Xenoblade Chronicles
  • Genre:
    • Action RPG
  • Platform:
    • Wii
  • Developer:
    • Monolith Soft
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 05/10/2010
    • UK 08/19/2011
    • US 04/06/2012
Score: 80%

This review was published on 09/27/2012.

Xenoblade Chronicles is an action role-playing game for the Nintendo Wii, which is a rarity in itself. It's similar to the Elder Scrolls series, in that it's an open world game with so much to do, you may need an entire life time to do it all. I like to refer to it as the Japanese take on Skyrim, even though it did come out before Skyrim. It's sort of like a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, except offline. Xenoblade Chronicles is made by the company Tetsuya Takahashi is president of, Monolith Soft. Takahashi was also the director of Xenogears for the PlayStation and the Xenosaga series on the PlayStation 2. This guy sure likes to put "Xeno" in his video game titles, doesn't he? At one point, it seemed almost certain that Xenoblade Chronicles would not make it to North America. In response to this, a bunch of fans of the game started an Internet campaign by the name of "Operation Rainfall" to try and convince publishers to localize the game for the U.S. The game did eventually arrive in North America, though whether Operation Rainfall had anything to do with that remains to be confirmed. Xenoblade Chronicles does deserve its Western release, but it's not as great as its multitudes of fans may claim.

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The game starts off with an enormous cutscene explaining the history to the world of Xenoblade Chronicles. Two giant titans, the Bionis and Mechonis, were locked in combat at the world's creation. These titans eventually died in battle, and their dead husks became home to civilizations of people and robots. The humans, referred to as Homs, were born on the Bionis, and the robots, called Mechon, were created on the Mechonis. Eons later, these two civilizations became engulfed in a great war against each other. The Homs used a sword that's similar to a lightsaber to temporarily thwart the Mechon. This weapon is called the Monado, or the Xenoblade, as can be seen by the game's title. I like the cutscenes showing off the very end of the war. These scenes have impressive visuals and are choreographed well. One year after the war, the focus is finally shifted to Shulk, the protagonist of this story. I really don't like that name, by the way. Shulk was living a peaceful life in town until it all fell apart when the Mechon decided to attack. As cliche as it sounds, Shulk's town gets burned down and he decides to take the Monado and set off on an epic quest to defeat the Mechon once and for all. The plot doesn't get much better from there, to be honest. Be prepared to play for many hours with little to no incentive beyond a desire to get revenge for what the terrible robots did to your hometown. Xenoblade Chronicles is lacking in the plot department.

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If you played Final Fantasy XII, then you have a good idea of how the combat works in Xenoblade Chronicles. It even looks similar, with those "aggro" rings and targeting lines everywhere. This game isn't ashamed to show where it got its inspiration from. The way fights works is simple: the player targets an enemy and then enables battle mode. Characters will automatically attack the targeted enemy during battle mode, and the player can use abilities in real time. All abilities have a cool down period, so the player must wait for a few seconds between uses of the same ability. The abilities are what make the battles at all interesting, being that they're the only things preventing combat from becoming a waiting game. Abilities are presented in a bar at the bottom of the screen, kind of like those ability bars in various MMORPGs. Players can only have a certain amount of abilities equipped to this bar at any one time, so great care must be taken when preparing for battle. Abilities range from spells to melee attacks and have many different attributes. Some abilities do increased damage from behind, others stun enemies, and there's a full range of support abilities like buffs and heal spells. It pays to use the right ability at the right time, though I find that most battles regress into cycling between all of the available offensive abilities. The cool down of the first ability I use is usually done by the time I use my last ability, so I end up just spamming abilities until I win. That strategy has never failed me. The battles could be more interactive.

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This is one exploration heavy RPG. There are many towns in the game, and they're all huge. The game has no shortage of expansive fields to explore, too. I find the most impressive area of the game to be the first one. It's a big town surrounding by an even bigger field and it's all rendered in real time, with no transitions in between. That's not to say that the game never has a transitional loading screen, but the first area is particularly devoid of them. The graphics are fairly decent, too, especially considering that this is being run on the Wii. There are a ton of environments; fields, jungles, forests, beaches, etc. Endless hours can be spent simply exploring these giant areas. It's a good thing this game has a fast travel system that enables instantaneous transportation between landmarks. Many enemies prowl these outdoor locales, most of which will drop goodies if you kill them enough times. Random items spawn on the ground, as well, which livens up the experience of revisiting previously explored areas. You'll always discover something new in the massive world of Xenoblade Chronicles. Players are also rewarded for exploration by getting experience points, skill points, and ability points whenever they discover a new landmark. It's clear that this game's greatest strength is the wide variety of areas it has available to explore, all of which are gargantuan in size. Xenoblade Chronicles sure knows the way into an explorer's heart.

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The other big focus in this game is its side quests. As a general rule of thumb, every town and city will hand you a gigantic checklist of optional things to do. If you want to do side quests, then this is your game. There is literally no end to them. Well, there is, but it's unlikely anyone has the sheer will required to do them all. I certainly didn't. The side quests are very monotonous, because they all consist of either killing a certain amount of monsters or gathering a specific quantity of items. Very rarely will a side quest require you to do something else, and none of them are interesting. These are the kinds of side quests where you turn your brain off as you do them. I can't imagine anyone who would find the side quests in this game entertaining. What I do like about the side quests is how you don't have to return to town in order to complete them. As soon as you complete the objective, the quest is done and you get your reward. I don't understand how this works from a game logic perspective, but I like it. What I don't like is how townsfolk give you side quests individually. The typical townsperson has 5 or more side quests to give you at one time, and you have to talk to them 5 or more times to accept each individual quest. I would rather have the ability to accept all these quests in one go. Not that this would make me like the side quests any better. Side quests are a good way to add replay value to a game, but that only works if they're genuinely fun to do. There is nothing genuine or fun about Xenoblade Chronicle's side quests.

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Xenoblade Chronicles is a Japanese RPG on a scale like almost no other. Everything about this game feels endless; the towns, the overworld, and the side quests. It's a colossal game that can easily take over 60 hours to complete, especially if you plan to take on its optional content. The graphics are good enough for the Wii and the cutscenes are all right, if uninteresting. Many people will view Xenoblade Chronicles as the Wii's swan song, and it's not hard to see why. This game is not without its faults. The story is dull, the combat is repetitive, and the optional content isn't worth doing. Xenoblade Chronicles is a good game, but its goodness is greatly exaggerated.

Word Count: 1,427

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