Xenoblade Chronicles

aka: Monado: Beginning of the World, Xenoblade, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D

[ All ] [ New Nintendo 3DS ] [ Wii ] [ Wii U ]

Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 92% (based on 92 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 4.4 out of 5 (based on 30 ratings with 2 reviews)

A massive and highly ambitious game that is truly stunning in many ways!

The Good
It is sometimes said that the best games on a system appear at the end of its lifespan. Developers have had several years to get to know the hardware, which results in high-quality games. In the case of the Wii, Xenoblade Chronicles is an example of a game that could back up that claim. On a system that is often criticized for lacking a substantial hardcore library, Xenoblade Chronicles delivers an unusually ambitious hardcore experience that is among the best titles on any system of its generation.

The JRPG genre is suffering in recent years. Gamers demand innovations in a genre that has become littered with cliches. Along comes Xenoblade Chronicles, a game that not only takes some JRPG conventions, but also greatly expands upon them, making for a surprisingly fresh gaming experience, without ruining the classic JRPG feel.

The most unusual thing about this game is its setting. Xenoblade takes place on the dead corpses of two ancient titans: the Bionis and the Mechonis. The Bionis is the god of organic life, and is such littered with grassy plains, forests, animals and intelligent life. The Mechonis, on the other hand, is a being that represents the power of technology and is therefor populated by the Mechon, a robotic people. The Mechon wage war with the peoples of the Bionis.

Amidst this conflict we find Shulk, the protagonist of the game. Shulk researches the strange features of the Monado, an ancient sword, which is the only weapon that can effectively damage the metal-clad Mechon. And, guess what, Shulk ends up being the heir to the Monado and quickly finds himself on a quest to avenge a friend killed by the Mechon. The Monado will be an indispensable weapon in Shulk's quest.

This quest takes the player to a world that is so massive and so full of things to do, it needs to be seen to be believed. This is, as far as I know, the largest game world on the Wii by far. Not only is it huge, it is also a visual blast, both from a technical and artistic standpoint. Spectacular views from afar of valleys, cities and mountains are everywhere. From the bustling streets of Colony 9 to the vast expanse of Gaur Plain and from thick trees of Makna Forest to the mechanical views of the Mechnonis, it's all extremely well designed, enormously expansive and full of atmosphere and variation. Xenoblade is easily one of the Wii's best looking games. While it may have looked better on PS3 or Xbox 360, it compensates for the shortcomings of the system it is on with its amazing art direction.

The game world is inhabited by many creatures to battle. There are no random fights, but some monsters may attack if you get close. Others need to be attacked or lured towards you to engage in a fight. The battles themselves are pretty deep. The characters automatically use attacks, but more damage can be done with special attacks executed from the battle menu. If you build up enough power, you can execute a chain attack, allowing you to combine attacks from different characters. While you normally only control your lead character, these chain attack events allow you to pick an attack for all three on-screen heroes. For example, if one attack inflicts the 'Break' status, it can be followed by a move that inflicts 'Topple', and then followed by an attack inducing 'Daze' allowing you to more damage.

Another important feature is 'affinity'. This indicates how much characters trust each other and comes into play during battles, making it easier for you to execute powerful attacks, as well as in other situations involving NPC's and quests. Furthermore, certain skills can be linked, making their effects usable for more characters than just the user. These linked skills are also powered up by a good affinity level between the characters involved.

The Monado is full of cool powers, but the most significant one is the power to see into the near future. This allows for a fun and unusual gameplay mechanic. Because Shulk can see into the future, he can foresee attacks before they happen and prevent them from happening. This is one of the coolest features of the game and really makes it feel unique.

Besides the main quest, the game holds much more secrets for the player to discover as well as many side-quests to complete and achievements to meet. While the main quest alone packs a good fifty hours or so, completing everything this massive game has to offer will take you at least a hundred. The pacing in the game is always relaxed, and if you don't feel like playing the main quest, you can easily skip to areas previously visited via the map screen and go do some quests, or just enjoy exploring the massive game world.

The characters are very customizable, with a lot of armour to equip, weapons to choose from and power-boosting gems to craft, all of which are reflected both in-game as well as in one of the many cutscenes.

The musical score is among the best on the Wii. The beautiful orchestrated soundtrack perfectly captures every area of the game and greatly adds to the overall epic feel of the game. The characters themselves have cool British accents, all of which are fitting their design and personality. Original Japanese voices can be turned on as well, which is a nice touch. Both settings feature subtitles in English.

The Bad
The characters are rather cliche. Shulk, for example, is the stereotype of a JRPG protagonist: orphaned, blonde hair, slightly androgynous, torn by trauma and carrying a huge sword. And it does not stop there. Particularly Reyn, Shulk's best buddy, is the classic bold and brash guy with big muscles, a short temper but also a heart of gold. It's not that the characters are not likable, they just feel familiar to the JRPG fan.

While the game is stunning from a distance, the textures and characters look a little blurry up close and there are some rough edges revealed. If there is a lot going on during a battle with multiple enemies on-screen, some slowdown might occur. Thankfully, this is rare.

The lines the characters shout during battles are repeated a little too often. After a while you heard all of them. Their cheesiness, which is charming only for a while, doesn't help either.

The Bottom Line
A major achievement in both scale, visuals, artistic direction, music and gameplay innovations. This is the best JRPG of the past few years, and a title not to be missed by any Wii owner. Xenoblade Chronicles is proof that an ambitious and innovative hardcore experience can find its home on the Wii, even though the system is in its later years.

Wii · by Rensch (203) · 2011

Quality, Vision, Innovation, Adventure.

The Good
‘Xenos’ is a Greek word meaning "stranger" or "alien", and it is true in the best sense that Xenoblade Chronicles is indeed a stranger in a strange land – sitting at the end of the Wii’s diminishing software library quietly, patiently, full of potential wonder and awe. A series of games that sees itself spread out across the chasms of console generations Xenogears/Xenosaga/Xenoblade make their mark rarely, but they make it in their own time, in their own way, and always with eminence.

Software of this calibre proves that when dedicated enough, a talented team of developers can make the familiar not just relevant again, but a study in excellence. Xenoblade Chronicles does everything right, and does it gloriously. As an RPG adventure game, it is superb; as a video game, it is sublime; as a technical achievement, it is brilliant.

The mystifying mix of game mechanics, game-play, story, art-direction that eludes even the most experienced of software teams has been nailed down very tightly in this title. Cohesion between all of these elements has never been better on the Wii, and it is an interesting thought experiment to imagine what the software library for the Wii would look like now if a game of such accomplishment had been released early in the console’s life. We can only guess.

Cut scenes open the adventure, and it is here we are introduced to the Monado, a sacred, mysterious, potent and technologically unexplainable weapon. Like a cross between a double-handed glaive and perhaps a light sabre, this smart, red-coloured weapon has a history, and promises adventure unknown to the pivotal character: Shulk. He and his small group of playable cohorts are who we will follow across this truly grand quest.

Strikingly, the initial area revealed to the player is one of the most impressive to hit any console. While the Wii struggles to match rival consoles in terms of video resolution and detail, we are nonetheless shown exactly what the limit of the Wii is – and it is still quite inspiring to see. Grassy, sloping and rolling hills littered with flora, fauna meets with the embedded, smooth (yet worn) and lived-in constructs of Colony 9. Here, we are introduced to just how special this game is – and our imaginations soar with possibility when it is discovered that it really does matter who you talk to, what you collect, who you help, what you wear, and where (and when) you go.

But, do take your time, for soaking up the atmosphere is crucial to the experience. Take a long walk, battling (if you wish) the native trouble-makers (at this point they’re more cute than deadly), filling out your ‘collectopaedia’, helping locals with their personal problems, and just craning your neck up, gazing at the awe-inspiring sight above you – the rest of a massive corpse of titan, now littered with countryside, villages, colonies and Homs such as yourself.

Creatures litter the landscape, but these nearby threats seem little more than annoyances once we are introduced to the game’s darker side and true threat: the ‘Mechon’. These smartly built machines are delicate-looking, insect-like droids that could have been crafted by a Victorian artisan. There motivations are unknown, their attacks are brutal, and it is a powerful scene when their true violence is revealed early on in the game – a Mechon’s blood-soaked claw is one of the more sobering images in any game.

None of this would mean much though if the game hadn’t improved upon established battle mechanics. Xenoblade Chronicles does this expertly though, and after the strange sensation of having your character automatically attack has passed, you’ll forget having it any other way. So, while battling is real-time, they are still only initiated through the player’s choice. This means exploration and fighting can be mixed at the pleasure of the player, and it is surprising (and a testament to the core mechanics) that I rarely intend to skip voluntary fighting anyway – the mechanics are just that good.

Auto attacks are just the minimum of the fight; it is each character’s Arts that are the real meat of the brawl. They are selected mid-fight and give a new level of strategy. Using ‘break’ arts to prepare enemies for ‘topple’ arts to enable great damage is just one example of how these arts inter-relate. They re-charge (‘cool-down’ time measures this) mid-battle and can also be linked in ‘chain attacks’. These incorporate each of your party’s members in an orchestrated ballet of damage dealing.

Items (equip-able with gems), skills (assignable and progressively earned), gem-crafting (a complex generator of power-ups, much like Monster Hunter Tri), affinity (within your party and across the game as whole) are but some of the inter-related features crammed into this robust, clever and plain fun game. Not to mention the soundtrack – a suitably integrated and yearning back-track to the plight of the Homs. Mysterious at times, dramatic where suitable, but always consistent in quality – the marriage of sound and vision is so good you will often need to stop yourself to just notice the synergy.

The Bad
Beyond this, cut scenes are never too indulgent, and are directed and edited with punch. A desperate and pivotal battle scene early on in the main story demonstrates the fine balance between moving the plot along and advancing characterisations clearly. Voice acting is refreshing, if not strangely other-worldly. Who could have guessed that Cockney accents would make it across into the world of the Monado? Nevertheless, it is yet another distinction this game makes: the unusual accents give the characters (dare I say pathos?) a flavour that our tastebuds have not been saturated with. Shulk himself is suitably voiced and never too whiny or explanatory; his partners (while occasionally obtuse) are usually welcome to open their mouths as well.

The Bottom Line
While more could be written, if the point hasn’t been made by now it probably won’t be: Xenoblade Chronicles succeeds where only the top-most royalty of games have done so before it. When the Wii is retired, it can be assured that this title will go down as one of the special exclusive titles that will age with grace, reverence and even love. It is said that Tetsuya Takahashi, "… poured his soul into making this [this game]”, and it is clear to anyone who sits down to try this game that this is undeniably true, for this game is one of the few, rare delicacies that each console generation seems to exist for.

Wii · by So Hai (261) · 2011

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by Cavalary, Alsy, So Hai, Victor Vance, jaXen, CalaisianMindthief, Patrick Bregger, Tim Janssen, Jess T, Alaka, GTramp, Cantillon.