Namco Bandai's Tales of series, which had its beginnings with Tales of Phantasia on the Super NES, has graced a number of different platforms and handhelds over the years. Following last year's PS3 release Tales of Graces f, Tales of Xillia is the latest entry in the long-running series.
Unlike previous entries, Xillia features two main characters: Jude Mathias and Milla Maxwell, with the player being able to choose which they play as at the beginning of the game. This choice affects the story somewhat as Jude and Milla split apart at times throughout the game, so certain scenes and events are specific to one side or the other and won't fully come together unless players play through twice with both characters. It's an interesting twist to say the least for the series and should allow for some better replay value.
Similar to Graces f, there's no overworld map and in its place are walk-able roads and dungeons similar to other games such as Square Enix's Final Fantasy X. Similar to Graces f, Xillia allows the player to interact with the environment and allows for a bit more control than the button press context actions that were found in the previous title. As before, enemies appear on the map and players can sneak up on them for a first strike, stunning them for a short period when entering the battle, although the same can happen to the player if the enemy gets the jump on them. There are some skills available to negate the latter, however, thankfully.
Combat in Tales of Xillia should be familiar to those who played the previous games, although there's a couple of new additions. The battle mechanics are closer to those found in Xillia eschewing Graces f's CC system with the familiar TP-based system found in Tales of Vesperia, although to stop the issue Vesperia had regarding TP-drain Xillia introduces a new AC system which allows for attacks and Artes to be better linked together in combos.
The major new addition to Xillia, however, is the new Link Mode system which lets you link up with another character in battle to tag-team an enemy. After building a gauge the player can pull off a combination attack which differs depending on which characters you linked up.
Xillia gets rid of Graces f's Title system for stat upgrades, in its place being a new skill board system which works somewhat similarly to Final Fantasy X's Sphere Grid system. GP earned in battle can be used to unlock new skills and upgraded stats and each new node unlocked gains access to the nodes alongside it. Xillia also sees the return of Vesperia's skill system which lets players assign a set number of skill points to activate a variety of different skills.
As far as the graphics go, Tales of Xillia goes for a more adult-ish look both in its character builds and the overall art style. If you enjoyed Vesperia's character approach but wanted things a bit more proportional in terms of the character builds you should enjoy this change. And if you disliked the more colorful graphics in Graces f, Xillia's more subdued tones will be a nice change of pace for you.
Namco Bandai will be releasing Tales of Xillia next month on August 6 in North America (pre-order here) and three days later on August 9 in Europe and the Australasia regions (pre-order here). Almost all of the Collector's Edition copies have been accounted for as of now, but Tales of Xillia will be getting a special Limited Edition (or Day 1 Edition depending on your region) for everyone that purchases the game. More info about this version can be found here.