The Nintendo Switch has gone from strength to strength since launch, though much of its 2020 lineup remains a mystery. Thankfully, Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition, another port for the system (this time from the Wii), is well worth playing through the summer.
Here's our full review.
Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition Review: A World Worth Getting Lost In?
Xenoblade Chronicles' world is one where sea meets sky in a vast nothingness, with the horizon stretched out for the majority of the planet. The lone landmasses here are two titans, the Bionis and the Mechonis that even in death remain locked in combat.
Here we're introduced to Shulk, a young scrapper you may recognise from a certain crossover fighting game, a resident of Colony 9 on the Bionis. When the mechon attack the colony, it's up to Shulk, his companions, and a legendary sword called the Monado to save the world.
In truth, Xenoblade Chronicles' story is arguably one of its weaker aspects, at least at the outset. It has all the JRPG tropes we've come to expect, from plucky adventurers, stern companions, and evildoers that just love being baddies, but over the course of its eighty to one-hundred-hour runtime we came to find each of its characters more relatable than the last.
Hampering our bubbling affection for our new friends is the game's voice-acting. It's undoubtedly the kind of thing many will find endearing, but repetitious voice lines like "it's Reyn time!" soon begin to wear thin after a few hours, let alone throughout the game's entirety. In fact, it becomes so grating that we'd recommend switching to the Japanese voice track just to mix things up a little.
Thankfully, Xenoblade Chronicles is a joy to play. By having the Bionis and the Mechonis be explorable locations, each with their own ecosystems and biomes, the game is able to play with scale in ways that would have been ahead of its time a decade ago. There's a great verticality to the world, and the map is a huge improvement on the sequel's confusing effort which makes it a joy to explore.
It'd be hard to say that Xenoblade Chronicles is on the same level of graphical fidelity as its sequel, but there's no denying that the game looks much better than the 2010 original. Its resolution does drop to around 400p when things get chaotic on screen, but in the eye of the storm that is combat, you'd be hard-pressed to tell.
Like the game's story, the combat in Xenoblade Chronicles is somewhat slow-burn. Shulk and his party attack automatically, with various "arts" (abilities) mapped to a bar at the bottom of the screen. Players need to manage each art's cooldown, as well as factor in how they intertwine with another party member's.
As an example, one party member might have an ability that requires and enemy's stance to be broken in order to topple them and open them up for massive damage. It feeds into ordering attacks, opening up for strong counters or at times just for your party to catch its breath.
Factor in the Monado's ability to give Shulk a glimpse into the future, and you can plan out moves a couple of attacks ahead. While things start simply enough, your party will soon be drawing aggro from opponents, sneaking behind for a more powerful surprise attack, and setting up support characters to buff heroes in the heat of combat. While many enemies
It's a good job that combat is fun, because you'll be doing an awful lot of it. While Xenoblade Chronicles' side quests aren't exactly the most exciting tasks to complete, they offer chances at random drops of new arts. That means you'll be grinding through certain areas if you want to min/max your character, so your mileage may vary if you're not a fan of old school RPG loops.
Of course, if you've already played the Wii original then none of this will be news to you. Thankfully, Nintendo has added a new Epilogue chapter to the game's campaign, Future Connected. Picking up some time after the original story, it helps tie the game into its sequel and close off some plot threads. If you're only interested in this chapter, you can access it directly from the main menu, but at around 15 to 20 hours it's a solid chunk of content that allows Shulk to visit more of the game's majestic world.
That's not all that's new, either. The game's cumbersome menus have been tweaked, as well as quality of life changes to basic things like equipping weapons and quest-tracking. Load times are short, even when fast-travelling from one region to another, making the game feel much more immediate.
Many will decry Nintendo's incessant porting of games from its older consoles, but when they end up as good as this we simply couldn't care less. Xenoblade Chronicles was a great RPG back in 2010, but is definitely worth revisiting a decade later, particularly if you enjoyed or have any interest in its Switch-only sequel. Its side quests may be from a bygone era, and its dialogue may be clunky and poorly acted, but being able to slap giant robots and monsters around with a magical sword never gets old.