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Xenoblade Chronicles

by Andrew Brown - November 14, 2011, 11:02 am PST
Total comments: 27

10

I simply cannot find fault in this masterpiece of a game.

Not often does one get the opportunity to play a game that is absolutely everything it promises to be. These are the rare titles where any complaint you could possibly have is entirely conditional with a “but” or an “if” attached to it, and those complaints are so trivial and outshone by the positive aspects that even bringing them up seems nothing more than grasping at straws. Xenoblade Chronicles is, without a doubt, the best RPG this generation.

A game for newcomers and RPG veterans alike, Xenoblade holds your hand just enough to keep things flowing at a steady pace, but makes no reservations about throwing you a sudden challenge. 

At the beginning of time, two titans, the Bionis and the Mechonis, engaged in an epic clash that saw them simultaneously killing each other. It is on their gargantuan bodies, eternally locked together in frozen combat, that Xenoblade takes place.

The Homs, a race of humans living on the Bionis, are under constant attack from the vicious Mechon, robotic beings who come to lay claim to their land and kill anything that stands in their way. The only known weapon capable of damaging the Mechon attackers is a mysterious sword called the Monado. While its wielder is a valiant warrior, the Mechons’ attack is overwhelming: there are only two Hom settlements remaining.

In one of these colonies lives the game's hero, Shulk. An attack on his hometown ends in tragedy, leaving it to him claim ownership of the Monado. In an effort to get revenge, he sets off on a quest to stop the Mechon once and for all.

The storyline seems a little cliché at first, and the characters a little cookie-cutter. All the standards are here from the ignorant soldier who thinks with his fists to the obligatory cute, talking animal mascot. However, the longer you spend with the cast the more they'll grow on you. They all grow as people, and even the “annoying emo lead male” persona quickly dissolves away, leaving behind a character whose trials you can relate to and sympathize with. Fortunately, if there's a character you really can't stand you can just pack them away in the party reserves and leave them there; everyone gains experience whether they participate in battle or not.

Exploration is probably the biggest factor in the gameplay. There are many vast areas to wander around in the game, and most of them are easily on par with the size of Twilight Princess' Hyrule Field – all of Hyrule Field. As you travel you'll uncover landmarks that get added to your maps, which are used as destinations for your fast travel ability, allowing you to quickly jump from area to area. Along the way you'll encounter one breathtaking location after another, each with such a distinct, picturesque look that it's very hard not to be awed by the scenery. As the locations are literally on the bodies of the titans, you can often see where the other is located with a glimpse to the distant sky, or point out the massive shape of whatever body part you're walking around on by the layout of the land.

There are no random encounters, enemies all appear on the map and react to your presence differently. Some creatures are harmless and ignore you unless you attack, some will attack on sight, and some will even chase you down. Right from the start you might notice that each area has a very large range of creatures to discover, and many of them are far too big and powerful to even consider taking on until much later in the game. Say you're exploring some plains, taking down little level 10 monsters to beef up your party, when some gigantic, vicious, level 90 monstrosity stomps across your path. The only option is to run like hell, and hope it doesn't notice you until you're at a safe distance. Battles will only begin when you choose to engage an enemy, but there's nothing stopping enemies from taking a swing at you as you move through their territory. While fighting, the action will sometimes draw the attention of surrounding monsters who will hurry over to join in the fray.

Throughout the game, you take control of the one character that you put in the party leader slot while your two reserves follow along. In battle it is no different. You get free run of the field during a battle, where you can select which enemy to attack, or maneuver around to strategic positions and avoid their attacks. Park your character close enough and they will automatically hack away at the monsters with standard attacks, but at any time you can choose to initiate a special attack or skill. Everything happens on internal, unseen timers in the battle, so there's no waiting or turn-based mechanics. This speeds up the process tremendously and keeps everything running smooth. Most importantly, battles are hardly ever dull. You can choose to allow your two supporting characters free reign to do what they wish, focus their attacks on the monster you're currently fighting, or simply surround you and wait for further commands. There's also a chain attack option in which you get to dictate a special move performed by each party member, and strategic use of status inflictions caused by the various attacks can prolong the chain and allow for bonus hits.

One of the coolest aspects of battling is the mysterious power of the Monado to grant you a kind of future sight ability. This allows you to see a powerful move that the enemies are planning, who it will attack, how much damage it will do, and whether or not the character being attacked will survive the hit. Once this vision takes place, you get a timer bar at the top of the screen counting down as you race to prevent it from happening by either incapacitating the foe that will use it or using the Monado’s skills to intercept the attack. New elements are added to the combat gameplay but it never feels like you're juggling complicated mechanics – it's a breeze to conduct.

If you do fall in battle, there is no punishment, no game over – you simply revive at the last landmark you visited and any experience gained until the point you died will stay with you, and any treasure the enemies drop will remain there waiting for you to come back and collect it. The challenge instead lies in exploring, leveling, and effectively avoiding enemies until you're strong enough to navigate each new area, keeping grinding to a minimum.

There are no restorative items to use, your party's health replenishes automatically over time while you're not engaged in battle, putting the monotonous RPG cliché of backtracking to that last hotel or stocking up on tents and potions firmly in its grave. That doesn't mean there aren't a ton of items to collect, though. Vanquished enemies will always drop treasure chests containing crystals, weapons, equipment and a plethora of lootable trinkets and remnants. Items can be traded between NPC friends you make throughout the world, collected and given to people in side-quests, or used as ingredients to craft stat-boosting gems (which can provide bonuses such as elemental abilities, HP multipliers, or damage modifiers).

If that weren’t enough, each area of the map has a checklist of naturally occurring items that can be found in glowing blue orbs scattered around the land. When the checklist has been completed you're rewarded with rare equipment or other valuable prizes. As for the equipment and weapons, whatever your party wears will be physically seen on the characters at all times, even in cut scenes. And yes, that does mean you can strip your buxom lady allies down to their underwear if you so desire – they even have “secondary animation.”

The soundtrack is nothing short of beautiful, covering a huge range of musical genres and tastes. Graphics, on the other hand, can look a little bit dated with slightly blocky character models, but with such an intricate design direction and whimsical beauty behind everything that goes into the game, whining about a few jagged edges is missing the point and entirely pretentious to even mention.

Apart from the epic main story, there's much to do. There are literally hundreds of side-quests that NPCs request of you and a huge cast of named NPCs in every populated location, each of which can be added to a giant friendship chart that traces the their interpersonal relationships. There are achievements and accomplishments to unlock by meeting certain requirements. You can build friendships and romances between your party members in the Affinity chart, allowing you so see little extra story-developing interactive cut scenes known as Heart to Hearts. And you can even play the role of city builder when you're tasked with the restoration of a major city that was destroyed by the Mechon, which opens up yet another series of side-quests and collection requests to complete at your leisure.

Add to this a large list of branching skill trees to develop and special attacks to learn, swap, and upgrade, and you've successfully combined the best elements from every RPG in the last 20 years into something gigantic that somehow works incredibly harmoniously. It's amazing that the whole thing fits on one Wii disc. If I were to give one suggestion though, it's to play the game with its original Japanese audio track. I'm sure the English voices would be fine if I sat down and gave them a chance, but the performances are just so hammy that I really can't take the English voices seriously. If you're ever curious, you can simply swap the language over at any time. All cut scenes are accompanied by handy subtitles, and the translation is, for the most part, very accurate.

I could easily go into greater detail on any of the above points, but there’s not much to say beyond the following: If you don't have the game, go out and get it, even if that means having to bug Nintendo to release it in your region.

Summary

Pros
  • An epic story with many unexpected twists.
  • Beautiful, wide areas to explore, teeming with life and countless discoveries.
  • So much to do, yet never repetitive!
  • Successfully incorporates everything that makes the JRPG genre great.
Cons
  • Nothing!

Talkback

NightNovember 14, 2011

I like how you can call the English voices 'hammy' despite admitting that you didn't give them a chance. Great professional reviewing!

ejamerNovember 14, 2011

Awesome to see Wii get some incredible titles like this and Skyward Sword before being replaced with a new console. Thanks NoE for ensuring that English-speaking gamers didn't have to miss out on (by all accounts) one of the best JRPG experiences in years!


(As for the English voice-acting nit pointed out above, it seems like a compliment that they gave gamers the choice between English and Japanese. Different people will surely have different preferences, but both are accounted for. Hard to take that as a negative.)

Ian SaneNovember 14, 2011

For years and years Nintendo gets flack for not having a good selection of RPGs on their system.  Finally they have the best RPG of the generation as an exclusive and they DON'T RELEASE IT IN NORTH AMERICA!  Does Reggie even know that on the N64 everyone was begging Nintendo to have RPGs?  Does he even know what the N64 is?

That was another complaint with the N64 and the Gamecube: too big of gaps between releases.  So this is not only an RPG but it also is a title that could have filled the HUGE gaps between games the Wii has had.  Nintendo fans have complained about this stuff for over ten years and Nintendo actually has an answer for a change of pace and NOA pisses it all away!

OblivionNovember 14, 2011

I WANT THIS GAME

ejamerNovember 14, 2011

Quote from: Oblivion

I WANT THIS GAME

Worth importing? Yes. And then it'll be that much easier to play The Last Story and/or Pandora's Tower when they get released everywhere except North America.


PS: While you're at it, don't forget to import Pikmin 2 New Play Control if you haven't played the GameCube version.

NightNovember 14, 2011

Quote from: ejamer

(As for the English voice-acting nit pointed out above, it seems like a compliment that they gave gamers the choice between English and Japanese. Different people will surely have different preferences, but both are accounted for. Hard to take that as a negative.)

It's not a negative.

It's just that the reviewer complains about the English voices despite admitting that he didn't spend any time with them. They aren't hammy, by the way. This game has one of the best JRPG dubs ever - easily.

Evan_BNovember 14, 2011

It's really criminal that Xenoblade isn't seeing a release in the States, especially since it embodies pretty much everything I want in a game right now.

NoA... :(

StogiNovember 14, 2011

Quote:

And yes, that does mean you can strip your buxom lady allies down to their underwear if you so desire – they even have “secondary animation.”

Classic NWR Staff.

broodwarsNovember 14, 2011

I'm about 60 hours into the game, and while I wouldn't give this game a 10 due to some minor issues I've had here and there (largely dealing with sidequests) it IS a very good game.  Right now, it's a strong contender for my Game of the Year across all platforms (easily the best JRPG this console generation, though not my top RPG this generation altogether because of Mass Effect 2), and that's saying something considering how strong a year this has been for games.

xcwarriorNovember 14, 2011

I've never imported anything before... but I may have to in this situation.

Quote from: Night

I like how you can call the English voices 'hammy' despite admitting that you didn't give them a chance. Great professional reviewing!

When the voices have me cringing, face-palming, sighing AND bursting out laughing at inopportune moments within one hour, I'd consider that enough of a warning. The emotion was about as believable as a Dr. Who episode, and that's not saying a great deal.

I stand by what I said. If I spent a lengthy amount of time with the game in English there's a fair chance I may get used to it, but I simply can't take the voices seriously long enough to do so.

NightNovember 15, 2011

Quote from: King

Quote from: Night

I like how you can call the English voices 'hammy' despite admitting that you didn't give them a chance. Great professional reviewing!

When the voices have me cringing, face-palming, sighing AND bursting out laughing at inopportune moments within one hour, I'd consider that enough of a warning. The emotion was about as believable as a Dr. Who episode, and that's not saying a great deal.

I stand by what I said. If I spent a lengthy amount of time with the game in English there's a fair chance I may get used to it, but I simply can't take the voices seriously long enough to do so.

The characters emote very well. As I've said, this is easily one of the best JRPG dubs ever. Basically, you weren't able to get used to the English accents.

Shorty McNostrilNovember 15, 2011

Quote from: Stogi

Quote:

And yes, that does mean you can strip your buxom lady allies down to their underwear if you so desire – they even have “secondary animation.”

Classic NWR Staff.

What is this secondary animation you speak of?

Quote from: King

Quote from: Night

I like how you can call the English voices 'hammy' despite admitting that you didn't give them a chance. Great professional reviewing!

When the voices have me cringing, face-palming, sighing AND bursting out laughing at inopportune moments within one hour, I'd consider that enough of a warning. The emotion was about as believable as a Dr. Who episode, and that's not saying a great deal.

I stand by what I said. If I spent a lengthy amount of time with the game in English there's a fair chance I may get used to it, but I simply can't take the voices seriously long enough to do so.

Hey! Doctor who has alright acting :P

I actually didn't find the VA work to be that bad.


Except Reyn. Goddamn he was awful.

broodwarsNovember 15, 2011

Quote from: Crimm

I actually didn't find the VA work to be that bad.


Except Reyn. Goddamn he was awful.

"OK, it's REYN TIME!"
"HAH!  WHAT A BUNCH OF JOE-KERS!"


Yeah, I've found Reyn pretty useful in battle, but man is his accent incredibly pronounced.  I have pretty much no qualms with the rest of the acting, though.  I found it pretty solid, especially for a title dubbed by a division of Nintendo, a company that still finds ways to haunt me in my nightmares with performances like the intro for Super Mario Sunshine.

I do have brief commentary to add to this review: this game is magical.


Really. I used the word "magic." Check it again. It's right there: "magical."

NightNovember 16, 2011

Quote from: broodwars

Yeah, I've found Reyn pretty useful in battle, but man is his accent incredibly pronounced.

His accent suits his character.

The voice acting is all a matter of opinion. You might dig it, but others might hate it.

NightNovember 16, 2011

Quote from: NWR_Neal

The voice acting is all a matter of opinion. You might dig it, but others might hate it.

Acting quality is not subjective.

Quote from: Night

Quote from: NWR_Neal

The voice acting is all a matter of opinion. You might dig it, but others might hate it.

Acting quality is not subjective.

Yes it is. Just because most people would agree on certain things doesn't make it objective.

broodwarsNovember 16, 2011

Quote from: Night

Quote from: NWR_Neal

The voice acting is all a matter of opinion. You might dig it, but others might hate it.

Acting quality is not subjective.

Yes, it is.  Try asking a sub-only anime fan if they can list any good anime dubs.  Chances are, there will be very few.  Ask the same question to a dub-only anime fan and you'll get an entirely different answer.  People have varying opinions on the quality of voice acting all the time.

AilingforaleNovember 17, 2011

It still kind of makes me sad that this is listed at TBA in the NA market when I was pretty sure they said no on this.  It like bringing my hopes up only to slap them down again.  I'm glad you enjoyed the game though.  I would probably played it not in English as well and just read subs.  Most of the time I'm not able to get behind dubs.  I play all my .hack games in Japanese.

NightNovember 19, 2011

Quote from: broodwars

Quote from: Night

Quote from: NWR_Neal

The voice acting is all a matter of opinion. You might dig it, but others might hate it.

Acting quality is not subjective.

Yes, it is.  Try asking a sub-only anime fan if they can list any good anime dubs.  Chances are, there will be very few.  Ask the same question to a dub-only anime fan and you'll get an entirely different answer.  People have varying opinions on the quality of voice acting all the time.

Language preferences are subjective, yes.

Acting quality is not subjective. Whether voice actors emote effectively and suitably; whether their intonation is apropriate, is objective criteria for determining the quality of voice acting.

Quote from: Night

Language preferences are subjective, yes.

Acting quality is not subjective. Whether voice actors emote effectively and suitably; whether their intonation is apropriate, is objective criteria for determining the quality of voice acting.

Quality in anything is subjective, in fact the very concept of "quality" is based on a subjective belief system ingrained into human perception. There are people out there who, disturbingly, consider the Twilight novels to be well-written, insightful examples of modern literature. Ever heard of "eye of the beholder"?

Look, I gave the game the best possible score available on the website. I loved every single aspect I came across while playing the game with the Japanese audio, and I appreciate the developers' decision to include the audio as an option. I just found that in comparison, the emotions of the English dub seemed false and at times, needlessly silly. There were also discrepancies between the way different characters pronounced names and words (for example, "Heropon") and, let's face it while we're on the topic of pronunciation, the complete lack of variation in accents among the different races and species was off-putting. I understand that when a game is dubbed in UK, the voices are understandably going to reflect that, but to me, hearing a cartoony, cockney slur on a gigantic boss mecha kind of detracts from its intimidation.
Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against a British accent - the Professor Layton games have a consistently good English dub that's easily on par with the Japanese voices.

But the end result: I'm not changing the already-positive review to suit one reader who's challenging my professional integrity over a trivial matter of opinion. Give it a rest.

TJ SpykeNovember 20, 2011

Night, you are wrong. Acting quality is subjective, singing quality is objective, painting quality is subjective, pretty much anything entertainment related is subjective.

fred13March 20, 2014

Guys go vote for Xenoblade. They're only up by 1 vote and need to get into the Elite 8
http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/forums/index.php?topic=43966.0

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Xenoblade Chronicles Box Art

Genre Adventure
Developer Monolith Software Inc.
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: Xenoblade Chronicles
Release Apr 06, 2012
PublisherNintendo
RatingTeen
jpn: Xenoblade
Release Jun 10, 2010
PublisherNintendo
Rating12+
eu: Xenoblade Chronicles
Release Sep 02, 2011
PublisherNintendo
Rating12+
aus: Xenoblade Chronicles
Release Sep 01, 2011
PublisherNintendo
RatingMature

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