Note: This is my first review of a game, so consider it a work in progress.
Xenoblade Chronicles is a massive game and it’s kind of mind boggling that they fit it all on a New 3DS. The original game came out in 2012 for the Wii in North America and was met with critical acclaim. It was heralded as a new chance for Japanese role playing games to succeed in the current state of games. It seemed to reinvent the stale genre. In 2014, Nintendo announced a port of the game to the “New Nintendo 3DS” which is basically an enhanced version of the 3DS.
Xenoblade Chronicles has a very inspired setting. There are two gods that had a battle eons ago and are now the landmasses that living creatures inhabit. The Bionis is where the Homs live among other sentient beings including the High Entia and Nopon. The Mechonis is where the hated Mechons live, who seem to live to eat and terrorize the Homs. The story follows Shulk and his compatriots who live in Colony 9 on the Bionis. The story picks up a year after a major attack by the Mechons on Bionis.
Much of the story centers around a mysterious sword known as the Monado which is very effective at destroying the Mechons. However this blade seems to be unusable by most who try to use it and one of the major characters in the story, Dunban, nearly lost all movement in his arm after using it in a battle. The plot picks up after it is learned that Shulk can not only use the Monado but also receives visions of future events when he uses it.
The story turns into a revenge plot after a significant attack happens on Shulk’s home. Shulk and his friend Reyn swear to destroy all of the Mechons so the Homs people will stop getting attacked. This leads them to find more compatriots who are sympathetic to their cause.
I want to stress that the game has numerous plot twists that are really well done for the most part. The first major twist is pretty by the books and entirely predictable. However, the last plot point was one of the best I’ve ever seen in the medium of video games.
Review: This is my first review, so I will be introducing you to my highly scientific reviewing method.
The 5 review criteria that I have set are: Gameplay, Presentation, Sound, Performance, Plot/Lasting Appeal.
Xenoblade has a massive world and has a multitude of things to explore. I beat the 3DS version in 70 hours, but could have done a lot more had I done more sidequests. Sidequests can be very intricate and some are very interesting in the context of the characters of the game.
You will do a lot of collecting in the game, including new equipment and materials. There is also a feature called Collectopedia where you are tasked with collecting all of the materials in a certain area. You then are rewarded for adding them to the Collectopedia with items.
Xenoblade’s combat system is very MMOish in the fact that the combat in the game is based on cooldowns of your abilities. Also, most of your attacks in the game are auto done by the character you control. A lot of the combat in the game involves using buffs and debuffs to overpower the enemies you will be fighting.
A main part of the combat is Shulk’s ability to use the Monado. Shulk receives visions of the future which manifest themselves as viewing some of the attacks that an enemy will make. You are then given a timer that counts down until the attack will hit. With the time counting down you will be able to change the future with different abilities. It is a very interesting concept and really freshens up the gameplay.
The music in Xenoblade is incredible. Mostly composed by ACE+, the soundtrack covers a whole gamut of emotions. I put this soundtrack up to most any game I’ve played and was crushed when I learned that the sequel did not use the same band for the soundtrack. Here is a live version of my favorite track: Mechanical Rythm. It’s pretty great.
Another thing to note in the Sound category is the charming English dub of the game. The voices were all done in a UK studio, so it lends a charm to the voices. Reyn might be one of the best voiced characters I’ve come across.
The port of the game is very impressive, but has its drawbacks. The game does not look as good as the Wii Version (especially on the Dolphin emulator) and the HUD is really cluttered. Besides that, the game is so colorful it makes up for the drawbacks in presentation.
The game runs fine for the most part, I had a few slowdowns in some boss fights when a lot of enemies show up on screen. I docked it mostly because the game froze on me in a late game boss battle and cutscene.
Like I said before, Xenoblade Chronicles has a great story with a lot of twists and turns. I applaud the audacity of the development team for doing this.
Also when it comes to lasting appeal, Xenoblade Chronicles has a boatload of it. I finished the game at around 70 hours, but did not do most of the sidequests. I intend to play the game again and this time it will probably take me over 100 hours to complete.
Xenoblade Chronicles is a great game, but playing it on a 3DS has some drawbacks. This is not the definitive way to play the game in my opinion. The game is still worth playing wherever you have the capability, however.