pepsiman's Tales of Xillia (PlayStation 3) review

Tales of Xillia: A Saga of Integrity Amidst Advancement

On the modern video game message board, few sentences can perhaps be more predictable than ones that contain both "tradition" and "Japanese developed RPGs." What those words mean to you personally and, in turn, whether it's a good or bad thing that they're so regularly paired up is, in this instance, inconsequential; they're so ubiquitous that when those less than gifted in the art of articulation start arguments about the latter, it is all but guaranteed that they cannot be had without an utterance of the former. That much, if nothing else, we can all probably agree upon, yet leave it to Tales of Xillia to throw something of a wrench into all of that. If it's traditional, it's only because it inherits many of the basic mechanics that defined previous Tales entries, designed themselves to be somewhat paradigm-defiant with their real-time action gameplay. But if Xillia isn't traditional, it's because it isn't completely content with maintaining total status quo. Even if the narrative backing it all up doesn't always live up to its end of the bargain, the end result is an intriguing one done largely right, managing to retain what has historically kept Tales games traditionally unique while still unafraid to bring some very appreciable enhancements. [Reviewer's Note: This review covers only the contents of the Japanese edition. A localization has been announced for North America and Europe that is set to be released in 2013 and while in all likelihood the content will remain the same or possibly even enhanced, as has occasionally been the case with Tales games, no guarantees can be made either way.]

It certainly does look Tales-y up in here at first glance, but there's a lot more to it now.

This means that on a functional level, Xillia winds its way through a lot of familiar territory. It's most explicitly true with respect to the battle system, which still takes place in real-time, relies on combo-heavy combat based on moves you can equip and swap out at any time, and still features full battlefield navigation in addition to specific enemy targeting. Likewise, other aspects of Tales-style fighting such as highly adjustable party character AI and an Overlimit meter that can be occasionally triggered to really turn the tide in your favor are also fully intact. Naturally, though, combat specifically isn't the only thing that remains alive and well in Xillia. If you've gotten accustomed to things such as auto-levelling for non-fighting characters, various optional conversations that pepper exploration segments, and dungeon crawling, among numerous other things, chances are pretty good that you'll be able to get up to speed relatively quickly with a lot of Xillia's basic gameplay tropes if you've been keeping up with the series post-Symphonia.

However, it's the things that have been added or changed, both on the periphery and within its mechanics, that makes Xillia shine so much as a Tales entry. Even if much of the foundation belying Xillia's mechanics remains philosophically the same, so many minor and major things are new to this entry specifically that it's apparent the series is thankfully not content to rest on its laurels. Leading this charge is the battle system. While the ally AI customization systems have allowed you to foster some sense of teamwork by letting you tell your companions in somewhat specific terms how you want them to act in various situations, Xillia takes it further by letting you directly team up with other party members now with what's dubbed in the game as "Links." Through Links, when you pick a character to team up with through the D-Pad at any point during battle, they'll orient their actions more directly to what specifically you're doing, as well as how enemies are treating you. For instance, while they'll help out offensively either way, if they notice that you're railing on a particular enemy for a while and racking up large combos, they'll set you up for unique combos by doing things like juggling your target in the air and other such things. They'll also try to position themselves advantageously in relation to how you face your current main enemy so that their blind spots can be hit and, ideally, trigger critical hits that are always welcome. There are also naturally special combo attacks that you can trigger when your Overlimit meter reaches specific notches and when that same meter is full, can be used to actually string multiple combo attacks together. If you're competent enough, you even switch Linked characters on the fly to keep the combo going until the meter runs out. Typically, your linked AI character serves to help you do your job better offensively and since they're still driven by AI protocols of your design, they'll still go off and do other helpful things when the opportunity presents itself.

The purple guy upholds the Tales standard for screechy mascot characters, but he does know his way around a fight, thankfully.

If all they did was help you kill enemies faster, though, then the Link system wouldn't be particularly noteworthy for much anything aside from being a helpful footnote in an already well-developed combat system. The big reason it stands out as a new addition to Xillia is because triggering it also enables the other characters to help you better in more subtle ways. While it begins with them auto-positioning themselves so that a given enemy is being attacked on multiple sides, it hardly stops there. Any character that's linked up to you is also capable of fending off other enemies that might try to butt in on your skirmish and they'll engage them for prolonged periods if necessary so that you can keep doing your thing. If things get especially hairy, though, they'll intervene defensively and attempt to take harsh blows for you by rushing to your side and putting themselves between you and the enemy.

Furthermore, each character you hook up with has their own unique abilities that are triggered during Links. If, for example, you spot enemies that are heavily relying on items to survive, one character is really good at stealing them and adding them to your reserves post-battle, while another character is especially good for defense due to their knack for auto-triggering a magic shield for major spells the enemies will spew. You can even swap out your party members with extreme ease in the middle of battle, should you find yourself in need of somebody with specific abilities at that moment. Linking also enables you to share non-AOE healing spells and buffs with your partner, even if that also comes with the caveat of sharing the occasional status effect, should either of your incur one. When Xillia first introduces the Link system, some of these finer points are initially more difficult to notice than the obvious offensive ones, a consequence of the Tales' series often hectic battles, but as the game moves onward and the difficulty ramps up, their interventions become a lot more obvious and make the system as a whole a highly welcome new gameplay mechanic.

When you and your partner really click, it fosters a good sense of kinship.

That being said, the ways in which Namco has touched up many of other systems outside of battle are also significant in their own ways and, in some cases, prove to be just as major as the Link system. For starters, the levelling system now enables you to manually control the stat point and skill progression of your individual characters by giving them a few points at each level that can be spent on a grid. Each point on the grid corresponds to a specific stat increase and when you complete entire portions of the grid, that's when additional skills are also unlocked. Given Xillia's length, it's not inconceivable that you'll end up unlocking a lot of the offerings for each character anyway, but the grid is expansive enough such that you can still influence where, when, and how characters grow. You're also able to ask the computer for recommendations on how to progress and can have everyone auto-level with those exact choices, should you not wish to spend so much time fiddling with everybody's levels and want to play the game in a more streamlined manner. It's also possible to do this with each character's set of passive skills based on whether you want them to be more offensive or defensive in battle, or a decent mixture of both.

While the Link system and levelling systems are Xillia's most distinctly new gameplay assets, there are also a lot of smaller features that go far in streamlining the overall experience. These other features largely revolve around the "quick"-centric buzzword that have long defined PC games and that means the game includes things like quick saves, quick restarts for major battles, and quick travelling. They all mostly work as advertised, although it should be noted that while quick saves do save your position and status anywhere in the world, you can only load those saves from the main menu; you're otherwise limited to save point-created save files when loading through the in-game menu. Quick restarts for battling proves to actually be the more important feature in Xillia since not only can you restart failed boss battles and the like within a matter of seconds without reloading a save and going through tedious cutscenes again (all of which, it should be mentioned, can be skipped anyway), but the game actually lets you change out your equipment, attacks, and skills before actually starting the battle again so you can start off on a better foot. As for quick travel, since travel in the game is now done by walking through individual zones rather than just by roaming a large overworld map as in previous games, you're now allowed to warp to any place you've previously visited as long as the plot would allow it. Unless you're doing a lot of the game's side quests, this feature will go largely unused except on the very few occasions you actually need to backtrack, but it's still a nice thing to have for making that process go faster. Complimenting this is an objective notification that you can bring up on the screen at any time that concisely summarizes what exactly the task at hand is and can even be changed out to depict specific side-quest objectives instead. Taken together, these and numerous other minor changes do a lot to make Xillia an RPG whose interface and mechanics are intent on being as unobtrusive on your enjoyment of the gameplay experience as possible. Considering how dense with systems and information Xillia still is, it's nothing short of remarkable that it manages to achieve this feat.

The person who voices this guy also did Persona 4's Yosuke, which is fitting, considering he also has a terrible personality and hates anyone who's different, too.

In the midst of all of this renovation, it's a disappointment to see that the same level of attention wasn't given to making Xillia's plot feel particularly refreshing. Taking place in a world where humans and spirits coexist in a mutually beneficial relationship, the game focuses on the travels of Jude, a 15 year-old medical student unsure of what to do with himself, and Milla, a confident guardian spirit of sorts intent on preventing the overall world balances don't go out of whack who also happens to take the form of a 20 year-old girl. Their main objective is the destruction of a super-weapon dubbed the "Spear of Kresnik," capable of absorbing the world's spirits and the mana that holds everything together in the first place. Along the way, Jude and Milla naturally accrue a party that eventually grows into six people, all of whom have their own secrets and motivations for tagging along with the pair as they do their work.

On its own, Xilla's plot is perfectly serviceable and does a good enough job pushing you along from one setting to the next, but nearly all of the specifics so greatly resemble past Tales games that hardly any of the story will likely prove to be surprising to series aficionados. Anybody familiar with how the series has typically portrayed the various character tropes will be able to more or less know from the second they meet them how their basic arc will pan out and, in turn, what level of importance they'll really have in how things end. That's not to say that parts of the story aren't without their high notes; like most Tales games, Xillia's biggest narrative strength is still in character dynamics and despite the fact that the cast itself might not be particularly original, the party members do bounce off each other well and have a decent number of entertaining moments. There are some characters whose motivations and antics, as well as the cast's general reactions to them, become increasingly questionable as the game moves forward, but at a fundamental level, Xillia's characterizations are typically serviceable. It's just unfortunate to see a game that otherwise does so well at introducing change in the exact places it's necessary without losing the Tales identity that the narrative is so stagnant and comes off as the most traditional part of the entire package.

These two really deserve to be on more equal footing in terms of narrative.

That being said, Xillia doesn't completely lack an experimental spirit with its storyline. Even on that front, Namco has seen fit to try and change things up by allowing you to "pick" either Jude or Milla as the protagonist. I say that in quotation marks because the actual effects that the decision has on the gameplay and story experiences are pretty minor in comparison to what that sort of decision normally implies. While the box and game itself are keen on having you believe that your choice will grant you drastically different insights into the same overarching plot, the reality of it is much smaller in scope. Since both Jude and Milla spend the majority of the game's plotline together, you're largely seeing things unfold the same way no matter what, with the choice only really coming into play on the rare occasion when the two actually split up for an extended stretch. During those instances, you'll only see what happens from your chosen character's perspective, but beyond that, there's no real tangible impact to be felt in who you choose. The choice doesn't even usually affect who you can play as in battle since, like with other Tales game, you can choose to play as whoever you wish to fight so long as the plot allows for their presence. This means that not only can you choose to main Jude in what's supposed to be Milla's story or vice versa, but also any of the other supporting cast who tag along with you for the journey. From a gameplay perspective, this is obviously fine and a feature that's otherwise completely appreciated, but it's still worth noting in this context since it can further lessen the impact that your choice in protagonist actually has on the game as a whole.

Much more egregious from a design perspective, however, is how the story is treated due to this split. While it's true that the specifics of the plot largely stay the same regardless of who you pick, the structure is imbalanced such that the beginning of the game can either be coherent or an utter mess depending on your initial decision. Should you pick Jude as your protagonist, the game will spend a good amount of time properly building up the general world and lore, enabling you to slowly acclimate to Xillia's inner-workings and, in turn, provide character motivations for their actions. Milla's beginning is completely lacking in this and instead of providing a unique prologue of her own that properly sets things up for her storyline, it begins by simply dumping her an hour or two into the midst of Jude's at the point where they meet. The result of this is an opening segment that feels rushed and filled with a lot of very presumptuous references that the game doesn't go out of its way to explain since no changes are made from Jude's storyline about how the proceedings are presented.

Pictured: a non-confusing portion of Xillia's opening. It's most likely this way because it's not in Milla's introduction.

These problems would largely be moot if Milla's storyline had been locked until completing the game as Jude, but the fact that you can actually pick to play as her first before Jude and that her story still makes the assumption that everybody already knows the basics of Xillia's world anyway is a big problem. Players who start the game not knowing about this are essentially making a big gamble that will greatly affect how understandable the opening segments will be. Either they get Jude and they're steadily introduced to the game's setting without feeling lost or they get Milla and receive virtually none of that. If it's the latter, one can easily get the impression that Xilla's plot is much messier than it ultimately is or, at the very least, should be. The disparity is so extreme in the opening segments that playing Jude's part first will ironically yield a better initial understanding of Milla's character and her drive than picking Milla herself. Xillia is so long that you'll spend plenty of time getting to better know the cast and what's going on in the larger scheme of things either way, so while it's not conceivably impossible to get up to speed should one pick Milla, the game still expects you to know too much about what already happens in advance to make picking her a sound choice despite having her readily available from the get-go.

That being said, those problems aren't enough to derail all of the things Xilla still manages to achieve overall as a Tales game. This extends into the artistic realm as well. Although the game's music and sound design are serviceable enough, it's Xillia's visuals that are the noteworthy portion. Employing a cel-shaded aesthetic style with a bit of a deliberately rougher look compared to most of the cleaner-looking implementations like in Tales of Vesperia, the game is typically quite pleasing to view. It's one of those games where, on a technical level, you can find some things to nitpick here and there when things are still, but since Xillia is always concerned about moving you forward, those chances don't come often. The character's facial expressions in particular are really well-done, exhibiting an emotional range and level of nuance not seen since last year's Catherine. Those animations alone go a long way towards bringing life into a cast that otherwise might not always be the most engaging that the Tales series has ever produced.

Even at its worst, the framerate in Xillia is always much higher than what this still screenshot will ever achieve.

Overall, the only major knock to be had against Xillia's graphics lies in its frame rate. While it's often extremely stable both inside and out of battle, there are a few stretches of the game where things such as a large number of projectiles can very visibly drag the tempo. It's hard to know for certain how much of a hit the frame rate takes in those instances without proper equipment, but it felt like the battles were going a half to a quarter of the speed at which they normally flow. The frame rate improves once those enemies disappear and thankfully the number of times you'll likely encounter those sorts of fights can be counted on one hand, but it's still unfortunate that the drops happen in the first place, especially considering that underlying technology admirably handles other types of intensive scenes in the game with ease.

It's easy to say on a fundamental level that Xillia is a textbook Tales experience. Your understanding of how a Tales-style battle is conducted will not change that dramatically, nor will that be the case with how you approach character growth and, likewise, how the game and its characters generally conduct themselves. The fact that these systems still function well and are fun to play largely as they are is a testament to how solid the foundation is, but it's the way in which Namco still went beyond that and refined a lot of the basic systems that ultimately ensures Xillia is still a progressive game. There's still room for improvement, especially in how having the dual protagonists should have been handled, yet Xillia does so much right as both a Tales entry and an action RPG in general that there's no need to be so cautious about it. If nothing else, it does an admirable job continuing its franchises' largely single-handed effort of reminding one that sticking the two words "Japanese" and "RPG" together do not inherently equal the manifestation of just one sort of gameplay paradigm. For the sake of all those message board debates, that can only be a good thing.

14 Comments Refresh
Posted by Mento

Thanks for the review. I got hooked on this series, generic anime warts and all, after a friend of mine introduced me to it. She's American, so I've had to live vicariously through her tales (as it were) of playing The Abyss and Legendia, but I'm glad to see that more of the franchise (including Abyss, come to think of it) is becoming available in Europe too. It's a little odd that we've suddenly risen in the estimations of Japanese RPG developers, especially if the games featured in Project Rainfall were anything to go by, but I'm not going to spend too long looking a gift horse in the mouth.

All that said, Graces F is released on this continent this month, so maybe I'll focus on that one for now. Unless you'd rate Xillia higher? I beat Vesperia earlier this year, so I'm probably going to wait until 2013 to play a new one anyway.

Posted by Pepsiman

@Mento: I barely played any of the original Wii version and while I wasn't particularly fond of the experience, it was such a short jaunt in what's now not considered to be the definitive version that I don't hold much value in it anymore. The general consensus seems to be that Graces F features some of the franchise's better combat mechanics and one of its more controversial plotlines, so I'll probably pick it up when it's a bit cheaper later in the year.

And yeah, it's interesting to see the general political shift that's been going on with RPG developers over there in recent times. There are a decent number of instances where the international versions actually sell better than the native Japanese one because of how small the market is becoming on its native turf, so I wouldn't be surprised if stuff like that was influencing decisions in addition to players becoming more vocal in general. I'm planning on writing a blog hopefully in the very near future that touches upon some of that sort of stuff that I've seen, having seen how the Japanese market ebbs and flows with my own eyes now.

Posted by metalsnakezero

Nice Review. Xillia kinda take a step back in places for something that Namco was building up to after Graces F and Vesperia. Still it pretty solid and happy to see likable characters.

@Mento: I recommend getting Graces F since it has a good pacing in both story and combat.

Posted by PixelPrinny

Good write up, can't wait for this to be released over here.

Posted by Phatmac

Thanks for writing this and answering my questions before! It seems as the story is what you should expect from a Tales game which is disappointing, but not surprising. I'm not sure if I wish to play another Tales game after my frustrations with Graces F. I feel as if I've moved on from this franchise since most of what it does doesn't appeal to me anymore. How would you say this compares to Tales of Graces? If you haven't played it than fine, I'm just worried that I'll get tricked into playing yet another Tales game again. I'm not sure that I want that again. I'm glad that this looks different from previous Tales game such as the art style. Regardless, thanks for the review. This has helped me immensely. Keep it up Pepsi!

Posted by Pepsiman

@Phatmac: I plan on playing through Graces F later in the year when I can get it for cheaper, so I can't really comment on that, although I did play a tiny slice of the original Wii version, for what that's worth. Like I wrote in the review, while I do think it's a better-playing Tales game in a lot of ways, it is still a Tales game at heart, so I can see why someone burnt out on the series might not be so keen on playing it. A lot of Japanese players seem to be less into it than I am, judging by Amazon Japan reviews and the game's very swift market price decline post-launch, so I may very well be in the minority for liking it as much as I do.

Posted by Phatmac

@Pepsiman: Well I trust your judgement on it so I'm curious in checking it out. I'll probably get it when its cheap or something. Graces F just burned me on the series as I despised it immensely. I hope Xilla can break my expectations.

Posted by tutuboy95

Great review. I've been looking forward to this game, and while it's a little disappointing about the plot, I can't wait to pick it up when it hits stateside.

Question, though. How would you compare this to other Tales games in the series, particularly the more recent ones, like Abyss and Vesperia?

Posted by Pepsiman
@tutuboy95 In terms of battle mechanics, I feel like Xillia is more reminiscent of Vesperia than Abyss. There isn't any of the skill stuff for weapons and whatnot this time, but the general pacing and the way various character classes operate feels similar to what Vesperia otherwise had. Beyond that, new enhancements aside, the various sub-systems operate more or less how you would expect. Since it sounds like you've been privy about the series already, I imagine Xillia should be perfectly easy to get into. Like I said, it makes a lot of good changes to the Tales formula where it's needed, but it's otherwise hardly an unrecognizable experience.
Posted by Encephalon

So, is the plot basically about a bad guy using ancient magitech to conquer the world, and the epilogue has the party destroying/deactivating it all and the world has to figure out how to live without electricity and stuff? Cause that's what happened in the three other Tales games I've played (Abyss, Symphonia and Vesperia).

I really don't know why I play these games, because I really do find them just so boring on the narrative level, but it's pretty colors and killing stuff is fun. I am my own worst enemy.

Posted by Pepsiman

@Encephalon: Yeah, there's a bit more to it than that, but all the other periphery stuff has also more or less been done in the other games, but it basically boils down to what you wrote. Like I wrote, some of the character dynamics are pretty amusing, but a gripping plotline is not what I'd call one of its strengths by any means. I'm basically in it when it comes to Tales games for the same sorts of reasons you are, so if nothing else, you're not alone when it comes to your quasi-masochism.

Posted by McGhee

Awesome. Didn't even know about this game until reading this. I really look forward to it.

Posted by paulunga

"Even if the narrative backing it all up doesn't always live up to its end of the bargain"

Why would I even want to continue after that? I absolutely hate Tales' rote storytelling and characterization. Hell, one of your screenshots states that this one still has the furry mascot bullshit. I like many genres, I don't just eat up every JRPG that's thrown in front of me because that and Mega Man are the only games I care about. Have fun with your 2000 shallow systems stacked on top of each other.

Posted by Pepsiman

@paulunga: If you're going to deconstruct and critique my review, that's great, I love it, and I don't mean that facetiously in the least bit. But I'd appreciate it if you're going to base your entire argument on one cherry-picked quote, at least do it based on the thesis statement that I conveniently provided right after the part where you closed off your excerpt, since that's where I answered that exact question about what made the game worthwhile to me and is ergo the entire foundation for my arguments in general, not wholehearted, favor of the game presented in the review. But to reiterate, the basic idea is that despite my own reservations about the narrative, I found the quality of the gameplay to compensate sufficiently enough for a wonky, but not entirely meritless storyline that I could enjoy it, especially since refinements have been made over previous iterations. But since you seem like you prefer to battle through quotes, I'll reply to each and every one of your individual claims just so things are hopefully clear on your terms.

Why would I even want to continue after that? I absolutely hate Tales' rote storytelling and characterization.

If you want more out of a game than just solid gameplay, that's your prerogative. I understand that as the video game medium matures, the demands placed on its individual pieces can and should be evaluated more critically. Things evolve and it's only natural that we consult precedence for what works in relative terms in the here and now. If you want the cake that has both good storytelling and goodplay and be able to eat it, that's a suitable, understandable goal. There are thankfully games that are capable of doing that and, wouldn't you know it, I appreciate those, too. But that's also only but one of many philosophies a developer can adopt when making a game; surely to enforce only that one as the de facto ideal paradigm carte blanche would be a detriment to the medium's progression as a whole. Who are we to say what's right and wrong for the present and future state of video games when we are but one person, consumer, developer, or otherwise? Tales of Xillia cannot and thankfully does not live in a genre or gameplay vacuum, thankfully providing just one sort of design philosophy out of many others that are prevalent in modern games. You don't have to support it, much like I don't have to support any games you may actually like. The medium is so broad that all sorts of design ideas can be healthily accommodated. Who knows? Maybe there will come a time when Namco sits down, thinks hard to itself, and decides that maybe it should try its hand at making a Tales game that feels good to both play as well as watch unfold. Until then, I liked this one for what it was and I'm ultimately okay with you not liking it, as well, even if I get the impression that the feeling is not necessarily mutual.

But I digress. When I examine games, I tend to take the approach of determining what the overall mission the developer was trying to achieve in creating the game and then subsequently determine two things: 1. whether they achieved what they set out to do in some capacity and 2. how that resonated with me personally. There's obviously a lot more that goes into how I ultimately form an argument and decide the subsequent score, but those are the two basic criterion. In this case, if you were to boil down my review according to those things, you could say that: 1. I noticed Namco wasn't keen on completely revamping the Tales experience, but instead preferred to elaborate upon the existing foundation and make some meaningful improvements, indicating a clear and obvious focus on the gameplay over the story, which, wouldn't you know, is a viable route taken throughout much of sequel development. 2. Those changes made a positive impact on the overall playing experience behind Xillia to me personally and therefore influenced my favorable reception. In short, different strokes for different folks. Maybe the game just wouldn't be good enough for you and I understand that I'm not qualified to make that judgment for you. You seem cognizant of that fact, since that's ultimately what your heated, but clearly articulate remarks indicate, but given the passive aggressive ferocity behind your words, I find it slightly worrying, as surely my review isn't the first one you've encountered that gave thumbs up to a set of gameplay mechanics and the overall setup of a game or series that you personally dislike. Or at least I hope not. If not, I'm honored to be your first.

Hell, one of your screenshots states that this one still has the furry mascot bullshit.

My bad. You actually referenced more than one part of my review in forming your argument and I didn't notice. But perhaps you saw that I agreed with you in saying that was a demerit against the game? Or maybe you didn't, which, in that case, for the record, I did and still do. The character in question was certainly one of the more aggravating parts of the narrative for me and overall not the best of ideas the Tales team has had when it comes to dreaming up a good supporting cast. I can easily understand why that would be a turn-off, but like I wrote earlier, I don't write these reviews attempting to pretend I know what somebody else wants out of the game or, ultimately, if it's even for them. I do it to provide a personal perspective on what my experience was with the game and what I came away feeling about everything after it was said and done. Knowing that, the natural thing to conclude about my sentiments about that character yet again is that, yeah, it really sucks having to put up with him, but his presence isn't domineering in the grand scheme of things to me and don't override all that I thought Namco accomplished in creating a gameplay experience that gave me personally a good time. I would never presume to know whether anybody else has a thick enough skin to get through it, hence why I never made any such blanket statements about how other people should feel about the game. For me personally, I was content with being able to never have him join me on the battlefield and that made the parts where the narrative wouldn't let me ignore him bearable, since the gameplay time skews much more heavily towards combat and exploration over watching cutscenes. Even in the best of games, you usually have to cut your losses at least a little with some aspect you like and, for me, that was likely the biggest one. But it still wasn't that big overall. That's just me talking, though. I don't know how you'd feel if you sat down and played it. Probably not too keen on it, judging from your statements, but I'll never know.

I like many genres, I don't just eat up every JRPG that's thrown in front of me because that and Mega Man are the only games I care about.

Good for you. It shows you're open-minded about games. We always need that in a market dominated by absolutes. Apparently that doesn't necessarily extend far enough for you to feel that maybe I have discerning tastes in a variety of genres, too, but I won't ask you to page through my achievements or look at my review history on here. I can't stop you from thinking whatever you want to think about me and, honestly, I'm only giving you the time of day here because I find arguments like these are good at keeping myself in check. Sometimes I get a little complacent when it comes to the largely positive reception my reviews get on here and it does the brain good to engage somebody in a debate. It reminds me that I'm not all that after all and that there are indeed critics like yourself that have things worth addressing, whether it's just within the bounds of a comments section or within my future work. I also just happen to have a massive fetish for walls of text and enjoy having an excuse to basically vomit one out of my brain. Not sure where the Mega Man remark in particular came from, though. Maybe you spotted my very flattering review of 9 that I wrote on here about four years ago? Beats me. That was an isolated incident. There is a chance I could be deluded about my own tastes and lack your sense of refinement, in which case, I probably have a poor sense of differentiating games. I won't deny that.

Have fun with your 2000 shallow systems stacked on top of each other.

God help me if I had six pages' worth of text to write about this game and it turned out that everything I experienced over the course of 30 hours was a shallow, shallow lie. I enjoy writing these reviews. Clearly I do or else I wouldn't be spending my time writing this response to your remarks. But I write only as much as I have to say and that's usually dependent on how much the game gives me to work with. Considering I do all of this free, I'd hope that it was time well-spent if I thought a game justified producing that much writing out of me. Turns out that I found a lot of stuff to work with in Xillia's case and, as I detailed in places, I thought there was some nuance underneath it all. I thought I did a good job of backing up that particular part of my argument, but maybe I didn't and I failed as a writer. Maybe your idea of what's shallow and deep differs from mine, much like our apparent tastes. That's okay too. Like I wrote earlier, the crux of your argument seems to be, "Why do you like this type of game I despise?" and the answer to that continues to be, "Because I'm not you and it turns out that means I like and dislike different things." That seems as applicable here as anywhere else.

I don't know if you're going to read all of this and that's fine with me. I've told you why I replied to you and it certainly wasn't just to indulge you. And if you have more things to say about this review or any of my other reviews, well, I can't and won't stop you, since I'm able to do to the same to your work, should I ever feel inclined to do so. I probably won't because, let's face it, doing this is draining, even to the extent that you did and I'd hope I could be at least somewhat more productive with my time on occasion. (It's very likely I wasn't in this instance, either, but that's how much I liked what you had to say.) I'd never deprive anyone access to my work simply because they were a contrarian. How am I supposed to improve myself as a writer if everybody is just a yes-man? Just know that even if you find yourself in complete disagreement with everything that I ever have to say, I write with the conviction that the only things that go to print with my name attached to it are the ones whose contents I fully believe in and am willing to stand by. I understand how publishing even what's ultimately a pretty frivolous review like this one always involves gambling with one's reputation. I'm happy to take criticisms and I know it's futile to try and please everybody. That clearly wasn't the case with you and that's just the reality of being a writer. I know that I can always improve my work, but at the end of the day, that's my basic code as a writer. I try to uphold all of that by providing supporting arguments as thoroughly as I can and whether or not I succeeded on that front for you as a reader is something I cannot control. Apparently I didn't, since it seems I'm just like every other weeaboo RPG lover to you, from the sound of what you wrote. Maybe I am, maybe I'm not. Better luck next time either way, I suppose. Thanks for spicing up my evening and reminding me that my ego is something worth keeping in check.

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