I have been a fan of RPG video games ever since I read an issue of Nintendo Power with a picture of a Japanese crowd in line to buy the third game in the Dragon Quest series. I waited with anticipation as the release of the domestic version of Dragon Quest, called Dragon Warrior in the West, was released. Around the same time, I was also intrigued by pen-and-paper RPGs, but would not be caught dead playing with a 20-sided die in front of my religious parents.
Ironically, I was able to talk my parents into getting me Dragon Warrior for Christmas. I loved playing it and would go on to play other RPGs, such as Final Fantasy, Phantasy Star, and many one-shot games. During the 16-bit era, I would grow to love the rival RPG-makers Square and Enix, and I would buy every domestic release from both companies.
Later on, I would grow to like western RPGs as well, and would always be captivated by many of the changes to the traditional role playing game. Over the years, Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games intrigued me with their passive nature, making killing monsters both exciting and relaxing at the same time, much like reading a great book. However, my greatest love for RPGs are still the single player games that engage the player with a great story and great evils to be thwarted. Xenoblade Chronicles is the newest addition to the pantheon of RPGs that will be talked about for years to come. If not for the efforts of passionate gamers, it would not have come to the US, and thankfully, their efforts were not in vain.
Xenoblade Chronicles is the newest masterpiece by fan-favorite MONOLITHSOFT, the creators of both Xenogears and the Xenosaga series. The developer’s work has always been both incredibly epic and controversial. The games always ask big questions and most of the time, the answers are derived with demented tendencies and blunt truths. Good and evil are sometimes one in the same. Xenoblade Chronicles does ask a lot of the same questions, however the player may have to spend dozens of hours in order to get to the meat of story. The adventure along the way is worth taking on.
The world of Xenoblade Chronicles takes place on two gigantic titans, the Bionis and the Mechonis. Both of these continent-sized beings were engaged in combat when they both became dormant and died while still standing. Many eons past and both of the titan bodies gave birth to millions of life forms: creatures, monsters, robotic beasts, and even mankind. The world of Xenoblade is like no other, and it is a testament to MONOLITHSOFT’s epic and cosmic thinking.
The game’s story takes place during a war between the inhabitants of the Bionis and the Mechonis. Mankind finds itself in a desperate battle with the living machines birthed from the Mechonis’ dead body. The main protagonist, Shulk, lives in a town called Colony 9, on the leg of the titan Bionis. As fate would have it, Shulk comes into possession of a legendary weapon called the Monado. This legendary armament can kill the mechanical beings that have invaded his hometown, giving him the means to avenge a fallen friend.
Xenoblade Chronicles is a third person RPG played in real-time, with a battle system that is much like a streamlined version of an MMO. You can select your party leader from a group of characters and engage various enemies including mechanical monsters, organic beasts and even peaceful animals. All of the enemies are seen in real-time in the environments; some will attack you on sight, while others go about their business until provoked. Xenoblade’s battle system uses many of the same conventions that are implemented in modern MMOs, such as using aggro to attract the enemy, and having cooldowns for every attack and special move. The ultimate weapon, the Monado, even has it’s own separate menu during the combat.
Speaking of menu systems, the battle user interface is very well done and is easy to manipuate during combat. It was fun to use different attacks on a variety of enemies to discover which ones worked the best for each situation.
The environments in Xenoblade are one of the many great things about this game. Given that everything takes place on the surface of the two titans, the landscapes will haunt your imagination for many nights to come. Lush green forests with rivers and ponds are juxtaposed with a giant arm or leg on the horizon. Never have I ever cared for the geography of a game on such an epic level, or spent so much time examining every detail. The world of Xenoblade felt real to me. Everything about the game is just so epic in scope, that it feels like a miracle was worked to evoke this level of performance from the Nintendo Wii.
Another thing that I love about this game is the depth of character growth, both narratively and with regard to combat. As you fight monsters, you gain both EXP and AP, both of which will make your characters more powerful. You gain extra HP and Strength when you level up, just like most RPGs, but using AP will allow you to expand the power of each type of attack or special move. Also, many of the weapons and armor that you will use during the adventure have slots for gems that can change the power of, or status effect on, the character. You can even make your own gems by forging crystals in town. Also, during combat, you can chain attacks with all of your party members, and depending on which you use, the results will vary.
Xenoblade will consume you. Every town and major location is filled to the brim with side quests. They are streamlined into the main quest and, many times, you will complete them even when you have forgotten about them.
MONOLITHSOFT even found time to put a simple date-sim into the gameplay. As you traverse the world, certain areas will contain places where you can engage in ”Heart-to-Heart” situations. The more Heart-to-Hearts between characters, the more advantages you’ll find in battle.
Xenoblade Chronicles is not only the best RPG this generation, but it’s also my favorite game on the Nintendo Wii. If you like RPGs, then you owe it to yourself to buy this limited time gem of a game. The world and story of Xenoblade Chronicles is one of the most profound gaming experiences in recent years. Fans were right to demand a North American release.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.