Sunday, April 11, 2021

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition


Advance Monado Fair

When Nintendo released the upgraded version of their portable 3DS system, the New 3DS, I jumped on the chance to purchase it due to it having a popular RPG as one of its initial titles, Xenoblade Chronicles, ported from the Wii. I had a decent time with it, but didn’t think it perfect, and as the New 3DS wouldn’t receive many more exclusive titles, buying the system wasn’t the best decision in hindsight. The Big N would ultimately release their hybrid Switch console, among the many ports it would receive being Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, which, as its subtitle implies, is indeed the best experience of the game.

The latest version of the first entry of the franchise, like its preceding incarnations, occurs upon the habitable frozen corpses of two titans that battled in the past on an endless ocean. Protagonist Shulk ultimately receives a special weapon known as the Monado, which is the only armament capable of damaging the antagonistic Machina. The game generally tells its story well, with sidequests adding significant plot, although there are occasional offbeat narrative notes such as the theme of race relations. The translation is above average, although there exists the typical unnatural JRPG convention of characters calling their attacks in battle, and there are some questionable names such as “Dickson” and “Dunban.” Regardless, the plot has far more going for it than against it.

Fortunately, solid gameplay backs the experience, with the player’s active party of up to three characters engaging in action-based real-time combat against enemies visible on fields and in dungeons, with battles against lower-level enemies ultimately optional depending upon how powerful the player’s party is. Whenever an enemy notices Shulk’s party or the player targets a foe and approaches it, battle begins, with Shulk executing normal physical attacks every second or two against the enemy, with the player also able to equip him and his allies each with eight Arts that require recharging before they become usable again.

A.I. controls Shulk’s allies, competent for the most part despite occasional idiocy such as companions attacking Machina adversaries before Shulk himself uses a special Monado skill that allows standard weapons to damage the robotic foes. Shulk’s Monado skills serve as his main Talent, one of which each of his allies have, which too require a time of recharging before they become usable again. During battle, whilst Shulk and his friends are attacking enemies, the player can navigate the Arts interface at the bottom of the screen and freely select abilities to execute, players able to queue multiple commands that they execute sequentially against antagonists.

Interestingly, while there are several Arts that can recover health, there is no system of consumable items in Xenoblade, although combat is luckily more than bearable despite their absence, with the HP of Shulk and his active companions quickly recovering during navigation of fields and dungeons outside combat. As the party assaults their adversaries, a gauge in the upper-left corner of the screen fills up to three levels, the player able to consume one to perform tasks such as bringing allies with zero HP back into the heat of battle, or get a companion out of daze or sleep status. A full gauge allows the player to execute a powerful combination attack against the enemy, whose length can vary depending upon how well they time button presses.

Killing an enemy gains all characters within and without the active party experience, Arts Points for leveling skills to intermediate and expert levels (which requires Arts Manuals to unlock), and points for passive skills that characters can share, with the number they’re able to depending upon affinity, that between characters gradually building the more they participate actively. The game mechanics generally work well in the end, with adjustable difficulty levels accommodating characters of different skill levels and an epilogue mode containing similar, but at points different, combat rules, although fights against multiple foes can sometimes become chaotic, and the ability to pause whilst navigating Arts and changing targets would have been welcome.

Xenoblade mostly interacts well with players, given an easy menu system, shopping, and the ability to save anywhere outside battle reducing wasted time in combat should death come to their party, alongside other features such as an accurate in-game clock and clear direction on how to advance the central storyline. However, an equip-best option would have reduced the need for character management, despite the ability to see how prospective gear increases or decreases stats before purchase, and while the game does keep record of points of import for sidequests, completing many can require use of a guide. Regardless, the first game’s latest version is generally user-friendly.

The soundtrack features the talents primarily of composers Yoko Shimomura and Yasunori Mitsuda, with plenty of standout tracks such as the daytime and nighttime versions of the music played on Bionis’ Leg, most other tunes having day and night incarnations. The voice acting is largely solid, with most voiced characters seeming to have Australian accents, and aside from the unnatural tendency of attackers calling the names of their skills, the port excels greatest in its aural presentation.

The Definitive Edition also fares well in terms of its graphical presentation, with the character and enemy models containing styles that are neither fully-realistic nor fully-cartoonish, and generally looking good, the environments appearing believable and colorful as well, although there is frequent popup of elements such as blades of grass when traversing fields, and poor collision detection between elements such as character hair and their shoulders. Regardless, the port is easy on the eyes.

Finally, the main quest is fairly lengthy, taking somewhere from two to three days total to finish with a significant portion of the side content completed, and the Future Connected playable epilogue storyline taking an additional six hours to finish, although in-game achievements in the main quest can take far longer to obtain.

In the end, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition definitely upholds its moniker, with most of its aspects being all-around solid such as its fast and fluid battle system, good control with clear direction, enjoyable narrative, excellent soundtrack, pretty visuals, and plenty reasons to come back for more. It does have issues with regards to the common poor direction in its sidequests that may drive players to use the internet, and the translation commits typical sins of the English versions of Japanese RPGs with areas such as the battle dialogue, but those who own the Nintendo Switch owe it to themselves to check out this adventure.

This review is based on a playthrough of the main game and Future Connected on Casual Mode on a copy borrowed by the reviewer.

The Good:
+Fast, fluid battle system.
+Good control.
+Great narrative.
+Excellent soundtrack.
+Nice visuals.
+Tons of side content.

The Bad:
-Some poor direction in sidequests.
-Some off-key story beats.
-Localization could have been better.
-A few visual impurities.

The Bottom Line:
A Japanese RPG with the feel of a Western RPG.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Game Mechanics: 9.0/10
Controls: 7.5/10
Story: 8.0/10
Localization: 7.0/10
Music/Sound: 9.5/10
Graphics: 8.0/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 2-4 Days

Overall: 8.5/10

No comments:

Post a Comment