Review: Xenoblade Chronicles
Taking a break from the retro reviews for a moment, I’m going to share my thoughts on something a little more modern. Back in April, I purchased the long awaited RPG, Xenoblade Chronicles. And I am so glad I did. Most JRPGs offer pretty good storytelling in combination with a ton of content. Xenoblade Chronicles is no exception. In fact, this game is packed with so much content that it can be downright overwhelming for some. Xenoblade was one of those games that part of the whole Operation Rainfall movement, so I knew quite a bit about the title going in. But I never expected what was in store for me. In short, this game is nothing short of amazing.
For the last five or six years, I’ve really neglected my single-player console games and focused more on online multiplayer titles. It’s been a while since a single-player game has hooked me the way Xenoblade has. This is a classic JRPG is every sense of the word. The storyline is deep and filled with twists and turns. The characters are memorable, the locales are exotic and beautiful, and the gameplay is filled with complex but unique mechanics. Once of my favorite things about JRPG games is usually the soundtrack. In this regard, Xenoblade also did not disappoint. The music is simply top-notch. In fact, the soundtrack to this game might be one of my favorite game scores of all time – and I don’t make that claim lightly. Yes, this game really is that good. It not only contains all the elements that a true RPG should strive for, but it excels on nearly every single metric.
The game takes place largely on a world known as Bionis. In reality, Bionis is actually an enormous sleeping titan upon which people live out their daily lives. For eons, Bionis was engaged in an eternal struggle with another titanic entity, the mechanical Mechonis.
While the two titans themselves have long been dormant, the people living on Bionis are constantly on defense from invasions by the robotic forces of Mechonis. It is in this world, that the game begins. The story focuses on the character of Shulk, a young man who becomes entrusted with a legendary sword (The Monado). This blade is the only known weapon capable of actually harming the Mechon attackers that frequently raid Bionis. The tale starts with Shulk and his friends as they struggle to deal with the responsibility of possessing such a powerful weapon. But as the game progresses, they soon learn more about the reason for the Mechon invasions and discover some real world-shattering secrets behind the struggle between the two titans.
Xenoblade is a game fill with what seems like endless content. Aside from the main story, there are more sidequests and optional storylines than you can shake a stick at. On top of that, your in-game actions have a real effect on the relationships between non-player characters. These “affinity levels” end up having a major impact on the game as time goes on. A big part of seeing all that this game has to offer is by taking the time to learns all of the ins-and-outs of Xenoblade’s various systems and game mechanics. Quite honestly, unless you’re a very obsessive type of person, it is unlikely that you’ll experience everything this game has to offer on your first playthrough. Needless to say, this makes for an extremely replayable experience.
Now, I’ve been a lifelong fan of RPGs, but I’ve never played this type of game on the Wii before. As you know, the Nintendo Wii has a very unique controller. Believe it or not, Xenoblade does a pretty great job at adapting traditional RPG action to the Nunchuck/Wii Remote. At first, I was a bit confused by the control scheme. But, after a while things started to click and when they did, playing on the Wii Remote actually felt pretty natural. Of course, there is an option to enjoy the game using the Wii Classic Controller if you prefer. I tried it both ways, but actually found the Wii Remote to be my favorite.
If I had to find any fault with the game, I guess I could make the argument that it is actually too long. I clocked in well over one-hundred hours of playtime and even then, I didn’t see every nook and cranny of the game. When I finished, there were still an handful of unfinished sidequests, etc. When I’m playing RPGs, I’m very much a completionist. Having unfinished business in a quest log is something that needles at the back of my mind. But quite honestly, after a hundred hours of play, I was ready to be done.
I don’t mean that in a bad way. I was in no way getting bored or fed up. Quite the opposite, I found myself emotionally invested in Xenoblade’s story. In fact, I was so hooked that I ended up turning a blind eye to my unfinished quests just to see how it all ended.
As I mentioned above, Xenoblade was one of the games responsible for the Operation Rainfall campaign. And if it is any indicator of the types of games we are missing out on here in the west then for goodness sake, we have truly missed some exquisite gaming. It really is that THAT GOOD. While playing this game I found myself in a world so immersive that I was truly in awe by the sheer masterpiece that the developers were able to put together. And despite all of its quirks, this is truly one of the greatest games I have ever played. That being said, part of the wonder of this title comes from discovering it for yourself. With that in mind, I shall say no more and leave this review with the following breakdown.
Version Reviewed: Wii
Difficulty: Hard – Most of the base game is fairly straightforward. However, towards the end there are a handful of boss fights that can be extremely brutal unless you take some time to really think out your strategy. Many of these fights will require shuffling around your party members and making sure they are geared to match the situation at hand. A lot of the optional content in the game, requires A TON of patience and the will to go above and beyond the normal grind.
Story: Xenoblade features one of the greatest stories I have experienced through a video game. It rivals anything that Final Fantasy has brought to the table. Everything from the backstory to the actual ongoing plot of the game is masterfully done.
Originality: This is not your standard RPG. Everything about this title seems to be re-imagined from the ground up. The combat system is designed specifically for the Wii, regardless of what controller you choose to use. The affinity system provides a new take on interactions between your characters and the “fluff” NPCs that typically populate a game world.
Soundtrack: This soundtrack is a must have. Again, it rivals anything from the Final Fantasy series. The song selection seems appropriate for the various areas in the game. Often, the music will change depending on the time of day. Songs fade in and out as you switch zones, making everything seem to fit into place. Listening back to the theme from Makna Village on my iPod, triggers memories that conjure up scenery from the game. Just hearing it, I can almost feel the warmth of the little city in the trees 🙂
Fun: This game is a great way to pass the time. The only drawbacks are that a few of the boss fights seem to be much more difficult than called for. This will lead to some frustration for some. Also, the game is EXTREMELY big. I fear that some players will grow impatient.
Graphics: By Wii standards, this is a work of visual art. Even when compared to other consoles with more graphical power, it’s not too shabby. Despite being a bit pixelated, the developers have managed to create some truly beautiful scenes.
Playcontrol: Overall, the playcontrol is pretty much spot on. There are some frustrations with the camera, so I can’t give it a perfect score, but overall this is not a really big problem. When playing, you can choose between the Wii Remote or the classic controller. Most RPG veterans will probably head right for the classic controller. But, I urge you to give the Wii Remote a chance. It just might surprise you.
Downloadable Content: N/A
Mature Content: Mild language, fantasy violence.
Value: Being a newer flagship game, expect to pay full price for this title. But don’t worry, the $50 you’re likely to spend is worth every penny. The amount of content in the game alone, makes it worth the price – not to mention it is quality content in the first place.
Overall score (1-100): 95 – If you like RPGs and own a Wii, this title is a must have. It’s a darn near perfect game. But, Xenoblade does suffer from some playcontrol issues that, quite honestly, cause some pretty major headaches. Regardless, this is probably one of the top three RPGs I’ve played in my lifetime. Definitely the best in the last ten years or so.
Original System: Wii
Available today on: Switch (Updated as of Spring 2022)
Best Experience: Switch (Updated as of Spring 2022)