Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is a game that was 10 years in the making. What began life as a project even before the Wii was even released, the game’s development period was a long 5 years before Japanese audiences were allowed to get their hands on the original Wii game. Eventually, after much speculation and demand, the game was finally released to the European and North American markets 1 and 2 years later, respectively.
5 YEARS LATER, after it’s Japanese release, Xenoblade Chronicles was ported to the brand-spanking-new New 3DS as its first exclusive game, much to the surprise of everyone. Especially me. I still remember watching the Japanese Nintendo Direct when it was revealed alongside the new console. I actually jumped up and down cheering in a blurred euphoric ecstasy, chattering incoherently to myself, as my girlfriend stood up and walked away for quite awhile. I didn’t know where she was going, I didn’t even notice.
For years I had dreamed of having this game on my 3DS but always knew it was impossible to have such a massive game on the chugging (yet always zealous) handheld. I had never managed to put in more than a couple of hours into the Wii release due to various circumstances. This port was my chance to make amends.
So as it stands, this review will be regarding only the game itself, not of its quality as a port. This is the only one I’ve played enough to judge and, aside from a graphical downgrade and extra collectables, they’re almost exactly the same.
The game stars Shulk, a young lad from Colony 9, a settlement on the lower half of the Bionis. The Bionis is a giant, long-dead, ancient being that was battling another similar being called the Mechonis. Hard to imagine? Just think of Godzilla wrestling with Mecha Godzilla, but bigger, and you’re just about there. Long after they died, they were eventually colonised by various life forms. Shulk is a Homs (heh…) and at the start of the story they are under threat of the Mechon, seemingly invading from the Mechonis. Events unfold and Shulk and his increasing band of warriors set on a journey for revenge. Clear as mud? Good. Go and enjoy the story for yourself because it is a high point for the game.
So what is Xenoblade Chronicles 3D? Well, it’s not so easy to pigeon-hole, at least for me anyways. Many would label it a JRPG and be done with it. But I think it’s more than that. It has many elements taken from MMO’s but without any actual online components. And it’s these elements, that for me, make Xenoblade Chronicles 3D unique.
There have been murmurings in the gaming world that the JRPG is an archaic breed of genre, refusing to do away with the genre tropes that feel out-dated in todays world. While I can agree to a small extent after feeling it myself after trying to trudge my way through numerous games, I can safely say XC (from now on) does it’s best to do away with what has been holding the genre back, whist keeping what we all adored about the genre. XC is hands down the most accessible, yet in-depth JRPG I’ve ever played and should be the standard for all games to follow.
XC has so many features to make this game such a non-chore, it boggles the mind why other games haven’t been built this way before. Sure, I can’t think of anything it does new, but it puts everything together in one.
Fast travel, check; no random battles, check; save anywhere, check; quick respawn after death, check; regenerating health after battle, check. It streamlines the experience without you even noticing it. It doesn’t feel at all like a dumbing down because it’s not. It just stops things being a pain in the arse. The game is so good at this, it makes the one feature that isn’t streamlined unfortunately standout like a sore thumb. That would be the inventory system, which can be confusing and unnecessarily clumsy, trying to find which equipment is better, which ones to sell/buy etc. It certainly could have been built better.
XC is a massive game. Often overwhelmingly so especially at the beginning when you are given so many side quests, free roam of the first town (even when some areas shouldn’t be ventured to until late in the game) and tutorials. It’s easy to get lost but if you get your head down and plough straight through until your about to leave the first area then you feel a lot more comfortable with the game world around you, even if there are still more new mechanics waiting ahead of you.
The battle system can be fairly complicated, but fortunately the game tends to introduce various concepts gradually as you progress through the game. However, just when you think “that’s enough to be thinking about” they always add something extra, which at first is rather jarring, but once it lets you give it a whirl you think to yourself “I can handle this”.
Certain enemies can only be defeated by using different techniques, combinations or Arts so you need to be paying attention to what enemies you are battling. For example, some enemies can only take decent damage if one character inflicts Break status and another follows up with Topple which drops the enemy to the floor leaving it vulnerable. Other enemies can only take damage if Shulk grants a special power-up to his teammates. Some may not like this, however it definitely stops the game feeling like mundane.
In battle you only control one character of your three-man party while the AI controls the other two, usually fairly well. You can run around the battle area choosing which monster you want to attack, choosing all your Arts in real time. The system reminds me of a combination of Final Fantasy XII and a Tales of… game.
I don’t want to seem like I’m beating a dead Goomba, but I need to reiterate how massive this game is. Each area is unfathomably big; if fast travel didn’t exist it would take an age just to go anywhere. It’s worth a look around though. Each area has it’s own little rewarding secrets if you want to spend half an hour roaming around just to find them.
The towns and cities put other RPG’s to shame. They make it actually feel like this is a REAL lived in world. This game fixes one the major bones I have to pick with RPG’s where towns are usually pathetically small, have a couple of shops, 5 people and nothing to do. Final Fantasy VII, my favourite game of all time, is a prime offender. In this game there are hundreds of NPC’s to give you quests, form bonds with and you can even invite them to your own town later in the game.
Talking of side-quests, if you’re a fan of them, then this is the game for you. They’re almost never ending. Receiving one after the other, they offer a good rest bite from the main storyline and can give you tonnes of money and XP instead of grinding. There’s so many that if you do them all prior to the end of the game, you can be massively over powered. So finding a balance is necessary, you want the final battle to still be epic don’t you?
Quests are usually fairly simple, kill X amount of this monster, find X amount of this item, take this to that person and so on. They may sound a little tedious, but the fact it is so easy to accept them, alongside the auto-turn-in feature (one of the best features I can think of) for most quests, makes it simplicity itself.
The visuals are hit and miss. The first area and some character models look fairly ugly; the worst offender is Shulk’s face that, compared to another character like Dunban, looks really low texture. Later on however, the game presents some wonderful vistas, allowing you to see as far as you want to. Each area has its own character and beauty that just makes you want to explore every little bit.
While I wouldn’t say the music stood out immensely, it is rather good and certainly adds to the games atmosphere. It’s worth listening and paying attention to, but I don’t think there are many songs that would stick with me outside of the game. The battle tracks are good which is always a bonus considering how many times you’ll be hearing them.
In conclusion, XC is a fantastic JRPG experience that all future JRPG’s should look to for inspiration. If you’re a fan of the genre you owe it to yourself to play it, if you don’t like the genre for all it’s tropes, you might want to try this because it might change your mind.
- Massive game world
- Good battle system
- Good story
- Highly accessible
- Visuals are hit and miss
- Inventory system
- Easy to get lost in the sidequests