Xenoblade Chronicles review

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Xenoblade Chronicles review[EDITOR'S NOTE - This review was written before the US release of Xenoblade Chronicles was announced. The game was finally released in the US on the 6th of April 2012]

How times have changed, eh? For years, it seemed as though Europe was little more than an afterthought to the games industry – latecomers and no-shows became something too common to constantly complain about, localised US releases often showing up years before a PAL version, if such a thing even came to be at all. The recent sway towards simultaneous Western releases makes us almost forget those halcyon days of importing Chrono Trigger – or pretty much any of Square’s 16-bit output, for that matter – or getting hold of Pokémon Blue years early. And while it’s not a hard and fast rule across the board that PAL releases are either timely or guaranteed (as the likes of fellow Trauma Team, Arc Rise Fantasia and ExciteBots all sadly prove), the situation is certainly far brighter than it once was. And now, it’s all gone a bit Shenmue 2. We’re in that strange position where occasionally, the tables are turned and America gets screwed just as we have so many times in the past. Only in this case, America is really getting screwed – Xenoblade is hands-down the Wii’s best JRPG, and arguably the most competent and refreshing example of the genre this generation.

While the technical constraints of its chosen home mean it can never stack up to the crisp artistry of Eternal Sonata or the stunning 1080p slickness of everyone’s favourite playable corridor, FFXIII, Monolith’s latest work pushes Nintendo’s little white box so hard that its amazing it doesn’t melt. Crude textures, some simplistic modelling and the odd whiff of slowdown, while initially a little jarring, soon fade in importance as Xenoblade’s design sees it evolve, the artistic triumphing over the technological before your very eyes. NOE’s English dub is for the most part decent rather than great – a British voice track on a JRPG is a rarity and leads to such delights as one giant robot boss talking like a Cockney bruiser, though this kind of over-the-top audio caricature just makes dress rehearsal performances from several of the main characters feel even flatter by comparison. The score, on the other hand, is utterly superb; everything from sedate strings to wailing battle guitars hits all the right notes, even if Xenoblade could probably do with a handful more tunes in its repertoire in order to stretch the ear love across something so huge.

This ludicrously expansive game world (set on the bodies of two defunct titans) is fascinating to explore and, even without such RPG staples as chests scattered about the plains, caves and swamps, exploration is still rewarding – area-specific loot litters the land, new landmarks and locations grant experience boosts upon discovery (and offer new fast travel options) and unique named enemies hide among mobs, coughing up the best gear if you can cut them down to size. Like Final Fantasy XII, it’s a matter of choosing your battles carefully – with high-level creatures roaming most of the maps, a momentary loss of concentration or the hot-tempered pursuit of experience often leads to a sticky end.

Xenoblade Chronicles reviewFortunate, then, that Xenoblade falls closer to FFXIII than to XII in its progressive and imaginative solutions to the JRPG’s most common pitfalls. Death sees no penalty beyond getting whisked back to the nearest landmark; most quests are cleared without having to return to the issuer; speedy post-battle recovery does away with item use in combat; being able to fast travel and change the time of day at will means exploration is never a grind. In many ways, it’s as user-friendly a JRPG as you’ll ever play and, with comprehensive tutorials for its more in-depth elements, it’s almost impossible to get lost. But yeah, that depth is still there and as easy as it is to get lost in some of the game’s more confusing field areas, it’s every bit as easy to lose hours just tinkering with your party. There are passive skills to learn, link and share, battle arts to level up, stat-boosting gems to craft, collection logs to fill, hundreds of errands to run, an entire settlement to rebuild and relationships to be forged with not just allies but any named character in the world. In summary then, there’s a staggering amount to do whenever the story offers a little downtime, as it so frequently does. Enjoying the story at your own pace is actively encouraged here, a welcome change for the genre and one that couldn’t be further from Square Enix’s approach with FFXIII.

While Monolith has clearly put a lot of thought and effort into making exploration fun again, its battle system is no slouch either. Falling somewhere between FFXII, World Of Warcraft and White Knight Chronicles, combat is fast-paced and fluid – clever and careful use of healing arts and buffs/debuffs are crucial with no in-fight item use, though the subsequent death of potion spam isn’t something the genre will mourn. Enemy Aggro is visualised on the targeted party member and since many talents have bonus effects if used from certain positions or in a set sequence, tactical Aggro management can net favourable results that defy the odds while overly aggressive play will almost always get you splattered.

Beautiful, feature-packed and brimming with creative remedies for the ails of a stagnating genre, that NOA should overlook such a shining example of what a JRPG can be paints a very different company to the Nintendo that went out at E3 with a call to arms for the hardcore. Still, by the time you read this, it might finally have been announced for the US. Or, more likely, it won’t. Either way, consider this a universal recommendation of Xenoblade in all its forms. If nothing else, we’re just glad we’re not the ones doing the importing for once…



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  • Bowie

    Fantastic Review, glad to see it’s as solid as it seems. Cannot wait for release!

  • Bowie

    Oh, and I wish I had a chance to send a demo reel into Monolith to Audition to be in it… I would have loved a chance to Voice Act for this… I agree the tone is flat here or there… All the more reason it’s an annoyance. I’m not saying i’m a better Voice Actor than those in the game, but I’m confident I could have done the game justice!

  • An American

    I imported it. I can’t wait.

  • An American

    If anything, I’m just grateful that hacking the Wii is so easy. I hate Reggie so much.

  • Lenin

    Will definitely be buying this.

  • KillerKirby

    if this game isn’t announced for the us soon, i may end up hacking my wii. This would so much easier is the consoles weren’t region locked. who ever thought that was a good idea?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=715866726 Quinton Bonnett

    So considering all I’ve read here is praise for the game, why did you not give it 10/10? I’d like to see a reason for docking a point or it’ll be seen as an arbitrary number to a well written review.

  • http://aviationcentral.net/user.php?login=nicholasdunn62&view=history Mollie Hernandez

    Surprisingly! It is just like you understand my mind!

  • Mr_Bogus

    Great stuff! I’m looking forward to Last Story & Pandora’s Tower more tho, but will get this anyway :)

  • Anonymous

    Every chance this will be my GoTY!

  • Sux138

    The review is not all praise – the comments of user-friendly game is not a good thing, even if its a fun game, an easy game is not rewarding as a real challange.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mauricio-Ballen/570116870 Mauricio Ballen

    “User friendly” doesnt mean easy. You’re not travelling hours and hours, and you dont get lost. But that doesnt mean the game is easier that way, just make you save A LOT of time. FFXIII can learn a thing or two.

  • Anonymous

    Pre-ordered. PSYCHED!

  • Cain Bode

    I am from America and I will be getting this game, I had to have my wii Hacked to do this to play Pal region but from the sounds of it will be worth it. NOA is nuts. The wii doesn’t have much to offer RPG fans so this will be nice gem.

  • GBA GBA

    I think the U.S will end up importing this, since this is both a critical success and in demand. I will wait patiently since I have a lot of other Wii games to still play and beat, but this will arrive…

  • Vibed

    Since Nintendo said  it might come if sales are good in Europe, I’m just importing, because we all know that will never happen without expansive marketing.

  • Kdognumba1

    I want this game badly.  NoA sux.

  • Ben Veltmeyer

    Still a few weeks till this is released in Australia and even if I bought it from the UK it’d take a few weeks to get here.
    I want it now!
    Hopefully Gametraders might decide to import it early like they did with Ocarina of Time 3D… Will have to check their shop on the weekends between now and the Australian release.
    This game looks amazing and might cause me to fail Uni.

  • Marcus Stockley

    Dude, a 9/10 is amazing. Even if the game doesn’t have any glaring faults doesn’t mean it will get a 10/10. Few games get the highest mark.

  • Frustrated

     If this isn’t announced for US by the time it starts becoming more expensive on Amazon, I’m going to tamper with my Wii for the first time ever to import this. Come on, Nintendo. This game is already getting great reviews and the The Last Story is the first game in nearly 2 decades that the creator of Final Fantasy himself is directing. You really are screwing over the faithful.

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  • Sharla’sBounce

    The best game of the year for 2011.
    The best game on the Wii to date.
    The best RPG I’ve played in years.
    Currently in my top 10 games of all time.

    10/10

    IMO

    I’m at over 300 hours playtime (on second play-through now).
    Addictive as hell.
    So many things to do and I recommend doing it everything for 100% completion.
    Patience is key, don’t expect to rush through, take your time and enjoy the adventure.
    Surprising learning curve.
    The characters and story will draw you in.
    You thought Skyward Sword music was good?  Xeno’s beats will put you in a trance.
    The environments make you want to highlight every single inch of the maps.
    The graphics are a little weak in some place yet stunning in other places.  Excellent overall and complements the atmosphere perfectly.  The graphics would be the last thing on your mind when playing, I assure you.

    MUST BUY.  MUST NOT PIRATE.

  • Sharla’sBounce

    The best game of the year for 2011.
    The best game on the Wii to date.
    The best RPG I’ve played in years.
    Currently in my top 10 games of all time.

    10/10

    IMO

    I’m at over 300 hours playtime (on second play-through now).
    Addictive as hell.
    So many things to do and I recommend doing it everything for 100% completion.
    Patience is key, don’t expect to rush through, take your time and enjoy the adventure.
    Surprising learning curve.
    The characters and story will draw you in.
    You thought Skyward Sword music was good?  Xeno’s beats will put you in a trance.
    The environments make you want to highlight every single inch of the maps.
    The graphics are a little weak in some place yet stunning in other places.  Excellent overall and complements the atmosphere perfectly.  The graphics would be the last thing on your mind when playing, I assure you.

    MUST BUY.  MUST NOT PIRATE.

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  • Vampiric

    This review is only ok

    Its a great jrpg, yes,

    but the best of the gen? HAHAHAHA

    not when there are so many other better examples

    its sensationalized and generalized