There is an ongoing debate in the gaming community. Many seem to think the Japanese-style role-playing genre is dead. They say the Western-style has taken over for better or worse. To those non-believers I say this: JRPGs live on. Nintendo and Monolithsoft have created a masterpiece in Xenoblade Chronicles for the fading Wii console. Everything in this game shines. The story, the cast of characters, the gameplay, everything comes together in a package that is well worth the price of admission. Final Fantasy can learn a thing or two from this game. Just make sure you have a lot of time to spare. Once Xenoblade Chronicles hooks you, it takes you on a long ride that doesn’t slow down until the credits roll.
Being on the Wii may give some people pause. The graphics aren’t high definition, but this is a perfect example of why graphics don’t make the game. The views are still stunning and the character models detailed enough. The gameplay is fluid, only slowing down if there is a great deal of action during a battle. Xenoblade allows you to use either the wiimote and nuchuku or the classic controller. I tried both and preferred the classic controller myself. I also found it amazing they were able to cram such a huge game onto one disc.
Not many games I’ve played recently have provided a reason for me to care a lot about the cast of characters. Xenoblade’s cast definitely scratches that itch. Yeah, there are some bad jokes, and the characters can be overly dramatic, but I was legitimately emotionally involved. The voice acting was on point. There was genuine personality given to each of the characters. One character sounded a lot like Ricky Gervais , which made his bad jokes even funnier.
Xenoblade Chronicles also has one of the better stories I’ve experienced in a while. It begins with a battle between the Mechonis and the Bionis, two giant beings looking to destroy one another. They injure each other to the point that they stop moving. It is revealed that these giants are actually home to different beings. The Mechonis is home to the Mechons, which are machine-like in nature. The Bionis houses the Homs, or humans, the Noppon, and others. There is a great war between the Mechons and Homs. A year later, we meet the main character, Shulk. After a great loss, Shulk and his best friend, Reyn start off on a quest for revenge that turns out to be something much bigger than they ever imagined.
Aside from the main story, there are literally hundreds of side-quests you can undertake. These can range from simple fetch quests and monster hunting quests, to rebuilding an entire colony. Xenoblade has the traditional gain experience and level up system with a twist. Practically everything you do earns you experience, from completing quests to just finding landmarks, you’ll gain experience, ability points (AP), and skill points (SP). These AP and SP can be used to enhance each character and allow for some customization depending on your play style. There is also an Affinity system that tracks how much the relationships between characters grow, which in turn provides you with added skills and perks. Characters can even collect and craft gems to enhance their gear.
There are no random encounters, which is a god-send. Enemies roam the field of play. Some may attack you if they see or hear you, others will only attack if provoked. The battle system is fast-paced. You have three characters fighting at a time. You directly control one character, most times it’s Shulk. The character uses regular attacks automatically. You can choose to use different acquired skills, which will have to recharge after use. These have different affects , such as causing status ailments, knocking an enemy over, etc. The system is easy enough to grasp, but difficult to master. One thing I did learn the hard way is that level-grinding can be necessary at times, especially toward the end of the game.
The only complaints I have about Xenoblade Chronicles are skin deep. Sometimes the action can get really frantic where one wrong button press could cause a 20 minute boss battle to end in disaster. There is a pop-up menu which allows access to the options, quests,etc. If you don’t exit out of this menu , it stays up and can lead to you unintentionally going to a menu when you mean to talk to someone or battle an enemy. Oh, and the name of the sword Shulk uses (which also plays a big part in the story), the Monado, is a stupid name for a weapon. With awesome sword names like Masamune and Excalibur, Monado just seems weak.
I loved Xenoblade Chronicles. It was a refreshing take on the JRPG. I hope gaming companies see how well this game works and take notes. I also hope that gamers don’t discount this game because it is on the Wii. We need games like this to balance out the endless stream of shooters and sports titles. With great characters, well-designed gameplay, a thoughtfully touching story, Xenoblade Chronicles provides over 100 hours of awesomess that should not be missed.
-Well thought-out story
-Touching cast of characters
-Fast-paced, tight, and balanced gameplay
-Tons to do. The game can last over 100 hours and there is a New Game + available upon completion
-Why didn’t this game come out sooner? The Wii could have used more games like this