Genre: RPG
Year: 2011
Developed by: Namco Tales Studio
Published by: Namco Bandai Games
Platforms: PS3
Feeling Like: Mutton! Fresh Mutton!

I can’t tell which seems further away – November 2018 or 121 entries ago. Both seem like ancient history. We’d only just moved into our condo, I hadn’t proposed yet, I still had my decrepit comptuer monitor, my nephew Beau wasn’t born and we were more than a year out from the pandemic.

Forgive me. It’s difficult not to wax nostalgic for simpler times. It’s also a reminder of how strange time has gotten lately; months indoors without seeing many people will do something to the mind, though I’m not sure what exactly (aside from binge a lot of Netflix). Combine that with getting older and a growing library of games I’ve beaten, I’m concerned that specifics are starting to fade.

I beat Tales of Xillia approximately eight years ago and I recall enjoying it quite a bit. I liked that you could choose between the two main protagonists, Jude or Milla, and the story would unfold differently depending on who you picked. I thought the cast was well rounded, the soundtrack picked me up, the voice acting was professionally done and the adventure was rousing enough to keep me interested the entire time.

There isn’t much else to remember. It’s possible I’ve played so many Japanese RPGs at this point that party members, anime faces, twists, villains and locations are all starting to meld together. Still, a few highlights remain.

The battle system is the star of the show. True to most Tales games, the real-time fights are as action packed as you could imagine. There’s no waiting your turn here – upon touching a baddie you’re instantly transported to the battlefield and your opponents will start casting their spells or launching themselves at you before you can blink. There’s no room for complacency or passiveness. Thankfully, the game equips you adequately with flashy moves and combination attacks you can perform with your partner due to a unique “link” system. I found many excuses to experiment with whom fights best with whom. Any RPG that explores relationships during and outside of combat will appeal to me greatly. Bravo!

One twist really caught me by surprise, both by the lengths a party member goes to betray you, and the lengths you go to forgive them. It’s not often that conflict arises within the party in RPGs, generally your allies are either romantic interests, comic relief, trustworthy sidekicks or debonair loners. They usually have some backstory, but rarely do they outright change sides once you’ve gotten past any initial misunderstandings. I’m hesitant to mention which specific member, but I absolutely loved the execution of the scene in question.

I don’t remember the villain’s name, or what his motivations were, but I do recall that the game made an effort to make him (him?) empathetic and make sense of his (his?) actions. Always appreciated; faceless gods or despots wanting to take over the world without a proper explanation was out of fashion decades ago.

I’m not a completionist by any means. But after reminiscing about Tales of Xillia, I’m forced to evaluate my history with the series as a whole. I don’t intend to play any previous Tales games. By no means can I go backwards. I’m spoiled by modern quality of life updates, instant load times, superior animation and improved standards, to the point where Tales of Arise, my Game of the Year for 2021, may have retroactively made other Tales game experiences worse by comparison, especially since Arise is fresh in my mind and the other Tales seem to evaporate with each passing day. The good news is that Tales of Xillia will continue to inhabit a small corner of my mind as nothing but a positive, if only above average, role playing experience.

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