Upon booting up Xenoblade Chronicles for the first time, the player is immediately hit with something that draws them in and captivates them. The title screen opens up on a vast field, with the sky taking up the majority of the screen, giving a sense of the size of the world itself. The focal point of the scene is the red sword buried point-first into the ground; the Monado, the most important piece of the plot of Xenoblade. A gentle song begins, as the dramatic notes of a piano draw the player in further, and one notices what appears to be pieces of ancient mechanisms lying in the background. Pieces that seem to hint at the threat they will soon face.
Dawn breaks as the music explodes into an emotional orchestra that somehow invokes wonder, sadness, and curiosity. As the sun arcs across the sky and day begins to fade into night, the music calms down and the Monado begins to glow. This simple title screen was enough to keep me staring at the scenery for a solid five minutes as I listened to the gorgeous soundtrack. It’s so well thought out and perfectly executed; just like the rest of the game.
Xenoblade Chronicles is an RPG game developed by Monolith Soft that was first released on the Nintendo Wii on June 10, 2010. It was later ported onto the 3DS in April 2015. Ten years after its initial release, a remaster of the game would come out on May 29, 2020 promising many new improvements such as a remastered soundtrack, revamped models and UI, and an upgrade to the side quest system. This remaster delivers on all of this, and as the title of the game claims, is the definitive way to play Xenoblade Chronicles.
The story begins with two warring titans, called the Bionis and the Mechonis, that fought each other for unknown reasons until both titans eventually stopped moving. In the present day, both Mechonis and Bionis are home to numerous societies of living organisms who are, sadly, at war with one another with the Homs (the name of humans in this game) that live on Bionis on one side, and the Mechon (machines from Mechonis) on the other.
The main story begins one year after the biggest battle between the Homs and the Mechons yet. The journey follows Shulk who, after a massive call to action, sets off on a tragic, heartfelt, and epic journey across Bionis to get revenge for those fallen in the war, learn the truth about the mysterious red sword called the Monado, and find out why Bionis and Mechonis are locked in an eternal conflict.
This simple description cannot fully give justice to the story being told here. This is easily the strongest aspect of the entire game as the journey will bring so many unexpected twists, turns, and emotional moments that the player never knows what to expect next. An event occurs around three hours in that will shatter every expectation the player has for the story, sets the tone for the rest of the journey, and locks the player’s engagement so much that it is hard to put down the game. The visions of the future that the Monado grants Shulk continue to leave players invested throughout the rest of the story as a sense of mystery or dread is always tied to them.
Over the 60 to 80 hour journey, one will explore topics such as revenge, loss, forgiveness, dealing with responsibilities, ethics, seizing control of your future, living one day at a time, and more. There will be tragic losses, desperate and tense battles, heartfelt moments, epic combat sequences, and the occasional funny moment all tied together with voice acting that can send shivers down the spine. The cast of this game is absolutely phenomenal, with Shulk in particular sounding incredible, which further adds to the emotion of the story. I cannot praise this game’s story enough and it easily falls into my list of top ten stories ever told and has permanently left an impact on the way I view storytelling as a whole.
There’s a newly-added post-game epilogue as well called Future Connected for the player to experience and which gives further closure on one of the characters in the game while expanding the world. This should only be done after beating the game as it features a new combat system and takes place after the main events of the story.
Arguably, the biggest issue with both the Wii and 3DS versions of Xenoblade Chronicles when they were first released was the visuals. The models looked old and clunky, even for a Wii game, and felt quite dated. The Definitive Edition fixes all of that. The new character models look amazing, matching the environment and showing more expressive emotions than the old models did. Shulk can be clearly seen gritting his teeth when he is frustrated or squinting his eyes when observing something.
The same can be said for the rest of the characters as well, and this really helps flesh out most of the cutscenes in the game when compared to the original. Paired with the ability to have any clothing be displayed on the characters, regardless of what equipment they are wearing, can really help personalize a player’s journey.
The UI was reworked from the original, giving it a more open feel while exploring, and a nicer-looking menu when paused. The damage numbers are easier to see, and Arts (basically skills) display a little exclamation mark when you are in the right area to make their use effective (such as behind the enemy, which can get a little confusing due to how large some enemies are). The menus are all clear and it’s obvious where each menu option will take the player.
The environments are both vast and beautiful, with each location having a day and a night variant which can drastically alter how some places look. With the nighttime, in particular, having some really gorgeous views. It is worth checking out each location during both day and night as the time can be easily changed from the menu. Every area has something unique to offer, from the giant open fields of Gaur Plains to the massive waterfalls in Makna Forest. You’ll see meteor showers in the starry night sky, giant factories, trees adorned with glowing lights, and beams of light rising in the distance across a snowy landscape. All the while, the player can always see parts of either Mechonis or Bionis in their journey, a reminder that they are traveling on a once-living titan. There is never a disappointing sight in this game.
The soundtrack was composed by Yasunori Mitsuda (composer for Chrono Trigger and Inazuma Eleven), Yoko Shinomura (the Kingdom Hearts series and some Mario and Luigi RPGs), and Manami Kiyota (composer for some songs in Super Smash Bros.). These three are stars in the industry and as such, Xenoblade Chronicles is a musical marvel in almost every moment. Just as the visuals change from day to night in every area, so too does the music, bringing a wide array of songs, from the upbeat jam that plays in Colony 9, to the solemn yet hopeful song in Refugee Camp, to the intense battle track that is You Will Know Our Names. With the best track of the entire game being “Engage the Enemy.” This song plays at a near-unforgettable moment, etching its way into the player’s memory permanently, bringing both hype and dread when it plays again.
And the absolute best part of the soundtrack is that you can change from the remastered version to the original at any time, with the result that the amount of music in the game is effectively doubled. It’s really hard to even say which version of the soundtrack is better as both are phenomenal and fits the tone of what is currently happening on screen perfectly. There is no shortage of musical talent in this game, and one might even say the composers truly spoiled the players with the quality and quantity of music on display here.
The combat of Xenoblade Chronicles is what players will be interacting with the most, and just like everything else, it offers a deep, rich, and satisfying experience to those willing to learn the system. The player will only be able to control one of their party members directly at any given moment without the ability to switch mid-battle. The game also uses auto-attacking, which can turn off some people.
Despite that, the game still provides plenty of depth in its combat system. The real way the player interacts with the combat is by the use of “Arts”, which can have unique effects such as dealing more damage from behind, lowering physical defense when used from the side, or inflicting one of the three major status effects in the game: Break, Topple, and Daze. Breaking an enemy makes them susceptible to Topple, toppling an enemy knocks them down which prevents them from attacking, and Daze keeps the enemy toppled longer. This does mean that these statuses have to be used in that order, which can be achieved by equipping the right Arts on your party members.
Party members will have different Arts available to them and different roles within the team. It’s important to have a team that can manage those statuses, as well as heal and draw aggro, with aggro being how enemies determine who to attack. To match up with all of this is a Chain Attack system that allows the player to deal massive amounts of damage. As the player battles, a blue bar will fill up in the top left, and once full, the player can exhaust it to do a Chain Attack.
In a Chain Attack, the player can choose one Art for every party member to use, which can allow the Player to instantly daze an enemy. What makes this even more devastating is that there’s a chance to get another action with the three characters in the party depending on how close they are to each other (as can be seen by the Bonds Menu). The downside to this is that the player will not be seeing many repeat chain attacks until late game, but it’s more than manageable up to then. As more repeats are added, it will be easier to increase the Chain Attack multiplier by using Arts of the same color during the Chain Attack which will boost the player’s damage until the chain attack ends.
Just as Shulk can see visions of the future in the story, he can also see visions of what the enemy is going to do in battle. These visions show devastating attacks that must be countered using a Monado Art. A Monado Art is an Art exclusive to Shulk, and can be used to block or dodge attacks, allow party members to deal damage to Mechon enemies, or do a giant damaging slash. As the story progresses, Shulk will gain more Monado Arts to use, including ones I have not listed. This is combined with the aforementioned Break, Topple, and Daze system and a wide variety of team compositions.
The game is incredibly satisfying to get the hang of as you turn an uphill battle into one where you counter the enemy’s moves, keep the enemy pinned with your Arts, and masterfully weave Chain Attacks together to deal massive damage. As a side note, the characters will often refer to each other in combat when healing another or helping someone out, or even when losing or winning. This further adds to the sense of camaraderie, and truly makes the group feel like they are fighting as one group instead of three individuals. This is a VERY simple explanation of how the system works and the player will need to figure out for themselves how to master said systems.
If the player is ever confused on how the combat works or seeks a more in-depth explanation than the tutorials given, there are plenty of guides out there that will help the player understand how the combat works. Otherwise, turn on a Casual Mode to breeze through most battles with minimal knowledge of the combat system and enjoy the game purely for the story.
As stated in the Visual section, the world is both vast and beautiful to look at, and the visuals themselves are a massive reward for exploring. With over 400 side quests in the game, the player will have tons to do while exploring. However, I think this part of the game aged poorly. While the side quests are the fastest way to get experience points for your party they can and will get tedious after a while. Most of these are fetch quests or killing a certain number of enemies, with a few that elaborate more on the relationships of citizens in the city you are exploring, but these are more rare than the fetch quest ones.
The good news is that the player can get these out of the way pretty quickly since everything is marked on the minimap and are usually easy to accomplish, which used to not be the case in the original.
By using each member in combat more, the player can unlock heart-to-heart conversations around the world that increase bonds further. These are all well-written and further demonstrate how the party members interact with one another. Heart-to-hearts are by far the most rewarding part of exploring, and as long as the player is switching up their party every once in a while, they should be seeing a lot of these conversations as they explore and fill out their side quest catalog.
Xenoblade Chronicles is a long game, around 60 to 80 hours to beat depending on how much side content you want to see, but it truly is a game that keeps on giving if you are willing to invest the time into it. Those willing to master the combat system will find a truly enjoyable experience that rewards the player for experimenting with the different options, while completionists will not only get a large amount of XP and gold but also learn the inner intricacies of each city they visit and how the townspeople all get along with each other.
Providing both an excellent gameplay experience that is only slightly bogged down by the sheer number of side quests in the game, beautiful visuals, a soundtrack composed by three masters in the field, and a story that rivals the great fantasy epics, Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition receives a 9.7 out of 10. You absolutely can not go wrong with this game, and if you have the time to play it, this game should be picked up.
|Game||Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition|