It’s been a long time since Nintendo released a trio of special JRPG on the Nintendo Wii. One of the games, Xenoblade Chronicles, was so successful that not only did it somehow get successfully ported to the Nintendo 3DS, but it also resulted in a spin-off with massive robots and a proper sequel on the Nintendo Switch.
Now the original game got yet again ported to another console (Nintendo Switch) by means of a definitive edition. This version of the game is more than a simple port with some visual upgrades to make it look better on current generation hardware though. Instead, the development team decided to bring some proper meaning to the use of the word “definitive” in the title, to gives fans and newcomers alike a proper upgrade for this JRPG classic with a bunch of quality of life improvements and new inclusions.
It’s truly humbling for anyone who played the game before to quickly notice the work that went into porting the title to the Nintendo Switch. The designs for the main characters and even other characters to a certain extent have been given quite the upgrade. What is even better is that this upgrade didn’t make use of the anime visual style during the main story that was heavily used in the sequel. Instead, its grounded approach when it comes to its visuals has been tastefully kept intact with this fancy upgrade.
This visual upgrade also means that exploring the world of Xenoblade Chronicles is even more of a thrill than before. It’s shocking to realise that a game with such an ambitious approach to level design ever worked properly on the Nintendo Wii, let alone when it was ported to a handheld. It’s rare to see a loading screen and when one does appear, it doesn’t outstay its welcome and they don’t appear before and after most of the battles, due to how they take place in real time.
Although fights can still be as ruthless in this version, even in the new casual mode included, it’s a joy to get to grips with the fighting system. In fact, some user interface modifications means that it’s easier than ever to make use of the various abilities that each character has. It’s quite difficult to go into details about everything that combat has to offer, but essentially it boils down to strategically making use of abilities after they are charged, whilst the character automatically uses standard attacks on enemies. The key to surviving is to try to work as a team with two other characters and this can occasionally hinder the fighting system, since the AI isn’t always that good at reacting appropriately and swiftly during time sensitive moments.
This game’s unusual approach to fighting makes for some great moments when characters do work together to fill a blue bar that grants the use of some team based abilities. On the flip side, it also removes the ability of using recovery items and instead it’s only done via the use of the blue bar, that is filled up by doing certain actions in battle, for reviving characters and the use of healing based abilities. It does become occasionally frustrating to lose the two other characters and not having enough energy to revive them or to only rely on another character for healing. The biggest flaw being that it’s game over if the character being controlled loses all health whilst there isn’t enough energy to make use of the reviving ability. At least, the game has the decency to prompt players that they can lower the difficulty level for battles after dying a couple of times. On the flip side, there’s also an expert mode for those that yearn for a challenge and a time trial mode with missions is also thrown in for good measure.
Yet, there are many more reasons that make Xenoblade Chronicles such an intriguing title. It tracks the status of relationships between characters and players can benefit from having them work together in battle to share skills earned by defeating enemies between them. There’s a whole book which players can add items to that rewards them with gems, which provide enhancements for various stats, by merely completing categories for each of the areas.
Although the later part of the story is a more linear affair, there is no doubt that the areas spent exploring early on are huge and it’s a delight to do so. The game’s take on living creatures somehow living on top of giant beings is still unique and the upgraded visuals make seeing how everything is connected a most unique experience.
On top of providing a fairly complex take on real time combat, the game also piles on some truly innovative ideas. The main protagonist, Shulk, comes to own a powerful sword called the Monado that is very effective at destroying the Mechon robots that have long been waging war against the game’s version of humans. This sword provides him with powerful abilities, but its most intriguing ability is making it possible to see glimpses of the future. Lesser games would have limited this feature to non-interactive uses that would service the story. Here, it’s an ability that is also used to warn players when a character is about to lose all health. Although it can become a bit of a nuisance to see a premonition pop up a few times during a particularly tough battle, it’s also a really clever idea to include in a game that can be notoriously brutal at times.
Xenoblade Chronicles certainly isn’t shy when it comes to giving its characters some harsh setbacks throughout the story. There’s plenty of loss and the story does get quite dark at times as it continues to unravel and surprise players.
There are plenty of side quests to do and it’s fortunate that most of them can even be completed whilst playing through the story. However, it’s recommended that a fair amount be done in each area to avoid suddenly going up against a boss at a much higher level. The characters level up with experience gained from defeating bosses and completing tasks like quests, with the experience being used to increase the effectiveness of each character’s abilities. What stops players from potentially getting frustrated with being forced to do side quests to level up is the ability to instantly travel to already visited key sections in locations from the start.
Those who do want to do more than just play through the story will have plenty to do. Even the story itself should take at least more than fifty hours to go through. The music, atmosphere of most locations and even the type of monsters found changes when visiting them during a night and day cycle. This world is connected in so many wonderful ways that it’s easy to occasionally forget that it’s only linked together by the giant creatures that it rests on top of.
Now there are plenty of reasons to visit this superb edition, but there’s also the “Future Connected” chapter that takes place after the main story. Ordinarily, this content would have been provided as downloadable content, but here it’s already included and anyone that has previously finished the game can jump right in from the start. It’s a surprisingly in-depth look at life after the main story as characters attempt to resolve some loose ends. It also provides players with a whole new massive area to explore with its own side quests and other interesting activities to take part in and there’s plenty of content to keep players engaged for hours.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definite Edition truly lives up to its title in a time where others have done the bare minimum when it comes to making older games available on the current hardware generation. The addition of extra content is also a nice touch and being able to play such a quality title again in this manner easily makes it another essential game to play on the ever popular Nintendo Switch.