GAME NAME: Xenoblade Chronicles
DEVELOPER(S): Monolith Software
PLATFORM(S): Nintendo Wii
RELEASE DATE(S): April 6, 2012
When Project Rainfall first began its fight to bring Xenoblade Chronicles stateside, many people had the same reaction: “It’s too bad Nintendo doesn’t want to bring their more Japanese-centric games to the USA, but is it really such a good game? Is it worth all the fuss?” Well, the great news is that the people who formed the group had good intuition after all; Xenoblade Chronicles not only met my expectations for a great Japanese Role Playing Game experience, but it exceeded them in almost every way possible.
With no attachments to Monolith Software’s previous works of a similar titles, Xenogears and Xenosaga, Xenoblade Chronicles features a fairly standard story of a peppy group of conventional anime characters who are attacked by mechanical beings called the Mechon, and go off on a grand adventure to save the day. It’s acceptable, if not inspired, but the dialogue between characters is fairly well written, and the voice acting saves the day here. The European voice cast is exceptional, understanding the nuances needed to make the characters feel unique and underplaying dialogue that in any other JRPG would come across as cheesy and would have been overacted. This is one of the only JRPGs I’ve ever played in which I was able to take the performances seriously throughout the whole experience, with the exception of the slightly overacted villains, who thankfully don’t appear too frequently.
The combat of Xenoblade Chronicles, though, is the meat and potatoes of the game, and it’s exceptional. Playing out in real time and with no random encounters, Xenoblade is built for ease of use without sacrificing depth. There are a multitude of ways to build your characters, and this will impact your combat strategies. Everything feels streamlined, from the ability to fast travel at any time to any location in the game, to not having to return to quest givers after completing them, to your party’s autohealing abilities at the end of every level. It feels like Monolith Software was actively aware of the issues that many have had with the Japanese development strategy over the last decade and addressed every one of them. It should be noted that while the Wiimote is serviceable as a controller for Xenobalde Chronicles, I highly recommend picking yourself up a classic controller. The Wiimote makes it much more difficult to adjust the camera, something that I couldn’t handle. It’s more than worth the investment for this game.
What this results in is a game that retains the Japanese tradition of telling a linear story, while allowing the player to explore a wonderful world, but scraps many of the laurels that the genre has rested on for far too long. And it is a truly wonderful world, breathtakingly expansive and with sidequests everywhere. The world of Xenoblade Chronicles takes place on the bodies of two titans who are frozen in place, locked in battle. One is mechanical and one biological, and the worlds that you travel across reflect this on various parts of their bodies. The inspired and intricately detailed world is what makes up for the uninteresting story, as you’ll always want to progress to see what extraordinary vistas await you.
And the funny thing is, this is a Wii game. I’m really not sure how Monolith Software managed to cram these breathtaking vistas and a draw distance that extends a full mile around onto the visually impaired system, but they did, and it goes a long way toward making it the most visually impressive game on the system. It hurts, in a way, because it makes me want to see what the game could have looked like had it been developed for, say, the Playstation 3, but if we have to live with the Wii’s visuals then this is the best way to do it. Characters look great from a distance, with a huge variety of customizable armor, but when the camera moves in during cutscenes their blurry bodies and goldfish mouths do hurt the presentation a bit. Still, during most of the game you’ll be exploring the game’s expansive and impressive environments, so it’s easy to overlook the game’s visual shortcomings. The game’s score is epic and memorable, tying the whole package together.
Xenoblade Chronicles is a great game, and it bodes well for the future of the genre. Hopefully more Japanese developers will have a look at what Monolith Software has managed to pull off. I think that a lot of Japanese developers have seen a decline in sales in the West but have misinterpreted them as a sign that American gamers just want games with big, burly dudes with huge guns. That’s not what it is at all; it’s just that games like Mass Effect and Skyrim have improved upon the core foundations of prior games and as a result we have received games that are easy to enjoy while retaining a sense of satisfaction. Japanese games, meanwhile, have stalled, and as a result we haven’t seen any games offering up anything new for quite some time. Xenoblade Chronicles does just that, and for that reason it is a must-buy. Support this forward-thinking Japanese RPG and enjoy all the splendor that it has to offer, because game’s like these are few and far in-between nowadays.
A copy of the game was purchased by PixelJumpers’ staff for reviewing purposes.
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