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Old 06-16-2015, 03:52 AM View Post #1 (Link) Video Game Review: Tales of Xillia
GeonamicWarrior (Offline)
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I believe that this review that I typed is a part of what I call, video game literature, and if members want to see more of this and want to discuss what I put down here, I'd love to have their support in making a social group they could join with me here for this type of content.

Introduction
Spoiler:
This thread will be about reviewing/discussing the video game Tales of Xillia for the Playstation 3 in as much depth as I can. All of the following will be my own opinions as a video game player or referenced facts from/about the game and Namco Bandai Studios. There will be spoilers mentioned, so you have been warned.


Title
Spoiler:
What exactly is a ďXilliaĒ? Hideo Baba, a Japanese video game producer working with Namco Bandai Studios, said, ďItís derived from million and billion, in English. I wanted to have a huge number and started with xillion. I was trying to signify how, within a personís life, there are many events and encounters with people.Ē The quote was translated from Japanese to English, so this isnít an exact conversion. With this in mind, the title means ďstories about many events and encounters with people in one life.Ē This title is one of the rarer cases where a Tales of title has a meaning not directly related to an in-game topic or plot. It is true in what the game ends up as since the protagonists do encounter a lot of events and people that not any average person would meet in roughly a month, but the overall theme of harmony to differing populations and cultures in the game isnít really the same as the titleís meaning although related to it. The other Tales of games, such as Tales of Rebirth and Tales of Hearts, have their theme relate to their respective titles.


Development
Spoiler:
Namco Bandai Studios started developing Tales of Xillia on August 2nd, 2010, and it released in Japan on September 8th, 2011. The game was localized for a North American release on August 6th, 2013, and a European release came three days later. Contrary to every Tales of game previously published, Tales of Xillia was developed by both development teams, Team Symphonia and Team Destiny, within Namco Bandai Studios. As happy as I am with the teams officially combining as one team after the Japanese publication, I must say that Tales of Xillia wasnít worth as much as I expected of both teams in such a long time compared to other Tales of games. Tales of Graces F, a game in the series that was the most recently published before Tales of Xillia, took six months for its Japanese release, fifteen months after the Japanese publication for its North American release, and twenty months after the Japanese publication for its European release by just Team Destiny while Tales of Xillia took thirteen months to release in Japan and twenty-three months after the Japanese publication to release in North America and Europe with both development teams.


Graphics
Spoiler:
With the graphics being cel shaded and 3D, many have mixed opinions. I, for one, like the style of it in a video game. The cutscenes that the player could only pause with the start button instead of not pressing the X or O buttons are animated in great detail similar to most Japanese anime. However, no matter what the player does, in-game attachments, such as pig-tails and hats, and/or costumes he/she could have a character wear may slip through the character model in some of its movements, such as running or jumping, and the cutscenes I described automatically removes all in-game attachments from view and defaults the charactersí costumes to their original one. This is asking too much for a development team to factor in all the attachments and costumes in such animated cutscenes, but itís always notable how different a character can look once you revert them back to his/her default appearance, unless the player never put an attachment or costume to begin with. This may be just because of my TV, but the text seems relatively tiny, and thereís no way to increase the font size. I was squinting my eyes, turning off all lights, and had to guess what the letters and numbers said.


Music
Spoiler:
Motoi Sakuraba doesnít fail in bringing out the setting with composing the music for this game. However, some soundtracks felt oddly placed in relation to time. My favorite soundtrack, A Palace Bathed in Sunlight, only plays in a completed dungeon, Orda Palace, after the player has left and viewed a cutscene that indirectly suggests the player should advance the plot immediately instead of going back in the dungeon. There is no other incentive from the main story of the game afterwards for the player to return to the dungeon, so itís up to chance that the player would return to hear the soundtrack. There is one optional cutscene that the player can discover deep inside near the end of the main story, but nothing points it out for the player to go there. The introductory theme song, Progress, by Ayumi Hamasaki, was nice for what was included. Iím not sure why only a portion of it was in the game, but unless the player wants to buy the full song or listens to it some other way, he/she would never hear the full version of Progress within the game.


Player vs. Gameplay
Spoiler:
All of the player-controlled movements of your characters are fluid and quick, which is great for any speedrun, casual, or hardcore player. A quick-travel function to previously visited areas becomes available after a handful of places have been traveled through. To remove the possibility of entering an area where the plot told the player not to go, the function disables certain places to go back to, and itís impossible to walk to such places, too. Players can instantly skip any cutscene they want with a press of the start button and confirming. This makes replaying the game great for those who donít want to watch the same cutscenes again or if they lost to a fight and donít want to watch the same cutscene right before. Battles are fast and real-time, as in no matter what you do, besides pausing with the or start buttons, all allies and enemies alike will do what their artificial intelligences were programmed to do. Iím glad this game continued the trend of real-time battles from the other Tales of games.


Game World vs. Gameplay
Spoiler:
All the shops in the game are divided into five types: weapons, armor, accessories, miscellaneous items, and food. In certain dungeons/fields, thereís always a Traveling Merchant NPC who sells every type of ware any town sells. Each ware that has the same name in another shop of the same type always sells for the same price, quality, quantity (infinite), and function. In the beginning, every store has a shop level of one. The player can raise it by purchasing and/or donating Gald (in-game currency name) or materials. Essentially, these customer investments are used by the merchants to improve their market and give a return to the player with discounts and newer goods. As awesomely convenient to the player as these shops are, they arenít realistic in the gameís world. The same prices, quality, and quantity suggest the demand and supply are in equilibrium, but thatís impossible if products are infinite instead of limited and players never see anyone else purchase something from any shop, so demand canít be the same among all shops. The shop level also makes no sense because if one shopís level is raised, all the other shops in the game will automatically be equal as if that one shop told every shop to support the player instantly. I know thatís impossible because another world, Elympios, has their shopsí levels become the same as the ones in your beginning world, Rieze Maxia, when no one other than the protagonists and antagonists have entered Elympios. The consistency of the Traveling Merchant is very low because he/she is always there no matter how long you wait, and all of the shop types are inside his/her backpack whereas town shops can have crates and cabinets behind the shopkeeper. Something peculiar to me is that some towns have stall markets who are clearly advertising their wares by vocally talking to the other NPCs while the player is walking nearby, but the player can never buy anything from those stall markets. Not even the inns are realistic in their economy because all of them have one to four rooms, but at least some of the prices are different. There are the Ice Pop and Jet Black Feather markets, which are not duplicated like any other, but their wares are still infinite, and there seems to be no demand affecting the price/bartering quality. In-game time and weather never change according to the playerís time. This sticks a certain feel to an area, and it could be great for immersion or atmosphere, but the same feel is eventually going to get old after revisits, especially for the plot when that feel doesnít work anymore. The change in music in some dungeons helps, but other than that, the setting feels too static. The world map during quick-travel shows an overview of where previously visited areas are in respect to each other. However, most of them arenít relatively scaled. Some caves are a mile or two long, but the map shows the distance as the same or smaller between other areas that are less than a single mile.


Reality vs. Gameplay
Spoiler:
The playerís inventory has a limit of ninety-nine of each material, fifteen of each miscellaneous item, weapon, armor, and accessory, 255 Jet Black Feathers, and one of each attachment, costume, key item, and food of each size (small, medium, large). This doesnít make any sense. Every character has no backpack, suitcase, or pocket that could hope to carry all this stuff in the first place. Even with the assumption that they could hold all of this in their pockets, the inventory would weigh the characters to the point that they couldnít move. If their pockets could carry all these things, the food shouldnít be limited to one, especially one of each size. Theyíre far more useful than anything, but if the developers wanted the player to have a scarce supply of food in their inventory, the other wares should also be a bit more limited in their inventory. All of the other Tales of games never had such a small limit on food the player could carry, so I donít understand why the trend was broken here. How pockets could keep food from expiring is also freaky, but thatís consistent with the other games in the series at the very least.


Story vs. Gameplay
Spoiler:
Lilium Orbs are devices that build how each character grows in battle. If teamed up with another character, they can combine attacks, share abilities, and defend each other with perfect timing. However, the game introduces their functions with a cutscene badly placed after the first boss battle by basically saying, ďYour Lilium Orbs are shining! Hereís how they work in character growth. Blah, blah, blah,Ē and then, they get their remaining functions explained once the third character is introduced with something similar: ďYour Lilium Orbs are shining? Great! Letís explain how they work with other characters. Blah, blah, our thoughts are heard in each othersí heads because our Lilium Orbs are working together.Ē That last part implies a high potential for conflict or solutions with listening or talking through thoughts among characters, but that never happened later on, which disappointed me.


Tutorials vs. Story
Spoiler:
Nearly every battle tutorial that happens in the middle of a story-related battle has the enemies act like fighting dummies. Itís convenient for the player, but itís throwing the feeling of danger, suspense, and risk in fighting them that the characters would feel. The enemiesí health does refill after the tutorial, but the effect isnít going to leave just because the player has to really fight. It stays during the fight, and most of the time, the battle tutorials can be placed in other opportune times with non-story enemies or even outside of battle. In fact, I bet players would be ok with not having tutorials at all in this game. They donít explain everything that Iíve learned through experimenting, especially with jumpingís advantages and back-stepping invincibility.


Story
Spoiler:
As unique as it is, the story is badly paced because the amount of optional sidequests in every area you visited are in the way. A war between nations is about to start? Letís go to a town weíve been to and give this random lady soup just because she wants it for another character who can easily buy it. Snappy plot points arenít taken into depth. Jude, while unconscious, falls into a pit below him that suddenly opened in Fezebel Marsh and is swept into the water until heís washed up in Tulea Tundra. How he doesnít drown while being unconscious is unexplained. Why he doesnít wake up in the water is unexplained. The story is split between one of the two main protagonists that the player has to choose at the beginning, but there are rare differences besides the middle portion of the game since the protagonists stay together for the most part. A few bits of dialogue and monologue are exclusive, but I never once thought they were so vital to include. Judeís path would be enough for a standalone story. Millaís path feels more like DLC (Downloadable Content) added on haphazardly. Openings and endings are different, but they also donít give as much importance as a split story should have issued. There are also cutscenes that should have gone a certain way, but they change in the other path. For example, Jude dodges an arrow with a slight nudge of his head on his story path during the charactersí first entry into Bermia Gorge, but on Millaís path, he stumbles and falls backwards to dodge instead. His expert dodging shows how professional he is on his path, but Millaís path neuters that. The same can be said vice versa with Judeís path making Milla seem weaker than she is on her path. The different paths shouldnít change the same story the player canít alter, especially ones that build character.


Characterization
Spoiler:
I believe every character is realistic, unique, and great to learn about. However, they werenít realistic the moment they were introduced. Milla Maxwell, one of the main protagonists, seemed like a robotic hooker, and Ivar seemed like an emotionally attached Deadpool, but both of them have reasons for being who they really are, which thankfully arenít those that I mentioned. I like the characters a lot more now than I did when I first met them, and even though thatís typical, they shouldnít seem hated or disliked at the beginning unless theyíre intended to be. Neither of these two characters are supposed to be that way.


Voice Acting
Spoiler:
Every voice actor voiced every character very well in cutscenes and in battle. I really think they made the characters alive in vocals. Many criticize how robotic Milla Maxwellís voice actor was in the game, even after inferring the reason why, but I disagree. A monotonous voice can still give an attitude, as rare as they come by with her, but it still intrigued me to discover more about Millaís characterization. I canít think of any voice actor in the North American release that gave poor effort.


Cooking
Spoiler:
Nearly every single Tales of game in the past had characters cook to get food. They never had to buy food from stores if they didnít cook. Four out of six playable characters have been confirmed to be able to cook, one is confirmed inable to cook, and the other character is unknown in his ability to cook. Itís traditional of the Tales of games to have at least one character whoís bad at cooking as a running joke. Thereís no story-related excuse for why these characters canít cook instead of buying the food. It looks like the developers are adding insult to injury by adding optional skits, optional cutscenes, and NPC text only about food and the characters cooking food.


New Game+
Spoiler:
Every Tales of game has a second currency called Grade, which is used to purchase bonuses for the next playthrough of the game. These bonuses can include increased earned Gald, harder difficulties, and inheriting certain items. Players usually earn these by performing certain actions in battle that are beneficial, such as blocking enemy attacks and not being incapacitated, and there are actions that decrease your Grade, such as taking damage and being incapacitated. Even though Tales of Xillia does keep the system of using Grade to buy bonuses, the player earns Grade through in-game achievements that are carried over in the next playthrough. This is convenient for completing all of them, but this limits the amount of Grade you can have for your bonuses to the point that itís impossible to get all of them. I like the convenience, but I donít like the limits. Players earned the currency, which is very similar to merit, in battle, but they donít suddenly stop earning merit after all the achievements are taken.


Difficulty
Spoiler:
The Tales of series is known for having rough higher difficulty modes, but this gameís battles are surprisingly easy, even on the hardest difficulty. This cakewalk is the reason why Iím not going to have a section in this review solely about battles because, as unique as they are, theyíre too simplified for convenience with how precise they are. In fact, theyíre so simplified that these real-time battles can be viewed as a game of calm chess instead of the hectic commands and shock toward enemiesí movements in other games in the series, such as Tales of Vesperia and Tales of the Abyss. The only way I found myself feeling challenged in battles was when I limited my own available player abilities, something the game didnít support unlike other Tales of games with New Game+ bonuses such as eliminating battle experience earned and decreasing your charactersí attack damage. Most Tales of games give the player higher rewards, such as more battle experience and Grade, if the difficulty is raised, and punishes the player with lower rewards if the difficulty is lowered below the default. Tales of Xillia gives no change in any reward no matter the difficulty. As disappointing as the game breaks this trend, itís adding to the convenience of lowering the difficulty and still not miss anything.


Gameplay & Story Balance
Spoiler:
If it isnít obvious enough by what Iíve said, the gameplay convenience kills the story among other aspects, so there is no balance unfortunately. The gameplay outweighs the story by a landslide, and if the developers wanted it to be balanced, like Tales of Symphonia, or more story-oriented, like Tales of Legendia, then I donít know what they were thinking. Player convenience doesnít always mean satisfaction for everything else.


Overall Rating
Spoiler:
I believe Tales of Xillia earns a seven out of ten as an average game. It has its ups and downs, but my biggest gripe is how choppy things felt with the logic and multiple, fan-favorite trends being broken. The incredible convenience for the player is what makes the gameís rating average, as badly as the convenience is in other places.


Would I recommend this game?
Spoiler:
Yes and no. Iíd recommend it to any average JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Game) player whoís played more than one Tales of game. I wouldnít recommend it to anyone else, even a hardcore RPG (Role Playing Game) player or starting JRPG player, because itís a bad example of what a JRPG and what a Tales of game should be.
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Old 06-23-2015, 02:52 AM View Post #2 (Link)
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Okay, this is a really good Game Review... I don't know how I am supposed to critique this, haha ... You had really good sentence structure. But you may want to check whether or not you had closing sentences on all your paragraphs... You provided evidence from both your experience and your own opinion for your body paragraphs. So ya, I think you did a very good job! You may want to explain some things that you would understand, that I wouldn't because I don't play video games overly frequently, but that's all I can point out at the moment... Good job, I liked how you chose to write something out of the box, something that isn't really common on YWO!
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Old 06-24-2015, 10:35 AM View Post #3 (Link)
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This is definitely an interesting and refreshing approach to writing (or content production in general). Note that I've not played the game in question, but that's what reviews are for, right? Somebody's got to pay full price so the cheapskates like me can decide if we want a used copy.

Except, this review doesn't really serve that purpose. It's more like a game analysis, complete with history and explanations of aspects completely unrelated to gameplay. It's as if I opened a physics book and it contained chapter upon chapter of biographies. While temporarily intriguing, I don't really need it to explain mass or inertia. All that to say, the review would be much more respectable if it specifically catered to gamers' concerns.
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Old 06-24-2015, 04:51 PM View Post #4 (Link) This post is a reply - don't critique it
GeonamicWarrior (Offline)
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Originally Posted by monthlymuser View Post
Except, this review doesn't really serve that purpose. It's more like a game analysis, complete with history and explanations of aspects completely unrelated to gameplay. It's as if I opened a physics book and it contained chapter upon chapter of biographies. While temporarily intriguing, I don't really need it to explain mass or inertia. All that to say, the review would be much more respectable if it specifically catered to gamers' concerns.
I'm legitimately confused here actually. What were you looking for in gamers' concerns? Could you be more specific? I know I didn't put what buttons do what, how exactly the combat system functioned, and how to play like an expert, but I did say that the game's convenience was so great that they didn't need an explanation because they're so simple. I didn't want to spoil my audience with what the full story of the game is because that would eliminate the desire to play for the story. Sure, I put a few spoilers here and there, but they don't really give too much.
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All previous novels put on hold at the moment.

My compilation of all the great guides, Guides' Gate, for those in need of help or review with critiques, grammar, spelling, and other advice.

"These hands of mine glow with an awesome power! Their burning grips tell me to write. Take this! My love, my anger, and all of my sorrow! SHINING FINGERS! Go, go! Go, go! Go, go!" -derived from G Gundam's Shining Finger attack quote.
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Old 06-24-2015, 07:42 PM View Post #5 (Link)
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Originally Posted by GeonamicWarrior View Post
I'm legitimately confused here actually. What were you looking for in gamers' concerns? Could you be more specific? I know I didn't put what buttons do what, how exactly the combat system functioned, and how to play like an expert, but I did say that the game's convenience was so great that they didn't need an explanation because they're so simple. I didn't want to spoil my audience with what the full story of the game is because that would eliminate the desire to play for the story. Sure, I put a few spoilers here and there, but they don't really give too much.
I'm looking at the review from a traditional "consumer" standpoint, not a game enthusiast. Consequently, I don't see how knowing the history of the game or etymology of the title helps me. Additionally, there are a lot of filler sentences that keep me from getting to the meat (meat = details that help me decide if I want to buy the game).

For example, in "Cooking", I have to read about what has been done in past games before I learn about what's done in this game. Such details aren't criminal, but I would prefer to have more direct statements about this specific game than what appears to be eloquent waxing.

Simply put, I want to hear what makes the game fun, boring, exciting, mundane, etc. Instead I get a lot of background knowledge and general statements that don't help me solidify my decision as a consumer.
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