Review by Pokemanic
"If Monster Hunter and Final Fantasy had a stillborn baby, this would be it."
The outlandish title of this review may seem to turn eyes and ears alike, but surely for all the right reasons. After all, if told a game bears likeliness of two outstandingly popular hit series from Japan, there's no reason not to. That being said, the first thing people will think of Xenoblade when hearing the name is Xeno part of the name and how it possibly might be related to Xenogears and Xenosaga. Well, yes and no. Unlike the other Xeno works which are tied together, Xenoblade is completely standalone, sharing the common father Tetsuya Takahashi, having its' name changed TO Xenoblade in honor of his efforts on this project. At he time of this review, Xenoblade has just sat in the spotlight for two distinct accomplishments- Winning Wii Game of the Year 2011 from Gamespot, and achieving a localization date in the NA spurred by how meteorically successful the game did with the EU localization. This game is a true dark horse in both regards, being the unexpected success both critically and commercially.
The concept is that two titans existed, one mechanical and the other biologica, the Mechonis and Bionis respectively. In the distant past they fought and it resulted in the victory for the Bionis, but recently the beings of Mechonis- the Mechons are attacking Bionis and its inhabitants. After winning a great victory in the war, peace has returned, but it is short lived and conflict starts Shulk and his friends on the epic adventure of the game. It's got the typical Japanese RPG story feel to it, and works it to a successful degree, with excellent pacing and memorable characters, and excels in all areas when it comes to the story. The plot can be cliche, but it delivers it very well polished and stands out among the crowd.
It's addicting and active. You're thrown in a huge world and the game succeeds at accomplishing the goal of making things open ended. How you want to explore the MMO sized maps and traverse the world is up to you. Monsters and hostile enemies litter the world and you can choose to engage them or run along the merry way. In combat, it's active and there is no random-battle encounters, you simply meet the enemies and fight. Your active party consists of 3 characters from a pool of 7 that are rotatable and adjustable as you see fit, each with unique skills, arts (abilities), and stats. What really keeps this game fresh is the fact that you go from battle to battle with minimal downtime. You simply fight and loot, much like a single player MMO. This aspect truly made me think of Monster Hunter, between fighting large and over powered monsters to being constantly active and moving.
The option to engage in side quests and fulfill other objectives exist, and character customization exists. The problem with both of those factors is that its shallow. Quests are often boring and only a handful are worthwhile. Character customization only goes so far as they fill niche roles and party combinations are often limited by the 3-party system and unique jobs each character performs.
Easily one of the best part about the game. A repetitive soundtrack is often the bane of the experience for many people, but here it will be bliss. The audio is well composed and very fitting of the game, and it scales really well with the areas and sets the tone for the experience. The game also opts to keep voice acting open to Japanese with subtitles or English with subtitles. I personally found the British accents to be a pleasant change of pace from the Midwestern English norm coupled with stereotypical accents. The voices are persuasive and add a dimension to the game. The music is diverse, ranging from rock to classical, and is comprised of everything from violins to pan pipes. The 4 Disc OST is something that I personally had to get my hands on afterwards if nothing else, the game's beats will be something I carry on.
Here's where the game slips in the eyes of many. The graphics are weak. The character models would be the most glaring issue, since the detail on them were kept minimal. Their facial expressions are mediocre and overall the details in all fall short of what the Wii is capable of. But I say it is what makes this game amazing. Making a game is more than just getting every polygon of detail and power your console can push out, and Xenoblade was wise with its allocation of resources. The level of detail in terms of graphics are kept lower than expected to make sure the game plays smoothly and can be fast paced, and you must remember the size of maps are enormous. Those familiar with graphically stunning games are aware f their ridiculous load times, but the word "load" doesn't exist in Xenoblade. You will barely see the load screen graphic in your entire experience of transitioning from scene to scene, area to area. The game instantly renders all cut scenes and it keeps you engaged.
Armor choices are consistent as every scene is rendered so that their equipment is constant and they will be wearing whatever you equipped them with. And the game gives shiny armor and unique designs to characters to keep us pleased. Attacks and sell animations are fun to watch if nothing else, and generally there's nothing wrong with it.
Here is where the game shows its' diamond like nature. It shines like no other, but its blemishes and imperfections become glaring. The game's audio and graphics add to the experience, the gameplay is addicting, and its well rounded. However, that's as far as the praises can be sung.
The quest system is irritating and is comprised heavily of gather x amount of items that are incredibly hard to find, or require menial tasks to be done, it seems like it was trying to bite off more than it could chew. I call the game a stillborn baby because it was on the right path, but it just didn't finish what it started. In a way, it had the making of the ultimate solo-MMO, but it opted to tie up the loose ends with a halfhearted approach. Xenoblade also lacks any "choice", while claiming to be open ended and succeeds at making the world that way, the game itself has no split story paths or decision making points, so the story is completely linear and 1 straight line down the middle.
Is the game fun and time consuming? Absolutely. You will spend 60+ hours on the main story alone. It's difficulty is negligible, since leveling and grinding can make anything easy, it's just a matter of commitment to fighting and leveling and not fleeing from enemies.
Xenoblade is a great game, and a worthwhile experience for anyone with time on their hands. What it fails to deliver it makes up in sheer quality of the main game itself. If anything, the game was so great I was only disappointed because it led me to expectations of more which it just didn't feel pertinent to deliver. The New Game+ feature adds no new features except a near complete carry over of characters and gear, and there is nothing to be done Post-Game, which leads to this games low replayability as everything that can be done can be done before end game.
Still, it was fun and that's what you have to walk away with. Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii walks away with an 8/10 for being great at what it promises to do.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/04/12
Game Release: Xenoblade Chronicles (EU, 08/19/11)
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