Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive EditionSwitch ¦ RPG
We, as a race, all appear to have a nostalgia gene in our DNA. We often find ourselves recalling adverts that promoted no longer available treats, or fashions that that we dressed ourselves in because the really cool kids did, whilst listening to music that wasn’t terribly good, but did so for the simple reason it annoyed our parents.
Happy days indeed.
Part of this recurring nostalgia hit also includes video games. There are games that we played in our youths, in various bit stages of gaming history, that we often pine after. But much like the world of cinema, where films of old (not necessarily classics, mind), get the reboot treatment, games are the perfect form of media that can benefit from a revisit.
This title first saw the light of day back in 2010, when it was first released in Japan for the Nintendo Wii. Here it gets a Switch make-over, with spruced up graphics, but does the title stand the test of time?
When Gods collide – that’s how this new world was created, giving birth to both the Bionis and the Mechonis. However, like many siblings, they fought constantly, and took their fight to their frozen graves. From there, new life formed, including that of the Homs and the Mechons. Unfortunately they too, don’t get along, with the Homs, the closest link to humans, always looking over their shoulders in fear of the fighting menace.
One such Hom is young Shulk, living in Colony 9. All the colonies suffered after a major attack a year ago by the might of the Mechons, and just as they’re about to startagain, it looks like the pesky machines are back.
With resources limited, all they can do is fight. Luckily for Shulk, he has use of a mysterious weapon known as the Monado; in his hands there’s the smallest of chances that he can save the Homs from extinction.
Now as any geek will tell you, decent gameplay will always trump visual presentation. But hey, if you update a title with a great game under the hood, that’s got to be a win win.
Xenoblade Chronicles is an RPG that has aged particularly well. Its makeover is hardly breathtaking, but it’s certainly up to scratch as far as the Switch is concerned, which let’s face it, isn’t the most graphically gifted system on the market. This classic however, is a welcome addition.
As we’ve mentioned before on these pages, RPG’s very rarely set our hearts all a-flutter. And to be brutally honest, our expectations for this title were certainly on the low side. And then we started playing it. Enjoying the fluid nature of the combat, the ability to avoid confrontation if we weren’t up for it, and the pleasing combat mechanic. And then we hit a problem that we weren’t necessarily expecting: we couldn’t stop playing it.
Firstly there’s an engaging story that pulls you in. Sure, the English localised voices take some getting used to, with characters from the greenish shores of England having a myriad of accents, including West Country, which isn’t one you would expect to hear that much during the rise of the machines, but go with it.
And then there’s the real-time combat system. You occasionally go out on your own, but the majority of time you are joined by two other members of your team, which you can swap out for newer members as your adventure goes on.
Instead of just having, say, a button for attack, one for defence, and one for magic, you get a collection of attack moves know as ‘arts’. You can use any number of them at any time, but your positioning needs to be key to make them most effective. So if you have an attack that works best when your enemy is in front of you, then you have to position yourself thus to gain the best attack.
The thing is, you can’t just keep using it, as once you have, it takes time to recharge, so you need to move yourself somewhere else for another ‘art’ to use. On top of that, each art can also be upgraded over time, so you need to balance out which ones work best for you, without relying on them too heavily, as you will need others to defeat your foe.
Although this combat system was appealing to use, it could often proven to be problematic; once you had locked onto your foe as a target, they would automatically face you ready to attack and would keep moving like that even if you moved. This made combat that little bit more fiddly, as you attempt to move around, hoping that your team mates will occupy them long enough, so you can do some sneaky sneaky attacks. You can rely on your teammates quite heavily though, as their level always seemed to match your own, so if you level up, so do all of them, even the ones not currently on your team.
Also, the mobility of the main character is somewhat restricted. There’s no ability to roll or jump out of danger, no speed dash to run rings around your foe, nothing. Just a rather pathetic little jump that has no real use whatsoever. So you have to get used to either walking or running, and nothing else.
One interesting mechanic however is the Monado’s ability to provide premonitions. Not only can Shulk see future scenes, he can not only see occasionally when either himself or a member of his team is in dire trouble in combat, he can then offer advice so that he can change the future for the good of the cause.
The world is a fairly large one to explore, with different areas containing different enemies, which reduces the repetition element, as well as a number of side missions to complete. The great thing about them is you don’t have to return to the person who gave you the mission initially to be rewarded – once done, you’re rewarded immediately, which is certainly something other RPG’s and games could benefit from.
Graphically its acceptable, again, taking the obvious limitations of the Switch; after all, no-one buys a Switch for cutting edge, 4K visuals, mainly because it can’t handle anything near that.
What this game does have though, despite its years, is compelling game-play, which will never go out of fashion. It may well be a blast from the past for many, but this definitive version means that fans of RPG’s will have hours of fun picking up a classic Xenoblade.