Story and more
In the world of Reize Maxia, elemental Maxwell controls the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. When humans begin to develop technology that could wipe out their own world, Maxwell takes human form, a young woman named Milla, to put a stop to it. After her plan goes awry, Milla teams up with a young medical student named Jude to regain her lost powers and save the human race from itself.
The story in "Tales of Xillia" is not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it's mostly there to facilitate interactions among the charming, quirky characters. Jude, intelligent, optimistic and a little naïve, provides a perfect balance for Milla: severe and determined, but unfamiliar with normal human emotions and etiquette.
The interplay amongst the members of the party — which also includes the wisecracking gunman Alvin, the shy healer Elize and a few other JRPG archetypes — is entertaining and often hilarious. Listening to the characters deliver exposition to advance the plot is moderately engaging, but the impromptu "skits" that take place in between battles, and the witty one-liners at the end of each fight are much more endearing.
Graphics & Art
"Tales of Xillia" aims to look like an anime and succeeds with flying colors. The character design is both outlandish and attractive, with just as much spiky hair, mismatched clothing and improbable weaponry as you'd expect from a fantastical Eastern adventure. The animation also helps sell the art style: Jude crouches and weaves as he punches and kicks, while Milla retains a dignified posture as she swings her sword and casts magic from afar.
Although the graphics are generally beautiful, the quality is not consistent. During cutscenes, some enemies barely move at all. Lip-syncing for the English voice-dub among the main cast is tolerable, but supporting cast members move their mouths about as believably as the cast of an old "Godzilla" movie. Some female characters, namely Milla and the villainous Agria, sport gratuitously short skirts that seem designed exclusively to titillate male players.
Music & Sound
If "Tales of Xillia" has an Achilles heel, it's in the audio selection. The music is instantly forgettable, save for one theme that takes audio cues from "Back to the Future," of all places.
The voice acting, on the other hand, is quite a few notches above the average JRPG fare. The actors deliver their lines with confidence and wit, which makes it all the more unfortunate that their mics varied wildly in quality. Milla, in particular, has a breathy, confined sound that makes listening to her lines just a little annoying.
MORE: How the "Tales" Series Found a Western Audience
The Bottom Line
"Tales of Xillia" is a breath of fresh air at the end of a console generation that hasn't been particularly kind to JRPGs. While the pacing and inconsistent production values drag the game down occasionally, they do little to mar the overall adventure, which will stay with you for a long time to come.
Publisher: Namco Bandai