Bandai Namco’s distinguished Japanese RPG series, the Tales of franchise, will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2015. To commemorate the occasion, the company will release its fifteenth entry, Tales of Zestiria, for the PlayStation 3. Before the celebration begins; however, there is one more story for players to be told. Marking only the third direct sequel in the franchise’s long history, Tales of Xillia 2 takes place one year after the events of Tales of Xillia – that released last year in North America – and takes players on a fantastical adventure with new main characters, and plenty of familiar faces.
The new main characters of Tales of Xillia 2 are Ludger Kresnik – whose family line has a curious ability to travel to alternative dimensions – and Elle Mel Marta – a young girl who is under orders by her father to find the supernatural Land of Canaan. Upon meeting Elle Mel Marta, Ludger suddenly finds himself embroiled in an epic adventure as he uncovers the powers of his lineage and is tasked with preventing the world’s end.
Tales of Xillia 2 features many of the same concepts from its predecessor, yet Bandai Namco have introduced new features that give Xillia 2 an identity to standout on its own. One of the big new features is the option of choice. Players can now select Ludger’s response during important dialogue exchanges. The choice made by the player will influence the relationship other characters have Ludger and give you access to certain cutscenes and endings. This new feature has great potential and is hopefully incorporated and expanded upon for future entries of the series.
Aside from the main narrative, players have the option of selecting secondary missions dedicated to individual characters. These are known as Character Episodes. This new feature is quite compelling as these chapters provide more details on the characters in which they focus on – giving a greater understanding of the characters and overall story. While these Character Episodes are optional and don’t have any direct effect on the main game, it is best not to skip over them. Those that choose to engage and participate in these side-quests will be rewarded with exclusive content.
Those familiar with recent Japanese RPGs, or Fire Emblem: Awakening for Nintendo 3DS, will embrace Xillia 2’s affection system. Players will focus on Ludger’s relationship with members of his party. Much like Fire Emblem: Awakening, linking a pair together and making accurate choices will bring the characters closer together. The closer the characters become, the more rewards you earn – be it items or Artes.
The battle system of Tales of games is often one of, if not, the games’ strongest attribute. Tales of Xillia 2 uses a battle system similar to its precursor, but with enhancements that make it a more action-battle system with a greater sense of flow and speed. In previous Tales of games, party members would normally have an aptitude for a specific weapon type, but Ludger is not one of them. Ludger has the ability to weapon swap and switch between Dual Sword, Hammer, or Dual Guns. If you so choose to, it is possible to swap between all three weapons on the fly during combat and chain together some fairly impressive move combinations against enemies once you expose their weakness.
Ludger also has a special ability known as Chromatus, in which he transports himself and his enemies into an alternate dimension to do battle. While in this zone, players are given free rein to special moves and are also invulnerable. There is a time limit in place, so you must act quickly and inflict as much damage as possible before returning to normal.
Though it is technically possible to simply button-mash through some battles, a veteran Tales of player knows there is a tactical underlining that one must gain a firm grip of in order to be successful. Tales of Xillia 2 is no different. Despite Ludger’s impressive move-set and range of attacks, the player must still approach battles with caution and thought. By exploiting the weaknesses of enemies, you can maximize the damage multiplier and diminish the odds of the enemy escaping from the combo. This approach can be applied in standard and boss battles.
One minor annoyance stemming from the battle system is the inability to switch out party members in real-time. This option was previously available in Xillia but has been removed in the sequel.
Despite the gameplay upgrades, Tales of Xillia 2’s world is largely the same as it was in Xillia. You will explore and revisit many of the same areas. Nevertheless, there are new dungeons and areas to explore. Those invested in the story and curious to learn about what is happening with the original cast and the world will be able to overlook the recycled content and enjoy the tale being told.
If you adored Tales of Xillia, then you will find plenty to enjoy and love from Tales of Xillia 2. The amount of reused content from the first game is a bit disappointing, but Tales of Xillia 2 offers an ample amount of enhancements mixed with new ideas and areas to explore. Those looking for a new JRPG to play on PS3 should definitely buy Tales of Xillia 2.
- Improved Battle System
- Strong Cast of Characters
- Engaging Storyline
- Reused Content from Tales of Xillia
Overall: 4 out of 5
Editor's Note: An advance copy of Tales of Xillia 2 was provided for review purposes.