Xenoblade was released in Japan last year, but Western gamers eager for a slice of free-roaming role-playing action have been left waiting for an English-language release. While a firm release date has yet to be locked down, Xenoblade will be appearing under the name Xenoblade Chronicles later this year on the Nintendo Wii. Though our hands-on with the game at this year's MCM Expo was brief, we did get a flavour of what to expect from this upcoming role-playing game.
Our journey through Xenoblade Chronicles started in a large green field, surrounded by glassy blue lakes. Our character, Shulk--the lead protagonist--was wielding a typically massive sword and had a partner who followed him around. Taking control of Shulk we explored the lake area, admiring the surrounding mountain ranges and vivid green fields. As we moved down towards the shoreline of the lake, creatures that looked like giant crustaceans appeared. While they were clearly enemies for us to battle, we couldn't do so straight away. To fight, we had to access a menu and select Battle before the enemy would engage us.
Once engaged, we got to grips with the battle system. Battles took place in real time but were semi-automated. Normal attacks, such as the swipes of our sword, happened automatically at regular intervals, while more damaging "breaker" attacks had to be launched via the menu system. Our enemy attacked us too, curling up into its shell and rolling itself towards us. We could dodge out of the way most of the time, but its fast speed often made it tricky to avoid, costing us valuable health points. Our partner lent a hand, hacking away at the enemy while we dodged it, decreasing its health points. Eventually, we destroyed the creature, which left a chest containing items in its wake.
We decided to take those items to a town to see if we could make use of them. We brought up a world map and warped to the nearest town, where we encountered its inhabitants. Most of them were friendly enough, regaling us with tales of monster battles while we explored the many wooden shops and houses. One particularly talkative citizen kept trying to convince us to try the local curry, but sadly our giant sword wasn't well received by the proprietor of the curry restaurant. Others offered us side quests, such as collecting items for them or killing monsters outside the town. Many citizens were also keen to tell us about ether, which is the substance that all living beings are made out of in the Xenoblade universe--even monsters.
Unfortunately, there was little else we learnt about the story from our hands-on, though Nintendo mentioned that it revolved around a war between humans and monsters that had been raging for many years. Though it's hardly the most original of setups, we were promised that the tale would evolve over the course of the game, with new areas of the world map opening up for exploration. Judging by the sheer size of the world map we saw, Xenoblade Chronicles players will have plenty to explore too. Look out for it when it launches on the Nintendo Wii later this year.