When I wrote my review for Xenobade: Chronicles, I was admittedly only sixty or so hours into the title. I felt like I had experienced enough of it, though, to write up three thousand words on the topic. Now that I have seen the credits, have any of those opinions changed?
It goes without saying that there will be spoilers in this post.
To start, I have to applaud Monolith Soft for this game. Holy moly, what an experience. There have been reviews of this title that say it is the best jRPG of this generation, and I cannot agree more. It is such a complete title through and through, and I enjoyed it so much that I feel kind of bad that I don’t have more to go.
Well, that’s not true. I have plenty to do in the game. I didn’t finish Colony 6, and I have quite a few quests outstanding. My characters were only level 79 or so, so I did not get a chance to fight some of the higher level monsters in the game (the largest I saw was a level 114). I didn’t see half of the heart-to-hearts, or five star any cities on the affinity chart. My characters did not have all of their skills unlocked, and most of their arts were not fully upgraded. There are hours and hours to go if I want to get everything. I simply have seen the whole main story.
Let’s get nitpicky
When a game takes 100 hours to simply complete, there sometimes are things that pop up over that time that add up to frustration for the player. Most notable in Xenoblade is the item management. At some point it just stops being an exciting thing to pick up new items and instead becomes something of a chore to go into the items menu and figure out if what you just got was any better than the thing your characters already have on. For a good portion of the last twenty hours or so in my play through, I didn’t change much gear because I didn’t really care to manage it. My characters were fairing well enough with what they had so I just let them be.
This lack of care later on for upgrades is probably attributed to how unhelpful the menu system gets when you have 100+ items in each of the armor classes. You can sort through them by defense, newly added, etc., and that works fine, but the details for the items do not give you a good comparison between what you have equipped and your potential upgrade if what you have on has gems slotted. What you have on will usually look a bit better simply because the gems push its stats over the new piece of gear with slots empty. This causes some unnecessary time allotted to figuring out what is actually the best option, and when you have seven characters getting new stuff all the time it becomes kind of a pain.
Another menu strangeness comes from the maps in the game. Warping to landmarks around the world is great, and the instantaneous warping when it happens in the same area never ceased to amaze me. However, I never understood why the game has two methods of accessing maps when one is all you need. You can press the minus button on the controller to pull up the local map at any time, or you can press X, then scroll to the left to access maps from the whole game, including the area you are in. Why not simply have the one button to access all maps? Press “-” and get the region map and from there be able to access all the other maps, too. More than several times in the game I would quickly load the region map thinking my destination was local (it wasn’t) and then have to go back out and into the menus to get to the map I actually needed. This all might sound silly to gripe about, but there doesn’t really seem to be any reason why there are two separate ways to access maps other than to find symmetry with the pop up menu.
Collecting items in the environments will be the last thing I poke at. I don’t mind that some of the items those floating blue orbs are more rare than others, but I do wish their rates were increased a little bit. I did spend some time occasionally walking around aimlessly trying to find an item to complete a quest or help build Colony 6, and if anything dragged in the game it was this mechanic. Sometimes you get really lucky, but most of the time it takes a while to find the randomly dropped item you need.
Images via xenoblade.wikia.com
Nitpicks over. What was great?
The way that the game doesn’t let up is nice. What I mean by that is that at no point does it fail to offer you things to do. You are never without something else besides the main story to do, and while that mostly comes from quests, it feels so much better than RPG alternatives. For example, I have Pokemon White in my backlog and I have hit a place where my Pokes just can’t cut it. The only thing that I can do right now is grind or catch more Pokes that I then will have have to grind with. You can grind in Xenoblade if you feel like it (because the battle system is fun), but more often than not the better idea is to go off and complete some quests. Maybe that doesn’t always gain as much XP per hour, but your sanity will thank you in addition to helping the game never hit “dry spells” like other RPGs.
Finishing this game in just under 100 hours while still having so much more to do is an interesting position to be in for a Wii title. I am not privy to any other game that commands this sort of dedication to see all of the things and fell every monster. That doesn’t make other Wii games bad, but it certainly makes this one stand out. And the fact that the extra things I have to accomplish don’t necessarily involve grinding is great; they simply are completing more quests and finishing off Colony 6.
Nopon. How they managed to make Nopon not the most annoyingly Japanese…things I will have no idea, but they did. Riki was one of my favorite characters even though I rolled my eyes hard when he appeared. I thought, “This will be the worst,” but I enjoyed him so much. He was a really helpful addition to the crew, too, ably stealing items and experience from enemies. When I looked at the characters before the game came out I had already said to myself that I would hate the little guy, but it turned out to be the opposite when it was all said and done. The Nopon as a whole are just too lovable to hate.
Xenoblade just has a ton of staying power for me. I loved the setting and the scope of the environments throughout. The evolution of the story and the twists and turns within felt really good to me. Since I have had the title, there hasn’t been a week where some music from the game hasn’t popped up in my head at random times. And it is good music, too, so I am never angry when it happens.
Although there are a few bits of the game that I would have changed had I the power, overall this is the best RPG I have played in a long while and probably will go up to be one of my favorite games ever. I cannot wait to see what kinds of things Monolith Soft does with the Wii U. If their next big project is of the scope of this game, it will be a grand adventure indeed.