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Xenoblade photo

Nintendo is having a Xenoblade Chronicles X Direct tomorrow

Apr 23
// Chris Carter
Xenoblade Chronicles X is nearly out in Japan with just a week from launch, and Nintendo is using that opportunity to give us some more info on the game tomorrow. A Treehouse: Live presentation has been scheduled for 2PM EST ...
Xenoblade Chronicles X photo
Xenoblade Chronicles X

Furries, mechs, and an octopus lady in Xenoblade Chronicles X

Apr 22
// Jed Whitaker
A fresh new trailer for Xenoblade Chronicles X can be seen above that looks more like Gundam and Metal Gear Solid to me than a JRPG. I couldn't quite decipher what is going on in the above trailer, but I'm just happy th...
Xenoblade Chronicles X photo
Xenoblade Chronicles X

Xenoblade Chronicles X lets up to 32 players cooperate

Form a squad and explore efficiently
Apr 10
// Darren Nakamura
There was a Japanese Nintendo Direct this morning focused on Xenoblade Chronicles X. Thanks to some helpful translation, we know a few more details about the Dolls and mechs and cooperative play. One cool-sounding note is th...

Calm down: Nintendo still has a lot in store for Wii U

Mar 30 // Jed Whitaker
Splatoon - May 2015 The paint-splattering Splatoon comes out in under two months and is Nintendo's first attempt at a third-person action shooter. Information has quickly been trickling out as release nears with Nintendo posting a huge dump of screenshots revealing new characters, modes, weapons, and stages. Chris Carter recently previewed the game, saying "I see a lot of classic Mario platforming design in Spaltoon's campaign" and seemed to have fun with the multiplayer.  Xenoblade Chronicles X - TBA 2015 The original Xenoblade Chronicles was a great game, and Xenoblade Chronicles X is shaping up to be even better. Character customization, multiplayer, beautiful graphics, and JRPG goodness make this one to watch for this year. No precise release date has been announced thus far. Yoshi's Woolly World - First half of 2015 Yoshi's Woolly World hasn't had much press since E3 of last year where it won over Steven. Taking Yoshi's Island-style gameplay and making it have a nice yarn aesthetic seems like a winning formula to having the best Yoshi game since Yoshi's Story on the N64. With the lack of information and the peculiar absence from Nintendo's game release calendar, I won't be surprised if this one slips to later in the year to fill in the gap Zelda left. Star Fox - TBA 2015 Star Fox for Wii U was originally teased with a blurred screen behind Shigeru Miyamoto, and only the above screenshot has ever been shown to the public. We do know that you play with a dual-screen perspective, and you pilot Arwings, tanks, and a new helicopter vehicle, but other than that it hasn't really been mentioned since E3 of 2014. That means less has been shown than the now-delayed Zelda.  Project Giant Robot and Project Guard - TBA 2015 Miyamoto has his hands full, as he has been working on not only Star Fox but also Project Giant Robot and Project Guard, two games shown last year at E3. Giant Robot has players building skyscraper-sized robots on their Wii U GamePad and then battling them to the death, while Guard is a mix between tower defense and watching security cameras. Neither game has been shown or mentioned since E3 last year, nor has a release date been announced.  Mario Maker - TBA 2015 While the name is pretty self-explanatory, Mario Maker looks to have a lot of depth, offering the ability to make levels in the style of Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U. Not just easy levels either, but levels described as masochistic. No firm release date has been announced. So there you have it, seven games that potentially could be coming to the Wii U this year, pending any "please understand" cancellations that Nintendo has become infamous for. A nice mix of genres that should have something for everyone. Nintendo won E3 2014 in my opinion, so hopefully it can bring surprises to woo me again this year. The Wii U isn't dead, long live the Wii U.
The Wii U isn't dead yet photo
Unless it delays everything, please understand!
After the recent announcement that Zelda for Wii U wouldn't be releasing in 2015, people all around the Internet have been losing their collective minds screaming that the Wii U is dead when really, it is anything but. So join me as I refresh your memory and get you back on the Nintendo hype train for 2015.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is a bare-bones port of a fantastic game

Mar 25 // Chris Carter
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D (3DS)Developer: Monolith Soft, Nintendo SPD, Monster Games (3DS port)Publisher: NintendoReleased: April 10, 2015MSRP: $39.99 Jim has already talked at length about what makes Xenoblade Chronicles so special, so I'll spare you most of the details. Suffice to say, I would consider it a new classic in the JRPG space. Every so often you'll find people longing to return to the golden era of the genre, pining over various SNES and PlayStation classics, but new masterpieces come and go in the current era all the same -- this is one of them. Despite the problems I'm about to present with the 3DS port, you owe it to yourself to play it in some form or another. Right off the bat you should probably know that Xenoblade Chronicles 3DS has a huge file size requirement if you're going digital. It weighs in at 28832 blocks, which translates to roughly 3.6 GB. It won't even fit on the 4GB card that comes standard with the New 3DS due to the system partition, so plan accordingly if you're picking this up on the eShop. The huge size is likely due to voice acting, and the fact that it's essentially a 100-hour JRPG squished into a portable format. You can tell immediately that Xenoblade has been downgraded during said squishing session, but it runs smoothly with little in the way of performance issues -- which is more important in my book. Having said that, it is tough to ignore some of the other shortcomings from a visual sense. The icons are extremely low res, as in, they weren't even touched up on the 3DS. It's really strange to look out into the horizon and see a vast beautiful tundra, then go to a shop and flip through the user interface as if it were a PS1-era RPG with fuzzy, muted menus. [embed]289388:57883:0[/embed] Another issue I had was the lack of screen real estate. The bottom screen hosts your status information and such, but the core of the game takes place on the top. It's ample enough space to do pretty much everything, but when you're actually in a battle, your targeted enemy will take up a great deal of the screen with its info box. There needs to be an option to shrink the enemy info text, because even with the "zoomed out" view it can get cluttered. With those technical issues out of the way, the game really shines on a portable. Xenoblade controls like a dream, as the extra buttons on the New 3DS allow it to mirror the Classic Controller setup on the Wii. The C-Stick also controls the camera, which is pretty much needed at all times to survey the land and constantly locate hidden treasures or areas. Even with all the aforementioned problems, it didn't hinder my enjoyment of one of my favorite RPGs in recent memory. You can skip cutscenes you've already seen in case you've already beaten it on the Wii and want to move forward with the story, and the 3D effect, while relatively tame, delivers an interesting perspective on the Bionis and the Mechonis. Keep in mind though that there is no extra content included in the actual story -- so if you already have your 100+ hour completion file on the Wii and want more, the only real advantage you'll get out of Xenoblade 3DS is the portabiity. There is amiibo/Play Coin/StreetPass support, but it's a tiny little bonus that lets you view character models or listen to music. When you think about it, the prospect of Xenoblade Chronicles 3DS sounds pretty silly. It's a port with no real content additions or true enhancements, and you have to buy a whole new 3DS model just to play it. If you can get past that barrier though, ultimately this is a way to get a great game into the hands of more players -- and I'm okay with that.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D photo
Who ate the bones?
Xenoblade Chronicles pretty much blew me away back in 2012. Fans had been clamoring for a localization for over two years, and due to an add partnership between Nintendo and GameStop, we got one. It was a rather limited relea...

Xenoblade 3D amiibo photo
Xenoblade 3D amiibo

Want to know exactly how Xenoblade Chronicles 3D's amiibo and StreetPass mechanics work?

I'll show you with in-game screenshots
Mar 21
// Chris Carter
As some of you may know, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D will ship with amiibo support. It's not all that complicated -- you touch Shulk to your New 3DS and you earn tokens that you can spend on in-game models or music tracks. A lot of people have asked for a rundown of what exactly that entails, and since I have access to the game I figured I'd shed some light on the feature.
Xenoblade Chronicles X photo
Xenoblade Chronicles X

Xenoblade Chronicles X combat explored in 30-minute livestream

All you need to know and more
Mar 07
// Brittany Vincent
Nintendo of Japan recently streamed a live Xenoblade Chronicles X presentation, detailing the game's intricate combat system for eager viewers around the globe. The 30-minute video is available for viewing in full, and it go...
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D photo
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D

New Xenoblade Chronicles 3D trailer released titled 'Heir to the Monado'

I didn't see a bit of Nietzsche in there
Mar 03
// Jason Faulkner
Nintendo has dropped a new trailer for next month's Xenoblade Chronicles 3D entitled "Heir to the Monado." It features a flashback to when Shulk acquired the mythical sword Monado as well as a few cinematics and battle scene...
 Vlade Divac Chronicles X photo
Vlade Divac Chronicles X

Xenoblade Chronicles X shows off dynamic weather, day-night cycle

Vlade Divac Chronicles X
Feb 26
// Steven Hansen
Day and night cycles aren't new, but it's a pretty one at least. Actually, thinking on it, more RPGs (particularly Japanese RPGs) could benefit from a day and night cycle just for the perceived visual variation on the hours ...
New 3DS photo
New 3DS

Are you feeling these New 3DS Xenoblade Face Plates?

Not for the US
Feb 19
// Chris Carter
Since Americans are a confused people and can't understand the difference between XL and "not XL," Nintendo opted to not release the latter in the US. Many fans are upset because they don't get to take advantage of the wide r...
Shulk amiibo photo
Shulk amiibo

Shulk amiibo pre-orders are open for a second wave at GameStop

Possible in-store only, though
Feb 12
// Brett Makedonski
The Shulk amiibo, a highly sought-after GameStop exclusive, might not be quite as rare as originally thought. This afternoon, GameStop opened a second wave of pre-orders for the Xenoblade character. It's expected to ship...
Xenoblade Chronicles X photo
Xenoblade Chronicles X

Xenoblade Chronicles X's character creator is glorious

We need more info on this game, stat
Feb 12
// Chris Carter
If you're a fan of character creation mechanics, Xenoblade Chronicles X has you covered. This newest video direct from Nintendo will give you an idea of what you can craft, and I'm satisfied. You can make the hottest ki...
Xenoblade Chronicles X photo
Xenoblade Chronicles X

Japanese Xenoblade Chronicles X cover is pretty badass

Does this mean I have to buy a Wii U now?
Feb 07
// Robert Summa
If video game box covers hype you up, then this newly released Japanese cover for Xenoblade Chronicles X found on Amazon Japan certainly has the potential to get you mega excited. Whether or not we will see this bad...
Xenoblade Chronicles X photo
Xenoblade Chronicles X

Nintendo reveals Xenoblade Chronicles X multiplayer details and more

The spiritual sequel to a spiritual successor of a spiritual succesor
Feb 06
// Jason Faulkner
I'll be the first one to admit how confused I am as to the connection between Xenogears, the Xenosaga series, and Xenoblade Chronicles other than director Tetsuya Takahashi. Especially given that Xenoblade Chronicle...
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D photo
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D roams to New 3DS in April

Old 3DS owners will have to upgrade
Jan 14
// Kyle MacGregor
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is coming to New Nintendo 3DS XL in April, Nintendo announced today. The RPG is exclusive to the New 3DS platform, which arrives in North America this February.
Xenoblade 3DS photo
Xenoblade 3DS

Xenoblade Chronicles confirmed for New 3DS

In what capacity and when is unknown
Aug 29
// Chris Carter
So that's why Shulk is in Super Smash Bros. After showing off the "New 3DS" model during their Japanese Direct, Nintendo cut right into some footage of Xenoblade Chronicles on the 3DS. Very little is actua...
Xenoblade Chronicles X photo
Xenoblade Chronicles X

Xenoblade Chronicles X has a massive in-game world

And it's not even compensating for anything
Aug 27
// Brittany Vincent
The latest issue of Edge states that map in Xenoblade Chronicles X is going to significantly dwarf the world of the original Xenoblade Chronicles. Think five times bigger, in fact. Director Tetsuya Takahashi elaborates in the...
Xenoblade Chronicles X photo
Looking pretty good!
Can't get enough Xenoblade Chronicles X? Nintendo has you covered with a 45-minute stream of the presentation of the upcoming RPG from Nintendo's Treehouse presentation. Be forewarned though, folks, this is drool-worthy terr...

Xenoblade Chronicles X photo
Epic space battles. Huge mecha. And a gorgeous Xenosaga-style art direction. Monolith Soft's new game is called Xenoblade Chronicles X and it looks absolutely stellar. Do want. Hiroyuki Sawano, composer on numerous anime series like Attack on Titan, is handling the music on the upcoming Wii U project, which should be launching sometime in 2015.

Xenoblade, Metroid pricin photo
Xenoblade, Metroid pricin

GameStop to sell Xenoblade, Metroid Prime Trilogy for $40

$40 each, of course
Oct 18
// Steven Hansen
Just a couple months ago, GameStop was selling copies of Xenoblade for upwards of $90. The retailer has exclusive rights to the title, you'll remember. This monopoly and price hike raised a number of issues, especially when i...
Xenoblade photo

GameStop taking heat amid Xenoblade controversy

Gamers accuse retailer of scamming customers
Aug 13
// Tim Sheehy
Over the past few days, GameStop has found itself in the midst of a controversy surrounding the used sales of Xenoblade Chronicles, a fan-favorite and a game which the retailer had negotiated an exclusive contract to distribu...
Localized Wii U games photo
Localized Wii U games

SMT X Fire Emblem, Monolith Soft's X reconfirmed for West

Confirmed before, EXTRA confrmed now
Apr 25
// Tony Ponce
[Awkward Zombie by Katie Tiedrich] Two of the more mind-blowing Wii U announcements in the past few months have been Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem and Monolith Soft's "X," the spiritual successor to Xenoblade. For the soft...
Xeno-something for Wii U photo
Monolithsoft is at it again
Nintendo and Monolithsoft are working on something for Wii U, and I want whatever it is. The team behind Xenoblade Chronicles have something beautiful lined up, but all we got this morning from this morning's Wii U Direct br...

Why Xenoblade Chronicles HAD to look like shit

Apr 26 // Jim Sterling
Let's face it -- games are ridiculously expensive to make. Expensive to the point where the entire business model looks pretty damn broken. We have developers decimating their workforces or even closing down before or after releasing a major "AAA" title. We have games costing millions of dollars to make, and publishers expecting success on par with Call of Duty in exchange for their investments. Games are big business, throwing big money around, and graphics are a huge part of that system.  As games get prettier, they tend to get more expensive. Building new engines to take advantage of graphically insane consoles and computers takes time, effort, and lots of cash. It also tends to require some restrictions on what you can do with your game. For example, Gears of War still looks pretty damn lovely, but its action takes place within very tight and linear corridors. Had the game opened up, it would have had to have taken a graphical hit. The only game that has managed to look amazing and retain large environments has been Crysis, but it is still an anomaly in this industry. There are few studios capable of what Crytek is capable of. Certainly, there are few makers of traditional RPGs with the cash and the resources for that kind of craziness.  Huge games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim can look pretty thanks to good art direction, but they're also damn glitchy, and have to cut corners by reusing textures and environments. They're almost pieced together like LEGO constructs, with pre-made building blocks pieced together, and you can clearly see the proverbial puppet strings if you look at it long enough. It gets the job done, but it's a very Western thing. It's not the long, huge, open, varied, handcrafted kind of chicanery we're used to from Japanese role-playing games.  For an example of what the high definition generation has done for the genre, one need look no further than Final Fantasy XIII. The game took over half a decade to make, and whether you like it or not, there's no denying that it still lacks the scale of past Final Fantasy games. I got a lot more out of the comparatively ugly Final Fantasy VII than I'll ever get from XIII. A greater sense of freedom, a longer time spent playing, and a far deeper sense that I was part of a large, fully realized world.  By its own admission, Square Enix has struggled to get everything it wants in a Final Fantasy while also providing the kind of visuals we expect this generation. No less than an entire game's worth of content was cut from Final Fantasy XIII, because the size had to be kept down. Square has also said in the past that HD technology is too demanding to make the kind of big JRPGs we used to enjoy, and this demand is also the reason why we haven't had any confirmation of an HD remake for Final Fantasy VII.  Final Fantasy VII took up to four years to produce, but Yoshinori Kitase suggested that it would take over a decade to get VII looking as good as XIII. It makes sense -- VII is simply a far bigger game, far more ambitious than XIII in every way (outside of graphics). There's a reason why so many good JRPGs have found homes on portable systems like the DS and PSP, rather than home consoles. You can actually make traditional experiences there, without the crippling graphical expectations holding them back.  This is why I am saddened when I see someone complain about Xenoblade Chronicles being on the Wii. I feel that if we'd had it on any other system, it wouldn't be Xenoblade Chronicles anymore. Yes, the graphics are muddy and jaggy (I started playing it without glasses to make it look smoother!) but I don't think I'd have had it any other way. To get those sprawling open fields full of monsters, to get that wonderful level of variety and intricate world design. To get that huge experience and the sense of a world that truly was alive, I think Xenoblade needed to be on a system where there was no pressure to produce visuals on par with Crysis or Final Fantasy XIII. You can keep your prettier graphics -- I want a better game!  The Wii was a great place for mid-sized developers, and while the system never quite realized its potential as an oasis of creativity, I nonetheless appreciate the titles we've seen on it. I think games like Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story have only been possible because the Wii "holds them back" in the visual department. The precious visual department holds games back in every other way. As much criticism as the Wii has had (and I've shared mine over the years), I will be grateful for it standing as the last bastion of the term, "gameplay over graphics."  The Wii lacking HD output has, in my opinion, been a good thing in the long run. Without that expectation for high definition visuals, it's allowed developers without Square-levels of money to focus on creating good games first, and worrying about the juicy eye candy later. It's the kind of focus that few games on the Xbox 360 and PS3 could dream of getting away with. Yes, when you upscale a Wii game to HD it tends to look much better, but the fact that the upscaled version isn't the expected version eliminates the consumer's demand for ridiculously pretty games and allows the developer to focus on what really matters. When we play a PS3 game, we expect it to look very good, unless it's a budget game (which carries its own stigma). When we play a Wii game, we're expecting something far less flashy. I can't imagine the relief such reduced expectations must be for some studios.  I am a little worried about the Wii going away, replaced as it inevitably shall be by the high definition Wii U. I'm worried that the makers of Japanese RPGs with modest budgets will no longer have anywhere to go if they want to make an ambitious game on a home console without getting snubbed. The handheld market will truly become their only sanctuary. At least until game development gets significantly cheaper, and I don't see that happening anytime soon. Not with modern technology consistently pushing the goal posts back.  Games like Xenoblade Chronicles have to look like shit. They have to make Game Informer editors want to punch kittens. If they didn't, they wouldn't be the same games anymore. Yes, they'd look nice -- and I love a gorgeous game as much as the next person -- but they wouldn't be all they could have been. To think that a game's potential is only unlocked when it reaches a certain graphical quality is a little blinkered, if you ask me. As far as I am concerned, Xenoblade Chronicles reached its potential, and it did so because it was focused on being a game, as opposed to an art department's masturbation session.  Soon, those who have spent years complaining about Wii games not being in HD will get their wish, and we'll have HD games forevermore.  I hope they like the imprisoned, neutered, but oh-so pretty games they were asking for.

This week, Game Informer guest editor Chris "Warcraft" Kluwe confessed that Xenoblade Chronicles wanted to make him punch a kitten. However, it wasn't due to the game being bad, it was due to him loving it, and the resul...


Live show: Xenoblade Chronicles on Mash Tactics

Apr 10
// Bill Zoeker
King Foom is back from PAX East and, with his batteries recharged, he's ready for a "New Release Showcase" today on Mash Tactics. The game this time is Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii. This highly rated JRPG almost didn't se...

Jimquisition: Cutscenes aren't a failure state

Apr 09
// Jim Sterling
It's become increasingly popular to disparage cutscenes and the games that use them in the past few years. It is argued that interactive art should never force a player to watch a movie and, while there's merit in that, that...

So ... who's buying Xenoblade Chronicles today?

Apr 06
// Jim Sterling
The day has finally arrived. After months of campaigning, the fruits of Operation Rainfall's efforts have become ripe for the plucking, as Xenoblade Chronicles releases across North America. So ... who's going to get it? ...

Review: Xenoblade Chronicles

Apr 04 // Jim Sterling
Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)Developer: Monolith SoftPublisher: Nintendo of AmericaRelease: April 6, 2012MSRP: $49.99 (GameStop exclusive) Xenoblade Chronicles may bear many hallmarks of a traditional RPG, but from the outset Monolith Soft has worked to craft something quite different from the norm. Its premise is one of the more inventive I've seen in years, telling the story of two ancient Gods who remain eternally locked in combat, now frozen like statues, and serving as glorified planets for the lifeforms that live on them. The Mechonis is home to a race of robotic constructs called The Mechon, who strike out to attack the varied creatures of Bionis -- chiefly the Homs (humans), Nopon (Pokémon), and High Entia (bird-elves). The Mechon can only be killed with a magical sword, The Monado, which finds itself wielded by a man named Shulk in his quest to take vengeance upon the metal-faced robot that destroyed his colony.  Xenoblade's story of vengeance and cast of upbeat characters is a far cry from the usual save-the-world tales with their brooding protagonists. While the narrative does expand to something a bit more dramatic, the theme of revenge serves as its backbone, while the Monado's ability to show its wielder glimpses of the future delivers regular musings on the subject of destiny. As far as JRPG plots go, Xenoblade Chronicles is one of the best in years, avoiding the self-indulgent misery and trite love triangles that have dutifully served as lazy crutches for the uninspired game writer.  [embed]225166:43262[/embed] That said, many major protagonists, especially Shulk, come across as a little plain at times, with only a handful of heroes -- Reyn and Riki, mostly -- showing any defined personality. It's hard to tell the likes of Shulk, Sharla or Dunban apart, since they serve more as vanilla reactionaries with only vague snatches of individuality. Yes, Shulk is out for revenge, but I'm hard pressed to say much more about him. The same cannot be said for the villains, whose London gangster accents and sincere love of being evil make them memorable and hilarious. An army of oversized robots who sound like the cast of Eastenders? I can safely say that's a first for role-playing games of any kind.   It would be impossible to describe Xenoblade Chronicles without heavily emphasizing its similarity to MMOs, for its quests, combat, and loot systems are directly ripped from the likes of World of Warcraft or The Old Republic. Combat is in real-time, with the player initiating battle against monsters on the map (or vice versa), and characters attacking automatically once in range. Each member of your three-person party has a range of special abilities, known as arts, that must cool down every time they are used, while characters fulfill distinct battlefield roles that MMO players will easily recognize -- from tanks to healers to DPS specialists, all the traditional playstyles are catered to. You can choose which member of your party to control, and the others will perform their tasks independently.  Xenoblade encourages players to think tactically and work together with your team. Some arts work in conjunction with arts from other characters which, when used together, can severely cripple the opposition. For example, Shulk has a number of arts that inflict a "break" status on an enemy, and a broken enemy can be "toppled" by certain other arts, rendering it helpless and unable to fight back. There are also arts that deal extra damage or inflict debuffs when used on the back or side of an opponent, and characters with such arts are best teamed with a tank like Reyn, who can draw aggro and distract monsters. In between, you'll be pressing the "B" button at timed moments to encourage allies and recover from missed attacks, lending a very light "QTE" element to the melee. It's impressive how well Monolith Soft has made battles feel as strategic as they are chaotic -- and they can certainly get chaotic. There's an interesting revival system in place, since players lack the ability to use healing items or spells to bring characters back to life. There's a special gauge that fills up every time an art is successfully performed, comprised of three smaller gauges. When totally filled, this gauge allows the party to perform a chain attack, where special abilities can be fired off without interruption. However, there's a risk-and-reward element at play, as one of the three smaller gauges can also be spent to revive a fallen party member. Should the player's character get taken out while no bars are filled, it's game over, so players must choose wisely between spending the resources on chain attacks, or saving them to keep the party alive.  As well as allowing the team to damage Mechon, the Monado's ability to predict the future plays a crucial gameplay role. When a monster is preparing a particularly devastating attack, Shulk will have a premonition, allowing players to see who will suffer the blow and how much damage it'll deal (usually enough to kill). Armed with the knowledge, players can quickly fire off arts that counteract the attack or warn teammates to select an appropriate response from their arsenal. Although certain arts specifically counter enemy abilities, it's more enjoyable (and sometimes more practical) to find alternate ways of altering the future. For instance, you could get Reyn (the tank) to draw the monster's fire, changing its intended target to someone who can easily take the hit. You could topple or even kill the attacker, or you could get a character like Sharla to fire a shielding bullet that absorbs the impact. Changing or even destroying the future is surprisingly satisfying and really lends an extra edge of excitement. However, this is a massively lengthy RPG, and having gameplay repetitively broken by Shulk's intrusive visions can get incredibly tiring, especially toward the end. When you're fighting a particularly tough boss or if you're just trying to run away from one, the last thing you need is to be forced to watch all the ways in which you get to die. I know I'd rather be able to concentrate on fighting at times.  Combat is a heap of fun, though it gets repetitive once you've worked out a suitable party and get used to all your abilities. Battles, even against bottom feeding opponents, feel a bit too lengthy, with each fight proving to be a time commitment. A.I. allies can be a little unreliable, sometimes blatantly ignoring the player's combat orders and rushing off to attack enemies that are far into the distance. Controls can prove surprisingly unresponsive, with instances where you'll select an art, even hearing the confirmation sound effect, yet the ability won't be performed. Switching targets suffers from this same issue, which can be a real pain in the backside.  Characters level their stats automatically, but each of the arts can be manually trained using "AP" gained in battle. As arts grow stronger, you'll need to purchase more advanced levels from merchants, in order to further increase their effectiveness while reducing their cooldown timers. There are multiple skill trees for every hero, each one granting a number of passive bonuses. Trees can be selected at will, even if you're halfway through learning a skill, and every skill can be gained during the course of the game, so choosing trees is more a case of what you'd like to learn first, rather than worrying about losing certain abilities forever. Your progress on each tree is recorded, so you can switch around without sacrificing any progress.  Every map is filled with a mixture of low-level monsters and terrifyingly powerful creatures that you won't be able to defeat until much later. This can prove a problem, one that I've noticed in a number of MMOs, where you'll accidentally initiate a fight with some regular monsters and not realize you were in the set patrol route of something ten times your level. Having a level 75 behemoth invite itself to a level 14 fight is a regular occurrence, and not exactly a welcome one. Since this isn't an MMO, it's not like you can team up with others and take down these creatures early, either. Still, the game is kind enough to change the music to a "You're going to die," theme giving the player ample warning to pack up and get the Hell out of there.  There's an absolutely huge amount of content in Xenoblade Chronicles, with a massive world full of hidden areas, secret subquests, and tons of NPCs who want you to slay certain monsters and collect an arbitrary number of items. As with MMOs, most of the optional missions are comprised of assassinations and fetch quests, which can be completed or ignored at leisure. Maps are dotted with "heart to heart" areas that can be activated when certain characters have grown to like each other (accepting missions and fighting together raises the affinity between party members), and there's a full-fledged crafting system, where raw materials are combined to create gems which slot into weaponry and armor. The most expansive sidequest, Rebuild Colony 6, is tacked onto an already huge story campaign, for a ton of gameplay that will keep hungry gamers fed for weeks.  With all this content, it seems a shame that Xenoblade Chronicles would resort to a shameless amount of padding in the latter half. There are whole chunks of the game that could be deemed totally unnecessary, even in a genre famous for fatiguing its players. Once on Mechonis, progress devolves into a weary cocktail of lever-pulling and backtracking through poorly designed, sprawling maps that are painted in a dismal shade of rusty brown and lack any of the inspiring sights seen in earlier portions of the adventure. Huge walkways full of nothing and monsters positioned over chasms, designed to knock players into oblivion, drench the latter portions of the journey, and all seem to be desperately, shamelessly, playing for time. The game's already bursting at the seams without these areas, and they run the risk of ruining all the good that has been delivered up until then. At one point, I wanted to throw my controller in frustration, just due to the insulting busywork that was being inflicted upon me. I was begging Xenoblade to do its business or get off the lavatory.  That said, the game had delivered hours upon hours of genuinely engrossing entertainment up until that point, and it would be unfair to judge Xenoblade solely by one forgivable misstep. Although the game is graphically poor, even by Wii standards, Monolith Soft has been able to craft inspiring maps, taking us across plains, forests, jungles, and snow-capped mountains, all corresponding to different bodyparts of the game's intriguing God-worlds. The cutscenes are some of the most thrilling I've seen in years, and work together with an absolutely gorgeous soundtrack to create some unforgettable moments. Xenoblade Chronicles does what I feel JRPGs have failed to do for years -- truly make players feel like they were taken on a real adventure. The voice acting may put some players off, as the game has not been localized beyond what was done for the British release. As a result, the cast is entirely made up of English actors, some of whom are enjoyable to listen to, while others aren't quite so affable. Reyn, in particular, sounds like the kind of person I want to punch, and his repetitious stock phrases in battle ("It's Reyn time!" "Let's not lose our 'eads, though!") can really crawl under the skin. Still, it's worth putting up with the heroes just to listen to the bad guys. The Mechon leaders Xord and Metal-Face steal every scene they're in with their gleeful nastiness, and it will be a crime if they're not hailed among gaming's greatest baddies in years to come. At any rate, it's refreshing to not listen to the same stock voice actors that American publishers seem to have on speed dial.  I am incredibly grateful to Xenoblade Chronicles, for it has rekindled my love for console JRPGs, a love that had been systematically throttled by the likes of Square Enix and tri-Ace for the past few years. Not since Lost Odyssey have I been so thoroughly entranced by a Japanese role-player. As I type this, the beautifully sweeping music from the Bionis' Leg area is washing through my head, accompanied by fond memories of successful chain attacks and expertly crafted gems. There's no denying that Xenoblade has its low points, but those high points are some of the highest of the genre. If you own a Wii, there's very little room to question -- this is a must-have game for Nintendo's humble little system. Now if only I could forget the word "Monado" after hearing it twelve million times over the past month. 

Xenoblade Chronicles will be remembered for its controversial release history more than what it does with its story, its gameplay, or anything else. It has had a long and tumultuous past, released as it was in Japan, then in ...


Nintendo of America seems to be knocking news out of the park today in an effort to draw attention away from the PS Vita. If you're an RPG fan, it might just be working! Alongside announcing The Last Story for 2012, the publi...


Fans get to choose Xenoblade's alternate cover art

Feb 06
// Jordan Devore
For as much as some of us passionately argue over minor issues, game companies sure do like having us vote on things. Nintendo is allowing you to decide what the reversible box art for Xenoblade Chronicles' North American rel...

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