Developer: Monolith Soft
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: eShop download
No. of Players: 1 player
Release Date: May 29, 2020 (Worldwide)
Price: $59.99 USD
Xenoblade Chronicles made its mark on the world when it released on the Nintendo Wii on June 10th, 2010. It was the first title created by Monolith Soft after its acquisition by Nintendo from Namco. Upon its success, Xenoblade Chronicles X followed up as an indirect sequel on the Wii U that focused more on open-world gameplay rather than being story-driven. Nintendo’s handheld, the New Nintendo 3DS, also got a version of the first game in 2015 in the form of Xenoblade Chronicles 3D.
Interestingly enough, Xenoblade Chronicles was originally named Monado: Beginning Of The World during development. The name was changed to Xenoblade in Japan to honor Tetsuya Takahashi, the director of the game who worked on the original Xeno series (Xenogears, Xenosaga). It was Nintendo of Europe that added the word ‘Chronicles’ to the title when they published the game for Europe.
A direct sequel did eventually follow as Xenoblade Chronicles 2 for the Nintendo Switch. This game returned to being story-driven, like the first game, and was met with mostly positive reviews. It was also very successful in respect of sales and had become the best-selling game in the Xeno franchise.
Thanks to the successful establishment of its own series, Xenoblade Chronicle:s Definitive Edition now has a chance to reach a much wider audience than its original release on the Wii and the 3D version on the New Nintendo 3DS.
The Story of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition takes place on top of two titanic entities called the Bionis and the Mechonis. These gods were brought into existence upon a world covered by a vast ocean. They battled fiercely against one another until eventually, they become frozen, dormant husks.
After eons since the battle, many forms of life began to settle upon their remains of the Bionis and Mechonis. On top of the Bionis existed organic life: Homs, Nopon, and High Entia. The Homs are humans who have set up colonies on the Bionis. Nopons are small furry, potato-shaped creatures and the High Entia are bird-like humanoids that can live for hundreds of years. On the other titan, the Mechonis, there resides mechanical humanoids called Machina. Although there was peace for some time between all the inhabitants on the Bionis and Mechonis, all that was about to change.
A year before the main events of the game, three homs called Dickson, Dunban, and Mumkhar were fighting against an army of Mechon from Meconis. During the battle, Mumkhar deserts his colleagues and leaves Dickson and Dunban to defeat the Mechon on their own. Though they were successful in the fight, Dunban was left paralyzed in his right arm due to the mystical weapon that he wields known as the Monado.
In the present, Shulk, a young Hom scientist, was studying the Monado in a settlement called Colony 9. The Monado uses ether from Homs as the source of its power and can grant its user the ability of future sight. One day, Machina Warriors led by a Mechon called Metal Face attack the colony. Dunban, though still partially paralyzed from using the Monada before, tries to use it again to fight off the Mechon but the blade almost kills him. Shulk picks up the Monado and uses it to beat the Mechon back. He is successful but not without sacrifice. Metal Face is somehow immune to the Monado’s power and kills a close friend of Shulk and little sister to Dunban before fleeing.
Though distraught from losing his childhood friend, Shulk sets off with his friend Reyn to seek revenge against the Mechons. The two liberate another colony from Mechon occupation and meet up with Sharla there. The group is reunited Dunban and the four of them head off to Prison Island to find someone who can help infuse the Monado with the ability to kill Metal Face.
This is just the beginning of the story and gets a lot more intricate from here. There are more twists and turns ahead and a much larger plot is at hand with our heroes slap bang in the middle of it. The Future Connected epilogue story continues from the events the base game and takes place on the Bionis’ left shoulder that was never explored in the main story. To avoid spoilers for new players who never played the original game on the Wii or its New Nintendo 3DS release, we will refrain from talking further about the Future Connected story details.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is predominantly a JRPG in a similar vein to the likes of the later Final Fantasy games and Chrono Trigger. Instead of turn-based combat, battles are played out in real-time and specific skills called Arts have cool-down timers to avoid spamming the same attack repeatedly. Some arts can do more damage depending on your position in relation to the enemy. They can also warrant extra effects like Break, Topple, and Daze that can help you chain together attacks with other members of your party.
The Monado has a special ability that allows Shulk to foresee particularly strong attacks from enemies. The visions will show the enemy administering a devastating attack that could potentially wipe out all of your characters. When the vision finishes, real-time will return 15 seconds before the inevitable happens. During this time, you can make necessary preparations to buff your characters to resist a potentially fatal attack rather than be wiped out completely.
There are many different creatures and enemies that you can encounter. When in the proximity of a creature or enemy, they will not always engage to fight you automatically. Sometimes you can initiate combat by making the first move. As well as the Arts as mentioned before, you can also attack automatically when in range of the enemy. One thing to keep in mind is aggro.
Aggro is where an enemy is aggravated towards a particular character. They will focus all their attention on that character unless you divert it to another. Ideally, you want to avert their attention to your tank character while the other characters can concentrate on wailing on the enemy. Upon the defeat of an enemy or enemies, you will earn EXP that will eventually lead to you leveling up and becoming stronger. In turn, you will be able to take on stronger enemies and so forth.
While you cannot switch between characters in battle, you can choose who you want to lead as outside of battle. Each character has specific skills that can be advantageous in battles depending on the kind of enemy you could face. Relationships between characters are also important. As you venture further in the game, you can earn affinity between different characters by fulfilling side quests or going to heart-to-heart spots to trigger a cutscene between the certain characters. Doing so will increase their affinity and can extend the length of chain attacks between the two characters when battling enemies.
On the subject of chain attacks and affinity, there is a bar in the HUD that is called the affinity meter. It is segmented into three blocks and can be used to revive a fallen ally and initiate a chain attack when the necessary blocks are full. The easiest way to fill up the affinity meter is by performing arts. You can speed up the time it takes to fill by having a good affinity with the members in your party (You know what they say, “Teamwork makes the dream work”).
Exploration is a big part of the Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. The world is vast and there are plenty to side quests and secrets to keep you busy and motivate you to explore every inch of it. Side Quests can be given to you upon request by talking with certain NPC’s. Unlike most games where you have to return to the NPC upon completing the request in order to get your reward, instead, you will receive the reward automatically upon completion.
This is a most welcome feature as you won’t have to backtrack all the way back to the NPC that gave you the side quest just to get the reward. You can also take on multiple side quests at once and complete them as and when. This is particularly helpful when you find yourself in an area where you can complete multiple side quests within a reasonable distance of each other.
As well as large open environments, there are settlements and towns you can visit on both the Bionis and Mechonis’s Bodies. These places provide you with an opportunity to stock up on items, upgrade weapons, take on side quests, etc. They also provide a change of pace from the large open environments to give players a break from constant battles with organic and mechanical enemies alike.
There is a lot to learn with many intricate mechanics and features that can seem quite confusing at times. To help with this, there are plenty of tutorials that will pop up during the game to teach you something new about the game. Should you forget anything or need to revise something, you can access any tutorials you have obtained in the main menu.
CONTENT & FEATURES:
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is not just expansive in relation to the size of its world but by the number of features, the game has too. The main story is well over 50 hours and more for those who try to 100% the game. The Future Connected epilogue story is not included in that count and adds another 15 or so hours on top. You can invest even more hours into filling up the Collectapedia with items you have found as well as trying to earn all achievements. We hope you have your schedule free when you start playing this game because you will be playing it for quite some time.
When you start playing, you will automatically play in the default difficulty. For those that struggle with fighting tough enemies, they can choose to play Casual Mode in the game settings. Casual Mode offers enemies at lower levels that are less likely to hit your party and if they do, they will do far less damage than when playing normally. If you fall enough times in battle, a prompt will come up asking if you want to select Casual Mode as well.
Expert Mode can be accessed via the main menu at any time after the initial tutorial that takes around 4-6 hours. It allows players to make the game more challenging with the EXP Reserve feature. EXP that is acquired from discovering new landmarks and hidden areas for the first time is instead stored. You can then either level-up or level-down your characters accordingly when you want more challenge when fighting enemies.
To anyone who beats the game, they can start again with New Game+. New Game+ retains all EXP, Skills, Weapons, Money, Affinity, and Equipped gear that was acquired in the previous playthrough. It is worth noting that enemy levels remain the same if you play New Game+. If you choose to play New Game+ in Expert Mode with the stacked EXP feature, you can offload the EXP you have gained from the previous playthrough and level up your party as and when you need to.
Another welcome feature has to be that gear abilities are now no longer attached to gear customization. In the Wii version of the game, you could get perks like better defense or attack were locked to certain pieces of equipment. This means that at times you would have to sacrifice how your characters’ look for the benefits of better gear. Fortunately, this is not the case for Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition as and you can now choose what you want to wear cosmetically along with the perks of stronger gear.
I suppose the biggest feature, of course, is Future Connected. This brand new content was never a part of the original game nor the 3DS version. If the developers wanted to create new content that could entice players of the previous version to pick up XCDE, an all-new Expansion that continues the story of the main game is definitely the best way to do that. What is truly commendable is that Future Connected content is available from the main menu so, for anyone who wants to jump straight into the new content, they can. (I will just add that there is no ‘New Game+ Mode for Future Connected for any of you who were wondering).
The Events Theatre is another new feature for XCDE that allows players to watch cutscenes from the game again at their own leisure. It also has the added feature of being able to change your characters’ outfits. Even the time can be changed (like day, or night) in some cutscenes that are not time-specific. It is a much welcome feature that was also available in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. I’m glad it got added to XCDE as well as one of the best parts of story-driven JRPG’s are their immersive cutscenes.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition has an incredible soundtrack. The orchestra that composed the OST did a superb job the music sets the tone and ambiance beautifully. It is adventurous yet relaxing when exploring the likes of the Guar Plains and energetic when in the midst of battle with enemies. It might not surprise anyone that while the game uses the original music from the first release on the Wii, it has been rearranged and its quality greatly improved for the Switch.
The voice acting in the main game is something else that was carried over from the original release. However, it the sound quality has been enhanced and is all the better for it. For the Future Connected epilogue story, the voice actors for Shulk, Melia, and other characters returned to reprise their roles. Seeing as the original game is 10 years old, I find it most admirable that the original VA came back to continue the story and maintain consistency. It just would not sound right to play 100 hours through the game and listening to one set of voice actors only to play another 10 hours with a different group.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE:
It isn’t just the audio that was given an upgrade, the visuals and graphics were also overhauled immensely. Anyone who has played the Wii Version will certainly admit that the visuals were impressive at the time but they have not aged particularly well. This is not the case for Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. The Character Models and the environments have been remastered and make the game look 10 times better than the original.
With the world in XCDE being as expansive as it is, it does suffer similar issues that were visible in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Most notably is the drop in resolution when playing in handheld mode. Though saying that, even in Docked mode, you will only get 720p at absolute best with the bottom out at 540. Handheld mode also has a similar drop with 540 being its best and 378p at worse possible. Playing in docked mode is for sure, still the best way to get the highest quality visuals and performance. In defense of this, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition still looks incredible even at its lowest resolution.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is a huge improvement over the original game. Everything that the Wii version did right, XCDE takes it to the next level. Monolith Soft really went above and beyond to make an already stellar game into an interstellar one. The Quality of Life adjustments are highly welcome and make the experience all the more enjoyable.
That said, there are a couple of things that wasn’t ticked off the improvements checklist. One of them was the jagged, unnatural movements of the characters as they walk around, especially the humanoid characters. This isn’t the case in the cutscenes, which is a blessing as the cutscenes would have looked dreadful if that was the case. I suppose in one way, it helps keep some of the original game’s quirks that were a part of its charm.
Another issue is that there are moments where the game can crash. Luckily the autosave feature will usually remember your previous steps not far from where the crash occurred but it is a worrying issue nonetheless. What surprised me most was when an NPC was all of a sudden suspended in mid air! To see this woman just casually walking around in the air was a little startling and quite amusing. I am sure that these issues will get patched out eventually when Monolith Soft receives more crash reports and customer feedback from users.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is an incredible game but not without its flaws. It takes everything that is loved in JRPGS and creates something that is truly special. This really is the definitive version of the Wii classic and has something for both new and old players alike.
THE VERDICT: 9/10
*A download key was provided by the Nintendo UK for the purposes of this review
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