Xenoblade Chronicles Review

Xenoblade Chronicles is a sublime, wonderfully paced game that both refines and modernises the Japanese role-playing game.

UK REVIEW--It begins with an epic battle, a clash of titans in a world without time or form. The scale, the scope, and the vast expanse of the gameworld are established in this moment. The two giants collide, swords clashing in the misty gulf of the universe, and developer Monolith Soft makes it very clear that you're about to embark on something special. Much like the thundering behemoths that mark the game's opening, Xenoblade Chronicles is groundbreaking. It's a true evolution of the Japanese role-playing game, shedding the restraints that have caused the genre to stagnate, while retaining the tropes that made it popular in the first place. It's fast-paced yet in-depth, challenging without being punishing, and features a combat system that draws on the best parts of the RPG world, both Eastern and Western. It's remarkable to think that this understated release--which sadly hasn't even been confirmed for North American territories--might justifiably be hailed by many as one of the most important JRPGs in years.

In the millennia since the titans--Bionis and Mechonis--faced off against one another, their corpses have become entire worlds, populated by a variety of races and species. The game proper opens onto conflict. Colony 9, home to the main protagonist, Shulk, sits at the base of the Bionis' leg. The soldiers of Colony 9 are facing off against spindly mechanical foes--Mechons--in the crumbling, ruinous battlegrounds situated on one of the giant's thighs. The opening battle serves as a brief tutorial featuring party member Dunban, and then you're catapulted one year into the future where peace has settled once more. Shulk and his friends Reyn and Fiora have managed to rebuild their lives in the wake of the Mechon attack. Naturally, the peace is soon shattered, and the Mechons return. Xenoblade does a fantastic job of easing you into the story, encouraging you to explore the expansive Colony 9 and come to the aid of its residents before launching into the tale proper. It's an example of the superb pacing which is prevalent throughout the game.

While Xenoblade Chronicles has numerous areas in which it shines, its combat is paramount to the overall experience. Action takes place in real time, with enemies immediately visible in the field. Some enemies are aggressive, others passive, enabling you to pick your fights wisely. In the beginning, fighting involves choosing one of a series of attacks. Rather than simply requiring you to choose a command then sit back and watch, each attack has certain criteria that can be met to power it up or achieve a status effect. Attacking from behind with certain abilities causes extra damage, while attacking from the side with another can lower physical defence. This system adds a hands-on, real-time element to the combat that--while menu-based--is immediately accessible.

Each chunky, colourful command button features a text description. Then there are the character-specific moves, the chain attacks in which you can link moves between all three active characters, and the enemies that require specific means of defeat, and that's just to begin with. It's a complex and rewarding system that makes getting into fights a joy. And though the battle system is deep, it's remarkable just how well developer Monolith Soft has tailored it for accessibility. New combat abilities and tactical approaches are gradually introduced throughout the course of the game. Not once is the gameplay overwhelming; the pacing is sublime, and the tutorials are brief but descriptive. It functions on the ethos of "learning by doing," and in this area alone Xenoblade Chronicles outshines the majority of its genre stablemates.

Combat is a deep, enjoyable affair.

The focus on accessibility extends to more than just the battle mechanics. The world of Xenoblade Chronicles, the land that's sprouted up on the corpse of a giant, is vast and beautiful. Expansive plains stretch across ancient thigh muscle; waterfalls tumble from naturally formed cliffs. Swamps are moodily drenched in shimmering purple mist, and colourful forests populate the Bionis' chest. The sheer scale of each area is a sight to behold. Traveling around the Bionis could have been a pain, particularly as you frequently want to return to older areas or head to the other side of a huge map. Thankfully there's a fantastic fast travel function that lets you return to any previously visited landmark. There are often up to five or six landmarks within a given area, so when it comes to backtracking you're never required to spend time walking around pointlessly to get where you're going. And with so many interesting things to discover and so much going on, revisiting areas is an appealing concept.

Xenoblade Chronicles' vast array of side quests range from the simple--killing X number of enemies--to the complicated, such as performing a series of tasks to rebuild an entire colony. These side quests are varied and provide insights into the lives of the other characters, with entire subplots strung out over seemingly minor questlines. Unlike in the majority of RPGs, most of Xenoblade's side quests don't require you to return to the quest giver upon completion. For the most part you can stack up on fetch/kill quests, and then as soon as you complete them in the field, you reap the rewards. It's an elegant system which negates the need to traipse around looking for the correct non-player character. On top of this, the day/night cycle that affects which NPCs are present can be manually changed, with an in-game clock allowing you to set the time of day.

The story itself is on a grand scale, a tale of ancient prophecies and warring giants, of mechanical foes and royal conspiracies. Voice acting is quintessentially British to the point of sounding Dickensian, and while the acting is generally good, it can be jarring at first. There's the option of turning on Japanese voice-overs should you so desire, so even if the English voices sound a bit corny it's possible to overlook them altogether. This isn't a game that forces exposition--cutscenes are rarely more than a couple of minutes long--but it still spins a riveting yarn. What starts out as a simple revenge mission soon becomes something more. It all centers around the Monado, Shulk's mystical blade which, throughout the course of the game, gradually grows in power.

As well as adding to the plot, the Monado changes up the combat, with certain abilities and enemies introduced later that keep things fresh and require new tactics. The Monado also grants Shulk visions of the future. These serve to progress the plot and also come into play during fights, letting you preempt enemy attacks and shift the tide of battle. Then there's the affinity meter, the relationship you have with other party characters both in and out of battle. As the game progresses, the elements become more varied and more impressive--never overwhelming, never poorly explained, just enjoyably complex.

There are loads of things to do within the world of Xenoblade Chronicles--from having optional conversations with party members and forging relationships with townsfolk, to discovering landmarks and hidden boss monsters--and you're constantly rewarded with experience and items. Dotted around the world are a variety of high-level beasts, some of which can't possibly be beaten in the first encounter. Rather than serving to annoy, these beasts just lurk around, waiting to be defeated when you eventually reach a high enough level. And even if you do die, the game is very forgiving. No progress is lost outside of the fight you're in; you simply restart at the nearest landmark. There was perhaps a danger that this could make things too easy, but the difficulty curve is hard to fault, and the challenge is well thought out. Xenoblade Chronicles never punishes you for failing (even allowing you to avoid rewatching cutscenes should you die on a boss). It encourages experimentation, risk taking, and, most importantly, having fun.

A massive level of care and attention to detail is prevalent throughout the game, from the beautifully crafted environments to the excellent soundtrack. Even the inventory is filled with depth. There are numerous collectibles to find, which can be registered in the Collectopaedia (which leads to rewards), and each has its own unique description. There are hundreds of different types of armour, and your character's outfit changes based on what you have equipped. There are some repeated designs, but given the vast number available, it's barely noticeable. They differ based on the character they're equipped on too, so one armour type looks entirely different on Shulk than on someone else. You might spend hours managing your inventory, not because the game forces you to, but because it's enjoyable. Many pieces of equipment have gem slots, and gems can be found or crafted. These provide buffs for a multitude of stats, boosting attack or defence, or giving an increase to a more passive statistic. It's possible to tinker with character builds for hours, but again, the game never forces this upon you; it's just there if you really want to delve in as deep as possible.

Xenoblade manages to feel both fresh and traditional.

Finding fault with Xenoblade Chronicles is not an easy task, but it's not without the occasional downside. Despite the intricately modelled outfits, character faces are bland and have a tendency to look a bit false, with Shulk's face in particular having the appearance of makeup painted on an egg. Occasionally, finding where to go can be a bit of a headache. The map is uncovered as you go, and the quest marker arrow points directly to your objective, but it does so without taking the layout of the land into account, so an objective may require you to circle around a cliff, for instance, when the arrow gives the impression that you can head in another direction. In a game where exploration is so rewarding, though, it's a minor issue, and even if you intend to power through the story and ignore all the optional extras, it's a problem that crops up only a few times. All of these flaws are minor compared to the relative excellence of the rest of the game. The action controls better with the Classic Controller, but the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo is perfectly serviceable, although the lack of a second analogue stick means the camera can be a slight nuisance occasionally.

Xenoblade Chronicles is a remarkable game. It drags the JRPG into the 21st century, modernising many of the genre's traits and nailing a pace that outclasses the majority of its peers. Even coming from Tetsuya Takahashi--a man whose previous credits include Chrono Trigger and the other Xeno titles--it's a hugely surprising, versatile game. It has everything that seasoned JRPG veterans are looking for, but it also manages to lift the barrier for entry for those new to the genre. It retains the traditions it wants to and modernises the aspects it needs to. It's not only one of the best JRPGs in years; it's also one of the best RPGs regardless of subgenre. Xenoblade Chronicles is a captivating, magical game which deserves to be hailed as the revolution it is.

The Good
Excellent sense of pacing
Combat is fantastic, in-depth, and fun
Locations are vast and beautiful
Huge game with loads of interesting things to do
Thoroughly modernises the genre while respecting tradition
The Bad
Occasionally difficult to find where to go
9
Superb
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215 comments
renerak
renerak

They should have remade Xenogears while they were at it.

turtlethetaffer
turtlethetaffer

To anyone who hasn't played this: It's a real shame. I know there aren't many copies available, but this is why games were made. It's an incredible piece of work in just about every respect, a true pinnacle in game design that's rarely seen.

Here's hoping X is even better.

Agent-Smithy
Agent-Smithy

OST in this game is amazing even among JRPGs . Can't wait for xenoblade 2 !

nintendoman555
nintendoman555

I love how it gets the "get your money's worth" sticker when this game sells for well over a hundred dollars online now.

bbkkristian
bbkkristian

Still my favorite game. Playthrough #3 coming up!

malachi_27
malachi_27

I ended up buying The Last Story over this game at my local GameStop, where only one of each was available.  I very much enjoyed the former, but I continue to stress that it suffered, sometimes greatly, from its presentation and its execution, while the plot, music, and gameplay were stellar.  Now I'm itching to give this a try, but it's such a shame that it's worth more than twice the original retail.

mrzisawesome
mrzisawesome

Would someone like this game if they're used to playing older 2-D, turn based RPG's?

widdowson91
widdowson91

I got this day one when it was released in Europe. One of the best games of the generation and easily the best JRPG since Dragon Quest VIII some 7 years ago.

piedude67
piedude67

JRPG is my favorite genre. I know many people dont like em.

agehaelhaym
agehaelhaym

I have to give this game a try soon..!

santinegrete
santinegrete

I loved tales of graces F and I purchased this game sincerely because of the score. I'm gonna have a good time or the game is overrated? D=

SteadyingMeat
SteadyingMeat

 I'm incredibly surprised that this didn't get the Great Story and Great Original Soundtrack medals 

Stealth_Knight_
Stealth_Knight_

I stand against generalized reviews like this which do a disservice to rpgs in general

 

 

xenoblade is just 1 out of hundreds of great jrpgs this gen

ianvct
ianvct

Best game I've ever played in a long time!!Love it! It's truly amazing! :DDDD

Klagmar1
Klagmar1

Seriosuly, how did this not get the "Great Original Soundtrack" medal? It's like the best OST ever.

ResilientSword
ResilientSword

I'm a die hard playstation jrpg fan, so it took some getting used to the Wii controls when navigating through the menus, but you eventually get the hang of it. I'm also a huge fan of Mitsuda's musical scoring, so I'm thoroughly spoiled that he did this soundtrack. Monolith needs to crank out more games!

jfloydLunar
jfloydLunar

The only reason I got a Wii was to play this game and (when it comes out) The Last Story

kaiserdisco
kaiserdisco

im just glad were finally getting all these good jrpgs in english

kattamuuran
kattamuuran

boy, i sure would like to play this game. however, my wii apparently cannot read the disc because of some problem reading dual layer discs with old wiis (we got one near launch). my disappointment with this, and my further disappointment with nintendo customer service, who gave me one heck of a runaround unfortunately has really soured my ability to have faith in nintendo, which sucks, cause i have been an active supporter of them since 1986, when i got my NES for christmas. oh well, at least i am glad to hear the game was good and people have been enjoying it.

Realmjumper
Realmjumper

One can say that this game is the Wii's Final Fantasy 7. Hats off to the dev team.

whatwhat93
whatwhat93

I got this game on the first day (US) and played it nonstop for 4 days...still didn't even make it halfway through. Had to go back to college so I had to stop -__- but when I return...I will complete it...In a few more weeks!

Zensword
Zensword

I want to get a Wii now to play this gem!!!

notserbamma
notserbamma

Man this game is truly is the PERFECT evolution of the JRPG. It is so unbelievably fun, I love it. It really makes me wonder where the final fantasy team went wrong after FF9...they completely lost their way by stripping everything that defined the Japanese RPG and making everything linear, like fans WANTED that. Or maybe they just don't care what we think. I'm going with the latter.

scalz
scalz

It would be worth it at $100 anyway. Great story, music, graphics, and we'll over 100 hours if your a completion type of gamer.

Many games today clock in at what, 10 hours for $60.

NTM23
NTM23

@nintendoman555 

Keyword is 'now'. This review was written then, and for all I know, it was worth a typical full priced game because my brother bought the game when it came out. I think it's silly that you didn't take that into account, as if what really goes on here is that over time they change their reviews to suit the current.

GameBeaten
GameBeaten

@mrzisawesome I'm a person who likes turn based RPG's and I found this game quite enjoyable. So maybe you will too. It took me a bit to learn some of the mechanics, but it's all great.

juiceair
juiceair

 @piedude67 Not necessarily true.  Many old school gamers like myself grew up on JRPG's back in the 80's and 90's.  I still prefer JRPGs over others but the releases are too few and far apart.  I just picked up Xenoblade Chronicles today and plan to invest many hours into my Wii.

turtlethetaffer
turtlethetaffer

 @Stealth_Knight_

 Agreed, even though Xenoblade is a fantastic game, one of the absolute best, but there are still other great JRPGs from this gen that are worth mentioning.

widdowson91
widdowson91

@ResilientSword Actually Mitsuda only composed one song, the rest of the soundtrack was composed by Yoko Shimumura.

widdowson91
widdowson91

@kattamuuran Bad luck. My Wii is an old model but it has never had a problem reading dual-layered discs.

Korgamer84
Korgamer84

I loved final fantasy 7 . It was the first and one of the best rpgs I've played to date. Getting this game when i get my Wii U. Man can't wait to watch up on the Wii games.

Excetera-ZEN
Excetera-ZEN

 @Realmjumper I'd make a better comparison than that. More like a great story on level with Chrono Trigger/Cross. 

piedude67
piedude67

@juiceair @piedude67  Oh perfect then!

Unfortunately for me, i am a 1994 born child. I do like a lot of the modern JRPG's as well as the oldies

ResilientSword
ResilientSword

@widdowson91 Old comment from me, but ya I know now the scoring was a bit more of a collaboration of artists. Still an epic soundtrack and game. Haven't touched the game in a while. I was 90% through the game when I put it down to play other games.

turtlethetaffer
turtlethetaffer

 @Excetera-ZEN

 I can agree with the CT part.  Haven't played FFVI or Chrono Cross but this game along with Radiant Historia should be remembered as the RPG's that defined the genre; something that is just so incredible in every way that it must be remembered for generations to come.

widdowson91
widdowson91

@turtlethetaffer @n0matter @Stealth_Knight_  There have been a lot of good JRPGs this generation, but the genre has dropped in quality over the course of the last few years. Back in the 80's and 90's the genre was possibly the best there was, but in recent times the games haven't evolved too much and feel a lot more archaic overall. Xenoblade breaks from this. It is. by far, the best JRPG this generation and possibly the best RPG of the gen outright.

turtlethetaffer
turtlethetaffer

 @n0matter  @Stealth_Knight_

 They talk a lot about how it affects the genre and stuff. They are talking about how it "revolutionizes" the genre. Basically it acts like Xenoblade is the one JRPG worth playing.

kaiserdisco
kaiserdisco

 @slayer1090

 right just becuz im a gamer doesnt mean that all i wanna do is run around on a multiplayer map and shoot ppl without it ever losing interest and then buying literally the exact same game the next year because it has different maps. theres no way [insert any fps series title here] will keep my interest

Seis_Siete
Seis_Siete

 @Emerald_Lance Technically that isn't true but I really can't say too much because I modded my Wii. Though now I have a non modded Wii. But anyways I can see what you mean.

Emerald_Lance
Emerald_Lance

 @Seis_Siete

Not if you're using a retail copy of the game. There's a lot of confusion surrounding emulators and their legality. Downloading a game to play on an emulator is illegal, whereas using an emulator to play a game you bought is not.

 

My Wii has the same problem. I pre-ordered Metroid Other M and was extremely happy to get, and then extremely dissapointed when I saw that my Wii couldn't play it normally. Luckily I have a modded Wii, so I backing the game up and played it from an external HDD. Since I bought the game and was using a backup that I ripped myself (and because I didn't sell the game because I wanted to keep it as a collector) I was completely within the bounds of the law.

 

OP, if you buy the game, then anything goes. Back it up and play it either on your PC using Dolphin or on your Wii that's been modded. As long as you legally own the game, you can legally play it anyway you want.

Xenoblade Chronicles More Info

  • First Released
    • 3DS
    • Wii
    Xenoblade Chronicles is a role-playing game which takes place on an immense game world on the remains of two giant titans.
    9.1
    Average User RatingOut of 931 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Xenoblade Chronicles
    Developed by:
    Monolith Soft
    Published by:
    Nintendo
    Genres:
    Role-Playing, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Blood, Mild Language, Partial Nudity, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence