Xenoblade Chronicles is a decade-old series of action JRPG games by developer Monolith Soft. Considered a spiritual successor to the Xeno games, it is not necessary to have played the older Saga/Gears games to understand what is going on here, but it may help clarify the themes and allusions the games are trying to make. And the games are pretty good, if you're into older JRPGs (they are NOT retro; I am NOT old). Also Xenoblade does have a few references to the older franchises, so you might get more mileage if you know what KOS-MOS means. Alternatively, you can read a big book on Gnosticism to get yourself in the right mindset. The Xenoblade games are known for two things, the first being massive regions with a lot of exploration, sidequests, and high-level Rotbarts that would prefer you not be in their territory. While the main stories can be wrapped up in about 40-60 hours, you could easily plunge a hundred more exploring everything the game has to offer. What's nice is that the games are perfectly
fine if you opt to bypass the fluff. You get the full story, the game rarely forces you to slow down and grind, and it doesn't feel like a lesser experience. But you'll probably at least dabble because of the second reason: the combat.
Xenoblade Chronicles is an action RPG, and is often likened to a single-player MMO. You have host of actions with cooldowns, a party with their own roles, and things like auto-attacking that help that vibe. I've heard some compare it to Kingdom Hearts' gameplay, which I have not played so I cannot confirm nor deny these comparisons. Each game offers its own twist on the gameplay, to the point where the third game layers a second system on top. It's got a learning curve, no doubt, but once it clicks you will have a fantastic time beating up the worlds' wildlife, right up until New Game+ and its massively overleveled superbosses.
Wait there's a third thing the series is known for: the jammin' sound track. The games bring us legends such as Yasunori Mitsuda (Secret of Mana, freaking Chrono Trigger) and the GOAT Yoko Shimomura (Kingdom Hearts, like EVERY Mario game that has hit points, Street Fighter II, Breath of Fire, the fucking Little Nemo game for NES, she has done it all) along with folks such as music duo ACE+ and vocalist Yasunori Mitsuda who both have portfolios mostly within Xenoblade, but they're incredible. It ain't a Xenoblade game without a killer soundtrack.
Also Nopons. And British voice acting.Released:
2010, 2014 (Port), 2020 (Definitive Edition)System:
Wii, New 3DS, Switch (Definitive Edition)
The first game in the series, and so incredible that a fan campaign was created just to get the game a western release. It's about a young man, Shulk, who lives with his people on the corpse of a massive, long-dead titan. He has a special sword which could be instrumental in the war against the invading Mechonis from the other
titan in their world. Things get more complicated than that. The game is highly praised for its likable characters, incredible villains, and it's plot that sticks to conventional JRPG structure including the Big Twist That Changes everything, but pulls it off admirably. This is where the game is at its simplest (relatively speaking), so it's an excellent jumping-on point for newbies. If you play just one game in the series, I would recommend it be this one. It's awesome, and I'm reluctant to say more so your experience can be as pristine as possible.
And good news! in 2020 the game got a remake, updating the graphics, interface, and offering quality-of-life changes to make the experience significantly better for newbies. It has some features to lure in vets, such as the ability to store XP so you level at your own pace, a remixed soundtrack (the original is still there), and cut content from the original game rebuilt into a bonus chapter framed as taking place after the original story. It's not 100% an improvement over the original, as some may not jive with the game's art style more closely matching later titles, but it's still enough to be a worthy replacement. Oh there is also a 3DS port that was made in 2014 to show off the power of the New 3DS (and thus can ONLY be played on it or the New 2DS) and is more of a straight port of the Wii version except with lower resolution and the UI being less cramped thanks to the second screen. I would honestly not recommend it since you can get the Switch AND Wii version for cheaper, but hey if that's all you have then that's all you have. Just buy Xenoblade Chronicles in SOME format, please.Nopon Ratingpon:
10/10, Riki truly is heropon.Released:
The next game in the series is a spin-off unrelated to the main series (for now???), although it is still a full game with all of the exploration and combat you could ever want. It's about humans fleeing aliens to a distant planet after the destruction of Earth. Here you must help the fledging colony survive on an alien world. Things get more complicated than that. The game gets a fair share of criticism on a few fronts. The art style is different and some would say off-putting. The characters and plot are weaker, notably due to the game featuring the franchise's only custom player-avatar, although the story is absolutely not about you which doesn't help things. The quest system tends to force certain party members to tag along which can be annoying. It's also system-dense, throwing a lot of stuff at you very early on, which might be a tad bit intimidating. Also the game has an entirely different soundtrack from a different crew this time, which I personally thing is plenty solid but it's definitely not everyone's cup of tea.
Having said that, the game is still Xenoblade so far as gameplay is concerned. It definitely feels like a hostile alien world, with massive dinosaur-like creatures, dangerous monster hidden away in the world, and even features the only vehicles in the game, Skells, which change the gameplay up a bit once you acquire them. There is still an absolute mountain of fun to be had here, and while I wouldn't recommend as your first Xenoblade, if you still got a Wii U and find a copy, then give it a try!Nopon Ratingpon:
1/10, Tatsu does not fight, frequently hurts party. Part of worst running joke in game. Shameful, bad nopon.Release:
2017, 2018 (Torna the Golden Country DLC)System:
The third game in the series, but the second in the mainline series for those keeping track. It's about a boy, Rex, who lives in the world of Alrest, whose peoples dwell upon the backs of massive beasts known as Titans. Rex is a scavenger of Alrest's vast cloud ocean, and on a special job he discovers a special sword. Things get more complicated than that. We're back to basics here, with a more focused plot, the game easing into its systems a bit more gently, and we're back to a less controversial soundtrack from the OG team. Game is still divisive among the fans, so buckle up. One thing people tend to agree on is that the combat is excellent despite changing so much it may seem unrecognizable at first. It layers on a secondary "blade" system, which splits your skills across additional party members, and honestly it's not super hard to understand, but this is already going to be a lengthy OP without combat primers. If it has ONE downside, I will say combat in XBC2 is way more built around fighting big enemies with shitloads of HP, so fights against lesser enemies tends to be a bit more boring since you can't do the flashy chain attacks as often like in prior games.
Onto the controversy! First, the game was released in 2017, the first year of the Switch, so the team had less experience with the hardware and it definitely shows performance-wise if you compare it to XBC1's remake. Also, it's pretty well-known at this point that Monolith Soft got pulled from the team to aid with Breath of the Wild development. This results in the game feeling a bit uneven in places, and even a bit rough around the edges at times. Of course, if you played the original Wii version, which was also pretty janky by virtue of taxing the Wii hardware to its absolute limits, then you'll likely feel right at home here. I may be overselling it a bit, but if you come Definitive Edition you'll notice it so just a heads up. The game also has the infamous gacha system, which isn't
monetized so it's only annoying in that your game experience may vary depending on pulls...a system that is quite literally broken meaning "pity" pulls are worse than intended due to a bug. Also, the game offers DLC for a bunch of better pulls, so what I meant to say is that isn't monetized as badly
as gacha games. Then there's the character design, which (barring a few designs, hello Mòrag, hi Zeke) are either stupid, excessively horny, or both. Like, I am going to be very blunt and say some of the main characters are so ridiculous in their sexy designs that it's sincerely hard to take some cutscenes serious. Which is a good pivot into the dub, which is...not great. Honestly, I like the voice actors, they seem talented, but the direction
is garbage, and it seems clear that the VAs were not given proper context or input on how they should be performing. Awkward deliveries, unnatural pauses, it's messy but you can switch on the Japanese track if you can't handle it. But you'll be missing out on a particular performance that you uh...aren't likely to forget.
I can say that you can
start with XBC2 and go backward, I certainly did, and it honestly doesn't spoil all that much but will still likely give you a weird experience starting with the more complex combat and systems of 2. Start with 1, move on to 2, and then...get the DLC! Yes, XBC2 has DLC that you can technically play whenever as it is standalone, but I highly recommend you finish XBC2 first as the DLC is a prequel and you'll get way more mileage going into the DLC with that prior knowledge. The DLC also changes combat YET AGAIN, and it's a bit simpler and pretty neat, so play through XBC2 first so you don't have to keep track of two combat systems in your brain. I think I will close on XBC2 by saying that I think you get way more out of it by playing the post-game. I played both XBC1 and 2 straight to the end with little sidequests, and 1 was a significantly better time. The postgame is the real strength of the series, and that's why I think the devs made the changes the did to the sequel in order to really maximize what you get out of that. So if you get into New Game+ and completing everything, you will find a much deeper and richer experience than 1. Otherwise you will have a decent time but feel it can never rich the highs of the first game and feels just a bit hollow in places.Nopon Ratingpon:
2/10, Tora fights but Tora is also creepy. Exceedingly generous in this score. Poppi deserves better.
And that's all the games in the series! You can also find more Xenoblade goodness in Super Smash Bros., which features characters from the series lik-A VISION!Release:
July 29th, 2022System:
There's a new game coming! The third in the main series, and fourth overall, it will be out early this fall to the delight of many. It's about a young woman, Mio, and a young man, Noah, who live on the world of Aionios, during a war between two nations. It's probably gets more complicated than that. But we don't know because we only have a trailer, although based on that we can surmise that perhaps [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] are [REDACTED] after the [REDACTED]'s actions that were hinted at in [REDACTED]. Furthermore, some have surmised that [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] have returned based on [REDACTED]. Oh shit right, discussing the plot of even the trailer is a one-way ticket to Spoilerland. As a decent number of people might be starting the series due to the announcement, please spoiler speculation and all prior games' plot beats.
Using fan conventions for discussing spoiler characters should continue, so all hail Seven.
Recent trailers show seven characters in a battle, with a special mode where pair of characters fused into a skell blade persona thing
and likely gain extra power for its duration. Maybe akin to Overdrive in XCX? Is limited to specific pairings? Does it impact chain attacks? Who knows!
It's looking like a good time to be a Xenoblade Chronicles fan. You might even say that I'm really feeling it.