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New York Comic Con 2013
The X Button at NYCC: Friday, October 11

by Todd Ciolek,

The New York Comic Con came up a little short on video-game panels. CAPCOM offered none this year, and Square Enix was similarly absent. Yet Namco Bandai came through with a panel devoted to the Tales series.Tales producer Hideo Baba discussed the upcoming plan for the series in North America, gave away some Tales merchandise, and found time to pose with all of the Tales cosplayers at the panel.

Baba began the panel by showing a lineup of every Tales game released in North America, adding that he “wanted to bring more” to these shores. He also added that Tales of Xillia's worldwide shipped count passed one million copies, thanks to the North American release.

Baba discussed Tales of Xillia 2, due out in North America next year, showing exclusive concept art from the game. Xilla 2 reflects a more futuristic design than the original, and its two main characters are the marginalized employed, deeply-in-debt Ludger Will Kresnik and naive runaway Elle Mel Mata.

Baba showed early concept art of Ludger, clad in a dark, tuxedo-like outfit.

“This design looked a bit evil, so we designed to change it,” Baba said. “We changed the black to gray and the red to light blue, so I think the evil calmed down.

Elle, who Baba described as “the youngest heroine in the series,” appeared in early sketches with a fat, raccoon-like cat named Rollo. The animal slimmed down a bit for the final design.

“Rollo is the mascot character in Xillia 2, so we revised it a number to times to make it cute,” Baba said.

Baba then cued up the first English trailer for Tales of Xillia 2. It presents both a dark tone and a more advanced world when compared to the original game, showing Elle's bloody escape from armed guards before shifting to newscasts, bullet trains, and Ludger's first appearance.

Tales of Xillia 2 will arrive here next year, but before that we'll get Tales of Symphonia Chronicles. The collection includes the original Symphonia, which Baba believes to be the most beloved Tales RPG among American fans, and the Wii-based sequel, Dawn of the New World, both with Japanese and English voice tracks. Baba introduced two new DLC outfits for the game, based on costumes from Tales of the Abyss. Lloyd can wear Guy's costume, while Genis can wear Abel's.

The big announcement of the panel was the special edition of Tales of Symphonia Chronicles. It mirrors the Japanese release's art box, original novel, and four figures: Lloyd and Colette from the original game, and Emil and Marta from Dawn of the New World. The North American edition adds a multi-disc soundtrack. It'll cost $99.95 and have a limited run of 15,000 copies.

“I think the Japanese fans will be kind of jealous of American fans,” Baba said.

There are people who hate the fact that Final Fantasy IV: The After Years exists. Final Fantasy IV ended, they say. There's no point in going back for a sequel that drags out previously resolved plot threads, introduces unnecessary new ones, and recycles many of the original game's ideas. The After Years does plenty of that, but it's also as close to another 16-bit Final Fantasy as fans will get in this day and age. It picks up years after the protagonists of Final Fantasy IV effectively saved the world, and it does its darndest to evoke the same spirit as the original game, even using phases of the moon as a gameplay gimmick. And now The After Years does that once again. Just as Final Fantasy IV was remade in 3-D for the Nintendo DS, The After Years gets a similar overhaul for iOS and Android devices.

This revamped incarnation of The After Years looks a lot like the DS revamps of Final Fantasy IV and III, though this means that the environments are low on detail and the character models stand between the realm of squashed little 16-bit sprites and that of early PlayStation 3-D models. It's not always a pretty sight; my playtime saw Edward, bard-prince of the now-restored kingdom of Damcyan, dreaming of his dead lover Anna—who phased into view first as a wireframe mass of polygons. Battles still happen at random, and they're still on the level of Ye Olde Final Fantasies: turn-based, command-driven, and marked by unique character skills. It lacks the comforting aura of the original The After Years, which looked like a 1994 creation, but the touch-screen controls and widespread tablet might give it another chance to show up its critics.

In some ways, A Link Between Worlds feels a lot like A Link to the Past. From Nintendo's New York Comic-Con demo, one would easily recognize Link to the Past staples like the color-changing hardhat beetles and mini-moldorns that infest a mountain temple. And Link himself looks about the same from a top-down viewpoint, even though A Link Between Worlds gives him a softer, modern look. Yet there are innovations to be found. The demo dungeon alone features a series of springboards that Link must whack with a hammer and maneuver into place. Like all Zelda puzzle elements, they're introduced in simple surroundings and gradually built into harsh challenges.

This is to say nothing of the major gameplay enhancement in A Link Between Worlds: Link's ability to make himself paper-thin and travel along walls like some sentient hieroglyphic. It's used to navigate apparent dead-ends in the demo, but it's a tougher order than it first appears—Link can easily slide off the wall and into a pit if your perspective isn't properly lined up. Not that such a fall means instant death; Link just loses a piece of heart-coded health and gets booted back to his point of origin. This is still The Legend of Zelda, after all.

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