Xenoblade Chronicles: A Modern Classic

JRPGs have had it really rough this generation. With horrible games like Enchanted Arms, thoroughly mediocre games like Eternal Sonata, and good, but extremely niche games like Atelier Totori, gamers haven’t really encountered many great JRPGs recently. On the other side, WRPGs are really coming into their own on consoles this generation and the comparisons don’t leave a favourable impression on the JRPG. Games like Skyrim and Dark Souls (Japanese made, but a WRPG nonetheless) exist, and most JRPGs this generation cannot even hope to keep up. That is of course until the release of Xenoblade Chronicles. This game has been met with universal praise, and you will not find a dissenting opinion here. The game is a masterpiece, and is not only the best JRPG of this generation, but is one of the best JRPGs ever made. Today we are going to be looking at why I can make such a bold assertion.

Yeah, did I mention this game takes place on a giant robot?

Xenoblade was created by Monolith Soft. This is the company the brought the world, Xenosaga and Baten Kaitos and it shows in this game. Xenosaga was story run amok. It had a phenomenal story, but almost no game in between the insanely long cutscenes. Baten Kaitos was an incredibly quirky traditional RPG with some very unique features. It should come as no surprise that the people involved with the company also worked on Square’s masterpiece: Xenogears (What is it with them and the word Xeno?). This company has always been trying to bring a huge sprawling epic to home consoles, but they have always come up short. Xenoblade Chronicles is the culmination of all of their efforts and it is good to see that a company can learn from its mistakes while pursuing the same goal.

While playing Xenosaga, you’ll be lucky to see this screen three times.

Its story is Xenoblade’s greatest strength. I call it epic in the most real sense of the word. The story is immense and almost all of it is pure gold. I was playing this game for about twenty hours and the plot points were starting to tie themselves up and I assumed that I was almost done the game. Little did I realize that I was less than a third through it. This game is incredibly long, but in the best possible way. The plot line isn’t the same linear crap you expect from every RPG, but it develops constantly through one of the longest games I’ve played recently. This isn’t like Skyrim where you want to kill a dragon and by the end of the game nothing has changed, and then you kill the dragon. The characters too, are varied and they interact with each other in meaningful ways. While it is melodramatic like most JRPGs and it gets off to a slow start, Xenoblade Chronicles has a story that is certainly worth remembering for years to come.

Dunban and Dickson, the ultimate bro-manse.

Of course you can’t have a good story without good gameplay can you? After all this is an interactive medium. As mentioned, Xenosaga fell down on this point, but Xenoblade rises to the occasion. The gameplay is most similar to Final Fantasy 12, and thus MMOs, but with some very significant differences. Firstly, positioning matters a lot in this game. Side attacks and back attacks can trigger extra effects for various skills, and most skills have secondary effects. These secondary effects are important to activate as they will fill up the party gauge which will let you unleash chain attacks and revive teammates. It is complicated at first, but when you get over the learning curve, you find that it is very deep and rewarding. Also, you can control any of your party members, and all of them play completely different from one another. This leads to a lot of variety, which is good, and Xenoblade Chronicles’ gameplay doesn’t get boring throughout its 80 hour campaign.

Sharla’s really into this

One great thing about Xenoblade Chronicles is that it is as deep as you want it to be. It is a linear game with extremely non-linear design. There are over 600 different quests available for you, but you can easily ignore them all. They can be very rewarding, but they are unnecessary. Monolith Soft has struck the perfect balance. Players who seek these optional bits out will find them incredibly rewarding, but they aren’t needed to beat the game. Other optional bits such as Breath of Fire 2 style town building exist here as well. On top of this there are the heart-to-hearts. Each character has four events with the other characters based on their affinity for one another. These are totally optional, but very rewarding for the player who goes out of their way to see them. Even proper stat maxing through gem crafting is only as deep as the player wants it. The point I’m making is this game caters to the casual and the expert.

Colony 6 is like this, but two generations later.

There are downsides to the game of course. The voice acting is a little too over the top. However, it is refreshing to see a different set of voice actors as this was done by a British crew. Some of the voice acting is excellent some are simply fine. This is of course a minor point. The real problem is that this game is on the Wii. The graphics are amazing for last gen, but that was over six years ago and they look terrible now. It isn’t about being a graphic whore either. Character models can’t animate in more meaningful ways, and this can demean serious moment. In the same vein of complaints, the female party members all wear revealing clothes. I know, internet, par for the course right? The problem is that these character have developed personalities and the clothing choices don’t match them at all. It is weird and can take away from the seriousness of some of the moments.

Proving a game can be beautiful AND ugly.

The fact of the matter is that I can’t explain how good the game is. I had heard the buzz, read the reviews, and seen the videos, but I didn’t think it was going to be particularly good. As a Wii game it is hard to get excited about it, and I understand that. However, the game is incredible and worth dusting off the Wii just to play. Gameplay, story, and music are all things that this game does better than most PS3/360 games on the market right now and that is surprising. Had this game come out three or four years ago, maybe the Wii wouldn’t be as ridiculed as it is by the gaming community.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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