Time to feel the power of Monado... again!
Three and a half years ago, western audiences got their first hands-on experience with Xenoblade Chronicles. With a huge, beautifully crafted world, a unique battle system and a mesmerizing story, this gigantic RPG became one of my absolute favorites on the Wii. Now Xenoblade is coming to the New Nintendo 3DS as a remade exclusive.
Xenoblade Chronicles is already a game that has proven itself, both with critics and gamers alike. The true question is how it plays on the handheld and if it will appeal to both newcomers and veterans. As far as I can tell, no cuts have been made to the gargantuan experience and even the frequent loading times aren’t that bad. While Xenoblade Chronicles’ large scope makes it seem perfect for the big screen, this portable version doesn’t lose that majesty in the process. While it is all on a smaller scale, the worlds are still incredible to look at and wonderful to explore. It helps that you can save at any moment and start exactly where you left off, which makes Xenoblade perfect for quick bursts. The dialogue, cut scenes, and character interactions suckered me completely back in and I never felt that I missed out on anything because of the smaller screen. It is a shame that they removed the Japanese voice acting as I played it through twice that way. I don't mind the English voices one bit, but I liked having the option between the two in the Wii version.
While the overall game is unchanged, certain aspects were tweaked for the New 3DS, chiefly the battle system. The button layout is radically different than on the Wii controllers and it took a little while before I fully understood it. As you might know, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D has a dynamic system and the various characters will automatically attack while you choose your commands. You scroll through those commands with the D-pad, but that isn't very handy if you want to get out of the way from danger since you’re moving the Circle Pad. Letting go of the Circle Pad makes a counter move by the opponent easy. Along the way, I found myself getting used to it, but it was still a hurdle.
Outside of this problem, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D plays wonderfully on the new system. The movement with the Circle Pad feels great and all the buttons on the system are used wonderfully. You can use the ZL button to get more control over the camera and use ZR to quickly let a full-screen map pop up. The C-stick works to control the camera in a nice, precise way. This is the first game since Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate that I found a good excuse to get mileage out of this new control option. The touch screen shows off the state of your party and a small mini-map, which is good for a quick look at your surroundings.
Brand new to the New 3DS version is Collection Mode. By collecting special tokens, you collect music and 3D models from Xenoblade Chronicles. In the beginning, there are only a handful of things to collect, but more content becomes available to purchase once you progress through the story. The biggest problem with the Collection Mode is that the tokens are hard to get. You get three for scanning in your Shulk amiibo, two for every player you meet in StreetPass and one for every five Play Coins. That seems fine at first until you realize that one token doesn't guarantee a new piece of content. The developers were a bit sneaky about this and if you want something new for certain, you have to spend three tokens in the mode. While it is cool to unlock something daily with your Shulk amiibo, it would have been nicer if you got more for the effort.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D looks quite good on the screens of the New Nintendo 3DS. There is a fine sense of depth, though the lower resolution is noticeable. The faces especially look haggard. It does make use of the 3D effects of the system, but outside of a few elements that pop a bit more, it isn’t anything special. What is remarkable is how well the game runs, which makes the New Nintendo 3DS a solid second home.
The music, sound effects and voice acting offer up the same quality as on the Wii. If you have no interest in moving about, you could always go to the Collection Mode and have a listen to the tunes you have uncovered. I was even able to plug in some headphones and close the system for optimal enjoyment!
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D seems very similar to the masterpiece of a game from a few years ago. This beautiful adventure will open its gates to a new public and hopefully they will enjoy it as much as I did in the past. How the port ends up being in full remains to be seen, but as of now, it’s looking good.