The Tales series, originating back in 1995 for the SNES, is a series that has continued to provide beautiful worlds, an exciting and extravagant cast of characters, and mesmerising stories. The franchise first presented itself to me in the latter part of 2004, with the Tales of Symphonia Gamecube title and, since then, has personally continued to stand at the forefront of JRPG’s whilst others have faltered (I’m looking at you, Final Fantasy). Xillia 2 is no different in this regard, once again offering a hugely enjoyable experience from start to end… For the most part.
Featuring both new and old characters alike, Xillia 2 starts a year after the events of the original Xillia concluded and, therefore, it’s best if you come into this game with knowledge of the previous events. Regardless, there is still enough context in all actions throughout game for you to have a decent level of understanding for what has been, and what is happening at any given time.
The story follows the events of both Ludger Kresnik and Elle Marta and, joining them on this journey, as previously mentioned, is the cast of Xillia, specifically Jude Mathis. The introduction of Jude Mathis is a double-edged sword however; Whilst it brings in a familiar and instantly likeable member into the party and forefront of the story, it also shows how dull a character Ludger actually is.
This is noticeable from the start of the game, with Ludger’s not-a-silent-character-but-might-as-well-be act. Giving the odd line every now and then, he’s constantly overshadowed by his fellow cast that quickly renders him to a tool to further the plot. Elle, on the other hand, is a very interesting character. Having such a young character as a main story focus can often be detriment to the game, but Elle’s charm and screen presence only helps the story further. Often giving much needed innocence and simplicity in a complex story, every moment with Elle on screen is a delight.
The visuals of the game are, as you’d expect from a Tales game, superb. Character design it at an all time high, featuring beautifully anime-stylised garbs and weapons alike. The game reuses a vast majority of assets from the original Xillia, and whilst it will indeed frustrate some players, more will appreciate being able to revisit previously known locations and witness how the year gap in between your last time here has changed things around, akin to the feeling of experiencing the world of Final Fantasy X again in X-2. Music is, likewise, incredible. Featuring memorable tracks throughout the entirety of your time with Ludger & co, you’ll be humming the battle theme for weeks after you’ve put the controller down. Melancholy when it needs to be, and adventurous and grand when you witness vast landscapes before your very eyes, the music compliments your experience with Xillia 2 fully.
The combat is also typical of what the Tales series offers. Fast, fluid, tactical and ever so mesmerising to both control and watch, you’ll always want to go take down that enemy mob just to experience everything once more. The JRPG genre has always been one of continuous grinding to achieve higher levels, but you’ll enjoy every slash, hit, shot and explosion. Ludger has multiple weapons to switch between during combat, being dual swords, a hammer and dual pistols, each existing to serve a unique purpose. Whilst they are introduced early on and, at the time, seem redundant, they’ll soon become integral to every battle’s natural flow. The characters you perform linked-artes with will also change mid-flow, as different team members react to different initiated artes and equipped weapons. Whilst this may sound too much to think about during battle, all the mechanics are introduced slowly and thoughtfully, never quite overwhelming you but never leaving you for a long period of time without furthering your battle prowess.
Tales of Xillia 2 is not only a hugely enjoyable game, but a JRPG masterpiece. The story is gripping from the jovial, yet intriguing, start, right up until the climactic, unforgettable ending. Featuring possibly the best array of characters seen within a JRPG for quite some time, the game features enough customisation and dialogue trees to make this journey feel like yours. The ending is sublime, and immediately makes you reminisce about the journey that took place before you.