I’ve always kept half an eye on Xenoblade Chronicles, even though I’m not the world’s biggest RPG fan (Japanese or otherwise). After seeing some glowing comments from both reviewers and game developers, I decided to take the plunge and see what all the fuss was about.
To kick this piece off properly I should probably stress that it isn’t a review. As Xenoblade Chronicles clocks in at between 60 and 100 hours long, depending on side quests taken, a review would probably take me a good couple of months at least (I’m currently about ten hours in). The whole purpose of my rambling is to inform you all why the game 100% deserves your money, and perhaps is even worth buying a Wii for.
This JRPG starts rather bizarrely with two Titans, called Bionis and Mechonis, engaged in an epic battle. This fight goes back and forth, with universe shattering blows being dealt, but no one gaining the upper hand. Eventually Bionis and Mechonis die, locked together.[drop] Fast forward a substantial number of years and the bodies of the Titans have become populated worlds. It’s here that the player is dumped right in the middle of a full scale war. Humans, who live on the planet sized body of the Bionis, are trying to fend off the terrifying robot ‘Mechons’, who originate from Mechonis.
It’s not going great for team human, until the warrior ‘Dunban’ shows up. Dunban is in possession of a fearsome blade called the Monado; a blade that can slice through the Mechons with ease. Not just anyone can use the Monado though, it takes someone very special to tame its immense power. Even then it wreaks havoc with the user’s body, making limbs almost useless after prolonged exposure. Dunban finds this out first hand, although not before stopping the Mechon advancing.
A year later and things in Colony 9 have returned to some semblance of normality. It’s here that we are introduced to the game’s protagonist, Shulk, and his friends. Although young, Shulk is almost obsessed with the Monado, believing it to possess more power than even Dunban could unlock.
Just as things are going well what seems like a dark cloud blocks out the sun, only it’s not a cloud at all, but a huge swarm of Mechon. Not only have they returned, but they seem to have evolved and are now led by a huge Mechon with a face. The sirens begin to wail, the Mechons drop, and the battle begins again…
As someone used to playing platformers and party games on the Wii, having this kind of breath-taking introduction came as a huge surprise.
The first thing that strikes you about the game, apart from that introduction, is the amazing world that Monolith Soft has created. It’s well known that the Wii is in no way a graphical powerhouse, but some wizardry has occurred here as things look unbelievably good. Some flat textures on the character models betray the Wii’s humble origins, but I’d go as far as saying that this game looks better than certain Xbox 360 RPGs that I’ve player in the last six months.
The beautiful vistas, the day/night cycle, the weather system; everything you’d expect from the HD consoles has been crammed into a single DVD. If you stand atop one of the peaks and survey the miles ahead, every landmark you see can be walked to. It’s immense, and to top it all off the whole thing is populated with a myriad of beasts, people and Mechons.
You can tell a developer has designed something special when it’s so easy just to wander about the world, discovering new areas and not actually progressing through the story at all. It’s full of surprises, too, and even today I happened to stroll right into the path of a level 90 beast known as ‘Immovable Gonzalez’. It shocked the absolute heck out of me, as I had spotted a few level 70 creatures before, but this thing was on a whole other level and I couldn’t run away fast enough.
Another nice touch is the English voice dubs; for once they aren’t awful. Not only that, but Monolith has used English voices rather than American. Fear not, these aren’t the “cor blimey guv” English voices that one might expect, but a whole range of accents that have been done without the usual stereotypes.[drop2] Rather than go down the route of turn based battles, all fights in Xenoblade Chronicles take place in real time. Normally you’re accompanied by two other characters but fear not, they’ll take care of themselves. Selecting various attacks and spells is easy, and you can switch targets freely. It’s a slick system, you can even go over and give your companions little shouts of encouragement during a particularly tough encounter. There’s much more to it than this, but to mention it would be to give away some plot points.
Those who love to tinker with equipment will be in heaven here. Weapons, armour, clothing can all be looted or bought, with each having an effect on various stats. Some will even have slots in for gems. This opens up a whole new kettle of fish as you can craft gems to create various abilities such as a health increase. The good thing is I’m only 10 hours in, so goodness knows what else is in store.
All your various ‘Arts’ and attacks can be upgraded as you go as well, which is essential as some of the battles are tough. Don’t expect to plough through everything, even with a full strength team, and don’t even think about taking on something with a higher level than you, no matter how tempting it might seem.
I am totally hooked on Xenoblade Chronicles. The story, the characters, the world, the battle mechanics; they all suck you in and almost insist you sit down and play for hours at a time. I simply can’t wait to go and play some more, and if you’re looking for a reason to dust off the Wii then this is it.