(Available for Nintendo Switch only)
Xenoblade Chronicles gets it’s third release after previously appearing on the Nintendo Wii and 3DS. It seemed an interesting idea to rerelease Xenoblade again on the Switch given that it’s an old game with a cult following which meant it was primed for another release, especially given no console it’s appeared on has really been able to match the graphical capabilities of the developers ambition and lift this game from a cult following to a more large scale audience.
Xenoblabe has also become Nintendo’s premier RPG franchise after 3 successful games and an a particular boost from main character Shulk’s appearance in the last 2 Super Smash Bros games, with the most of the other major releases in genre on their platforms coming from third party developers so it seems like the time might be right to have the franchise celebrate it’s legacy now that Nintendo has it’s most successful console since the Wii riding high. The thing is Nintendo already had the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 on the switch within the consoles first year of the consoles life and it’s major DLC release within a year of that game coming out so it seems premature to release legacy content and I’m not sure that it’s reveal during the September Nintendo Direct last year had the impact Nintendo were hoping for if you saw any reaction videos to that direct. Put it this way the people who seemed the most excited for this in my group of friends were the ones who had played the previous releases and were desperate for a HD release. Xenobalde Chronicles has a story centring around the mythology of a war between two titans that created a land mass that is now inhabited by organic races including humans and the mechanical Mechon who are constantly in conflict with them. The greatest weapon humanity has is a sword called the Manado which a mechanic from Colony 9 named Shulk during a Mechon attack on his home town discovers he can use Mando and has the power to see close into the future. after the disaster he travels to find and destroy the new Faced Mechon that orchestrated the attack. That’s really not doing the whole story justice and it really is something you have to experience for yourself. On top of that there is an extra story which acts as an epilogue and is available from the start if you’ve played the original and just want to jump straight to it and adds 13 hours on to what was already an over 200 hour game to 100% though is 47 hours for just the main story (source: Howlongtobeat.com). so you’re getting a long game with tons of extra content and updated graphics and gameplay which does hold up but outside of the graphics and extra story not much has actually changed so think of this more like Persona 5 Royal then Trial of Mana Remake.
- Gameplay: if you like RPG’s the gameplay is right for you. The usual ways of assessing weapons and equipment to maximise each character for their purpose in the party is familiar and it has a pretty innovative system for an action RPG which takes into account both facing different kinds of enemies with various weaknesses as well as you position when attacking. Now it’s rather unique take on combat which has so many other factors to it and will take some getting used to since it’s quite different to a lot of similar RPG’s (I certainly died a few times early on since I was playing it closer to how I was playing Trials of Mana which didn’t help). Once you get down the combat with the various enemy weaknesses it is genuinely well thought out and the game is better at communicating how the game works. Just be prepared to memorise a lot and be aware you’ll have to get used to slower pace and auto attack
- The story: Xenoblade create a genuinely interesting mythology and explores it well so if you liked the story the first time your getting the same deal. The characterisation is also genuinely good, you might find them wooden at first but there’s some good development to them throughout the story
- Can make characters look any way you want: in the previous game when you changed equipment it would directly change how the characters looked which meant if you wanted to keep the characters the way you liked it would mean having a weaker character. this game gives you the option to have your character look whichever way whilst being able to get the benefit of equipment you want to equip which I think is an excellent if small edition for the definitive version.
- The world design: Xenoblade still to this day has excellent environment to explore which really reward looking for just about everything and the enimes won’t automatically attack you until further into the game giving you the ability to decide just how much you’re going to grind for experience in that early portion (I would recommend doing a fairly good amount though since boss fights are tough in this game
- Side quest locations are now visible on the map: this is a really welcome edition. In the previous releases I often found myself getting lost or losing track of side quests since I had no idea where I had to go a lot of the time. This edition meant that I was able to do a lot more of them for this review since I could manage my time better
- Expert mode and Casual Mode: a new feature for the game is an expert mode for players that have a lot of experience with the game. I really like this feature since it gives a good incentive to replay the main story rather than skip to the extra story immediately. I haven’t tried it because I’m not the best at the game normally so wasn’t taking my chances so take what I say with a pinch of salt but I’m glad the option is there. Casual mode is similarly something that can be turned on and off and seems to be in place to make sure players struggling can see the end of the story and given some of the difficult spikes in the game don’t feel ashamed if you used it for a couple of tough fights.
- Soundtrack: it may be the same songs as previous games but it’s still a really good soundtrack
- An abundance of side quests: they vary in quality with some being pretty bland monster or fetch quest but the sheer abundance of challenging side quests will really put your skills to the test and despite the fact I was trying to not do too many so that I could review this game without taking a couple of months I surprisingly found myself playing them a lot when I got a chance and it really adding to my play time in a positive way. you may need to go back to previous areas later since some of them really are a challenge that you can’t approach without grinding for experience but beating monsters that were really difficult often gave really good rewards that incentivised doing side quests and general exploring
- Graphics: the graphics have received a good texture update since the Wii and 3DS versions of the game and the Switch remaster is the best the game has ever looked but this HD rerelease is not pushing the Switch to it’s limit and is not among the best looking games on the console and I had to put the fact that there’s a noticeable downgrade in graphical resolution when undocked in the cons section. That being said I think the people modding the switch to up the graphical resolution are risking their switches for something that’s really not necessary since it’s not as if this game looks terrible or Nintendo mislead us on the graphical capabilities of the game.
- Accessibility: while I would say that the game is more accessible than ever to newcomers with the explanations in tutorials and the option for lowering the difficulty for difficult fights so you can get the story completed, I still would say that Xenoblade is still really aimed at RPG’s fans and it can be quite a headscratcher. I would certainly not recommend it as someone’s first RPG since in spite of the large number of tutorials in a lot of ways it kind of assumes you have payed a few RPG’s beforehand
- Extra story: the extra story campaign is a good edition even if it feels a bit like a bit of dlc that the developers have not been able to get in previous versions. It’s relatively short but enjoyable and acts as a nice epilogue though given the ending of Xenoblade I’m not sure it needed it. it serves a decent challenge since it takes away a few abilities forcing you to think though your stratergies and do a few extra side quests to build it them up. however it is kind of inconsequential to the main story and I would say if you’re going to do it wait a bit after you’ve completed it to let that ending sink in. I went straight to it after finishing the main story and felt a bit of fatigue towards it though felt satisfied by the end.
- graphics undocked: the game in handheld has noticeably worse graphics and it has to go in the cons section because despite the fact this isn’t the worst this game has looked (it’s still better than when it was put on 3DS) it’s a really disappointing to see this much of a graphical downgrade for playing the game on the go compared to playing it on the tv.
- enemy placement: I’ve been told that you can lure enemies out to make things easier but 9 times out of 10 it didn’t work so I’m going to complain about it. there were several occasions where the enemy placement put me in impossible situations or a fight would get twice as difficult by another enemy I didn’t want to engage with suddenly joining the fight. It wasn’t a deal breaker but was really annoying on most occasions
- can’t pause during battles: why can I not pause the game while I’m fighting. I am fully in favour of not being able to change equipment, but even modern RPG’s let you pause the game during battle and not make changes in order to go to the toilet or have a quick conversation. This is something that really should be patched into the game
Sorry this review took so long to come out but I really wanted to make sure I did this game justice. As it stands I will say definitive edition is the right word because it truly feels like this is the game the devlopers wanted to make from thestart fully realised. The gameplay still takes getting used to but is incredibly strategic and I think this version does a better job explaining it and I think the presentation works. It also has a ton of content, I bought it on release day on 29th May and finished the main and extra story 29th June and hadn’t even come close to 100% the game. It’s not going to be for everyone and I think it’ll appeal mostly to RPG fans but if you like good stories with rich mythologies give it a go
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