|Tales of Xillia|
Story for this one is split into two perspectives. The main story isn't different, regardless of who you choose... but some parts will focus on whichever character you chose. Anyway the story is about Milla's mission to destroy the items known as Spyrix and more specifically, a weapon known as the Lance of Kresnik. Jude gets dragged into her mission by accident and continues to follow Millia... obviously he is attracted to her and follows her around like a lost puppy. Along the journey you'll meet the lovable and mysterious Alfred, a little girl with powerful artes called Elize and a strange living doll named named Teepo who bites Jude's head, Jude's childhood friend and token Tifa character named Leia and finally Rowen, the elderly man who's wise and a gentleman. I'll stop the story recap there because... spoilers are kinda jerky. Besides, I'm sure a lot of you have already bought the game and maybe still playing through it.
Well joy of joys! Unlike Tales of Graces f, the gameplay has returned to the classic styles with a couple changes for the better. There are a few tweaks to talk about and all are given tutorials that can be referred to at anytime in the menu. The combat has a new linking system which allows you to partner up with a party member to pincer attack a target and support you. While linking you fill a gauge that allows you to perform linked artes and when it's completely filled, you can chain linked artes and go into Over Limit.
Your attacks are restricted to a certain amount per cycle, but each cycle is as quick as the normal "Tales of" games unlike Tales of Graces f. Its so much better then Graces f since you can get skills that increase the maximum amount temporarily by performing a certain number combo and they can keep stacking as you fight. Also, the fact that it's cycle is the same as say... Tales of Symphonia makes combat fast like Tales of Vesperia, but more enjoyable since you can rake up really high combos... like maybe a 627 hit combo like I did with a minimum damage skill.
As for the leveling system, they've borrowed and improved the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X. They essentially played with it in a way that's easy to grasp and can actually be filled at the max level. Each level earns you points to use on the Lilium Orb(this games Sphere Grid) and you chose which direction to go on the varying paths of the spider web. Filling a complete segment will earn you a skill or arte and each node is a stat boost. It's simple, easy to use and each character's Lilium Orb are unique to each character.
Speaking of Final Fantasy X, the progression of the game is the same. No more boring world map! It's travel the world on foot... with a fast travel option to get around to previous locations. Despite that, it also isn't linear like Final Fantasy X and XIII are. I feel this style has improved the game and makes the journey feel more important and epic like all those helicopter shots from The Lord of the Rings movies. I love JRPGs in general and this game really nailed the adventure for me.
The game has a whole bunch of sidequest/sub events to keep you occupied between story events, though some can and maybe even be missed during your first playthrough. The sidequest are the usual styles of kill this, get that item, deliver that and extra story events to flesh out the characters. I'd suggest trying not to miss any because they really do help fill the back story of the characters and get to know them better.
To top of the sub events to flesh out characters, Skits make a return to do the same. Skits have always been a thing that draws me into the interactions of the characters and no other JRPG does this disappointingly. There are so many story based skits to enjoy and a whole bunch that require a prerequisite to see. If you care about the characters of a narrative, you'll want to get as many of these as possible.
The title system is different in this entry. The title system has been downgraded to an achievement system with some giving you trophies... yay, but they also earn you grade points for reward after beating the game. The rewards are worth it in the end for the unique advantages you can unlock and some of the titles are worth getting for the joy of proving how good you are. You will need to replay the game to unlock all the titles but it's totally worth it.
Random loots litter the roads, towns and dungeons throughout the game. These range from money, enemy drops and other items. The items you find in random loot are used to upgrade the stores... yeah, you can fund the shops with the junk you find to unlock more gear and better items. This is a must if you want the best gear and you may even get better equipment before you really need it. Best thing, all the shops share the stock so there's no need to back track to other towns just for specific items.
Overall, this is one of the best games in the "Tales of" series. A great story coupled with great combat and really great music and visuals, makes it a great experience. With an improved combat system and no world map travel to slog through, this game is more accessible then ever. I highly recommend this game to both veterans and newcomers alike. Personally I still like Tales of Symphonia more than this for story, but this game has the best combat of the series and it's worth replaying at least twice.