Game Rant‘s Riley Little reviews Xenoblade Chronicles.
It’s finally here. After months of grassroots movements through the organization branded Operation Rainfall, Nintendo has released Xenoblade Chronicles in North America via an exclusive partnership with GameStop.
This Japanese Role Playing Game has been at the top of Wii owners’ wish lists for quite some time, but now that it’s finally here gamers are undoubtedly wondering if Xenoblade Chronicles lived up to the hype that so many have been building for it. The answer? A resounding “yes.”
Xenoblade throws players into the role of a character named Shulk who can see into the future thanks to a special sword — oh, and he’s also an orphan. While this initial plot setup may sound like the essential ingredients for an all too predictable story, it actually turns out to be one of the most interesting narratives in gaming to-date. There are plenty of twists and turns, and a few events may leave players in absolute awe. Basically, a legendary weapon known as the Monado falls into the hands of our young hero. Since the weapon is one of the few known armaments capable of destroying the robotic menace known as the Mechon, it’s up to Shulk (the true wielder of the fabled blade) to put an end to their tyranny.
The robotic antagonists, the Mechon, actually consume humans for energy, and if they aren’t simply eating innocent civilians then they’re more than willing to impale them with razor sharp claws just for fun. The game may be rated T for teen, but it features plenty of disturbing things that feel a little out of place for a Nintendo-owned property — of course, that’s not even close to a bad thing for a company that is hoping to appeal to a wider audience later this year with the Wii U.
What weighs down the awesome story, however, is the extremely dull, cut-and-paste characters starring in it. Shulk, his best friend Reyn, and the other companions that join the two all lack any character depth. Shulk is the standard “do the right thing all the time” kind of guy, and that begins to wear thin after a while. I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting overly deep and compelling characters, but it’s an obvious flaw in a game that does so many other things right. That said, the characters aren’t unlikable – the game doesn’t suffer dramatically as a result.
The gameplay is similar to what is often found in a JRPG game. Players put together a group of characters — a maximum of three which can be used in a fight simultaneously — and battle some very odd looking enemies. The combat system is reminiscent of the one in World of Warcraft, but it’s been refined and optimized for use on a home console. Players will auto-attack when they enter battle, and they’ll be able to use special moves called “Arts” in between. Arts also take some time to charge up after being used, which means that timing is absolutely key in scoring a victory over some of the game’s more challenging foes.
New Arts are unlocked as players level up and progress through the game, and these moves can then be upgraded. Further more, attacks can be linked together with other characters’ moves to help put away certain enemies quickly. Add in the combat abilities that the Monado add to the mix (such as the ability to see enemy moves by looking into the future) and you’ve got one of the most unique pieces of RPG-based gameplay ever. All of these combat mechanics also add a drastic amount of depth and strategy to Xenoblade Chronicles, and fans of the genre will absolutely love it for that.
Aside from standard story missions, side quests are also widely available in every corner of the colonies that players will visit. Side quests are, as one would expect, completely optional though, but I wouldn’t recommend completely skipping them. As Shulk completes them he’ll gain additional experience and items that’ll aid him and his friends in the main quest line. These additional mission can be anything from killing a large, man-eating monster to helping a villager repair their damaged watch – and they make for a great excuse to visit every corner of each area.
The world of Xenoblade is home to a plethora of truly bizarre life forms, and the actual world itself isn’t any less odd. The entirety of human civilization has been built on the inanimate corpses of two giant titans that were once locked in battle countless years ago. As a direct result of the entire world being based on top of giant robots, more specifically the titan known as Bionis, the landscape is understandably unique. Grassy fields, massive lakes, and rolling hills make for a beautiful exterior to the titans, while caves are a little more cyber-esque in appearance since they take players into the innards of the giant machines.
The various landscapes Shulk and friends will traverse across are extremely vast, and sometimes it’s easy to just stand there in awe of the wonderful scenery that lays before you. The impressively sized maps come at a cost though, as the game is more visually comparable to a PS2 title than even some of the other games currently on the Wii. The character models look unimpressive and the same can be said for almost every other visual aspect of the game as well. You really can’t fault the title for being stuck within the graphical confines of the Wii, but I can’t help but think that this game would have been an absolute marvel on another system with greater capabilities.
Xenoblade Chronicles is an absolutely massive game; lasting anywhere between 50-60 hours, it’s easily worth the price of admission. The only things that may deter fans are the underwhelming graphics and flat characters. The compelling storyline, immense maps, extensive amount of content, and fresh RPG combat, on the other hand, more than outweigh the negatives. Wii owners simply can’t afford to miss out on this gem.
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Xenoblade Chronicles is available right now only on the Nintendo Wii and is exclusively carried by brick-and-mortar retailer GameStop.