Why didn’t I write this back in Feburary? I wrote the Last Story v. Xenoblade and a Last Story review even!
Ok, let’s get onto Xenoblade Chronicles the biggest name of that Operation Rainfall we all heard about a while ago. Upon getting the game I had no idea what to expect; I heard it was a very good RPG for the Wii and one of the best of 2011 (which really wasn’t a year for RPGs). The game starts off with you controlling a 3 party team (you as the leader of that party) fighting off an invasion of metal creatures called Mechon. The character you control is Dunban, wielder of the front cover sword, the Monado. After being overly powered and easing your way through the “first battles” (something to teach you of the gameplay a bit) the story takes a jump to where the war ends [year later], and we end up in the current time period. Now you get to meet the game’s main protagonist, Shulk, a young lad working with a mechanic. Shulk is looking for usable parts from broken Mechon and is attacked by monsters, but not before his best friend Reyn arrives.
Let’s break this game down like I do for all RPGs: Story, Battle Gameplay, World Gameplay, Music, Graphics, Replayability
Story: The story for Xenoblade Chronicles is absolutely fantastic. Right after your tutorials and character introductions, not one part of the game is ever dull. More plot twists happen every time a chapter ends and the closer you think you are to an answer, only the further away you are to actually being right. Half the time after watching a sequence, I would have to rethink everything that was said and make so many logical guesses only to be fooled after each cinematic scene. The story mainly follows Shulk and his pal Reyn, but along the way they meet new and old characters and have the characters of Fiora, Dunban, Melia, Riki, and Sharla join their party on their travel to the Bionis’ head (you live on the Bionis). During your travel for revenge, you realize that not only humans live alone as other races have all been isolated from each other, including the Mechon and behind the scenes of the attack is a huge war brewing for the fate of both your world/the Bionis and the other/Mechonis.I would love to go into more but any information given on the story really is a spoiler, just know you quest starts off as one for revenge and you make your way up from the Bionis Leg to the Head to a world you’ve never seen before.
World Gameplay: Xenoblade Chronicles has many traditional elements of RPG. From basic leveling up with experience points, to specific abilities each character has, to towns with merchants. Xenoblade also has many unique features such as Gem Crafting, Journal, Heart-to-Heats, affinity coins, Skill-Linking and many more. Xenoblade takes a spell from Dragon Quest, as the armor you choose changes your characters outer attire, even for cinematics. Each armor has it’s own abilities and ranges from light, medium, and heavy (certain characters can wear certain armor). Gems are a big part of equipment as you attach gems to armor or weapons to give extra boosts, like increase of strength, poison resistance, agility, etc.
Let’s first start with your Journal/Collectopedia. The collectopedia is something each area you explore has because, different items lay in different areas. Your collectopedia will have 5 to 6 sections of each section (ranging from bugs, to food, to mystery) and collecting all in a row gets you a reward and collecting 100% gives you a very good item. Heart-to-Hearts are a VERY BIG part of this game. See in most games, you only are friends with the people in your party. In Xenoblade, even townsfolks grow to like you…like Pokemon. Obviously the most important is getting your friends to love you; see friendships are rated through smiley-icons from a -_- face to a regular smiley to a full heart appearing. If your teammates/party members love you, the more you can do with them* (explained in next paragraph). Heart-to-Hearts also have a specific meaning to it, as some areas have a gray arrow pointing down and it requires certain characters to interact with each other, further boosting friendships and unlocking items. Not all heart-to-hearts are available, as some become more intricate and deeper and you must be great friends to unlock these sequences. The Journal does everything from recording your save, allowing you to swtich from day, dawn, afternoon, or night, and a last good feature is the journal shows every sidequest accepted (completed or not).
Now, remember when I said Heart-to-Hearts are VERY BIG…well Skill Links and Affinity Coins ARE VERY IMPORTANT. In this game, you are nothing without your three-man party. Affinity coins are special abilities that each character unlocks as he/she levels up. Shulk, for example, gets the ability of “Attack increases at Night”, so if he was good friends with Reyn, he could Skill-Link that ability to Reyn and they both possess that affinity coin. The only way to get more affinity coins is to level up and the only way to unlock more Skill-Links is to become better friends
Finally, the world of traveling is very easy, considering this is an RPG. First off, there is always a giant orange arrow above you to point you in the right direction and it keeps track of how many meters there are until you reach a certain area. In addition, all the monsters are visible so you can challenge any at anytime! Some monsters may see you, but the higher level you go, the more they tend to ignore you.
Battle Gameplay: Battling is really the best and most unique aspect of Xenoblade Chronicles. While the fighting is not live action-RPG and more of a pseudo version of it, it still is addicting. Fighting consists of you auto-attacking, while giving commands for abilities called Talent Arts. Talent Arts vary from the Pink-Break one, the Green-Topple, and the Yellow-Daze. There are also regular physical attacks/Red and Ether/Magic/Blue attacks. The real trick is to find out where each ability you have activates its critical, because some of the attacks are positioned based (see pseudo-action). For example, the back-slash is most effective when attacking an enemies back. Now, the trick is to stun an enemies attacks by using the Break ability so another fighter can Topple the enemy, which in turns flips the enemy over for a brief spell. Each character has one special ability (except Shulk who wields the Monado) which can be activated after landing enough auto-attacks. Another example, once your special is filled you select the larger button in the middle of your commands and choose your special attack like ‘Monado Shield’.
Fighting is not all about auto-attacks and toppling, actually there are two more special features to fighting. One, is that of Team attacks, where your talent gauge is filled to the max and you perform an all-team attack. The team attack requires you to select the commands of each of your players; sometimes you can do more than 3 attacks! The MOST IMPORTANT AND UNIQUE ASPECT of this game comes from fighting with this ability…to see into the future of your battle. That’s right, you can tell when you or another teammate is about to die (or get badly damaged) and by what attack the enemy is using. This mechanism allows for 3 options: A) warn your teammate- which in turn allows you to select an attack for him, albeit losing one talent gauge (there are 3), B- Use your monado to prevent the death- say it is a physical attack about to happen so you use the special ability ‘Monado Speed’ and the AI automatically dodges it or C- Just kill the enemy already.
What is this talent gauge? What about healing? Well, the talent gauge is like your phoenix down, you can use it for the future abilities or team attacks, or if your teammate has “fallen” you can pick him back up and in a sense revive him. Healing cannot be done by everyone, there are no items to heal, only healing/ether abilities to do that. After battles are finished though, you automatically heal in the Travel World, so don’t worry about inns. The Main World does have monsters everywhere but sometimes it is up to you to initiate the battle (well most of the time) and if you do, you have the ability to start up at a higher tension than normal (in addition to whatever perks you have set).
Music: BEAUTIFUL. One of the best I’ve heard on a video game you will love basically every song. I love Agniratha Captial City both Day and Night versions of the song.
Graphics: Not the best, but beautiful design for the Worlds. this game pushes Wii to its graphical limits. The voice acting is horrible for English and I don’t think the American version got its own voice actors.
Replayability: I don’t know if you want to replay this 60-80 hour game; but if you do then go right ahead. Maybe you want to try it with different party leaders (instead of Shulk you can put anyone as your party leader) or you want to go back and get all the Heart-to-Hearts or finish all sidequests. This game can keep you entertained in many ways.
Overall: 9.3/10 The game was a great play, especially for one I just went into blindly, wanting to just crave my RPG tastes. The story and soundtrack were amazing, the gameplay was unique and fun, and the game kept me going for a long time. Well, that and I got into that phase of being stuck (remember my blog) so I stopped playing for 3 months and the second I put it on (at 3AM no less) I beat the boss I was stuck on in I recorded 3 MINUTES! While Xenoblade had many, many great aspects, the small text and SUPER LONG introduction (explanation of the towns and all its stuff) was a bit of drag, along with the disappointing ending.
I just remember being SUPER UNDERLEVELED this entire game anyone else too?
Michael Troina writes features and reviews Nintendo games for Analog Addiciton. When he’s not writing or playing games or sports, he’s out at his job at the Daily Bugle taking pictures as the web-slinger we all have come to love…either that or he’s getting sandwich saving one world at a time. Find him anywhere with this flavors.me/michaeltroina