Japanese Role Playing Games fall into three camps for me. You have the Legacy series which keep chugging along and finding success based on their title alone despite there not being an actually good entry in a decade or more, like Final Fantasy or the SaGa franchise. These title’s fans will often tell you things like “It gets REALLY good at the 10 hour mark! You have to stick with it!” It doesn’t and you really don’t. You have the We-Are-So-Precious-And-CUTE! games, where there’s the same regurgitated characters and terrible sex jokes repeated endlessly and awful 2D animation or stills. All of these have a bevy of female characters who the player character lusts after in a way that makes most peeping Tom’s seem like romantics. The fans of these games usually say things like “I imported my copy of Toki to Eien because there’s more pantie shots.” There’s nothing wrong with these, they have their place and those they’re made for enjoy them. The final category are Cult Series, these are somewhere between the Legacy and WASPAC titles. These are often long running series that consistently deliver in some manner. They present characters in situations that are consistently compelling in fully realized worlds… even if the gameplay has barely changed for the last decade. The Shin Megami Tensei series still reigns in this category. Though the Tales series comes a close second. The fans of these usually stay in the corner until the run up to a new one when they annoyingly announce it to all “The new Persona game is finally coming! It’s onna be the greatest thang EVA!!! OMG!!! They all so brilliants!!!”.
Tales of Xillia 2 is the fourteenth entry in the Tales series, the third that’s a direct sequel, and another worth entry from Bandai Namco Studios. Picking up a year after the events of Tales of Xillia, we are placed in the shoes of the tragically named Ludger Kresnik. Ludger’s first day at work ends up being far more eventful than most people’s. Ending up on a hijacked train with a young girl in search of a way to a mystical land to reunite with her father. He’s soon pulled into a journey to save the world, alternate dimensions that are trying to consume his thanks to the events of the first game and a test of humanity’s worthiness for continued existence. You know, usual RPG stuff.
While the story is not really fresh, it’s the basic plot of almost every RPG ever conceived, it shines in the same way all the other entries have shined. These are world you are going to want to save, populated with characters whose company it is a joy to spend time in. Which is great news because Tales of Xillia 2 is dialog heavy. Optional scenes pop up constantly to advance the plot or character dynamics. While Ludger himself is a bit of a blank, the returning characters are all a lot of fun, their easy banter and compelling relationships are a breath of fresh air in a genre dominated by heavy handed but thoughtless meditations on how awful everything is or lascivious soliloquies about tender flesh. The voice cast is functional and neither a plus or negative. They do their jobs competently enough and besides one character aren’t gratingly annoying on purpose because some drunk producer thinks it’s what people want in a Japanese title.
Tragically the pacing of events is often ground to a halt with the grind heavy debt mechanic which restricts your travels. For every step forward you have to slaughter madly in every available field to scrimp enough cash to open new areas. It’s just padding to a title that’s already overloaded with story and side quests. There is nothing more aggravating than having to stop everything to grind your way to one hundred thousand that you will never be able to spend. It’s unnecessary, a glaring exception to the exceptional design that’s showcased at every other turn and will turn off a lot of gamers out there.
Gameplay has changed little from earlier Tales titles. On the map screen touching an enemy avatar will draw you into a fight. Three other party members will join Ludger in the fight. Basic attacks vary depending on selected weapon and position of analog stick with the attack button. Special artes attacks also change depending on the analog stick entry. Partnering with different characters give you access to cooperate attacks. The number of attacks and artes is limited by the action counter which refills when you stop attacking. This is the same system that’s been in place since the first game… and it’s still incredibly fun. The fights are fast paced and always entertaining. Even when grinding there are enough variables that it never feels boring. The system is deep enough for the most meticulous of players and also accessible enough that button mashers can enjoy it too. It’s a classic case of don’t fix what isn’t broken. It’s not broken and could probably stay fun for many more titles to come.
Great characters, fun gameplay, an absolute ton of content. There’s more than enough here to easily recommend Tales of Xillia 2 to anyone. No, it’s not perfect but what is? If you want a good RPG that will happily carry you to it’s conclusion without needing to grind through 10 hours just for something to happen or without desperate pretenses of MEANING! you could do a whole lot worse.
Tales of Xillia 2- 9/10- A great time that will sate any RPG fan’s craving for an adventure.