Set 1 year after the first Tales of Xillia, the sequel starts out as Ludger and Elle’s quest to pay off their horrendous medical bills after an unfortunate train incident leaves them injured. Yep, that’s the premise. Matters don’t stay that simple as Ludger’s brother becomes a wanted criminal and Ludger is tasked by a large corporation with tracking his brother down… and things just escalate from there. Eventually you’re destroying dimensions, trying to track down pieces of an ancient ritual, and other crazy things… but it all starts with medical bills…
Shut Up Nova!
In this world, everyone’s finances are apparently handled through this global system with interface devices that double as cell phones known as GHS. As a result, the bank always knows exactly how much gald – the world’s currency – you have… and damnit if you’re not paying them you’re doing it wrong! Nova, an old classmate of Ludger’s who just happens to be your point of contact with the bank that holds your 20 million gald debt, will call you the second you have enough to pay the amount they want. And if you ever get more than 20% more than that, she’ll call you every time you enter a door, pick up a gald, fight an enemy, or take a shit.
Well, maybe not the latter – I don’t know that people actually have to go to the bathroom in JRPGs – but you get the point. It becomes really annoying, and it happens even during critical story sequences. In one particular annoying example, you’re given a short time limit to save people on a ship, and every time you transition screens she’ll keep calling you if you haven’t paid her as much gald as she wants. Fortunately, her calls didn’t take up actual time, but they really broke up the sense of urgency in that scene – and it’s quite easy to get well over the gald value they want you to pay. In specific, thanks to some hunting and quests, I had five times the gald they were asking for, so even making payments would’ve taken forever to get my gald low enough that she stopped bugging me. I really wish they’d had her stop bothering you during critical scenes, just for the sake of the game’s flow.
They did do a fairly good job of writing Nova’s lines. They’re perky, kind of funny, and annoying – exactly like what you’d expect her to be from your first conversation. But she’s not without development, at a few points if you say the right thing to her, she’ll start getting upset and introspective. There was one amusing example where you told her that someone had died and for the next few chapters of the story, she was making comments like ‘I don’t know how you can still see me as a friend after this…’ and ‘I’m sorry to bother you… but if I don’t get a payment I’ll get fired’ in stead of her normal perky cheerfulness. It was a nice change of pace, and it made her feel like a person – I even felt bad for her at a few points, which surprised me.
I’m spending a lot of time on this subject, but it’s really one of the core aspects of the game. You’ll be interacting with Nova as much as, if not more than, the rest of your party members. So it’s important that they do a good job with her and, although she is exceedingly annoying and they did make a few mistakes with when she calls you, I have to say they did. But by the end of the game, you really will hate her as much as you would a real collection agency. Trust me.
A Cast of New and Old
Every character from Xillia returns to join Ludger and Elle, and you even get two of the first game’s antagonists as party members for Xillia 2. The characters’ personalities are all close enough that you’ll recognize them, but they’ve matured enough that it really feels like time has passed. Jude is still altruistic and a huge idealist, but now it’s tempered with his responsibility as a researcher and a doctor. Alvin is still a bit shady, but now he’s trying to go clean as a salesman (or as clean as a salesman has to be). Leia clearly still has her crush on Jude, but she’s kind of given up on it and is trying to live her own life now as a reporter. Each character is like this, and it makes for some rather interesting surprise discoveries as you come to know these characters.
Ludger and Elle are the two main characters, and Ludger is a sadly silent protagonist. Well, mostly silent. He has a few lines, and the voice acting for him is pretty good – so I wish they hadn’t hidden the ability to hear his voice behind a new game+. It really takes some of the impact out of certain scenes to just hear Ludger sort of grunt and have to visualize the dialogue option you chose before the others start talking again. Elle, however, is absolutely and amazingly adorable. She isn’t a battle character, but she fills a supportive role – kind of like Rise in Persona 4 – providing you encouragement and information. It makes the fights a whole lot more engaging, and in the scenes where she isn’t present you really feel her absence. It’s amazing how they managed to make her so noticeable without being on-screen.
Xillia didn’t do the best job of building the side characters’ personalities and stories. Xillia 2 fixes this by giving each character their own dedicated story line that you can explore if you choose. These stories are quite well done, and you’ll get a better understanding of not only the side characters, but they also help to round out Ludger and Elle’s personalities as well, and give you a greater understanding for the state of the world after the events of the first game. They’re definitely worth the effort to pursue. The one problem with this sidequests is that they restrict your party way too much for them. You frequently have only one choice as to who comes with, typically 3 of your 4 party members are ‘mandatory’ for each sidequest which is unfortunate, especially if you don’t like one or two of the characters.
Of Combat, Orbs, and Development
In With the Old… In With the New?
Xillia 2 uses virtually the exact same combat system as the original did. So I won’t talk in too much depth about it here since I already discussed it in my review of Tales of Xillia. It’s every bit as fun as it was then… except slightly better. You see, unlike the original, Xillia 2 offers you a variety of linking options who all have great linked abilities. You’re not punished for linking with whoever you want – it all depends on the combat style and weapons you wish to use. It’s a great improvement… oh and yes, I did say weapons.
Ludger has three weapons he gets over the course of the game – dual swords, hammer, and twin guns. Each weapon has a drastically different playstyle, and having all three weapons makes the occasional solo battle much less frustrating than it was in previous entries… even if it makes Ludger seem a bit overpowered. Because of having 3 different weapons, he essentially has a wide array of abilities that make him perfect for every situation. He doesn’t really need others to help make up for his weaknesses, and you’ll never have any motivation other than trophies to ever control anyone else.
But aside from that one minor gripe, the combat was an absolute blast. It is high paced, it’s engaging, and it offers you a ton of room to stamp your own style on things. There’s rarely a ‘right answer’, and finding your own answer is satisfying. The same goes for the game’s progression and customization systems…
Skills, Artes, and Orbs
In stead of the ‘Lillium Orb’ from the first game, they now have an ‘Allium Orb’ – which sounds similar, but functions completely differently. The Xillia 2 system gives you extractors that you can equip to determine which elements you wish to allocate points into, thus determining your skill growth over the course of the game. These extractors can be swapped out at any time, allowing you to learn all of the available skills and abilities, known as Artes, over time. At first the system seemed kind of shallow, but when you start getting combination extractors with different growth rates… it actually becomes fairly interesting.
There are some really interesting skills that can completely alter your playstyle, although many of the skills are only useful if you’re actually controlling the character since the AI isn’t good enough to take advantage of them. And, unfortunately, the skills that are the most interesting are usually predominately seen on the side characters… which you’ll never want to play as because Ludger is too good. It’s an unfortunate side effect of making the main character so self-sufficient, but it’s another fairly minor issue.
The Artes themselves all have really interesting appearances, suitable with the description and impact of the ability. There were certain combination abilities, known as Linked Artes, that I would use over and over again regardless of their strength just because I loved the way they looked. I call that a success, personally. And I particularly enjoyed the overall appearance of Ludger’s dual sword Artes, but I got a really strong mace fairly early and was stuck using mace for a while because my attack strength was literally double that of my other weapons. It was a bit unfortunate, but eventually I got the other similar weapons, so I was able to diversify again. Such sharp powerspikes are still poorly contrived though.
The first piece of advice I’d like to offer… don’t try to pay off the entire debt before finishing the game. Sure it’s possible – I did it after all – but it takes a lot longer than it otherwise would. This game, like many games nowadays, features a rather extensive post-game after you finish. The post game allows you to finish off any loose ends, farm out any trophies, and access a special post-game dungeon. They did a good job of making enough post-game to ensure that getting trophies becomes reasonable.
And, also like in the previous game, you can create a new game+ using points earned by various accomplishments – known as titles – to purchase different boosts like increased experience or the ability to carry through special weapons. This not only encourages you to try new game+ but also to play around and try to do all of the little things you might not otherwise care about.
The game features numerous endings for various decisions you make. This is nothing particularly special, but the game doesn’t ‘end’ when you get an ending. You can get every ending in a single playthrough, since after completing an ending you get the title for completing it and you get to make a save file immediately prior to the ending, allowing you to continue on.
It’s interesting. Most of the music, aside from the opening and the new regions, is very similar to that of the first game… yet this time I really enjoyed it. It makes a good point of how appreciation of music varies over time… because I really loved the soundtrack this time. Most notably, much like the first game, the opening theme which is absolutely amazing.
Additionally, I wanted to highlight the voicework for Elle and Elize. It’s very difficult to make appealing child characters from a voice perspective… especially in English works. But the VA’s behind Elle and Elize did an amazing job of making the characters really stand out. The voicework in general was good, but those two stand out as the best in the lot.
This is one of the best modern JRPGs I’ve played, really hitting high marks in every area. It has a few annoying aspects, and it is really unfortunate that Ludger’s voice isn’t available for your first playthrough, but in the end, none of that matters – the game delivers in so many ways, on so many levels that I can’t help but love it.