In a world just made up of ocean, two titans, Bionis and Mechonis, fought and fought until their bodies froze together, creating a habitat for the millennia that followed. You begin Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition as Shulk with your buddy, Reyn. You are both Homs who live around the ankle of the organic life-supporting Bionis. On Mechonis however, live the Mechon, who attack your village and cause irreparable damage.
This sets up your adventure nicely, as you travel all across Bionis to get revenge. These titans are huge, and the game makes sure you know it. As you spend a serious amount of time traversing them, you will meet numerous characters along the way, all willing to help you. From here, you will build out a party of different characters with different abilities and fight your way to the end.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition for Nintendo Switch is available for purchase on the Nintendo eShop for $59.99.
Story — Homs Is Where The Heart Is
This story shines because of its lovable characters. While it is easy to compare the wacky story with other JRPGs, the way the world and characters are slowly and interestingly fleshed out makes this something special. The ambitious story and lovely characters add up nicely. Not only fighting with them in a party, but also doing heart-to-hearts — little side cutscenes — all helps to add a depth that continues to build.
You also chill out with them in some long periods of monster battling, as well as within and around some side quests. These side quests are the only place I can propose any story criticism, even though they are not really part of the story. The majority of them involve you finding a vegetable because some kid wants to give this vegetable to his girlfriend because she likes this vegetable. That is nonsense, and I hate it.
Sometimes these side quests extend into something more layered, and — especially rarely — flesh out the characters that populate this world. That’s kind of cool, but I think it’s only because of the very low bar set by these vegetable quests that I think it’s cool. It’s tough to include them in the ‘Story’ section of this review because they contribute only the smallest amount of narrative or world-building to the experience. If the side-quests weren’t there, it wouldn’t have mattered. Therefore, it’s hard to mark it down for that.
With its new story addition called Future Connected — which is kind of more wonderful than the main story, like Xenoblade Chronicles: Torna – The Golden Country was definitely more wonderful than Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s story — adding even more story, Xenoblade is at least generous story-wise. But as you learn about these characters and get swept along its ambitious story, you will be glad there is so much of it.
Gameplay — Now It’s Reyn Time!
The gameplay here involves exploring grand locations, doing bits of the story, picking up glowing blue items, and doing lots of fighting. The key to it is the battle system, which is just perfect. As you move around an enemy, your character auto-attacks. These attacks build a meter to give you access to some special abilities called Arts, which you then use manually.
You have more than the allotted slots for Arts, so you have to pick which ones fit best. That’s a tad annoying, but in the end is vital, so that building your character over the numerous hours of this game is pliable. The abilities themselves affect things in different ways. Sometimes you can get a backstab because you are behind an enemy. Sometimes you can get a side-stab because you are at their side, and so on.
Your party of characters also intertwine with your own to create a linked system of attacks. You get more damage with some attacks if the enemy is Toppled. To Topple them, you have to break them, but you might not have all the options in your Arts list. For example, if you are the main man Shulk, then you should Break the enemy and wait for your buddy, Reyn, to Topple, and then hit them with an Art that gets more damage when an enemy is Toppled. While relying on your teammates can be a bit nervy sometimes, mostly this system flows effortlessly.
You also have a Party Gauge that increases when you and your party land Arts. Once charged, you can do a chain attack, where all the party members can attack one after the other up to 15 times if certain parameters are met. If the same attack type is hit, then you can do a lot of extra damage, too. That’s pretty fun, and adds a new combat target during really tough boss battles.
The last layer of this gameplay that I’ll mention is Shulk’s visions of the future. These occur when something bad is about to happen, like an ally getting killed. Shulk sees what is about to happen, and you are given control of how to stop it. This is cool in the early parts of the game, but when you begin to take on harder enemies, it seems like these visions happen every five seconds. I didn’t enjoy how it broke the flow of that lovely battle system. If it happened more often, it would have really damaged my experience, but luckily it was minimal enough.
Alongside Arts, your Party Gauge, the topple system, and Shulk’s visions, you also have a load of other systems, including aggro and tension gauges affecting who gets attacked and party morale respectively. With all these systems intertwining, this fun gameplay is often hidden behind learning. It takes a bit of time to get to grips with these systems, but, once you are, these systems are kind enough to make you feel like you’re an expert. And quite often they sync into a groove that is seriously delightful. When you’re in that zone, this gameplay is just exquisite.
Graphics & Audio — Mountains & Melodies
The art-style and composition of these worlds are, more often than not, gorgeous. The various locales that you jog around in are so very huge, and so filled with stuff, that they gain a beauty of scale and composition, not of fidelity. While that may not be to everyone’s liking, once within the parameters of this game technically, you will be treated to world composition that is just so wonderful. It’s a gorgeous game.
That is down to this definitive remaster, but they didn’t just overhaul the visuals. The UI was also overhauled and is now easily navigable and intuitive. The reality of any huge RPG is that you will spend a very large amount of time in the menus tweaking your character. While there are still a huge amount of items you can use to do this, you finally have better access to them, which is a welcome addition. They also added the difficulty options Casual and Expert. The former makes battles easier, while the latter doesn’t make them harder, but lets you bank XP to use as and when you like. I really liked Expert mode, as it ensured I didn’t over-level while doing every single side quest.
In terms of the sound, I want to talk about two things: voice acting and music. To get the latter out of the way, the music is perfect. Put on your largest pair of headphones and sit with this score even if you’re not playing the game. There are some outright bangers, as well as genuinely beautiful melodies that swoop in as you cross a verdant vista that just fill you up with feelings. Its score is exceptional, and we should all own it on vinyl. In terms of the former, I give you a stark warning: do not play this game in English. In Japanese, this game sounds lovely, and the subtitles read just fine. I can’t say the same for English.