Written by Twisted Ideas
The efforts of Operation Rainfall has successfully gotten Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower localized in North America. The first of the three to be released is Xenoblade Chronicles, a sci-fi JRPG. The Wii has always been lacking in the RPG department but now it’s receiving heavy hitters. Is Xenoblade Chronicles good enough to scrape of the dust off your Wii or should it stayed at home.
Before the existence of life two giant titans the Bionis and the Mechonis were in a seemingly endless battle which lead to their mutual destruction. The Bionis has been populated by Homs (humans) and wildlife and the Mechonis has been populated by the Mechon (machines). The Mechon launch an all out attack on the Homs and the only weapon effective against them is a mysterious sword called the Monado. The Monado harms most people who wield it and the only one who can to some extent is Dunban. One year of peace has passed and the Mechon have returned stronger than ever. Dunban lost of use of his arm in the last war and the Monado has to fall in the hands of Shulk a boy who has been researching Monado. The Monado doesn’t harm Shulk and he discovered that it has more abilities than they initially believed.
You are given free roam of the Bionis. The size of the world is enormous and has the ability for you to quick travel to land marks you have found on your quest. You can recover HP you loose from monsters or drops from heights by waiting outside of battles. Not all monsters are aggressive by nature and will not attack unless provoked by the player. Some monsters will attack based on sight or sound. Some monster gather in groups and may join the battle part way through. To initiate battles monsters need to be targeted giving you the opportunity to position yourself for a preemptive strike. You can also see the level of a monster before you start a battle and stronger monsters outside you level coexist with those more suited for your current levels.
During battles you control the party leader while your two partners are AI controlled. You have a battle palette on the bottom the screen containing your Arts that can be used at anytime when in range and not in cooldown. Enemies will attack the character who is perceived as the greatest threat. The Aggro Ring around your character will show you which monsters are targeting you and when targeted you cannot face a monster’s side or back.
Characters use auto attacks when Arts are not being used. Arts can vary from offensive to supportive. Some offensive Arts can deal status effects against enemies or critical damage when it hits on a specific side of an enemy. All Arts require a cooldown before they can be used again. The cooldown can be quite significant as some are well over a minute long. The final type of attack are Talent Arts which are character specific. Some characters can use them as an attack while other Talent Arts are supportive. Depending on the Talent Art, auto attacks will fill the gauge faster than using Arts. When you attack your Party Gauge will fill. It has three bars; When full it allows for a Cross Attack which is a series of uninterrupted Arts. One bar can be use to revive characters and to warn characters.
At a certain point in the story the Monado gains the ability to gaze into the future foreseeing an enemy’s attack. You can see who, when, when, and how much damage that attack will do if left unchecked. After the vision you have the opportunity to protect your team by either warning your allies by using one bar allowing access to their battle palette with no cooldown. The future will change depending how you deal with the situation. Enemies will can change their targets or have their attack stopped all together. Be warned that enemies can still attack before the countdown is finished.
You gain EXP, AP and SP after battles, when you earn achievements and when you find new locations or landmarks. When you gain enough EXP you will gain a level. AP is used to increase the effectiveness Arts. Each Art can be raised to level ten but each Art will require manuals before they can reach the higher levels. SP counts towards skills. Skill are passive abilities that benefit your characters. There are three different branches when learning skills with each level requiring more SP to learn the skill. Each character can use any skill learned by an ally through Skill Links. The higher your affinity with a character the more skills you can use. Each skill requires Affinity Coins that are obtained as you level up before they can be used.
Affinity is your character’s relationship with one another. Affinity can be increased by supporting characters in battles or through conversations with NPC’s. Throughout the game you will find Heart-to-Heart event that reveals a unique conversation between two characters.
You will encounter NPC’s that will provide quests that give you money and EXP. Each location will have a large amount of quest which can range from monster hunting, gathering or searching for people or items. Completing quests can change relationships between NPC and will give you reputation for that area. The higher your reputation the more quests will become available.
All equipment may have slots available for gems. Gems will enhance your characters in offense, defense or passive abilities or resistances. Gems can be found throughout the game and can be crafted with resources you find. When crafting, materials have skills that can be converted to a gem. You can use several material when crafting but when a skill reaches 100% or higher you will not be able to add more gems. After that you can choose two characters to begin the crafting process. Depending on your affinity the number of turns for crafting will change. There are three different flames when crafting and depending on your two character’s strengths it will affect how much bonus you will gain. If a gem reaches 200% it will evolve into the next tier level.
Graphics and Sound
It’s no secret that Wii has been lacking in the graphics and horsepower department ever since it’s launch. That doesn’t stop Xenoblade Chronicles from having a larger scope then any other game that I can think of on the Wii. Bionis is an incredibly massive world with an array of varied, detailed environments. The character models are a detailed, cel-shaded, realistic anime style. Each piece equipment will appear visually on your character which are all detailed as well.
There’s an incredible amount of draw distance throughout the game.
What I found fascinating was because an english version exists in Europe, but wasn’t planned in North America, all of the voice acting is done by British/Australian voice actors. The music scores are well done but not memorable.
The Xeno series is one that I’m rather unfamiliar with. I’ve only played the first couple of hours of Xenogears recently when it was released on the Playstation Store and I only played up to the first part of Xenosaga Episode II. For those who haven’t played any game in the series Gears, Saga and Blade are unrelated even thematically. This is the first Xeno game that I’ve really been able to get into and full enjoy.
Xenoblade Chronicles has a massive scale that feels like Gran Pulse from Final Fantasy XIII but larger. Xenoblade’s mechanics are deep but easy to learn unlike many current JRPG’s that either simple or too complicated. This is the most complete JRPG I’ve played in a long time. The story is grabs you early on, there is an incredible amount of quests to complete and most of all it’s fun. The game rewards you often with EXP/SP/AP whenever you find new locations, landmarks or achievement which is a good feeling. There was a town where I actually gained two levels without ever having to fight a single enemy. If you have any interest in RPG’s and if you still have your Wii Xenoblade Chronicles is a must have.