GAME NAME: Xenoblade Chronicles
DEVELOPER(S): Monolith Soft
RELEASE DATE(S): August 19th 2011 / April 6th 2012
It’s not often a game comes along that stuns you into silence, but that’s something that Monolith Soft’s Xenoblade does wonderfully, and on many occasions. The beautiful lushes sprouting grass, the deep red of the legendary Monado, the looming Mechonis towering high in the sky. The day turns to night, and the sky fills with deep oranges and purples. And then, that beautiful piano kicks in, and your JRPG dreams are realized. Sounding tantalizing already? That’s just the Start Menu.
Xenoblade is a JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Game) which takes place upon the corpses of two gods, the Mechonis and the Bionis, which fought ferociously over hundreds of years, only for them both to deliver the death blow at the same time, leaving them locked together, even in death. You begin your huge adventure in Colony 9, and climb through ever more outlandish locations that form vast expanses of spectacular natural architecture. But why undertake such a huge journey? The Mechon, who usually live on the Mechonis, (Opposite the Bionis where you reside) have invaded all the colony’s upon Bionis, and during the process, a particularly nasty piece of work named ‘Metal Face’ (We didn’t make up these names) has went and skewered Shulk’s childhood friend Fiora, so Shulk and his friend Reyn decide to seek out Metal Face and get their revenge.
The first thing you notice when you begin the adventure is just how amazing the place looks. From the beautiful Gaur Plain to the mechanical bases at Sword Valley, all the landscapes look wonderful, and colours are always extremely vibrant. Character models do sometimes come across very flat faced, but otherwise, they’re fine too. Considering the limitations of the Wii, Monolith have created a game that looks stunning, and personally I think it’s the best looking game on the Wii.
It’s not just the graphics that are out-of-this-world though, the OST is breathtaking. Beautiful piano, violin, and god knows what rhythms are a joy to hear, and go beyond even the masterpieces of Final Fantasy. Every setting has it’s own unique song, which literally transports you to another world. There is always huge variety too. There’s not one song that sticks out like a sore thumb; from the slow, calming main theme to the upbeat boss battle theme, every single song is awe inspiring. It’s simply the best audio ever created for a game. Sometimes it’s almost retro, sometimes it’s modern, but one things for sure, it’s always outstanding. Yoko Shimomura certainly deserves a pat on the back.
Combat in Xenoblade Chronicles is also almost entirely unique. A maximum of three characters enter each battle, with you controlling either one of them. Everything takes place in real time, and every move is assigned to it’s own icon. Each ‘art’ as they are known, can be leveled up, but if you want to reach the highest possible levels for each art, you’ll have to seek out the Art books located across towns on the Bionis, which is just one of many collecting quests you’ll have to undertake in Xenoblade Chronicles. Each move can be optimized to deal extra damage, for example, Shulk’s ‘Back Slash’ is obviously more affective when hitting enemies from behind, but that’s the simplest part. Shulk also will occasionally receive visions of the future, mainly of attacks which will deal huge damage to either Shulk or one of his friends. By using the correct moves, you can prevent the attack, with Shulk joyfully shouting, ‘I can, change the future!’ every time you successfully do so.
Several other strategies emerge with Monado Arts, which you unlock as you progress further through the game. These range from Increased Agility to Mechon Destroying Blasts, but there’s still more to come. After successfully using several moves, a blue gauge will fill up in the top left of the screen, allowing you to use a lethal Chain Attack. Chain Attacks allow each character to attack in succession, but using the correct moves is vital here. Certain Arts can inflict ‘Break’ and also ‘Topple’. By using an Art that inflicts break, followed by an Art that uses topple, you can knock an enemy to the floor. In a standard chain attack you will get three moves, but causing topple will allow the chain to continue onward.
Character selection can also work against you or with you. There are healing characters, like Sharla, who may be vital for certain fights. Then again, Reyn has immense power, so for other battles, he may be a better selection. It isn’t just battle that the characters are important for though, it’s the story, and what a story it is. Every character has their own unique personality, some are dead serious, and some are plain mad, like our personal favourite, Riki. Every character integrates into the story somehow, and they also seem to have their own motives for helping you on your journey. The plot itself is always changing. Don’t worry, we’re leaving this paragraph Spoiler Free, but let’s just say it develops in ways you could never imagine. What initially begins as a revenge plot soon escalates into something of much greater importance, until eventually, the fate of the entire world is at stake.
The main story alone in Xenoblade is a good 70 hours in length, but Xenoblade is not a game to be rushed. Gem crafting for instance, is something that may be overlooked on the first playthrough, or possibly even the huge sidequest of rebuilding Colony 6. There’s just so much to do in Xenoblade; no wonder the world is approximately the size of Japan itself.
Xenoblade has set a new benchmark. Its not often a game comes along that’s flawless in almost every department, but Xenoblade has done just that. Wow. Xenoblade is the best JRPG of this generation, and can not be given a miss.