Web Toolbar by Wibiya Xenoblade: Chronicles Review (Wii) - Nintendo Friend Codes News Blog
 
When one imagines the Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) genre, thoughts of epic series yielding a plethora of sequels and spin-offs such as Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest come to mind. The era of the Super Nintendo was without a doubt the height of all JRPGs across not only Japan but for Western audiences as well, bringing the release of classics like Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana and my personal favourite Final Fantasy VI. However, these past few years the JRPG genre has been fairly discreet, only bringing the occasional sequel of yet another Final Fantasy game. In Western society we often miss out on some of the greatest JRPG titles, and that may very well have been the case with Xenoblade, but after the valiant efforts of Operation Rainfall a belated American release is little more than a few days away! In a world where Final Fantasy reigns supreme, Xenoblade proves that there is much more to the unique genre than moogles and villains with lovely flowing hair (Sephiroth, I’m looking at you).

Playing as a stereotypical JRPG protagonist named Shulk, a young boy and heir to the legendary mechon-slaying sword known only as The Monado, you and several childhood friends set out on an epic journey to return peace to the feuding nations of Bionis and the mech-infested Mechonis. The player is quickly introduced to the setting of the Bionis and Mechonis: opposite worlds formed on the decaying husks of two giant robots eternally asleep whilst locked in an eternal battle. The whole situation seems rather over-the-top, and this is a given for any game of the genre, but it provides a deep and intricate history that is explains further as one progresses through the game.

Beginning in the quaint area of Colony 9, a peaceful settlement nestled in the Bionis where Shulk grew up, several unique characters are quickly introduced and the story unfolds right before your eyes. Much like most JRPGs the story is integral to the gameplay, and Xenoblade provides one that will have you absolutely hooked throughout your entire 60-70 hour playthrough. Characters are extremely varied and unique, and interaction between each of them during cutscenes, general conversation or ‘heart-to-hearts’ definitely adds to the overall emotion of the story. Although it might initially seem like Xenoblade is just a continuous repeat of running, followed by the obligatory boss battle and then a follow-up cutscene, this is done absolutely perfectly and allows action to be broken up by both exploration and emotion.

Character interaction is also a fundamental point of Xenoblade, as each and every playable character and NPC is registered in a character relationship chart. Getting used to this can be quite a confusing process, but perfecting between your own characters and also other NPCs carries great rewards such as additional side-quests, unique items or powerful weapons.

One of Xenoblade’s greatest gameplay strengths is presented in the form of combat. Aside from micro-managing hundreds of skills, equipment and characters that allow for an infinite number of combinations suited to your own style of battle, combat is extremely simple, fluid and enjoyable. Characters attack automatically similar to the real-time style of battle in Final Fantasy XII and as your characters automatically undergo combat you can assign your main character certain skills to use. You control a party of 3: one playable character whose actions you control completely and 2 AI partners that fight alongside you. Although AI can be frustrating on occasions, casting healing shots at wrong times or running off on their own to fight an enemy on a much higher level, generally this doesn’t affect combat too much. Enemies are varied, each with their own unique strengths, weaknesses and abilities. These are of the utmost importance during some of the later boss battles; without exploiting a certain enemy’s weakness there’s usually little to no chance of a victory.

Though very similar to the real-time battle system of FFXII, Xenoblade does have some very distinct features. Enemies can undergo 3 major statuses (accompanied by several others): break, topple and daze, each of which can be inflicted by several character skills. These ailments are fairly standard for most JRPG combat, but the most unique skill that Xenoblade allows players to use is the ability of foresight. Using the Monado (the absolutely badass mech-slaying sword of the gods) the player can see into the future of the battle in order to prevent an action that might prove fatal to one of the characters. This action is used especially in boss battles, and though it is definitely something that takes a lot of getting used to, using it appropriately can turn an entire battle to your advantage.

Although obviously limited by the Wii’s graphical power, Monolith Soft have managed to push the console to its absolute limits in order to create vast landscapes and stunning scenery. As the player traverses the diverse locations of both the Bionis and Mechonis you’ll often found yourself stopping and admiring the scenery for several minutes between the hectic combat. Xenoblade thrives on these detailed environments, as mediocre character models are made up for by vast landscapes filled with lush plant life such as Gaur Plains and Makna Forest, luminescent floating islands suspended above the Eyruth Sea, the incomprehensibly huge capital of Agniratha and even smaller detailed areas like Frontier Village. Simply explaining it with words definitely doesn’t do the game justice, to understand the true beauty of these environments they need to be experienced firsthand. Even without wondrous HD, Xenoblade still provides an entirely immersive experience in its scenery and pre-rendered cutscenes.

In addition to the spectacular graphics, Xenoblade exhibits a soundtrack created by legendary videogame composer Yoko Shimomura, known for her incredible work in Secret of Mana, Super Mario RPG and the widely-popular kingdom hearts series. Every track in the entire game is memorable, and overall I found this to be one of my favourite soundtracks of all time. Calm and relaxing music played on the Bionis and heavy thrash-metal of the Mechonis expertly distinguishes the two locations from each other in terms of atmosphere rather than simply appearance. Voice acting should also be noted, as a wide cast of British voice acting brings a breath of fresh air to a genre often dominated by horrible voices thrown on as a last-minute localisation (Baten Kaitos anyone?). Certain character voices such as Reyn or Riki tend to get on your nerves at times, but overall the voice acting is of very high-quality especially during tense cutscenes. The additional option of original Japanese voice-acting is also an added bonus for all the weaboos out there that enjoy the sound of a bit of incomprehensible Japanese babbling.

In all honesty it’s actually quite difficult to explain just how much of a gaming masterpiece Xenoblade: Chronicles really is. The perfect combination of story, emotion, perfect character development, fluid and enjoyable combat, infinite customisation, an incredible soundtrack and literally hundreds of hours of gameplay allows for what I believe to be one of the greatest games of all time. Xenoblade definitely deserves much more recognition than it currently receives, and is truly the greatest JRPG of this entire generation. For even the slightest fans of the JRPG genre, this is a game that I highly recommend everyone should play. Operation Rainfall should definitely be thanked for their efforts in permitting the localisation of Xenoblade: Chronicles, for without it Western gamers would be missing out on such a masterpiece possibly the greatest game for the Nintendo Wii console.

Visuals: 10/10 (All in all the best graphics ever seen on the Wii console.)

Sound: 10/10 (A truly epic soundtrack, some of the best songs I’ve ever heard in a videogame. One may have even made me shed a tear…)

Gameplay: 9.5/10 (Exploration through the massive landscapes is utterly incredible, not until you arrive at Gaur Planes do you realise how truly MASSIVE the overworld really is. Cutscenes and character interaction are some of the best seen in a JRPG. Battle system is near perfect aside from some foolish partner AI.)

Completion Length: 10/10 (Main story should take about 60-70 hours to complete, but completionists will find literally hundreds of hours of gameplay due to item collection and several hundred sidequests.)

Overall Score: 98%

So why are you still reading this? Go out and buy Xenoblade!

This has been Ben Qualbert Schuster dedicated Ninty fanboy. 

 


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