Review by Moranite
"JRPG of 2011! Well worth a purchase."
This review is merely an expression of this one's humble opinion, meant to possibly recommend this game to others who are interested in it(or to recommend against it). I hope you found it helpful
If you play JRPGs, you may know who Tetsuya Takahashi is. He is one of the creators of Xenogears and Xenosaga, two great JRPGs that I remember for their great music, characters, and stories. This is the newest game made by him, Xenoblade Chronicles. This game, as some of might know was titled Monado: Beginning of the World, given the name Xenoblade in tribute to its creator. While not having the exact same feel as those Xeno games, this is still one of the best JRPGs this year. Maybe even of this whole video game generation.
Let me say one important thing right now: If you're a big Xenofan like me, you're probably hoping to see a connection to the other Xenoverse(s...? Well, that's a topic for a later time). Well, you would be disappointed because Xenoblade Chronicles has nothing to do with it(them). Having beaten the game, I can confirm that there's no room for it to fit in. This game, as I mentioned before, was named Monado, given the name Xenoblade in tribute. It's a new story, with a few coincidental similarities to the Xenoverse(s), and a quick shout-out here and there.
That said, this game needs no connection to those other games because Xenoblade Chronicles has an outstanding story all its own. It starts with a battle between two huge god beings, each the size of continents, at least. Bionis, an organic god, and Mechonis, a machine-like god, locked in an epic battle. In the end, both gods strike each other dead at the exact same time, leaving them standing that way to this day.
Fast forward to a year before the main plot. The spawn of the gods, Homs(to Bionis)and Mechon(to Mechonis), are at war. At this moment, you control the crazy awesome Dunban, who fights the Mechon at Sword Valley, with his allies Dickson Mumkar, and the mysterious sword, the Xenoblade itself, Monado. This sequence acts as an intro and a bit of a tutorial.
Present day. The war is over. You now are introduced to our hero, Shulk, living peacefully in Colony 9, with his best friends, Reyn and Fiora. However, this being a JRPG, that peace will not last...
It gets more interesting, as you learn more about the hero, the Monado, and everything that's really going on. At first, it might not seem like anything special, especially with a protagonist like Shulk, who took a LONG time to grow on me, but the game will surprise you. It's not as great as Xenogears or Xenosaga, but Xenoblade's still above the rest of its competition here.
I'm not one to care too badly for graphics, but I say they get the job done very well. The world is beautifully detailed, and several areas look simply amazing. You'd have to see it to understand what I mean. The characters look nice, and the equipment they wear shows up on their bodies at all times. Things like this make this one of the best looking Wii games I can think of.
Xenoblade Chronicles's music was composed by Yoko Shimomura(Kingdom Hearts, Radiant Historia)and ACE+(who I've never heard of before). It's amazing, just as good as the other Xeno games when it comes to music. It was a pleasant surprise.
I must also thank the English voice cast for this game. This is one of the best English dubs I've ever heard. I've never heard of any of the voice actors, yet I was so surprised at how good it is(and happy to not see Yuri Lowenthal, Johnny Yong Bosch, and Michelle Ruff again), and I can't imagine the characters speaking in any other way, with any other voice(which will make playing the game through in Japanese weird for me...)and it was almost perfect.
The most important part to any game(with some exceptions), gameplay has to be top notch, lest the player be disappointed. Now, this game is a bit complicated, but once you get the hang of it, Xenoblade is pretty fun. It'll be hard to explain all of it, but let me see if I can give you the basic idea...
Field gameplay is pretty interesting. Like in most JRPGs, you walk around, talk to people, etc., but people in the world will usually have some things for you to do. These are Quests, which are mostly optional, but you are rewarded for doing them. There's quite a lot of them, and they can be surprisingly fun. In addition to that, there are Landmarks, which sort of act like checkpoints that you can access pretty much whenever you want(outside of certain story events)and get sent right to if you die(so there's not really a game over in this game, oddly enough). Interesting feature. You can also jump, which surprised me, because the only JRPG I can think where you jumped, Action RPGs aside, are Xenogears and Vagrant Story. Pretty cool, if you ask me.
The world of Xenoblade Chronicles is huge. There's always something new to see, something to do, and this amazing and interesting world opens up in front of you as you play. They did a really good job of bringing the world to life.
Combat is pretty interesting as well. Stat based real-time, if that makes any sense to you. Physical attacks are executed automatically, powering up your character's unique Talent Art, and other arts can be used, needing a few seconds to cooldown afterwards. If you've played an MMORPG, you might have an idea of how it works.
To make things even more interesting, our hero Shulk can see a little into the future, and during battle, he can use this to avert a terrible defeat. He has Talent Arts that will help him change the future he sees, or if your Party Gauge is at least 1/3, you can warn a fellow party member to help you change it.
Speaking of the Party Meter, it's a pretty nifty feature, and a lifesaver in a tight situation. You can warn a party member about the future, as said before, you can help an incapacitated ally(there are no items in the game, so this is very important), or if you get to full, you can execute a Chain Attack, which allows you and your party to use Arts, uninterrupted, For Massive Damage.
If you haven't guessed by now, you don't have direct control over the party, and sometimes the AI(while usually good enough to get you through the game)can make some pretty bad mistakes. If you're leader falls, you are sent back to the last Landmark and whatever battle you were in is lost(same applies if you drown in poison/acid/liquid ether... ouch). Now, if you've seen me on the forums, you'd know that I saw these as big problems in Final Fantasy XIII, and you'd probably expect me to b**** about it a little bit here. To my surprise, It wasn't big problem in this game. I felt like I still had a huge part in gameplay, the enemies aren't as much of bastards as in that game to just maul your hero here, in Xenoblade. If that does become the issue, another party member can(successfully and helpfully)draw an enemy's attention, and even if your leader bites it, if you're lucky enough to have at least 1/3 Party Gauge left, an AI ally, if they're alive, will come help you! Awesome, and all this fixes what could have hurt the game for me.
The game is not perfect. It is very awesome, and comes close to having no problems I can identify, but if I said it was flawless, I'd be lying. Still, that doesn't matter. The good strongly outweighs the bad.
Xenoblade's difficulty is just how I like it. Starts off easy, so that I can get used to it, then gets harder near the end, giving challenge, but just enough to offer a sense of satisfaction, aside from That One Boss... Overall, difficulty, can't complain.
Xenoblade is a long game. It took me over 60 hours to beat, and others speak of clocking in at over 100. It will last you a while, and you won't really get tired of playing it(unless you're easily bored or something), so play time is pretty good.
I have only beaten Xenoblade Chronicles once, but I know I will be playing it again. There's kind of a New Game +, which lets you go through the game again with some of your old data, which I never complain about.
Also, if you played through the game hearing one language you might change it if you go through the game again, just to hear the difference.
If you live in North America, pick this game up when it comes out April 6th. It's well worth it, and might scratch that Xeno-itch some of you may have. It took a while for the game to be announced, but it has and I'm glad more people can experience it, now...
If you're in Europe, and you like JRPGs, buy it. This is the best JRPG on the Wii, on any current-gen console. It is my game of the year for 2011, and people really should enjoy it.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/07/11, Updated 02/27/12
Game Release: Xenoblade Chronicles (EU, 08/19/11)
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