Review by BandyGreensacks
"Xenoblade: A flawed JRPG that draws from WRPGs and MMORPGs but repeats and even worsens some of their least likeable elements"
Xenoblade, Monolith Soft's first major console release after their acquisition by Nintendo, is an interesting JRPG foray into open world game play and MMORPG quest mechanics with an unfortunate number of tedious fetch quests and an utterly useless minimap.
The combat system is relatively deep, with breaks and topples, dazes, shields to protect your party from special attacks, timing-based skill bonuses and combos with the potential to become long, uninterrupted chains. It's a bit disappointing that Sharla is the only healer capable of getting you through a lot of the more difficult boss fights, as I wouldn't have minded occasionally including Melia or another character in my party with Reyn (my tank) and Shulk.
There are some stunning vistas in this game, and I was impressed that the entirety of what you can see is explorable; Eryth Sea and Makna Forest, in particular, are often jaw dropping, especially at dusk. The animations, on the other hand, leave a lot to be desired, and, as nitpicky as it may sound, I have to admit that I was brought to the verge of laughter the first time I realized that it was possible to jump backwards with the forward jump animation. There are also some inexcusable collision issues at times, which rear their ugly when you're climbing up ladders or similar objects and your party members either knock you off or fall off and re-spawn numerous times themselves, leading to some of the least impressive platforming sequences I've seen in years.
As a fan of Xenogears and Xenosaga, Monolith Soft's two previous titles/series with the Xeno prefix, Xenoblade's storyline enters familiar territory -- religious and social commentary, the nature of existence and free will and the indomitability of the human (homs!) spirit. There is, of course, LESS storyline to be found, as the nature of the open world game play insists on it, and at least one of the major twists toward the end is easy to see coming if you're paying attention; for the most part, though, the plot was interesting enough to keep me going when some of the more tedious side quests, which generally begin and end with incredibly repetitious dialogue and annoyingly ask you to visit areas and find items and NPCs at specific times of the day, were forcing me to question my desire to finish it.
Overall, I did enjoy the experience, but the game feels almost like a prototype for future JRPGs in the same vein -- the Donkey Kong to a future Super Mario Bros, perhaps. There is a great deal of room for improvement, particularly in making the side quests less repetitive and less reliant on luck and the ability to consult a FAQ.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 11/04/11
Game Release: Xenoblade Chronicles (EU, 08/19/11)
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