Narrative in Video Games #17: Tales of Xillia

Tales of Xillia is the thirteenth main entry in the long-running Tales series, and the first game made exclusively for the PlayStation 3. Tales stands out among other JRPG franchises with its fast, real-time combat and strong focus on character interactions through optional skits. So how does Xillia stack up in this storied franchise?

Tales of Xillia tells the connected tales of medical student Jude Mathis and Milla Maxwell, The Lord of Spirits, as they try to stop a magical super weapon that threatens the very world as they know it. Xillia stands out in the Tales series with its use of dual protagonists, while both Jude and Milla travel together for the majority of the adventure, their paths diverge at certain points in the story. This adds extra replay value to the experience above and beyond the series’ standard New Game+ options. The story is well told with enough twists to justify its second playthrough.

The gameplay of Xillia is fast and fluid with a combination of physical attacks and magic attacks called “artes” forming the basis for most standard attacks. Extra complexity comes from the linking system wherein two party members team up to protect each other (even sharing status effects) and execute Link Artes for additional damage. The linking mechanic can be done one the fly, which partially plays into the game’s broader themes.

The Japanese subtitle for Tales of Xillia is “RPG of Unwavering Convictions” which fits perfectly with the game’s theme of loss. Nearly every character in the game is confronted with a profound loss (their home, their loved ones, even the use of their own body) and they’re forced to find a way to carry on in spite of the situation. Some losses can be regained, others can never be, but the only way forward is to chin up and persevere.

It’s often said among fans that the best Tales entry is your first Tales entry, and while that point may be debatable, Tales of Xillia makes a great case for newcomers.


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