One of the centerpieces of last week’s Namco Bandai Global Gamers Day event was the official North American unveiling of Tales of Xillia. Much as it did last year in Japan, the English version will serve as the focal point of the 15th anniversary of the franchise in Western markets.
While it’s doubtful that the celebration will be as extensive here as it was other there (one notable highlight back home was the Tales of Cafe, which as the name implies was an eating establishment that sported a Tales of decor), the publisher is intent on making some noise nonetheless, since they know that the fan base in the west is growing.
Thus far, sales of Tales games have reached the 15 million mark worldwide. And it is hoped the upcoming localized version will do well also, especially the Collector’s Edition that was announced at the event, which is set to include an art book, soundtrack CD, and a figure based upon Milla Maxwell, one of the game’s two protagonists.
Members of the press were given the opportunity to give the localized version a spin. Those familiar with the original Japanese release will largely encounter the same game, save for the new English voice acting. It was hard to make an assessment of the overall quality, but during my time, I wasn’t once annoyed or offended by the performances, so that’s at least something.
For those who aren’t familiar: Tales of Xillia is 13th "mothership" release for the series and is notable from the rest in a few significant ways. First of all, and as noted above, the game has two lead characters. It was explained that the story for both will be fundamentally the same, but each has their own unique point of view, specific to the character. Each will also have narrative elements and objectives that are entirely unique to them.
Visually speaking, it’s a mix of the two previous mainline entries. Tales Vesperia sported a very anime-like look, whereas Tales of Graces f had a lighter, more pastel look. Tales of Xillia serves as a middle ground, with its warmer tones. Though the super deformed look of the past has been pushed to the side slightly, in favor of more life-like body proportions.
For the first time ever, the player has full control of the camera. As a result, much thought was put into the environments, with plenty of hidden secrets that can only be found by carefully looking around. There’s also more attention being paid to background detail in general, with a greater sense of scale.
The actual gameplay remains largely the same, but there is the new Link System, in which another character in your party is chosen to fight alongside you. Ease of use and clarity was clearly a priority; there’s no mistaking who your buddy is, via the line that connects both characters. And switching partners can be done on the fly via the directional buttons.
There are benefits to swapping friends in the heat of the battle. Aligning yourself with someone will reap certain benefits, like if such and such character has an affinity for healing. If you’re dangerously close to flat lining, said partner will recover health automatically.
Tales of Xillia is scheduled for release on August 6 in North America and August 9 in Europe.