Following the tremendous success of Tales of Xillia in Japan, Namco just couldn’t miss the opportunity to make a direct sequel. Thus, the game re-uses a lot of the existing assets (3D engine, backgrounds, character animations). But with Tales of Xillia as basis, Tales of Xillia 2 (ToX2) is on good track and tackles the difficult mission to outshine its predecessor.
ToX2 follows the story of Ludger, a cook thrown into a terrorist attack. During this unexpected event, he will meet Dr. Jude and a little girl asking him to lead her to the land of Canaan so as to find her father. More than a mere sequel, the scenario of ToX2 takes a totally different path, ToX events being only hinted at during sidequests. Therefore, ToX2 looks as new as would be a brand new entry in the series, with rather bizarre additions on the top of it.
Unlucky as always, our poor Ludger quickly ends up indebted. One of your objectives at the beginning of the game will be to lower your debt level. Let’s be honest here, that’s wasn’t interesting in any way : there is no time limit or anything that would put pressure on you and give some intensity to the whole thing. It would have been a plus if the player was perfectly free to reimburse when he wants, also with a little more impact on the story than unlocking new zones. Not only that, but it ends up being nearly as annoying as paying back credit in real life. The girl from the bank asks you money every 5 minutes, sometimes after every fight or every screen or when you find 2 gald on the ground. No big consequence on the general quality of the game, but that’s definitely something we could have done without.
That won’t ruin the pleasure to dive in Xillia’s universe one more time, and especially what has proven to be the most dynamic, the most spectacular, the most intuitive battle system of the series. I could tell you more about it, but it’s all written here. So let’s speak of what changed. First of all, Ludger is played very differently from the other characters : he can equip 3 types of weapons (pistols, hammer and blades) and switch between them in the fight simply by pressing button. The logic is that beyond traditional elemental strengths/ weaknesses, the kind of weapon you’re attacking with has an influence on the efficiency of your assault. That said, I’m not very comfortable with this system because it makes joint attacks harder to trigger. Besides, Ludger has the immense advantage of being able to transform and become more several times more powerful and invincible for a few seconds. This capacity of his is controlled by a gauge that fills fairly quickly, so don’t hold back using it.
I must stress that Gaius and Myuse come to be playable characters in this sequel. Not only were they likable «villains», but they are also incredibly fun to play. Gaius, who reminds me lot of Sephiroth with its long katana, uses a lot of counters and Myuse has to ability to teleport herself behind enemies. Special attacks have been reinforced a lot, so all this brings a breath of fresh air to combat. You can switch between your characters in a fight, but the game decides on your party in main chapters, which is lame. The difficulty can still be switched anytime too, for maximum comfort.
The side parts have been re-tought and enriched. There’s now a clear separation between guild quests (hunting, items to fetch, Giganto monsters, NPC errands) and all your party members’ stories, which are divided in several episodes. Those long parallel scenarios that progress throughout the whole game, give more depth to Xillia’s characters and are different enough from the main story to provide some change of pace. Add to this mini games like searching for all the cats in the game (that you can later use to fetch items, see gameplay video above) and poker like in Tales of Vesperia. There’s even more to do than in Tales of Xillia, which lasted me 70h. A shame every quest is centralized and guided though, it’s more fun when you discover them on the go like in Xillia 1. Also, I was annoyed by the fact that trophy challenges have been made 3 times longer. ToX trophies already weren’t short to obtain, but now it’s become a real pain.
It’s in story-telling that ToX2 completely trenscends its predecessor. While ToX coud feel flat (at least in the first half), ToX2 takes great care in spreading mysteries and keeping suspense at every possible level. The story brings constantly new surprises and number of scenes are as stunning as in Xenoblade for example. The music takes the best of ToX while adding very good melodies, is used in the best possible way. Ludger has no personality of his own (he doesn’t tell anything), which is a deliberate choice to have the player decide on story branches. Even if most of choices you make a little more importance than improving your friend level with your companions, at the end of the game they will decide on which epilogue you will get. The final scene is so emotionally packed that I threw a controller across the room for the first time in my life : I had chosen the «bad» end.
Excluding the indebtment delirium that you’ll forget about very quickly, Tales of Xillia 2 as every quality of a great JRPG. By adding what Xillia lacked when Xillia itself was already exceptional, it easily ranks among the best JRPGs of the PS3 generation, if not at the top of it.