However hyped and attention-hogging the next-gen consoles may be, the fact remains that there are an awful lot more current-gen consoles sitting in peoples living rooms and threatening to start gathering dust. So it makes sense for games publishers to continue supporting them with new games, but with so much attention on the PS4 and Xbox One, any new fodder for the PS3 and Xbox 360 is most likely to be quirky and cultish rather than mainstream.
Tales Of Xillia 2 a PlayStation 3 exclusive is certainly off-beat. Its a classic, old-school Japanese RPG, which will trigger reminisces of old Final Fantasy games. Story-wise, it takes place a year after the events of the original game, and stars the teenager Ludger Kresnik as the main protagonist (although he assembles a band of like-minded characters as the game progresses). Visually, Tales Of Xillia 2 offers up the manga style that JRPG aficionados more or less demand, as well as the moderately bonkers storyline, which majors on fantasy, plus the occasionally steampunkish settings, are thoroughly in keeping with how the game looks.
Proceedings start with the trials of a sub-character, Elle a cute but sassy little girl whose father appears to be gunned down in front of her. She must get to the mythical land of Canaan by getting on a certain train. Meanwhile, Ludger is about to start a job as a chef at the same station Elle is leaving from. He ends up sneaking onto the train, and the journey proves disastrous (essentially as a means of teaching Ludger how to fight). The pair, plus Jude Mathis (one of the original games main characters) fight a baddie who resembles Ludgers brother, and wake up massively in debt to the medical company that resurrects them.
That debt-repayment, apart from offering mild (and inadvertent) satirical commentary on the modern dependence on student loans and the uniqueness of the NHS in the 21st century, adds a key structural element to the game, as it means you must take on random jobs (mostly involving finding objects and killing specified amounts of particular monsters) in between story elements, adding a welcome element of non-linearity.
In familiar JRPG style, the gameplay consists of walking around solving untaxing puzzles, punctuated by battles when you encounter enemies. The battling system is pretty good although, typically, its explained in an utterly baffling way. Luckily, the early enemies are easily dispatched, so you soon work out how to get the best out of it. The key element involves teaming up Ludger with another member of your party, which brings you different types of devastating attacks. As you accumulate different types of Artes (the games word for magic, essentially), you can change the style of your special attacks according to the enemies you encounter. As the game progresses, you find different weapons, too, including a pair of guns which are useful against robotic baddies.
Anyone who developed a taste for JRPGs via the likes of the older Final Fantasy games will love Tales Of Xillia 2: it observes all the JRPG conventions, is utterly charming and has loads of that uniquely nutty Japanese ambience. But if you arent a specific JRPG fan, youll probably find it unnecessarily complex and above all unutterably cheesy. The dialogue, in particular, is often emetically twee, and if, for example, the prospect of a mini-game involving finding cartoon-style cats and sending them out to collect items for you doesnt appeal, then Tales Of Xillia 2 isnt for you. For those who have a deep affinity for JRPGs, however, it offers the perfect excuse to remove their PS3s from hibernation.