Review by Raptor_XS
"A Solid Effort from Takahashi & Co., But I've Played Better"
Monolith Soft has identified itself as publisher of high-quality, yet niche titles since the likes of Xenogears for the original Playstation. After the premature, yet passable end of the Xenosaga series, I jumped for joy when I found that Xenoblade would be the latest entry into the "Xenoverse." A word of warning, however: If you are expecting any relation to Xenogears or Xenosaga, you will not find that with Xenoblade Chronicles. What you will find, though, is an enjoyable, if graphically dated RPG that is well worth importing if you live in North America.
Rather than deliver hours of heavy dialogue or lengthy cutscenes, Monolith Soft has responded to fan feedback by focusing on game play. If you enjoyed the open exploration and real-time battle system of Final Fantasy XII, you will be pleased to know that Xenoblade improves upon Square Enix's formula. Random battles are nowhere to be found, and monsters that impossibly out-level your characters are generously mixed into groups of well-matched enemies, keeping your adrenaline pumping. Be prepared to spend much of your time battling and exploring to complete many of the literally hundreds of optional side-quests.
For such a departure from Monolith Soft's historically deep plot lines, the story required some toning down. While the characters are still well-developed, the story focuses directly on Shulk, the protagonist, and his relationship with the Monado, a weapon with which he shares a strange affinity. As the story progresses, this relationship receives more elucidation until the game's culmination. Don't worry, Xeno-fans, much of the dialogue and cinema WILL elicit strong emotional response, as is to be expected from a Takahashi game.
A welcome return to form in the game's soundtrack will undoubtedly please the audience, thanks to the likes of Yasunori Mitsuda and ACE+. Strong, diverse musical selections accompany the solid plot.
Graphically, Xenoblade delivers rather well, considering it is for the Wii. The graphical engine excels in displaying vast, wide-open areas that are almost completely reachable on foot; this unquestionably pushes the graphical capability of the Wii to its limit. Unfortunately, there's no question that a game with such depth and beauty belongs on a console capable of delivering HD graphics. The character models and expressions, while passable for the hardware, are noticeably dated, as are the monster animations during battle scenes. Were the focus of the game more on story than actual game play, these shortcomings would be more excusable.
Overall, Xenoblade Chronicles is a solid gaming and audiovisual experience, even though other titles have surpassed its game play factor. If you enjoy frequent battles and side-quests that are more relevant to a game's overall story, check out Square Enix's "The Last Remnant" (preferably on PC, as the Xbox 360 struggles with frame rates). Considering that this game belongs on the upcoming Wii U instead of the current Wii, I have to give it an 8 out of 10. Nonetheless, I would definitely import again were such a solid game released out of my region.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/26/11
Game Release: Xenoblade Chronicles (EU, 08/19/11)
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