04| Xenoblade Chronicles

Released: April 6th, 2012

Definitive Version: Wii; Also On: Wii U eShop, 3DS

If you were to ask any JRPG fan, they would largely agree that the '90s was the "Golden Age" for the genre. Not only was it when the genre came to its own, but so many ground-breaking titles that have aged like fine wine were released then. Titles like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI and VII, Xenogears, Dragon Quest III and V, Secret of Mana 2, Earthbound, the list goes on and on. Not to mention if one were to include the dawn of the new millennium, then titles like Skies of Arcadia, Pokémon Silver, and Final Fantasy X would be included as well. After the early 2000s however, the genre began to slow down a bit.

After another brief boost in quality of, mostly forgettable, JRPGs during the end of the PS2s lifetime, people were waiting for the next wave of quality JRPG titles. The thing was, was that people were expecting games to push the genre more than ever before. Due to the power of the PS3 and Xbox 360, developers were now capable of making much more vibrant and elaborate game worlds than ever. This obviously had many fans of the genre very excited. Unfortunately, there weren't any real quality titles that grabbed the bull by the horns when it came to pushing the envelope. The Last Remnant, while a quality game, didn't really do anything from an ambition standpoint to push the genre that previous games did not. The Mistwalker Xbox 360 games developed a cult fan base, but were criticized by playing it too safe. Most notorious however was Final Fantasy XIII in which failed to push the envelope to the point that having towns in the game was ditched due to them being too "difficult" to do in HD.

The generation was about to come to a close, when finally, a title comes along that truly pushes the genre in all the right ways. After around a two year wait, Xenoblade Chronicles finally reached American shores. It was title that focused huge on exploration with gigantic maps to explore, contained tons of side quests that tie into the main plot, a battle system that was an evolution of the semi-real-time type, and over course a huge epic story that spans dozens upon dozens of hours. If there was juggernaut of the genre that one could point for that generation of consoles, it was Xenoblade Chronicles. But the irony of all of this, is what the game was released on. The title was developed ground up for the Nintendo Wii, a system that was basically inline in terms of power with the then previous generation consoles. It turned out that the most "next generation" JRPG experience was on last generation technology.

So, what made Xenoblade Chronicles so good? To put it simply, it's a game where the developers put every ounce of their effort to make it as great as possible. Xenoblade Chronicles is your typical epic adventure JRPG. It focuses on a group of party members focused on vanquishing evil as they travel along a series of maps and encounter tons of enemies and bosses that the player needs to defeat until they reach the end. Again, it's typical, but it is all so well done. In terms of gameplay the battle system, while having its kinks, is very unique and pretty solid. The enemies, and especially bosses, do a great job in testing one's skills and abilities. The level design is sublime. Not only are the maps gigantic, but they are very interactive, layered, and most importantly, fun to explore. Throughout the maps are multiple secrets in the form of items, monsters, quests, and tons of easter eggs. This is the type of game where you definitely do not want to simply go from point A to point B.

The presentation however is also superb. The game's world just feels so alive with so much going on in terms of lore and politics. The characters are very appealing and likable. And story in general is pretty fucking cool and will definitely suck you in. It's a good thing too because the game is very long. It lasts around eighty hours or so and gives you tons of stuff to do throughout your journey. The graphics are spectacular and when playing upscale on HD, the game could easily pass an Xbox 360 title. While the soundtrack is splendid, with music the complements the atmosphere very well.

Of course, the game isn't exactly perfect. While the story has great pacing, the difficulty doesn't. It's very difficult to have a game that has good difficulty pacing that also puts a lot of focus on side quests. What often happens is that those who do a lot of the side quests will find themselves too overpowered and will be able to blow through the game, while others who just want to focus mostly on the main story will find themselves fighting enemies and bosses that are next to impossible. While the same games that get it more right than others such as Shin Megami Tensei IV or The Witcher III, Xenoblade isn't one of those games. Far too often I found myself getting stuck on a very difficult boss battle in which I had to level up my party two or three levels. This usual took an hour or two to accomplish, and while it wasn't so bad because I mostly did it via side quests, it was very annoying. I feel that much of it is because of how misleading things are. One could have party that is able to trounce all of the surrounding enemies, but then receive a beat down from the map's boss. Being honest in any other game it would be enough to really sink my impression of it, but the highs of Xenoblade Chronicles are so strong that they easily tower over the lows.

Besides that, there isn't much else. As far as I am concerned, Xenoblade Chronicles should be the defacto standard for any "epic" adventure JRPG to follow. Despite premiering at the beginning of this decade it still comfortably holds that title. The developer, Monolithsoft, did make a sort of sequel to the game called Xenoblade Chronicles X for the Wii U. It was similar to Xenoblade Chronicles only that it focused way more on the side quests and way less on the main plot. As a result, the game suffered tremendously. And while the title has its followers, most agree that the originally game was superior. Thus, during the Nintendo's new console reveal, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was announced, the "2" emphasizes that this entry will be more in-line with the first game. Personally, I am cautiously optimistic, but either way, the game has some huge shoes to fill.

Posted by Punk Rebel Ecks Sun, 19 Feb 2017 00:58:26 (comments: 4)
Sun, 19 Feb 2017 06:08:59
The sad part is that such a groundbreaking game was relegated to releasing exclusively at Game stop instead of everywhere. Othee than the weak hardware, this was the other bad part about being on the Wii.

It really hurt the game's mainstream appeal by doing that. If this was a Sony published game they would have had it everywhere and hyped the shit out of it. Nintendo stuck it in a closet like it was the child they didn't want anyone to know about.

Thankfully they seem to have learned their lesson at this point.
Sun, 19 Feb 2017 10:32:06
I really loved this game.  The concept for the overworld was just so great.  Combat was enjoyable, and the story kept me hooked as well.  Many times I thought I was nearing the end, and all of a sudden there'd be 10 more hours worth of game.

I got this on release, thinking it'd be a game that'd disappear from shelves fast, but I didn't get around to actually playing it for half a year.  Once I did though, I couldn't put it down.

Also, to add to Edge's point, I can't believe Gamestop actually held copies back to sell them as second hand copies once the prices skyrocketed.  Such scumbags.

I'm hoping that the direct sequel for Switch will return to the gameplay of this one, as I'm not finding XCX half as appealing.  
Sun, 19 Feb 2017 11:24:54
What I love about these modern xeno games is that they are so user friendly and easy to dip into and out of. I love exploration for the sake of exploration and the OOT anime style story was awesome too.
Sun, 19 Feb 2017 11:25:11
OTT I meant
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