Review: Why You Should Play Xenoblade Chronicles

Xenoblade Chronicles is an action-based RPG released on the Nintendo Wii that feels modern and fresh, but encapsulates the very best features of classic RPGs.

Designed by Xenogears director Tetsuya Takahashi, Xenoblade’s story takes place on a world unlike any other. The world is literally the body of two ancient petrified titans, the Bionis, where human-like species live and the Mechonis, home to the antagonistic mechanical creatures known as the Mechon. Xenoblade Chronicles will draw you in with its magical world, that is endlessly expansive and features some of the best art design since Chrono Cross. Exploration is at its best, as pretty much anywhere you can see, you can travel there by foot. This is an epic adventure that will leave you in a sense of wonder every time you encounter a new area.

The narrative is also engrossing, as what starts out as a story of personal revenge against the Mechon, becomes something much more. The game is never slowed down by the story though and most cutscenes are action-packed, leaving the player wanting more. The characters are well developed and the main cast really have a reason to be part of the story, as the conflict has all directly impacted their lives. The stand out characters include the seasoned hero Dunban, who brings a sense of urgency to proceedings and the main protagonist Shulk, who has the ability to see visions of the future through the legendary sword the Monado that he wields. The plot offers many twists and turns that genuinely surprise and evoke emotion.

Xenoblade Chronicles has so many impressive features, but it is the battle system that will keep the player coming back for more. Unlike other action-based systems, battles in Xenoblade require strategy and can’t be won by just mindlessly attacking. Normal attacks are performed automatically leaving the player free to execute special attacks, move their characters into a more advantageous position, discover the proper strategy to defeat enemies and organise chain attacks between the three party members. The game adds more abilities as the story moves on, such as Shulk’s ability to see a vision of a powerful attack that the enemy is planning, allowing the player the chance to warn the other characters and prepare for a counterattack. The game play is deep and engaging, but never poorly explained, letting the player learn by experience, something many modern game developers do not understand.

The soundtrack of Xenoblade Chronicles is also an epic, featuring music from six composers including the well known Yasunori Mitsuda and Yoko Shimomura. The music is full of life and does not contain much repetition as many songs include multiple sections. Areas in the game such as Colony 9 contain different music depending on whether it is day or night, as the tracks for the day portray upbeat, exciting themes, while the night-time tracks are softer and calmer. The “Main Theme” is exquisite and beautiful and “Engage the Enemy” is an extremely emotional piece that is played during important parts of the game. This is one of the best video game soundtracks in years.

Xenoblade Chronicles is an RPG that must be played. It is how modern RPGs should be designed and it is comparable to Chrono Trigger in the way it makes so many innovations, but gets all of them right. If you wish to play an RPG that respects its tradition but knows when to try something new then you should play Xenoblade Chronicles.

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12 Comments

Filed under Reviews, Xenoblade Chronicles

12 responses to “Review: Why You Should Play Xenoblade Chronicles

  1. The two things you mention here that really stick out to me are:

    Different versions of songs that play depending on whether it is night or day. This is a subtle touch that just adds so much to the experience (I wish more game makers would take notice!).

    The tutorials are excellent, no nonsense pop-ups that explain just enough to make you go “oh, I get it”, but don’t beat you over the head with information.

    Excellent!

    • Completely agree, little touches like these really elevate a game above others and shows the care and attention of the developers. Unlike FFXIII that was a 20 hour tutorial, Xenoblade treats you like an intelligent player and gives you enough freedom to experiment for yourself.
      Thanks for the great comment,

  2. I’m playing through it now and I’m about 9 hours in and loving it. The side quests are a little much some times, but I’m really digging the battle system, story, music, etc.

  3. I’m with you about the side quests. I just do the ones that are convenient, or on my way to the next objective and then leave the rest. The fact that such a massive amount of optional content is available though is great. Like you said the rest of the game design is excellent and as someone who usually prefers turn-based battles systems, i find Xenoblade’s extremely well done.
    Thanks,

  4. Great review! Seems we both share a love for Xenoblade! 😀

  5. Sure do, I hope this game gets as much attention as it deserves. Well done with your review too!

  6. twelve

    I see you like the battle system. Ive seen videos of the game and I it looks pretty frantic, it reminds of Star Ocean 3 which I never really understood how to play, something I frankly fault the game for 😛
    Do you think I would have better luck with Xenoblade or The last story?

    • As someone who prefers turn-based battles systems I originally thought I would not like Xenoblade either. I tried playing Star Ocean 3 and had the same problems as you so I understand your concern.
      I recently read an article how Monolithsoft originally tried to implement a turn-based system in Xenoblade but could not get it working properly and I think they made the right decision with the system they eventually used.
      Unlike most action RPGs Xenoblade feels more strategic as you use special attacks and then have to wait for them to recharge and chaining your attacks together with your other party members enables you to knock enemies down leaving them defenseless.
      I really recommend you try Xenoblade as it is more than the sum of it’s parts so don’t let the battle system scare you off.
      In regard to The Last Story I have only played a few hours so far, but it is very different to Xenoblade. It is much more linier and mission based compared to Xenoblades freedom and massive world. The story, characters and presentation feels a lot like the older Final Fantasy games that Sakaguchi worked on which I’m really enjoying, but the battle system is much more action orientated relying a bit more on fast reflexes and hacking and slashing. Battles seem more like set pieces which work very well and bring some interesting ideas to the mix such as destroying bridges to take enemies out. I will write a review soon!
      I hope this helps, thanks for the comment!

  7. 50buckswasted

    “The game play is deep and engaging, but never poorly explained…”

    Complete opposite of what actually happens in the game. The fighting is hideously complex and also poorly explained, to the point where even reading all the tutorials and the manual multiple times won’t explain what the hell is going on. Yet for all the poorly-explained complexity, fighting is dull as dishwater. And since you spend 90% of the game fighting….

    • Unfortunate that you had that experience. What part of the battle system did you get stuck on? You can choose skills from the menu and they execute instantly, while normal attacks are automatic. I found the tutorials helpful without overbearing and the battle system was pretty intuitive. What other RPGs have you played and what battle systems do you enjoy?

  8. WhiteKnight597

    It took me awhile to get into this game. I kept hearing about how awesome it was and got it when I hear GameStop was selling it for Black Friday for $ 30. I had somewhat of a negative attitude as the game was different than anything I ever played and the accents drove me crazy at first. 57 game hours later, it is one of my favorite games of all time. The only thing that I didn’t like was the absurd amounts of equipment. I can’t tell you how many times I opened a chest, checked my menu hoping it was an upgrade to what I had, and then exit the menu disappointed.

    • I definitely had to go into the game with an open mind initially, as I prefer turn-based RPGs. Once I learnt the ropes though, I loved the game, really well done, felt like FFXII. Yeah the amount of equipment was pretty crazy, I think most of the time I went with what looked cooler, haha.

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