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.