The last time Tales tried the sequel formula, with Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World on the Wii, it didn’t work so well—a B-tier development team and an unbearably grating protagonist will do that. But this time around, it wasn’t a matter of cashing in on a beloved setting four years after the fact. Instead, Xillia’s world proved to be so big that it made more sense to split the game into two chapters. So, think of it like what Peter Jackson’s currently doing with The Hobbit, except with a bit more restraint involved.
Tales of Xillia 2 is already on my Game of the Year short list for one adorably furry reason: Rollo the Cat. This roly-poly meow machine is sure to stalk, pounce, and stare his way into all of our hearts.
But I’m excited for more than just feline reasons. Tales games are known for their casts of characters easily swapped into fanfiction pairings, fast-paced battle systems that make grinding feel like the furthest thing from a chore, and expansive, anime-styled worlds that really pop onscreen. Oh, and one other thing: endless exposition with a bunch of pretentious, made-up words in the game’s attempt to sound profound. Since we’ve already been introduced to the world and characters in the first game, there’s less backstory needed here, so hopefully Xillia 2 will get straight to the action and intrigue.
And while I’m admittedly lukewarm on playing as something called Ludger Kresnik, I’m intrigued by the possibility of making some Mass Effect–style dialogue choices throughout the game that promise to change how players will experience the narrative on a given playthrough. For example, during my hands-on time, I had the choice of whether to have Ludger take his brother’s advice or rebuff his (overly stern) words of wisdom. Since I enjoy being a bit of a jerk in games when given the opportunity, I chose the latter. I’m hoping the choices won’t simply boil down to “kiss someone’s ass/chew them out,” but this element will certainly add a new wrinkle to the standard Tales dialogue— already among the most amusing in JRPGs, thanks to the recurring “skits” that help build up your party’s character traits and backstories.
From import reports, this is supposed to be the superior half of the Xillia experience, and it looks to contain the most “mature” elements in a Tales game since 2008’s Tales of Vesperia on the Xbox 360—my favorite entry in the franchise to date. Those are admittedly lofty heights, but I’m confident that Xillia 2 can attempt to equal them.