2013 is certainly shaping up to be a good year for fans of Japanese
role-playing games. So far this year, we've had the stellar Ghibli-fied
No Kuni in January, and Fire Emblem:
Awakening last month, while June brings us the bizarre
time-travelling wedding-murder story of Princess Towa in Time
and Eternity, and Pokemon X and Y are set to descend
upon us by October. There's also Disgaea
D2: A Brighter Darkness, The
Guided Fate Paradox, Etrian Odyssey IV, and Shin
Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers too – and now it
seems, the next installment in the popular Tales series, Tales of Xillia will
be joining them.
A personal favourite of some of us here at Everybody Plays, the Tales series of role-playing games mix epic stories with colourful characters and a simple to follow battle system. Tales of Xillia is set in the land of Rieze Maxia, where humans and spirits live together in harmony – until the Kingdom of Rashugal's experiments start to drain the mana from the world, causing all sorts of trouble. As is the case with most of these role-playing games, it'll be up to you and the ragtag bunch of souls you meet along the way to put things back to rights – and as your journey progresses, you'll learn more and more about your companions though the series staple 'skits', the often hilarious short conversational pieces that crop up everywhere you go.
Of course, wondering about the countryside isn't without it's perils, as the world's teaming with hostile monsters spoiling for a fight. Battles take place in real-time, with you hammering attack buttons to unleash your arsenal of attacks, reigning down sharp pointy death with added lightning strikes and other ludicrous special attacks thrown in for good measure. A new feature for this year's game lets you team up with a companion and link together attacks, defence or support moves, lending the battles more of a degree of strategy – although we'll probably still just sit there mashing the attack button regardless.
Described by it's cheerful creator Hideo Baba as being “like gumdrops”, the Tales series may have the same sugary sweet, brightly-coloured anime wrappings, but inside each game is different – different characters, different stories, even mixing up the battles a bit for each iteration. Tales of Xillia, however, marks an interesting first for the long running series, as it offers players the choice of either a male or female lead. A direct response to the games' growing female fan base, you can either play as medical-intern-turned-fighter Jude Mathis or the mysterious Milla Maxwell, who can control the four Great Spirits of Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. Depending on which character you pick, you'll experience unique perspectives on the game's storyline, with some events only occurring in Jude's story and vice versa – meaning if you want to see everything the world of Rieze Maxia has to offer, you'll need to play through twice.
The producer sounds like a nice guy too, as he specifically says he it's very important to him that the Tales games are accessible to everybody, especially if you're picking one of his games up for the first time. One complaint often levelled at Japanese role-playing games by the self-confessed hardcore is that the original Japanese voice-overs are better than the translated voices – many fans have said that they would much prefer to play with English subtitles and Japanese voices. Defending himself in an interview with Kotaku, Baba states that "Of course we want to cater to the hardcore audience, but I think it's very important to cater to the more casual user who doesn't want to just read the subtitles and wants to enjoy the game in their native language”. As such, the game will be released with an English dubbing and subtitles.
As with other games published by Namco Bandai, people who pick the game up on release day can nab themselves a special 'Day One Edition' for no extra cost – we have the one for Tales of Graces f sitting next to us, which came with a behind the scenes DVD, soundtrack CD, fanciful artbook, some exclusive in-game costumes and a PS3 theme. It sounds like the Day One Edition for Tales of Xillia will be pretty similar, although there's no mention of a DVD this time. If you're feeling particularly extravagant, you may also be tempted to splurge on the Milla Maxwell Collector's Edition for £79.99, which comes with a 21.5cm figure of the female lead Milla, along with the same artbook, soundtrack and the costumes/PS3 theme found in the day one edition.
Tales of Xillia is set to his the UK on the 9th of August – as of yet, the 'selected retailers' for the Day One Edition have yet to be announced, although we do have the first English-language trailer below: