Xenobalde Chronicles is touted by many as the greatest JRPG for a long time. However it is also different from what you expect a JRPG to be like. With a strong western influence and some might even say a MMORPG feel. While it has heavy fantasy routes it also feels futuristic at times. It all adds up to a unique JRPG that shouldn’t be compared to what you expect a JRPG to be.
My first experience with Xenoblade Chronicles was the Wii version of the game. I spent easily over one hundred hours with the game. Completing the various sub-quests and having fun with New Game+. I know others have done the same. If you have please feel free to skip and just read the comparison. No point going over what you know already.
It’s hard to know where to begin with a game like Xenoblade Chronicles. This game is huge. Any attempt at making a quick summary of the game feels like a joke. I will do my best to cover all aspects of the game without ruining it for newcomers or those that never got around to finishing the game on Wii.
The game’s story follows Shulk a member of the Homs race that lives on the lifeless giant Bionis. Bionis is filled with plant life, a variety of monsters and other races like Homs. However this giant once did battle with another giant. Mechonis. A mechanical themed giant where the Mechons live. The Mechons attack the Homs but unfortunately the Homs weapons do little damage to Mechons. Thankfully the Monado a powerful sword can damage the Mechon however it bears a heavy toll for the user. After the events of the attack Shulk now wielding the mythical sword the Monada sets out on a quest of revenge. It’s during one such attack on Shulk’s hoe that triggers the events of the game. Shulk the new wielder of the Monado on a quest of revenge. Guided by visions of the future he journeys across the Bionis and eventually Mechonis gathering allies for his cause. The story unfolds in many surprising ways. Only downside is parts of the story happen altogether in one huge clump as opposed to being spaced out evenly. Specially towards the end when you seemingly have a never-ending stream of plot twists with very little chance to break off to do something else. However most of the game it feels a much slower pace so you have plenty of time to go off and do something else. There never feels to be any pressure. The story is still an enjoyable one it’s worth pushing through the not a lot happening moments. However good the story is its what’s outside this story that takes up a huge chunk of playtime.
There are a ridiculous amount of side quests in the game. However most side quests are defeat a monster or collect an item. Some have an interesting storyline and even have branching paths depending on whether you completed specific earlier quests or how you completed a previous quest. Shulk sometimes has visions to tell you about a sub quest or show off potential results of it. As some quests results can affect the named NPCs. While all this is interesting due to sheer number and similarity of the quests it’s often overlooked. It doesn’t help most lack proper descriptions on where monsters or named NPCs are and only a couple of side quests actually result in proper cut scenes.The biggest sub quest is the rebuilding of a Colony. This is done over the course of the entire game. Collecting materials and money to build buildings then defend inhabitants from monster attacks. Some of those inhabitants you invited in there. Depending on who you invite will change sub quests available later. It gives value to playing the game for a second time. Just to see what would happen if you did something different.
Sub quests can be very distracting. It’s easy to forget the storyline of sub quests that takes place during main storyline. It is worth noting that some of the side quests are effected by events of the main story. Most have a warning on so you know these need to be completed sooner. If you intend to finish certain sub quests stories sooner or later you need to progress the main game story. Thankfully there is a reminder to help you get back to where you left off in main storyline. Certain sub quests won’t become active until later. However sub quests for the most part feel very optional. Even with some having nice rewards there is no pressure to complete any of them. It’s pretty common of have a load of uncompleted side quests by the end of the game. Partly due to there being too many but also it can be difficult to find where you need to go.
There is a type of radar to help when exploring too although some do appear on the map as well. This gives you an idea of what’s nearby. Sometimes this can be a monster but it can also be NPC or quest related. You may also spot some heart-to-heart locations. These unlock based on affinity between characters. Often giving you deeper insight into the character or a funny little side story. Some require a set time of day or during a certain type of weather. If you need to change time you just go into the menu and change the time. Changing weather is more luck based I’m afraid. There are some weather effects you wish you could see all the time. Certain monsters appear during certain weather or time of days too and named NPCs often have a set time they appear. This can make finding them annoying. Thankfully the Affinity chart can help with finding named NPCs. It gives a general idea of where they are and what time they are out. However you first have to talk with them and some locations are more the entire map and not the nearest landmark. However most named NPCs have a set schedule. Choosing either to venture out during the day or night. Most named PCs hang out inside towns but a few exist outside. It’s worthwhile keeping an eye out for them.
The main characters are all very unique and likeable. Each having their own little quirk that isn’t over used to the point of annoyance. Which is good because character models aren’t all that exciting. They also all have their own armour. Although you can swap most armour sets one set will look different on each character. Which can be both a good and a bad thing. Some sets look amazing on one character but looks hideous on others. The reverse can also be true. Thankfully there is enough variety in armour styles to please everyone. Each character also has their own play style and weapon type but this is a bit more standardized into specific RPG roles. While you can mess with this a little few characters can actually completely change their role. This is partly because characters don’t share arts or weapons.
Most arts are learnt through levelling but you have to manually level up. You have to get Art books to unlock high levels. With Skills you merely select the line you want to learn and then battle till it’s fill and move to the next line. You unlock more skills through character specific sub quests. You will know which ones they are as you must have a certain character set as main.Using Skill Links is a bit trickier. The amount of links you can have are dependent on the characters affinity towards the other characters as well as the amount of affinity coins available. You gain Affinity and affinity coins for doing a variety of actions. Finding a location or defeating a boss like enemy. You can also have characters gift each other. It’s a good idea to plan ahead what skills you want to link. As it can become a pain to both learn a skill and then get affinity up between characters you want to share said skill with.
Prior to most battles you can lock onto the enemy. By locking on you can see some details on the monster and decide whether to lure it, run away or fight it. Choosing to fight a monsters bring up the Arts selection. Most arts are active at start but then require to cool down once used. Some arts can be strung together for different effects. Sometimes this is increased damage other times it can inflict status effect such as topple on the enemy. It’s handy you can set up all characters active arts for that reason. Then we got your middle Art. Each character/s special art is a bit different. This includes how you charge it up and what effect this has once fully charged. Most of the time battling is a rather standard affair but then there are some monsters that require a bit more effort. Mechon can only take damage from Ether arts or the Monado. You can use the Monado to allow normal weapons to inflict damage on a Mechon. There are also enemies that inflict spike damage. Meaning you can’t directly hit them unless you use an art to remove spikes. Another way of dealing with spikes are through Skills or Gems. Gems can be attached to weapons and armour giving all sorts of wonderful bonuses. This can be increased defence or added damage. Some later extra boss type monsters require a lot of planning. Having the right gems equipped can be a huge a help during these battles. However gems aren’t solely used for battling.
One of the major selling points of this game is its world. This is for good reason. Not only is the world amazing to look at it’s also very big. The diversity of the world is also very impressive. From swamps to jungles and sandy beaches. All you will enjoy exploring. Some secret locations are in particular amazing but very difficult to find. You may even require gems to give you the extra boost needed. But it’s well worth taking time out to try to fill the map and not just for the reward of finding a new location. Thankfully only need to find certain points on the map and not literally go into every corner of the map. To make exploring easier you discover landmarks you can quick travel to. These can become essential for doing sub quests or getting back to the main storyline.
Game itself works well as a hand-held game. You can most save anywhere and you have the ever so helpful story reminders and quest list. With the game’s huge sub quest list while commuting or if you want a quick play a lot of them are ideal. In some ways this makes this version superior to Wii version.Grinding and doing a large amount of sub quests on big screen can wear thing very quickly. having it portable means you can do this during adverts or on the way to work.
However there are a couple of downsides. Being this game has an amazing world graphics downgrade can be a bit of a disappointment. I know some probably will avoid this version purely because of that. While playing the downgrade earlier on isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be or at least I didn’t care about it. Certain locations do suffer more though. However it doesn’t get to the point where the game becomes truly ugly. It definitely looks better while playing than it does when looking at a screen shot or even an online video of it. Mostly because of the screen size and that the impressive size of the world is still the same. The only other downside is the lack of Japanese voices. It’s not a major downside as the English voice acting is good. There are no unbearably bad or super high-pitched voices.
The additional content being the model viewer and music player are nice. Unlocking new content is a bit annoying. It’s unlikely you will get a lot of streetpass hits for this game during a normal day or own a Shulk Amiibo. You have to spend a lot of 3DS coins to get a decent amount of tokens. You need three tokens to ensure you get one new thing. Not really a new thing but the layout of information on-screen has been changed around. It’s spread over two screens now meaning the top screen isn’t as cluttered. Can make managing health a bit tricky during battles but you can see the huge monsters. They also increased the text font size in relation to screen size. Making it easier to read on smaller screen. The tutorials are a bit tricky to read but the 3D effect makes everything a bit clearer.
Of course I have not covered nearly as much as I feel I need to or want to. This game isn’t perfect but I thoroughly enjoyed it. There isn’t any real reason to get this if you have the Wii version. The main game is basically untouched. But let’s face it. If you played the Wii version and fell in love with the game you will be buying the “new” 3DS version regardless of any sort of logic. If you haven’t played the game before and own a “new” 3DS this is must buy JRPG. Not just because they tend to be a bit rare on Nintendo consoles. If you don’t own a “new” 3DS well this could easily be a reason to buy one. It is a huge game. It’s definitely one of the best JRPGs I have played but that might be partly because it isn’t like most other JRPGs. It stands out among other JRPGs I would call one of the best. It’s worth giving the game a go if you can.
The impressive scale and the fact the game still runs smoothly on hand-held console needs to be applauded. A shame graphics had to take a hit for it to work. Other minor issues remain unchanged. Nothing that ever really distracts from the quality of the game.
Certain times the game feels too big for its own good. The sub quests can get very repetitive and few offer anything outside standard awards. I still found the game very enjoyable. I completed most if not all the sub quests and happily spent over hundred hours playing the game.
A few cute moments and one cute sidekick type character all related to the race called Nopon. Some Nopon are really cute compared to others. Some bounce around happily. Some particularly surprisingly cute moments between the characters and Nopon.