia did away with a traversable world as they made the switch to a map of the overworld where you select locations to immediately travel to. Less fun sure, but the world remained intact. Xillia 2 doesn’t even appear to have that. One of the major mechanics in Tales of Xillia 2 is a quick travel disguised as a train station. And while this train does get you to places very quickly, it fails to ever show you a picture of the world, or even the slightest idea of the direction in which you are traveling. While this does little to detract from the fun of them game it does create a feeling of disconnect from the world you are in. For the super hardcore, each location in game is physically connected to one another, so you could theoretically run everywhere if you really wanted to.

The most entertaining and charmingly silly new feature in Tales of Xillia 2 is the Kitty Dispatch. Throughout your adventure you’ll find stray kitties that are in need of rescue. These little kitties, who are grateful for the assistance, will help you by wading out into the world beyond to gather supplies for you. The more kitties you find, the greater your chances of finding cool stuff. This is especially helpful for completing side quests, a number of which can only be completed using items that are found exclusively through Kitty Dispatch

For a game coming out in the latter half of 2014, Xillia 2 isn’t exactly eye candy. That’s due in part to localization time. Xillia 2 has actually already been available in Japan for some time now. The truth is, we’re getting it pretty late. It’s got a pretty standard look for its genre. Best described as anime characters with just the right amount of cell-shaded goodness, the graphics are just enough to give it a “playing through a cartoon” kind of look. Visually speaking, the coolest thing that Xillia 2 did was with its skyboxes. Looking off into the distance made the environments fell much bigger than they actually were.

Music during combat is my favorite part of the Tales of series and Xillia 2 is no different. The pace the music always makes you feel like running and stabbing things…in the game of course. Each type of creature encounter gets progressively cooler. Standard monsters have cool music while elite monsters have even cooler music and boss battles have music that can only be described as, well the coolest. City music feels environmentally appropriate too, whether it is the streets of bustling metropolis or the grungy alleyways of a marketplace, it all made sense to be there. There was something however that seemed out of place. The ambiance music that played out in the wild was a weird sort of calm and jazzy genre that didn’t really fit with where all the monster fighting happened. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t change anything, and doesn’t really mean anything at all, it just felt out of place.

All in all, Tales of Xillia 2 leaves me satisfied. It wasn’t my favorite Tales of experience, but it certainly wasn’t the worst, and to its credit it was really all I could ask of a sequel. At its worst, Tales of Xillia 2 is bunch of loosely thrown together environments in a line with little sense of “world”, but at its best it is a high paced action oriented RPG with tons of flashy attacks and amazing gameplay. I always recommend Tales of games, and today is no different, though I highly recommend playing through the original first.

The Good


The Bad

  • David Rothbart

    While I hate to come across as a jerk towards what is a really well-written review, the title of the game IS arguably pronounced ‘Exillia’. The original Japanese title is romanized “Teiruzu obu Exushiria”, which we would translate syllable-for-syllable as “Tales of Exillia”. Keep in mind as well that the Japanese are fond of using single Roman letters to stand for their alphabetic (as opposed to phonetic) sounds, or even full words (such as “W” to represent the word “double”). In other words, to a Japanese speaker, the letter X could be used to represent the sound “ecks” regardless of its context. We’re familiar with this concept in English, but we would generally use a hyphen to signify it (like in x-ray). Without the hyphen, it’s understood that the letter should be pronounced phonetically. Without that knowledge though, I would agree that the word appears as though it should be pronounced “Zillia”. Just a silly nitpick.