Xenoblade Chronicles first came stateside in 2012 to the delight of many gamers, especially the ones in support of Operation Rainfall, a fan campaign dedicated to bringing niche titles such as the aforementioned title to the United States.
Of course, there was a catch to its North American release. The game was only available for purchase at GameStop and Nintendo’s online store, which not a lot of people even know about to this day. The limits obviously led to shortages which eventually led the game to becoming rare, with used copies eventually being sold for as high as $80 on GameStop.
Fast forward to the present date, where Shulk is very much in the mainstream thanks to his inclusion as a playable fighter in Super Smash Bros. as well as his rarity in the current Amiibo craze — and you have quite a platform for his handheld debut in Xenoblade Chronicles 3D.
What Is It?
Developed by Monolith Soft, Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii featured a standalone story but is still considered by many to be an entry in the highly distracted and scrutinized Xeno– series.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is a 3DS port of the Wii smash hit and is the first title that puts the New 3DS capabilities to full use.
The vast world to be explored in Xenoblade is one that’s of quite a unique nature. The game’s introduction tells of a battle between two colossal titans, the Bionis and Mechonis, on an endless ocean. Though it ended in a stalemate, the two titans remained standing, lifeless, for eons. Human-like life, called Homs, make their home on the Bionis, while their sworn enemy the Mechon, make their home on Mechonis.
Not surprisingly, the Homs and the Mechon are constantly at war, and tied in the middle of this is the Monado, a great sword that can cut through Mechon like butter and give its chosen wielder the ability to see into the future.
Stakes are raised in the game when the Mechon bring about disaster on Colony 9 and put the hurt on Dunban, the colony’s best solider and wielder of the Monado. Enraged by the casualties suffered in the Mechon invasion, Shulk, to everyone’s surprise, grabs the Monado and rids the colony of the Mechon.
This begins his quest for vengeance and the opportunity to unlock the Monado’s secrets.
Why Should I Care?
Fans of games with an emphasis on exploration will love Xenoblade. While there’s a compass indicator at the top of the screen that tells you how far you are from the intended destination in order to progress the story, the game really lets the reins loose early.
Almost as soon as you take control of Shulk, you literally have the opportunity to go wherever you want, as far as you want. You don’t have to worry about Shulk saying such things as “I shouldn’t be going there yet,” like in other games, so it gives players a pretty good scope of how big this game early is early on. Recognizing that, you also gain the ability to warp to different explored areas at will, provided you’ve already been there.
The main thing that’ll keep players from exploring to their heart’s content are the enemies you’ll undoubtedly come across. Fortunately, not only does Xenoblade do away with random battles, you can also see what level these creatures in the wild are at before deciding to fight or avoid them. It’s not out of the ordinary to see a monster at level 20 when you’re only at level 7 in the game. If you’re crazy enough to strike at it, of course you’ll die, but you’ll also end up at the last landmark you were at with all your experience intact. So basically, while dying is something that’ll definitely happen, the game won’t punish you by throwing you back at your last save point.
Speaking of save points, while there are pivotal points in the story where the game will ask if you want to save, you actually have the freedom of saving the game wherever and whenever you want, making it quite easy to play the game in spurts. In addition to that, upon turning the game on, you can read a short synopsis of what’s happening in the story so you wouldn’t go into the game confused.
The battle system itself takes place in real-time, but it also has elements that make everything feel turn-based. It all feels quite similar to that of the gambit-based system in Final Fantasy XII. When in battle, you only have control of one character, and as long as they’re within considerable range of the enemy, they’ll attack automatically. In addition, you have access to various arts to cause more damage or change the tide of battle.
When you eventually gain control of the Monado, the features open up considerably. Whereas other characters simply have your basic attacks and other arts that inflict status changes on the enemy, the Monado’s ability of giving its wielder a look into the future drastically changes strategy. At times, players will be given the opportunity to anticipate big attacks, giving them time to adjust accordingly.
This is all really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the battle system, and while there’s a lot to learn, you also will have plenty of chances to practice as well. As stated, death shouldn’t really discourage players from trying different things both in and out of battle, and since you have the ability to see what level all the enemies are at, you can pick and choose your fights wisely. The fact that completing quests and chores earns you experiences just goes to show that fighting isn’t everything.
In hindsight, calling Xenoblade an offline MMO wouldn’t be a bad description.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is a fantastic port of the Wii classic. Almost everything that made the original game great has stayed intact, with the exception of the visuals that really pushed the standard definition console to its limits. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is definitely nowhere near as good looking as it was on the Wii, but it’s not exactly a bad-looking game either. At that, while the New 3DS does a good job with its face-tracking 3D, there really isn’t much of a reason to keep the 3D on with the game, as it doesn’t really improve or change visual depth.
In regards to its other production values, namely the sound, it’s pretty much gone unchanged. Primarily written by Manami Kiyota, the game features an impressive soundtrack that makes use of a variety of instruments you typically aren’t accustomed to hearing in games like this, and the end result is a game you’d be doing a disservice to if you were playing without headphones on.
Like the Wii game before it, there’s just so much to do. Aside from the actual story, you can work on optional character progression through heart-to-heart conversations that can be had at various places, and you can take part in sidequests given to you by all the different people there are to meet in the game. The main story should take a little more than 60 hours to complete, but if you’re looking to play the game to 100% completion, expect to invest well over 100 hours to do so — maybe even 200 hours if you’re for some reason not into using the game’s quick travel option.
The captivating story, the vast environments, the intuitive battle system, the epic soundtrack, and its sheer amount of content really made Xenoblade Chronicles a must-play experience on the Wii, and while it did have to make some visual sacrifices on its port to the N3DS, the experience remains largely unchanged. It also might be worth noting that I actually prefer the N3DS control scheme to that of both the Wii’s remote and nunchuck as well as the classic controller options.
That being said, it’s curious as to why Nintendo didn’t just instruct Monolith to make an HD port of the for the Wii U, especially with the game’s successor Xenoblade Chronicles X due out this year. Like Bayonetta 2 before it, a 2-in-1 Xenoblade package would’ve been huge. As solid and as impressive as this port is, it’s still not the definitive experience players had on the Wii.
Be that as it may, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is still as big as it was on the Wii, and now that it’s no longer being tied down to one retailer, more people should get to experience its greatness.