Review by MinishBreloom
Xenoblade Chronicles 2: A Flawed Masterpiece
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is the best JRPG for Nintendo Switch and arguably one of the best of recent years. The game succeeds in many areas yet struggles in a few areas. It feels nostalgic to the great RPG's of the early 2000's, yet it still includes much of the clunky design of those games. I will break down my opinions on the game by story, gameplay, characters, and presentation.
Firstly, the story. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 can definitely be played as a standalone game, with no knowledge of either Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii or Xenoblade Chronicles X necessary. The story starts small and simple but expands greatly into a complex narrative by the end while still retaining its core focus: Rex and Pyra's journey to Elysium, a fabled land of plenty. The lore of Alrest is explored primarily through NPC dialogue and optional sidequests, which can drive off some players. The story also hits many of the same beats as a shonen anime, however many of the classic anime tropes are mixed and used in unique ways within the game. The twists and turns are surprising and unexpected, culminating in a deeply satisfying conclusion. It is not the game's strongest aspect, however.
The gameplay is in my opinion the best in the Xeno series so far. At first the combat seems simple and uninteresting. I beg you to continue past this point, as it only gets better from there. The battle has a satisfying rhythm to it. You do auto-attacks to charge Arts, you use Arts to fill a special gauge, which allows you to use Blade Combos, which combine different levels of elemental attacks from each of the three characters in battle to deal great damage and seal an enemy's attacks. You only control one party member at a time outside of chain attacks and Blade Combos. Within a chain attack all Arts are charged and you are able to unleash attacks upon the enemy to burst elemental orbs that form after a completion of a Blade Combo. During a Blade Combo you can command either of the other two characters to use their special to continue a Combo, thankfully. As you can see from this description the battle system is delightfully complex, but don't be fooled. It is easily possible to win most battles by spamming Arts and Blade Combos, but more options exist for those who want them.
The Blade system is a major feature of the game. With it you are able to summon a random character, known as a Blade, and assign it to one of the playable characters, or Drivers, within your party, with one exception. Blades have unique skill trees and elements, and each Blade corresponds to a weapon. In addition to the common blades there also are rare Blades that appear rarely and have unique sidequests and other effects. All characters also have a Blade that is unique to them, such as Pyra for Rex.
Exploration in this game is... mixed. On one hand exploring the backs of the Titans above the Cloud Sea looks and feels amazing, on the other hand there are archaic features and annoyances in navigation. The minimap and compass can be painful at times, with a notable example in Chapter 4. There can be very high-leveled enemies right on the pah you need to go, a problem in X as well.
The characters are a varied bunch. The designs translate well into the game themselves and every character has a distinct personality, however the large number of Blades and Drivers means some characters inevitably get the shaft. The game does do a good job of balancing its characters and making sure most receive at least somewhat of a focus. The characters also tend to correspond to certain anime tropes, however there is a lot more depth to each character that can be explored in optional conversations similar to Supports from Fire Emblem known as Heart-to-Hearts.
Finally, the presentation of the game. As stated earlier, the game looks amazing, with one caveat- It looks amazing in docked mode. In handheld mode expect frame rate drops and low resolution in order to be able to run the game. In addition, after using skip travel textures will load in slowly to cut down time on loading screens, which is most noticeable in places like Gormott’s grassy plains or the densely packed Argentum Trade Guild. The English voice acting has received mixed voice acting. It contains many varied accents that correspond to the Titan a character originates from, so a character from one Titan would have a Scottish accent while a character from another might have a Welsh accent. The exception to this are the Blades, who have American accents. I enjoy the variety, but if you prefer subbed there is a day one Japanese patch. Another thing of note is that if you do not enjoy the voices or other effects you can turn them off individually in the settings, so if you don’t like the cutscenes voiced but you like the battle chatter you can keep that on.
Overall, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a real gem with a few flaws. If the combat, story, and world interests you I would highly recommend it.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (US, 12/01/17)
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