For those reading one of my Wii review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:
The Wii is often mocked for its game library, yet, it actually has a solid list of exclusives that are unavailable anywehere else. Though only Nintendo games were avilable where I am from, I was always intrested on other games. Hence, I decided to play the top 50 Wii games as chose by Gamesradar in this list:
Without further ado, here is:
11: Xenoblade Chronicles:
Genre: Action JRPG.
First things first, I am changing my rating system to better rate different genres according to their own rules. It will still be from 50 quality points, but every title will start from 25 and earn/lose points according to criteria important to the titles and genres themselves.
It's rare that a game comes along and so obviously entrance you in its grip. Not only with addictive busy work (which Xenoblade Chronicles certainly have its share off), but with a consistent sense of joy and wonder.
Simply put, I couldn't put away the game until I finished it. That I did not exactly it took 160 hours to do so is a testament to how much I enjoyed the game.
"What's born from the Bionis is returned to the Bionis. That's the way of the Homs. "
Right off the bat, the game outdoes all other RPGs in it imaginative and unique setting. The opening explains how two titans are locked in everlasting battle that stops at a standstill, with one titan losing an arm and the other barely keeping a massive sword from cleaving right through.
From the bodies of those two titans sprang life. In the Bionis, life is biological in nature, and in the Mechonis, it is mostly mechanical. The lifeforms living on those titans continued on their battle, and this is where the game comes in.
Millenniums after the titans stood still, the Mechons of the Mechonis laid waste to the various colonies living on the Bionis' battles actually taking place in the aforementioned massive sword. Shulk is the main character of the story, and he is defined through his friends and his ability to hold the Monado, the only sword able to effectively battle the Mechon.
Stand on the shoulders of giants
Three things contribute to making a great story.
First, the setting is exceptionally unique. It first sets in when you go up from the Bionis's calf (where Shulk's home is) into his knee. At the Kneecap, you first catch a glimpse of the Mechonis, staring at the Bionis with what looks like cold rage; his eyes glowing in ominous red glow. It effectively establishes the scale of the two giants, and sets the game in a fantasy world unlike any other.
Second, the characters, while they can be considered to be lifted from well-tested archetypes, are executed well. You start the tale with a focus on revenge. However, the characters grow and develop through their long journey, and not even the cute mascot character is denied some development. This is shown more through improving the relationships between your characters and listening in to their Heart-to-Heart conversations.
Finally, the story does not stagnate at all and is not afraid of story twists; maybe a tad too many at the end. It has very good villains, especially the wonderfully evil faced Mechon (who add in a lot of personality to their mechanical actions), and the fact things may not be always what they seem.
These are some excellent enemies you will be facing
Overall, with an excellent setting, great cast of characters, and strong storytelling under its belt; Xenoblade Chronicles will be forever a memorable experience to those who play it.
Great Setting: +5
Very Good Characters: +4
Very Good Story: +4
Too many twists at the end: -1
"It was the Monado. It was.... controlling me"
Xenoblade Chronicles gameplay can be divided into two parts. The combat, and the exploration, and both feed into each other.
Fro what I understand, its combat is similar to MMORPGs (which I never played). Basically, you control one member in a party of three and move around your enemies in real time while your party auto attacks. You are engaged in the battle through the utilization of arts, special abilities with a cool down period. Also, you position your character for the best utilization of arts, and occasionally interact with the other two part members.
It's incredible how much the combat builds up as you progress through the game. Most obviously, characters join that significantly change your approach to battle. Personally, I would recommend controlling all characters, as they are all fun to play with. However, the system expands near exponentially in some way. Introducing buffs, debuffs, special conditions, auras, visions, special moves, chain attacks, gems, and the bloody kitchen sink with it.
Overwhelming, is the adjective I would use if not for the excellent gradual development of the system and the adequate tutorial manual (in game).
If not for the excellent drip of information, the battle system would be pure chaos
Outside of battle, to boost your performance you must gear up your party with equipment, gems, and skills. Gems add extra status to your equipment, like extra defense or the ability to regain health on damage. These can be crafted through a system that took too much time from me through the game.
Skills on the other hand are gained through natural progression and are nearly unique to each character. The twist is that skills can be shared with other members of the party based on your relationships. It is amazing how the game's various systems bleed into each other, with the affinity gained between your party members adding to their performance in battle, which in turn raises their affinity.
With all the various elements involved and the genuine fun of combat, when the challenge level is just right, the battle system can be simply amazing, leading to my biggest criticism regarding the game. The challenge level is rarely just-right. Frequently, it is either way too hard when facing over-leveled enemies, or way to easy when facing under-leveled enemies. If you are in any way a completionist, you will almost always be having an easy time, and the revers is true for those who are only interested in getting forward.
A simply difficulty slider could have went a long way in saving this issue. Otherwise, savor those rare battles with right amount of difficulty.
Very Good Expansive Combat: +4
A lot of Customization and Variety:+3
Lack Difficulty Balance: -3
"Grieve their departing, and engrave in your heart their brave deeds"
The other major gameplay component of Xenoblade Chronciles is the massive wolrd you are exploring and all the things you can do in it. It is indeed surprising how much there is to see in the Bionis's various body parts. However, wherever you are exploring, it is mostly related to more things to fight, and more loot to get.
As with any RPG, there are a number of quests to complete. Here, the majority of quests boil down to fighting enemies, and getting some items. Normally, that would be considered as a unilateral negative in a review. However, if its just an excuse to wander around the excellent world of the Bionis and play around with the combat system; how can it be a negative?
You mean I have to go out in this beatiful world just to get three Blue Shells for something completly mundane, GREAT
Wandering around the Bionis is not always a straightforward endeavor. Sometimes, beasts of unimaginable power patrol the place, and those can kill you in one shot early on. Still, it makes for an excellent return to the same location once you are strong enough to face them. It lends a natural feeling to the world, where Level 90 enemies coexist with Level 10 peons. Note that when you hear the "you are going to die" jig, the only tactic is to run like hell.
Not all quests involve combat exclusively. Some quests involve Shulk and co. in the lives of the various communities you visit. That feeds into the Affinity chart system, where named members of the world are all interconnected with one another, and their relationships evolve through your questing.
It adds another layer of involvement to the world, and it is fun to see the little map grow like a star constellation. Meaning that whatever you do in the game, it will have some benefit to your performance.
A Fun World to Explore: +3
The Affinity Chart System: +3
Lack of Things to Do Outside of Combat: -2
"Is that all you've got Monado booooy"
With everything it has going for it, from an amazing world, to a good combat system. It would all fall apart if this vision was not represented well on-screen, and with the Wii's modest capabilities in comparison to its two HD rivals, that was always a real threat.
Somehow, Monolithsoft managed to pull of some technical wizardry, because Xenoblade Chronicles is one of the best looking games of its generation.
That's mostly do to some superb art direction. In a purely technical basis, there a lot of muddy textures, especially regarding character faces. However, when everything is in motion, you are simply distracted in awe at the amazingly inventive world being presented.
I already mentioned the ominous feeling of the Mechonis staring at you in the field. However, that is simply a small taste of how much the world teems with such little details. Everything from a small village in a calf you can see from a distance, to another villageo on the palm of a giant's hand. Rock formations are impeccably designed, and when the night comes in some locations, the entire area sings with life.
That carries on to the design of the inhabitants, especially the mechon who are as elegant as menacing in their form. One negative I observed is the choice of costumes for your characters (changes based on Armor), which is in the ugly side, especially for Shulk.
Why care about the little texture when the big picture looks like this
Of course, an excellent soundtrack and sound design is there to support it. Gaur field is frequently cited as one of the best songs of the game, but that is a difficult one to choose when there are so much excellent choices.
Satoral Marshes at night is an amazing track, and so is Valak Mountain. Also, I could choose one of the more dramatic tracks that effectively convey a sense of danger or foreboding. Or, maybe a battle track that keeps you pumping into action. Whatever your choice is, this is one of those RPGs that you will come back to its soundtrack years later.
Finally, lets spare some thought to the game Voice Acting. One positive from the start is the ability to choose between the English version, or the Japanese Original. I alternated between both to test things out. In my opinion, the Japanese version of Dunban doesn't sound too good (not that I can understand, but the voice doesn't fit somehow). Fiora's VA in both English and Japanese has some pros and cons. However, Riki's English dub is all kinds of terrible. Every one else is purely a matter of minding the English accents or not.
Personally, I think outside of the repetitive battle chants, they do a pretty good job.
Excellent Art Direction: +5
Muddy Textures: -3
Excellent Soundtrack: +5
Poor Costume Design: -2
When Xenoblade Chronicles was released in Europe but not in North America, fans of Nintendo combined with such great numbers to convince Nintendo to change their mind. Little did they know that they were fighting not only for one of the best RPGs of the generation, but to one of the Wii's best.
Simply put, Xenoblade Chronicles is a great game. One that if anything, will at least influence the art direction of countless games in the future. Already, games like Bioware's Anthem are clearly inspired by what the Xenoblade team did in Chronicles and Chronicles X.
Outside of that its simply a great game in its own right. From setting to sound, it hits it all out of the park. Almost like if the batter could see the future of each pitch.
AND don't dare forget about Riki, who is not at all what he seems
"Looking Back at Destructoid's Review:"
I don't exatly understand why Jim Sterling only gave this game an 8. The review sure seemed much more positive than that: " 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."
But then again, Jim was never one for consistency, as he then went on and praised the exact same points he criticized in this review when he reviewed the New 3DS port (also giving it an 8).
The comments section was one of those that didn't survive one purge or another, and it has only about 9 comments, many of them coming years after the review:
Ruby Doobie clearly disagreed with Jim: "Best game evar"
Someone else disagreed with Jim's points, but I doubt Jim read it since it was posted THREE years after the review by Amani2:
"I know this review is old…but I just wanted to comment. A couple of the problems Jim had with the battle system I rarely encountered. While I wish there were more commands you could give to your teammates, they rarely ever ran off to fight a monster in the distance, and I think maybe only a couple times did a high-level monster accidentally enter my fight. Personally, I had a very different experience in those respects. Xenoblade is easily one of my favorite JRPGs and one of my favorite games."
I am generally not intrested in the sales of the games I like, and I don't measure my penis size through the sucess of games I like. However, sales data is intresting in studying market trends, people's general intrest, marketing strategy, genre effect, and other factors. Which is why I am going to check the sales data of every modern game I review (Gen 4 and beyond).
I must say. Its a fucking crime that Xenoblade Chronicles only managed to sell 910K Units. Even if we add the 610K Units the New 3DS port sold, its a paltry number. In one breath, you hear people clamoring for original titles, for original RPGs, for JRPGS in general, and in another, you see a clear failure to support this.
Nintendo is not innocent here as well, with a clear failure at marketing here, since the game sold the most in NA with 430K Units. A number that may have not happened if not for some fan support (which did not then actually culminate in any massive sales). There is a clear failure here, espeically ocnisdring it only maanged to sell 160K Units in Japan.
This is clearly why onlithsoft went i na different direction with their Art style in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Of all the games I commerically covered on the Wii, this one may be the worst case.
Are you feeling it?
Is it Reyn time yet?
1- If you are looking for a rare drop fro a monster, then save BEFORE opening the chest. Open, and if you don't get what you want, load. Rinse and repeat.
2- Some monsters have spike effect that can cause you harm when attacking them. Two ways of dealing with it is equipping some preventive items and gems, or killing their Aura.
3- Take the time to smell the roses and do some quests.
4- Whenever you go to a new area, get all quests so that you don't have to double dip in the game.
5- To increase affinity between your party members, have them be in the same party, or just exchange gifts.
6- Talking to named characters at different times can yield different quests and some new affinity changes. Typically, the times are in multiples of 3.
7- Try and use all characters, its fun to play around with all of them.
8- Always keep weapons that can damaged the Mechon, if you have much stronger weapons.
9- SAVE OFTEN. THERE IS NO AUTO-SAVE
I am so glad I went back and played this game now. I waited for it for a long time when it was first released, but I stopped playing it when I lost around 6 hours of gameplay. Now, I cam back to it for the express purpose of reviewing it as part of this review series, and I do not regret it at all.
Next game in the series is an innovative little treasure. Aptly named, Little King Story which sits at #7 in the Gamesradar list. Its basically a juxtaposition of genres together in a package that became a cult hit. I think this is one game I would either dig, or not get at all.
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