A massive world made small.
When Xenoblade Chronicles originally came out on the Nintendo Wii console back in 2011, it certainly made some waves. The game gave players the freedom to explore a brand new, massive open world. It was beautiful to look at and enjoyably challenging to play. There was even doubt over whether the game would release in North America, and when it did, the numbers were limited. And most surprisingly, Xenoblade Chronicles was an unapologetic JRPG that released on the Wii, the console of choice for family friendly casual gaming.
Still, despite many a gamer shouting the positive aspects of Xenoblade Chronicles from the rooftops, for many the game passed unnoticed. With the recent launch of Xenoblade Chronicles 3D for the New 3DS and New 3DS XL, as it is exclusive to Nintendo’s shiny new handhelds, hopefully more players will be able to enjoy the incredible adventure of Shulk and companions. Whether the launch of Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is just to show off what the new Nintendo handhelds are capable of, or if the launch is just to get more players interested in the upcoming Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U, which looks stunning by the way, doesn’t matter. All that matters is that Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is a very impressive JRPG.
All RPG worlds have to start somewhere, and one of the most impressive things about Xenoblade Chronicles is just how deep and fleshed out the world in which the game is set feels. Players are given all the background that they need for this very unusual world right from the beginning, but the journey of discovery doesn’t end there and continues throughout the game. Still, you have a race of humanoids known as the Homs who happen to be living on the long dormant body of a god-like creature known as The Bionis. The Bionis was once at war with another god-like creature and that war continues even now as a robotic race known as the Mechon wage war against the Homs. It is all rather fantastical and really sets the scene for an epic adventure.
Following all of the introductory stuff, the player is finally introduced to the hero of the game, Shulk. This young character takes up the Monado, a mysterious sword which was instrumental in the defeat of the last major Mechon attack. The sword brings with it a host of strange powers as Shulk sets off on a journey to finally bring peace to the world. The story may be somewhat generic, but there are plenty of twists and turns through the course of this massive 70+ hour game that really raise Xenoblade Chronicles above the likes of your average JRPG.
And it is not like the story is the only thing to occupy the player during that huge amount of game time. The world is filled with stuff to do. There is an abundance of side quests for the player to pick up along their way, although a fair few of them are simple collection quests. There are many characters to meet and interact with, and an absolute mass of items to buy and sell throughout the journey. There is wildlife and monsters everywhere, but many times the player can quite easily avoid conflicts if they wish, making the grind that little bit easier and not having to rely on random encounters.
The inevitable grind is made that bit more enjoyable by the initially easy combat system. Much like many MMOs, the player simply selects a target and then their character attacks of their own free will. The player can move their character around, positioning them for an advantage, and is able to make use of a variety of different special attacks, known as Arts. The combat becomes deeper and more complex when taking into account the likes of combos with other characters, the aggro system where the opponent chooses to target the character causing them the most damage, and the special powers of the Monado, which allows the player to see and react to upcoming attacks.
Given all of that, you may well be wondering just how easy this complex system would be for a newcomers to pick up. I am not going to lie, there is a fairly steep learning curve involved with Xenoblade Chronicles which may well put some players off. Tutorials are offered as new mechanics are introduced to the game, but they are limited and quite easily forgotten about. It will take more than a few hours for any new player to feel comfortable with the system, but once that point has been reached, it really does all become a lot simpler and the player can actually concentrate on the strategies and tactics in combat, rather than the core mechanics themselves.
As I am sure you can now see, Xenoblade Chronicles was a pretty epic game on the Wii. But now it has arrived for the New 3DS and, with the port to a new system, come a few minor issues. Visually, the game is close to looking as good as it did on the Wii, which is a fair accomplishment. But there are blurred textures and muted colours that just take the shine off Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. There is also the problem that the game was designed for the big screen, leaving text often too small on the New 3DS and the screen occasionally getting so busy when in the midst of the action that it is almost impossible to see what is happening.
The thing is, Xenoblade Chronicles made a very successful home on the Nintendo Wii. Playing Xenoblade Chronicles 3D on the New 3DS just doesn’t look as good. However, as I still believe that all JRPG lovers should play Xenoblade Chronicles, those who missed out on the Wii version should definitely consider playing the 3D version on the New 3DS or New 3DS XL. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is an incredibly entertaining, and frankly massive, JRPG, but it just may be a little too epic for the new Nintendo handheld.