Magic is a very personal tool. It can be used to empower or enslave, create and destroy, and set certain special people on their journeys of self-discovery. In this way, while magic can have a direct impact on the world, that impact is typically made through the people who wield it. In video games, it’s basically a given that magic is going to be part of it if we have a fantasy setting, and while it’s interesting to see new takes on people wielding magic and how it affects societal divides and the growth or stagnation of cultures, I was faced with a new way of interpreting magic when playing Tales of Vesperia. This magic could be harnessed by living creatures, but humans were only just learning how to tame the beast, so to speak. This magic was, at times, violent, mysterious, and a more visceral threat than the main antagonist of the game: an interpretation that more pieces of fiction should utilize.
I talk about Western games and game developers a lot on this blog, the most common one being Bioware. Despite my unwavering adoration for these companies, I admit it took a while to develop. My first love will always be the JRPG. Admittedly, from a Western American-centric mindset—which is the mindset I’m typically in—these sorts of games rarely ever come off as progressive or anything more than a fun romp through a fantasy world (with strangely religious undertones, as with my experience). Thought-provoking, sure, but not progressive. However, sometimes I’m lucky enough to find moments that give me pause and make me rethink my position of enjoying these games on a purely detached level.
Recently my brother and I started playing Tales of Xillia, the thirteenth game in the Tales series. For the most part, the game is standard fare: big bad is trying to destroy the world and our party of heroes have to stop them. One particularly interesting thing about this game, though, is that the player has the choice to decide between two protagonists, Jude and Milla. I love that NamcoBandai finally gave the option to play through the eyes of a female-presenting character while not punishing the player for choosing either of the two (everything is still accessible, some scenes are merely different due to their different perspectives). But this post isn’t about gameplay mechanics: it’s about characters!
As I’ve only just finished the first act in what looks like a five act game—I’m avoiding spoilers at all costs—I can’t speak with the wisdom of someone who’s completed the game. This won’t stop me from speaking on something that Xillia handles better than a lot of other JRPGs I’ve seen: the love triangle.