Xenoblade Chronicles Review (Wii)

April 9, 2012

Reviews, Wii

Xenoblade Chronicles is a long begged-for Japanese RPG released exclusively on the Wii. It was developed by Monolith Soft and published by Nintendo.

Story: 5/5

Xenoblade Chronicles’ story is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. While most JRPGs I’ve seen appear to deal with themes about friendship or religion, this game’s story centers primarily on survival and later on, vengeance. Eons before the beginning of the game, two gargantuan beings fought each other to the death. Their corpses were all that was left and upon them rose life that would eventually become the civilizations and wildlife you see during the game. The Homs, who are human type characters, are at war with the Mechon, a race of mechanical robot-like beings that maliciously attack and slaughter the Homs. The main character is a Hom named Shulk, an intelligent researcher as well as a gifted fighter. Throughout the game, he meets other unique characters who become party members along the way, such as his childhood friend Reyn, and other characters like Dunban and Fiora, who all have different skills and attributes.

The story is very engaging; so much so that I haven’t wanted to stop playing. Its fresh and balanced method of progression is enough to make you want to continue playing forward after each scene. Some scenes I found to be rather gripping and others are unsettling, but it’s I nothing I could give away without spoiling the game. The game is very cinematic in this sense. Some of the cutscenes are a little lengthy; reminiscent of Metal Gear (though thankfully not as long). Each one is very well animated and of course, well acted. In a sense, I almost found the game about as fun to watch as it was to play.

Gameplay: 4/5

Xenoblade’s gameplay was very foreign for me. The only other JRPGs I had played before were the games in the Kingdom Hearts series and those featured real-time hack-and-slash gameplay. Xenoblade is completely different from beginning to end. The way combat works is you can move around freely until you engage an enemy. When this happens, your party will all unsheathe their weapons and begin their assault on the enemy. From the get-go, your chosen party leader will begin automatically hacking at the enemy you’re currently targeting. From here, you can choose Arts that serve as special abilities. They each range from offensive to defensive perks and depending on the Art, after meeting certain requirements, you can deal massive damage to an enemy. For example, my favorite Art is a wide slash that deals excessive damage to an enemy from the front while also applying a Slow debuff (which briefly slows the enemy’s movement).

Other Arts work in conjunction with Arts that your party uses. For some enemies, you’re required to use an attack that utilizes a debuff called Break and then an ally needs to use an attack that uses a Topple debuff. Only then will you be able to deal significant damage to the enemy. Sometimes this can lead to minor frustration because your party member’s AI may have used up their Topple Art and needs to recharge. Of course you can find strategies by unlocking new Arts to get around this issue. Expect to grind for at least a little bit throughout the game.

Overall, the battle system is tight and works well enough to be applicable for newcomers while applying enough strategy and challenge for JRPG veterans. The rest of the game involves mostly movement and some minor jumping to get around some of the scenery. This works well enough, though the jumping does feel a tad useless since there is very little platforming involved, if at all.

Graphics: 4/5

At first glance, Xenoblade Chronicles looks very much like a low-end Wii game. I’d go so far as to say that the graphics look like that of a PlayStation 2 game at times. Where this game’s visuals strike me is in their design and just the sheer amount of rendering that the Wii is doing. Monolith deserves a medal for their work here. Similarly to the visuals in Kid Icarus: Uprising, the developers opted to go with lower quality models and textures in favor of expansive open worlds and on-screen characters. While NPCs appear sparse in towns, some of the cutscenes and battles feature quite a few on-screen characters and I’ve noticed no graphical hitches occur because of it. When exploring the open fields, it’s difficult not to look around and simply take in the scenery. Trees, grass, wildlife and the looming Bionis and its mortal adversary hang overhead in the skies. Everything feels alive, as well as larger than life. The developers truly take you into a different world. It’s a testament to what graphics on the Wii can do, even without incredible horsepower and an HDMI cable. In Layman’s terms, even those who love spectacular visuals will see something amazing within this game’s extremely expansive open world. It’s because of this that walking around does not feel like as much of a chore as it typically would. You always feel like you’re headed somewhere new. Landmarks and terrain changes as you move from place to place. “Stunning” isn’t enough to describe it.

Sound: 5/5

I cannot express the beauty in the sound quality enough. Every musical score, every sound effect and every voice is simply top quality. The soundtrack is a magnificent piece of genius, with moody and sad songs for slow moments and fast-paced rock for certain battle sequences. The music is overall fantastic and fits just about every situation in the game. The sound effects spared no expense either; energetic impacts for the arts and mechanical blasts for the Mechon. Everything sounds crisp and clear. Finally, the voice acting is far greater in quality than a typical JRPG game. The game was first dubbed in Europe, so the entire cast is British. The voice work honestly makes me feel that Nintendo should outsource their voice overs to England a heck of a lot more often. To say the least, the voice acting is brilliant, especially when compared to most of the english dubs for these types of games done in the States. Every actor fits each character and they nail the emotions perfectly. Some of the side characters sound a little over the top here and there, but the voices of the primary cast makes it very easy to ignore. The voice acting in this game has definitely set a bar for how voice over in games of this caliber can and should be done.

Overall Score: 18/20 = 9.0 out of 10

Given that this is the first JRPG I’ve played for longer than a few minutes, it’s fair to say that I’m largely inexperienced with the genre. However, that doesn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying this magnificent game. Xenoblade Chronicles is new, unique and should be on the must-have list of not only Nintendo fans, but of anyone who owns a Wii. It has fun, strategic gameplay, an engaging story, some very cool visuals and a soundtrack that works all too well.

Due to the Wii’s staggering software lineup this year, I would be hard-pressed to hear a reason for any core gamer with a Wii to not buy this game. It took a great deal of patience to have this game localized for the western hemisphere. Now that it has, I cannot recommend it enough. Go get this game; not just to support more games like this from Nintendo, but also because it is, despite minor flaws, a genuinely fun and amazing experience.

PROs:

+Engaging storyline

+Lots to see and do

+Excellent soundtrack

+Strategic gameplay

+It’s out in the west!

CONs:

-Relying on AI can be frustrating at times

-Graphics appear primitive at first


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  1. Kid Icarus: Uprising Review (3DS) | Gamers XTREME - April 15, 2012

    […] I mentioned in my review of Xenoblade Chronicles, Kid Icarus: Uprising’s graphics will not seem very impressive for a handheld as powerful as […]

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