Xenoblade Chronicles is loosely based on the Japanese RPG Xenogears, a game that was released over ten years ago. Interesting to know is that amongst others, Tetsuya Takahashi helped with the development. Previously he already made top titles like Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana. Therefore we started up the game with quite some expectations (and scepticism as the Wii hasn’t been so active lately).
Just like with the previously mentioned games you feel from the first minute that this will be something special, and equally epic as those classics. The first thing you notice – after an intense fight between two titans that set the original tone of the game – are the beautiful and wide surroundings as we haven’t seen them in ages on Nintendo’s console. The world of Bionis is magical and worked out with a feeling for drama; you immediately feel being on an adventure thanks to the vastness of what’s ahead of you. On top of that the details are also done well and you’ll have as much fun with feeling the grass between your toes as with admiring the beautiful architecture.
In other words: you don’t need any Achievement, Unlockables or Collectibles to explore the world. It looks so appealing and is so open that you want to go out by yourself. Beware, as this doesn’t mean things will be easy. The makers don’t take you by the hand too much and you can easily find yourself dead when encountering opponents that are too strong, or when you’re just being careless when running around.
You play Shulk and after a brief but intense introduction to this beautiful world things go to hell very fast. The two titans from the start were fighting centuries ago after which their bodies became planets on which all fauna and flora started to exist. Shulk is on Bionis, at the bottom of his leg, and suddenly gets confronted with the Mechons, some sort of robot adversaries who just happen to feel the need to get rid of your people. One year later the attack has been stopped, peace has returned and your friends have found their way. Not for long, however, as the Mechons haven’t adjusted their ambitions and the story really starts when they knock on your front door again.
This of course means fighting and the many fights play in the game environment, which works refreshing in this JRPG. The devs have made a good combination between what Western and Japanese gamers like about role-playing. Opponents can be evaded so that you don’t have to do random encounters and weaker animals will quickly run away when they see your stronger team coming closer.
What also helps to make this world believable is the main story itself, but most of all also how extra missions are neatly woven into the different storylines. These sidequests are also fun and varied and you won’t need to travel hence and forth without reason. You can also take on several missions at the same time without losing the red line or being punished for wanting to do everything together. Not that you want to lose too much time as the many events keep you curious towards what’s going to come next, something that gets enhanced by the great voicing that for once doesn’t make you want to push the “skip” button as fast as possible.
The RPG elements also don’t disappoint. The building of your character is flexible and powerful and most resembles the latest Dragon Quest. The best part, however, is the fighting which combines accessibility and fun with plenty of depth. You take control over your character and let it attack automatically when you get near your opponents.
The tactical challenge is in doing the special attacks, defensive moves or spells which of course can only be activated every now and then. As additional layer there’s a meter that fills with good team work and allows you to perform attacks together. Also ingenious is that you sometimes get a vision that shows you what your opponent is up to and that way you can plan your next actions without the need to first die a couple of times by surprise or ignorance before you can really take on the challenge.
Actually this Xenoblade Chronicles is a huge surprise and one that allows the dust to be taken of the Wii again. An epic adventure in an unequalled open and beautiful world that’s filled with original events, opponents, characters and gameplay. Especially the latter is impressive as it seems the devs took all the best of RPGs of the last ten years and put that together to form this pure diamond. Those who like role-playing games should definitely get this one, even if only because it’s proof the Wii has more to offer than what we’ve seen the last couple of years.