Review by chaomaster4000
"A masterpiece of a game; one of the best on the Wii."
Xenoblade Chronicles underwent a fair bit of controversy not being released in the US. There was a huge outcry about it, which has unfortunately left many to brand the game as overhyped. I could not disagree more. This game is fantastic in every area, and a truly amazing experience. I've played only a few JRPGs outside of the Pokemon series (which really don't count when compared to something such as this) prior to playing Xenoblade, so this isn't coming from a JRPG fan getting his fix; it's coming from a fairly neutral player enjoying a masterpiece of a game, regardless of genre. As a side-note, I will avoid being specific about anything not found within the first half-hour of this game to leave as much to be discovered by the player as possible.
This story is brilliant. It's well-thought out, with plenty of twists and thoroughly original. The characters are very likeable, and the whole thing is very refreshing. I won't say anything more than that, because you get the best experience knowing absolutely nothing about the story beforehand.
The graphics are, on the whole, stellar, although do remember this is a Wii title so does not have the advanced shaders seen on the high-end 360 and PS3 titles. Regardless, the characters are well-animated, the textures detailed and the wide variety of environments are vivid and charming. Some particularly stunning environments include a marsh that glows at night and a beautiful, expansive ocean area with floating islands above it. My only two complaints are that sometimes the edges can be a little sharp on some environments, occasionally noticeable on clifftops, and the water effects in this game aren't the best I've ever seen on a Nintendo console. However, these are minor niggles and have little to no bearing on the experience for the vast majority of the time.
One thing that should be noted is that Xenoblade is a completely open-world game; anything you see in the distance, you can go over to see and explore. There is not one invisible wall in this game, and most of the maps are huge, giving you plenty to get your teeth into. Many maps contain a few monsters which are too high-levelled to beat first time you visit them, so you'll want to revisit them later to fully explore the area.
A soundtrack CD was given away with this game when sold in Australia (the MP3 files of which were available from the European Club Nintendo upon registering this game) for good reason. Each piece of music really adds a great atmosphere for each area of the game, and no music is out of place. The score is incredibly varied as a result, from Gregorian chants to guitar-shredding prog rock. In some areas on my playthrough, I would avoid getting into battles because I didn't want to interrupt the great music in the background; that's how good it was.
In terms of voice acting, it's been generally well done. I'm English, so the British accents sound perfectly normal to me, bar Reyn's, who often sounds too English. Shulk and Dunban have been particularly well done, and all the other characters have good voices, bar a certain Nopon whose voice does not allow anything he says to be taken seriously. Luckily, he never really has anything serious to say, but it makes him rather two-dimensional as a character. I did not play with the Japanese voice acting on, so I cannot comment on that, but I am told that the Japanese voice acting is more dramatic in some places than the English voices; although obviously, only if you can understand it.
A common trap for JRPGs to fall into is focusing far too much on the plot, graphics and music and skimping on the gameplay. Luckily, this is not at all the case. The battle system works very well and very smoothly (I played with a Classic Controller and the controls were very fluid, and suited the game very well. I can't speak for the Wii Remote controls, however). There are no random encounters; all monsters are present on the map as soon as you enter it. Some monsters will do nothing until you choose to attack them, and others will attack you if they see / hear you, so non-boss fights can't all be bypassed (and you need to be battling a fair number of monsters in order to not be underlevelled). The battles are in real-time, with each character having unique arts (read: attacks) they can use. The arts have cooldown, with the stronger arts having a longer cooldown, so all arts cannot be used at all times. There's a fair bit of strategy to battling, as some moves will do more damage if used from behind the monster, as well as the standard RPG fare of having different buffs and debuffs to make the battles more interesting. On top of this, the characters also have a standard auto-attack, which does a little damage, at regular intervals. Of course, you also get armour throughout the game, as well as gems which give you extra stat-ups (think Monster Hunter but much less complicated). There are many other aspects, such as chain attacks, tension and aggro, which can sound hideously complex if you try to explain them, but in practise it all fits together very nicely. I'm 16 years old and it wasn't too difficult for me to work out what was going on, and there are plenty of in-game optional tutorials to look at if you don't understand something.
Branching out from the main storyline there is plenty to do, most notably in the form of quests. There are a metric tonne of sidequests in this game, some of which are timed, in that you have to complete them by a certain point in the story or you will no longer be able to complete them. These usually include either collecting certain items, beating a certain number of monsters or optional boss, or talking to someone else in the village to resolve a problem, but they are very varied and thoroughly enjoyable, sometimes just because of the subplots between certain characters. As well as this, there is the collectopedia. In each area, there are a certain number of collectibles, represented by blue glowing orbs, to be picked up and collected. In the collectopedia you add one of each of these items, and for every category you complete in a particular area (such as animals, plants and strange) you get a reward, which is usually a gem or a piece of armour. Simply put, there is a wealth of extras to this game, and if you choose to make a beeline to the end you really miss out on a hell of a lot. This game is advertised as having 100 hours of gameplay, which is astounding for a single-player only game, especially since you never repeat the exact same task twice.
I should also point out that for an RPG there was not really very much grinding at all; only very near the end did I feel that I had to go out of my way to grind against more monsters in order to beat a certain boss. The game is pretty much perfectly paced so that it's almost never an issue; you get EXP for completing quests and discovering new locations as well as winning battles, so as long as you're not taking the fast route through each area you should be fine at all times. All characters, including those who didn't battle or weren't on the team when completing a quest, gain EXP, so you do not have to rotate each character in order to keep everyone the same level. The ones in battle gain slightly more, but all my characters were with one level of each other throughout the entire game.
This is one of the finest games of this generation. It's an elaborate and incredible experience, with more than enough extras to keep completionists playing for many hours after the main storyline is finished (which is much longer than the average storyline as it is). Simply put, it's the greatest game that the US never got, and it's a massive shame that many will never get to experience it; it's the kind of game that you'll be engrossed in for months, finish, and then want to forget just so you can experience it all over again. If you've got a PAL Wii, go out there and buy this game, even if it's the only one you buy this year. You won't regret it.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 10/26/11
Game Release: Xenoblade Chronicles (Classic Controller Pro Pack) (EU, 08/19/11)
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