Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review (Switch)

Monolith Soft has created another monolithic JRPG, all with a streamlined yet still incredibly complex set of mechanics, a heartfelt story, and a beautiful open-world! Xenoblade Chronicles is still the intricate, partially open-world game fans have come to love, but has the series gotten too complicated for its own good?

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review (Switch)


One moment, I’m standing peacefully in a field. I see a monster I want to kill. I target it, and press A. All of a sudden, the serene music is replaced by an energetic metal theme, and all of my characters start screaming the names of each attack. “Swoooooord BASH!” screams Rex for the seven-millionth time. As the screen becomes more and more buried under UI, it’s time to act. Heal. Auto-attack, use arts, switch blades, use specials, follow the elemental chart to do a huge attack. Everyone stops to watch you do a few quick time events as the characters scream their attack and the screen becomes briefly uncluttered for you to revel in the carnage. “Awesome,” announces the deep-voiced narrator. Auto-attack, use arts, switch blades, use specials, follow the elemental chart to another huge attack. Heal. You’ve been at it for a while, but the enemy still has 75% health. Once you’re ready, do a chain attack. All of a sudden, the music becomes muffled, and time freezes. Carefully pick which blade to use a special. A more grandiose attack follows each one, the longer you can keep it up. The health bar reaches zero, and the battle is won. “That was a close one,” comments Rex, as the peaceful music returns.


Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is the epitome of the over-the-top JRPG, for better and for worse. At its best, the locations are stunningly ornate, the story intriguing and charming, and the combat involved and exhilarating. At its worst, the female character designs are gratuitously revealing, the cutscenes ridiculously long, and the combat overly complicated and unwieldy. Paradoxically, the game is often brilliant for the same reasons it is frustrating. This makes Xenoblade Chronicles 2 an exceedingly divisive game, because it does not compromise. It sets out to deliver a ridiculous story with a ridiculous battle system over a ridiculous amount of time, and it sticks to it. It is loud, bombastic, and often obnoxious. These are not features to be ignored or gotten over in order to get to “the good stuff.” They are “the good stuff.” If you’re going to enjoy Xenoblade Chronicles 2, you have to not just accept what it is, but embrace it. And I absolutely did.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is available exclusively on Nintendo Switch for $60.


Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Switch)- Every cutscene leading to a fight starts with this stance, and after a while I became super excited whenever it popped up.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has some ties to the original, along with some winks and nods, but it is buy-and-large a self-contained story. The setting is the world of Alrest, a land composed of a sea of clouds in which the Titans live. These Titans vary from large beasts the size of a small ship to gigantic beings on whose limbs entire civilizations thrive. However, the Titans are beginning to die out, and threats of war arise between the nations as land becomes scarce. Residing on these Titans (besides monsters, of course) are humans and Blades. Humans can bond with core crystals found throughout the world to form new Blades, which can take the form of humanoids, animals, or anything in between. If a human has the aptitude to bond with a Blade, he or she becomes a Driver. When a Driver dies, the Blade returns to its core crystal, losing all memories of its past life. At the center of Alrest lies the World Tree, which reaches farther up that the eye can see. At the top is rumored to be Elysium, paradise, where the Architect resides, Alrest’s creator.


Our main character is Rex, a boy who resides on the back of a (comparatively) small Titan named Azurda. Rex makes his living as a salvager, collecting debris from below the cloud sea and selling it. However, a series of circumstances lead him to find a mysterious girl in stasis. After Rex is killed, the girl, revealed to be a Blade named Pyra, gives half of her life force to Rex to resurrect him, asking him to take her to Elysium. The following 70 or so hours will see Rex and Pyra, with their friends in tow, hop from Titan to Titan, discovering new information about the world and the people who live in it.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review (Switch)- Good ol' gramps. I'm not as much of a fan of his other form, though.
While the number of playable characters is slightly lower than that of the original, and significantly less than X, this allows each character to be fully fleshed out. Aside from the Noppon (a recurring cute and fluffy species in Xenoblade Chronicles that loves the phrase “meh-meh-meh!”) Tora, who is lovable and significantly less obnoxious than previous iterations but ultimately one-dimensional, no other character is the same from when they are introduced to the end. In looking back, I was shocked by how much these characters had matured in a way that wasn’t jarring. In particular, Nia transitions seamlessly from a well-meaning but strongly untrusting person to someone who relies on her friends not just in combat, but emotionally as well. Rex maintains his innocent and constantly optimistic attitude throughout the story, but as he experiences more and more of the often horrible events surrounding him, he loses his naivety. In a way, he reminds me of the titular Steven from Steven Universe, which is some of the highest praise I can give to any character. Rex is the type to see the good in everyone when nobody else does. He is an optimist to a fault, he has an undefeatable spirit, and he will do anything to help his friends.

There are two types of plot in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. There is the overarching plot, involving the nefarious terrorist group Torna and their quest to destroy the world. There are also smaller, more episodic conflicts that typically arise at the onset of a new chapter and are largely resolved by the end. These “mini-plots” often arise from events from the main plot, and their events often lead into the next bit of the main story.


Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review (Switch)- You can feel the action in this shot!
I found the (more or less) self-contained stories to be hit-or-miss. My absolute favorite was when you infiltrate the factory of these two corrupt Noppon. The act of these cute and silly Noppon doing these horrible things is hilarious enough, but seeing it escalate in ridiculousness, all while the Noppon take it completely seriously, made me laugh so much that I had to pause the game to get it all out. On the other side of the spectrum, there is an instance before our team sets off toward a new Titan where a boy steals something from Rex. It then becomes a slog where you go back to a previous area talk to various townsfolk, find the kid, watch a cutscene, collect stuff for them, fight some guys, and only then can you progress. To be fair, this isn’t much unlike the structure of most side-quests, but it was frustrating to have to complete an essentially mandatory side-quest in order to get to the next big story beat. Regardless, you can be almost sure that every chapter will end with a fight against some of the members of Torna, and that it will kick ass. As the story progresses, however, the smaller plots connect more and more closely to the main plot up until the final stretch, at which point it is all main plot, all the time.


While the side stories can be entertaining on their own, the main story is, at its best, enthralling. While Torna’s desire to destroy the world seems cliche at first, most characters have a backstory that adds context into what brought them to this. Like all Xeno- games, it is filled with often religious philosophy that takes a serious look at the world they live in, and its implications. Issues that you might have wondered about, such as the Architect’s motive in creating Alrest and its inhabitants, are clearly addressed, although answers are often left ambiguous. It leaves a grey area to the moral choices of each character, where there often isn’t a right or wrong. Well, OK, destroying the world is pretty much in the wrong, but you can often at least get where they’re coming from. The conflicts between nations also falls within an interesting grey area, because no one nation is seen as an oppressor. They are all composed of both good and bad people, which leads the story to some tricky circumstances.


Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review (Switch)- All characters from Torna were designed by Tetsuya Nomura, who's famous for working on Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts!
Of course, the elephant in the room is the length of these cutscenes. In true Xenoblade Chronicles tradition, the cutscenes are sometimes unbearably long, and often unnecessary. In particular, the cutscenes that end one chapter and start the next are always notoriously long. First, there will be the exhilarating ending to the boss fight. Then, falling action. The antagonists get away or are captured, characters meet up, etc. Most chapters then begin with a flashback, or showing off what the antagonists are doing, or sometimes both. Then, when we finally get back to our main characters, there always seems to be a lull where they don’t do much. They often just talk at an inn. Sometimes the conversations reveal something about the characters, world, or are simply great moments for characterization. More frequently, however, it adds to the run-time without adding much else. Eventually, the characters figure out what they have to do next, and the cutscene ends with them setting out to do it.


It’s not that the story is dull. Moment to moment, only a handful of cutscenes are actively boring, and in fact I’m usually deeply invested in both the characters and the plot. The problem I ran into was that it sometimes felt like I was watching a TV show. I’m not exaggerating one bit when I say that I’d estimate there to be about 14 hours of story cutscenes in the game, and that a single cutscene can last up to 20 minutes. If you’re holding the controller in anticipation of the game starting back up, these cutscenes will be an agonizing process. However, if you set the controller down on the couch, grab a beverage, and watch the cutscenes like they are a TV show, the process becomes significantly more bearable. And if you’re even thinking about skipping these cutscenes, then you won’t enjoy this game. The story is so integral to what makes this game work that if you can’t be bothered to watch the cutscenes, you might as well not bother playing the game at all.


Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review (Switch)- Mythra, Pyra's alter ego. Kinda.
I don’t regularly watch anime (Pokémon and One Punch Man make up the extent of my history with the genre), but I imagine that the story is similar to one. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this is a story meant to be enjoyed ironically, as I do genuinely enjoy the characters and plot, but I can’t deny that a generous coating of melodrama has been glazed over this story. As I’ve mentioned in my opening anecdote, characters can’t stop screaming their attacks, yelling about the importance of friendship, and overall turning everything up to 11 at all times. This will understandably become obnoxious to some, but this melodrama is appropriate for a game of such scale. A game of this magnitude, with larger-than-life locations, titanic creatures, and an epic length needs a suitably larger-than-life story. Combined, they create a game that is constantly firing on all cylinders to deliver a high-adrenaline adventure. This might exhaust some, but I found it to be thrilling.


Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review (Switch)- For those counting at home, there are 38 words on the screen right now!


From looking at screenshots or hearing the description of the frantic combat in the intro, you might feel like you would be lost in the series of commands, Blades, and arts, not to mention healing, combos, and chain attacks. And while there are certainly times when the combat can feel hectic, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 teaches combat to the player in piecemeal tutorials throughout the first 15 or so hours of the game, so that I had time to fully grasp one element of the gameplay before the game threw the next. Unfortunately, there is no way to access these tutorials after they first appear, so pay close attention!


Make no mistake, however: the battle system is complicated. Even though the mechanics are introduced slowly, it can still be quite difficult to remember and manage everything at once, and many a death greeted me because I was giving too much focus to one aspect of the combat and not to another. Once you have all features of combat unlocked, it runs something like this:

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review (Switch)- Rex's pose is perpetually entertaining. Just, uh, ignore the blurry shot of Mythra...


At first, position your character where they will deal the most damage, as certain arts deal extra damage based on position. Your character will not auto-attack if he or she moves, so be sure to plant your feet and only move to pick up healing potions or, rarely, move to a better position.

Once you have done enough auto-attacks, arts are opened up. Instead of scrolling between arts, as in past games, you have three Blades mapped to three directions on the D-pad and three arts mapped to three face buttons. This means that you can select any Blade or art at any time, as long as it’s available, without having to waste precious seconds scrolling to it. If you use an art at the second you would auto-attack, you deal extra damage. The effects of arts vary, but one common series is the break, topple, launch, and smash arts, where a certain succession of arts will temporarily incapacitate the enemy and leave it open to extra damage. After a certain amount of time, you can use other Blades and their respective arts, but the Blade you used previously will be put on a short cooldown.

After you’ve used enough arts, you (and your teammates) will unlock your Blade’s special. When you activate your own special, you do a short quick-time-event and/or button mash that will deal more damage if performed perfectly, but you just press a trigger button for either of your allies. You can use the level one special right away to get some quick damage in, or you can wait to for it to level up to two, three, or even an ultra-powerful fourth level that does progressively more damage, and the same applies to your allies.

Once you use a special, a combo chart will pop up on the screen. Depending on the element you used, you will have a limited amount of time to pull off at least a level two special using one of two possible elements on the chart, followed by a level 3 special of another specific element. If you can manage to do all that, you will trigger a Blade combo, dealing massive damage while also creating an elemental orb around the enemy, which means that doing a Blade combo of the same element will deal considerably less damage. There is also a party gauge that can be used to revive fallen teammates at one bar, or at three bars activate a chain attack. For chain attacks, you get to take all the time you want to select the Blade to do a special. If you break the elemental orb, you get to do another round, this time with each Blade using their level two special. As long as there are elemental orbs to break, you can continue doing this to deal absolutely unbelievable amounts of damage, as I demonstrated in the opening anecdote.


That’s a lot to take in, but remember: I wrote in one paragraph what the game teaches you over 15 hours. When you get it down, you can go into a zen-like state where you’re responding to a million different things at once. It’s absolutely exhilarating, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s combat is easily my favorite of the series.


Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review (Switch)- Shown here is a unique requirement, getting a certain score in "Tiger! Tiger!"


As complicated as everything can get in the battle, the real battle starts well before you initiate combat: the menu. Each Driver can hold amulets that will increase certain stats, hold an item in their pouch that will temporarily increase stats, choose advancements to make on an affinity chart (essentially a skill tree), engage Blades to be in his or her party, and level up Blades’ arts.


Each Blade has four available arts, three of which can be used at any one given time. Blades themselves can equip aux cores that increase specific stats such as damage dealt outdoors or increased defense when HP reaches below 15%, while modifying weapons grants broader stat increases, such as attack, defense, and critical rate. Blades also have their own affinity charts, but they work quite a bit differently from those of Drivers. While Drivers use a certain number of points to unlock different skills or stat boosts, Blades do so by meeting certain requirements. Some of these requirements will be met simply by having the Blade in the party, such as increasing trust to unlock the next level of the affinity chart (although there are exceptions to this rule), dealing a certain amount of damage, or walking a certain distance. Others must be specifically sought out, such as defeating a number of a specific enemy, viewing a heart-to-heart, or completing a Blade quest (more on both of these later).


There are three different categories of the affinity chart to be upgraded. Specials, in red, have more of an effect or a higher chance to have a greater effect when leveled up. Battle skills, in yellow, are applied to the entire battle when certain conditions are met, instead of simply being applied when a special is used.  Finally, field skills are applied outside of battle. All across Alrest, there will be locations that are impossible to enter unless you have the appropriate field skills. The problem with field skills is that they can completely halt progress. While only a handful of field skills are required for the main quest, many side quests become put on hold for hours, simply because you don’t have the required field skills to progress. Occasionally, you can knock out the conditions to obtain the next level for a field skill in short order. More often, however, the field skill is locked behind a long-term condition such as increased trust. When this happens, there isn’t much else to do but put that Blade in your party and do other things until the skill is unlocked, which can take many hours. Having the appropriate field skills is largely random, as it largely depends on which Blades you happen to have.


Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review (Switch)- Now's a good time to pray RNGsus.
Speaking of which, new Blades are added to the party by bonding with core crystals found throughout Alrest. Unlocking Blades is a completely random, almost gacha-style mechanic, although thankfully, no real-world money is involved at all. Nonetheless, bonding with Blades is a long, and often painful, process. There are common, rare, and legendary crystals. Rare and legendary crystals are more likely to produce rare Blades, which are essentially the only Blades worth using past the early game, common crystals can still produce rare Blades, and vice versa. In bonding with a Blade, you first select the Driver bonding with the Blade and boosters that can influence the Blade’s element.

What makes the process long is that it takes forever to bond with a Blade. While the introductory cutscene for common Blades can be skipped, the cutscene in which the Driver holds the core crystal to bond with a Blade takes a good ten seconds, not to mention dealing with the often-unwanted common Blade that results. Let’s say that in total, bonding with a Blade takes 30 seconds. If you bond with 30 Blades in one session, this will take approximately 15 minutes of your time. What makes the process painful, you might ask? That depends on your luck. I have had times when the first Blade I bonded with in a session turned out to be a rare Blade, and other times when I would go through a set of 30 core crystals and not find a single one. Additionally, pure chance led me to not have a single electric Blade throughout much of my journey, meaning that fighting enemies weak to electric were a pain to deal with.


Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review (Switch)- Coming from someone who's spent almost 100 hours in this game, my in-depth analysis of this menu is: Whaaaaaaat??
One Blade, by the name of Poppi, works a bit differently. While she also has an affinity chart and uses core chips, instead of using aux cores, she uses what is known as Poppiswap. I don’t get it. As much as I’ve praised the game for explaining every minute detail, it either dropped the ball on this one, or I wasn’t paying attention. Every now and then, I try to make sense of it, but it’s simply Greek to me. I do know, however, that you get resources through playing a mini-game called “Tiger-Tiger!”, an 8-bit style game where you avoid obstacles, grab treasure, and defeat enemies while you descend down into the sea, and back up again. It isn’t poorly designed, but it simply failed to catch my interest. Most other characters can be levelled up with materials, experience, and items bought from shops, all of which are obtained by playing the game naturally. In order to level up Poppi, however, you must stop all progress to play an average mini-game and figure out what to do with this mess of a menu. I simply couldn’t be bothered. Fortunately, Poppi was competent enough without me tinkering with her to last until I got my next character, at which point she and her Driver, Tora, were seldom used again.


Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review (Switch)- Many of the screenshots here are official, but this is a pretty one that I took myself!

The secret of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is that, despite its huge and gorgeous vistas, a very small percentage of the actual game is devoted to exploration. This is because, with a few exceptions, there is very little incentive to poke around the game world. The first two major areas did have an amount of time devoted to traversing the land, but it was ultimately short-lived, and most of the following Titans presented an at least ambiguously linear pathway.

What can be found while exploring, however, is well worth your time. Of course, this is where you find the roaming monsters of the world. Some are docile and will only attack if attacked. Others are aggressive and will kill you on sight. A surprising change, however, is that you now have no way to tell which is which. Only intuition and a sharp memory will assist you in determining the difference between friend and foe. As previously stated, some of these enemies are required fights for expanding the affinity chart, but defeating an enemy will also drop items that can be used for your benefit, to be sold, or for quests. Because of the extensive amount of quests, grinding for experience is not something that is ever required.

There are also unique monsters to be found, which have a special name, might look a bit different, and are stronger than their level might suggest. Slaying them will remove them from the world, but you can call on them again if you interact with their tombstone. Benefit to besting these beasts is limited, but it can be a fun challenge for completionists looking to test their skill.


There are also locations littered throughout the world that will yield an abundance of materials with interacted with, replacing the collectable orbs of the previous games. This means that considerably less of these stops will take you off the beaten path, but on the other hand, you are required to stop in your tracks to collect them, whereas you could run straight through the orbs to collect them in prior installments. Having certain field skills will yield even more of these materials. Just like monster parts, you can use these materials for personal use, sell it for money, or use them in quests.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review (Switch)- Yeah, this one's totally official, though.


Finally, there are the heart-to-hearts. A staple of Xenoblade Chronicles, these conversations between various characters flesh out the world and both the Drivers and Blades’ characterizations. While the exact benefit of non-Blade heart-to-hearts are a bit ambiguous, the real benefit is getting to see all of your favorite characters interact in fun and interesting ways, and isn’t that all you really need? New to the sequel, every heart-to-heart has dynamic camera angles and full voice-acting, which makes them all the more enjoyable. I feel like a fair amount of characterization from the story cutscenes could have been relegated to these heart-to-hearts, and they would have been a lot more welcome, despite the slightly lower production values.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review (Switch)- This was the dungeon that kept me up until three AM trying to solve. I regret nothing.
Throughout the story, there are five dungeons, give or take, but many more of the linear areas in the game function in much of the same way. In the more elaborate dungeons, there are branching paths, deviations, and shortcuts to be found, but most of them take the basic structure of starting you at one point, and having you make your way to the end. Many of these contain monsters well above the normal player level, requiring you to combine careful navigation with combat when necessary. While dying in most of the game only sets you back to the closest fast-travel point, dungeon’s fast-travel points can be few and far between, meaning that combat has real stakes. They make up the largest challenges in the main story, which can vary from being an exhilarating trial of your skills to a soul-crushing slog, depending on your level.

Aside from being hubs for most sidequests, towns serve as places to significantly improve your characters. Each town has a series of shops that sell everything from core chips to pouch items, as well as an area to refine aux cores found in the wild, so that they can be used. If you buy everything from a store, you can buy the deed, which will give your characters a permanent buff ranging from attack and defense to running speed. You can also sleep at inns, which change the level of the cloud sea so that you can access certain areas, but also level up your characters with bonus experience that you gain from completing sidequests. In this way, you can modify how much of a challenge you want. Because I didn’t complete all of the sidequests, however, I never found the need to lower the “difficulty,” so to speak, so I always took advantage of these inns to their fullest extent without feeling like I was cheapening the experience.


Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review (Switch)- The Argentum Trade Guild could be thought of as a trading hub for the world, although it's far from the only place to buy and sell stuff.


What I have described in the past 4,000 words (Jiminy cricket!) is how you progress in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. The quests are the reason why you do all of this. Unlike some open-world games in which quests supplement exploration and optional dungeons with quests, the bulk of Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s time will be spent doing something to complete a quest, at least before the post-game.
The general objective of a quest, be it the main quest or otherwise, is almost always one of the following: 1) Kill enemies, either immediately threatening someone or found out in the wild, 2) collect items, either specifically spawned for the quest or as normal collectables found throughout the world, or 3) walk somewhere. While these quests might not be the most diverse, they make up for it with generally entertaining plots and worthwhile rewards, and the combat is robust enough on its own without a need for the sidequests to introduce novel game mechanics.


The one exception to this rule is the merc mission. Unlocked at a certain point in the story, merc missions put the Blades not currently in your party to good use. There is a certain amount of requirements for Blades to embark on any given merc mission, ranging from gender to elemental type. Once these requirements are met, you can send up to five Blades on their merry way, returning anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours later. You can additionally send Blades with certain field skills to make the mission run faster. While it is a good way to unlock parts of the affinity chart for unused Blades, there are unskippable voice clips for each upgrade when they return, which can take upwards of 30 seconds for each “report.” Merc missions can get tedious at times, but the micromanagement for different outcomes kept me coming back.

The main quest is unsurprisingly the most interesting and engaging. While the objectives largely follow this format, you often explore new areas for the first time during a new quest, while the subsequent sidequests have you re-explore those regions. Additionally, sidequests are far more guilty of requiring field skills for progression, and seeing as you can tackle them at any point in the game, some might be far too above or below your level. Furthermore, finding random collectables can be as hindering to progress as the field skill requirements. While the map will mark required enemies to be slain, story-specific items, and (a first for the series) even monsters you have to slay to get certain collectables, there is no denotation of where to find items sprinkled throughout the world. If you are unwilling to use a guide, your options are to blindly search throughout the Titan, using field skills to improve your chances, give up and hope that you run into it later, or look up a guide. Nonetheless, the game expects you to complete a fair number of these quests alongside the main quest, as not doing so would be a difficult challenge indeed. Finally, Blade quests function much the same as normal sidequests, but they feature fully voiced cutscenes and flesh out all of the non-story rare Blades. These quests are merely a shell for the delicious insides that are the gameplay.


A final warning for those playing the game: In the course of my 90 hours with the game, the game crashed on me on three separate occasions, one time losing me 4 hours of progress. Because there are no autosaves aside for bonding with core crystals, it is imperative to save often.While a crash is rare, it can be devastating, and I saw little to no sign that the game was running into any trouble before it crashed.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review (Switch)- The game looks considerably less pretty on the go, but it's still serviceable. You miss breathtaking moments like this, though.


It’s fitting that such an elaborate and extravagant series of game mechanics would be accompanied by an equally elaborate and extravagant world. While I seldom really felt like the different areas were on or inside the bodies of Titans, I was nonetheless exploring beautiful environments with otherworldly monsters. In other words, par for the course for Xenoblade Chronicles.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review (Switch)- Just look at the surprise on his face!
Not par for the course, however, were the facial animations. While the original faces were considered passable for being in standard definition, the faces in X were truly disturbing, even if it was possible to eventually acclimate to them. While Xenoblade Chronicles, and the multiple Xeno- series before them, so I am told, wears their anime inspiration on their collective sleeve, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 takes this up a notch by integrating an anime art style to all of the main characters. It’s truly shocking to see Xenoblade Chronicles go from a series with some of the worst facial animations in recent Nintendo history, to having some of the best facial animations on the Nintendo Switch, perhaps excepting the similarly anime-styled Breath of the Wild. These animations were as integral to the telling of the story as the script and voice acting, and there were multiple times where a serviceably amusing joke or touching scene would have me appropriately reeling in laughter or shedding a tear, simply because of the excellent animation.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review (Switch)- I was watching this scene on the bus, and I had to consciously stop my jaw from dropping.
In a broader sense of animation, the choreography remains as staggeringly breathtaking as ever. I’ve joked among my friends in the past that the most exciting part of a boss battle from Xenoblade Chronicles is the cutscene. This is not to say anything of the quality of the gameplay, of course, but that the way characters and their weapons move in cutscenes is unreal. Characters jump from one side of the screen to the other, the camera desperately trying to keep up, with backflips and kicks and, yes, screaming attack names. It’s genuinely more action-packed than an actual action movie, most likely because no amount of computer editing could make live actors do anything close to the ridiculousness that these characters do.

Thanks to a day-one patch, the game can be played with either Japanese voice acting or the English dub. From what I can tell from research, the Japanese voice acting seems top-notch, but I played the entirety of the game in English. The cast is largely European, but there are a few American roles as well. While the thick Scottish accents can be a bit jarring at first for Americans, it’s easy to get acclimated to. In cutscenes, the main cast can give chilling performances that genuinely made my hair stand on end towards the end, and Zeke’s hammy performance in particular had me laughing at nearly every line. 


The lip animations were not redone for the English release, and as such, the voice actors often pause at seemingly awkward moments, mid-sentence, to try to match the lip movements the best they could. Despite this, it’s still very apparent that the lip movements aren’t always in sync. While this does hamper the experience somewhat, it’s not overly distracting.


The soundtrack is easily one of the least divisive highlights of the game. From the sweeping orchestral themes, to the blood-pumping metal battle music, to the solemn choir or catchy J-pop song, the entire range is incredibly diverse, and nearly all of it works perfectly. Returning from the original Xenoblade Chronicles is the team of brilliant composers, including the composer of Chrono Trigger, although the legendary Yoko Shimamura sadly did not make a return.


Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review (Switch)- If you don't think Uraya is the best Titan, we can't be friends.


In my last few words of this perhaps suitably long-winded review for such a long-winded game, I want to make something clear. All of my descriptions of these seemingly convoluted mechanics and length might lead some to think that this is a game for ‘experts,” people who have been playing JRPGs for years and thus know what to do. Not necessarily. If you have never played a JRPG, but you have a willingness to experience all that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has to offer with an open mind, you might just fall in love with a whole new genre. After all, that’s what happened when I played my first non-Pokémon JRPG, Xenoblade Chronicles X. I haven’t looked back since.

+ Deep story with enjoyable characters – Cutscenes are too long and drawn-out
+ Streamlined, yet complex and dynamic gameplay – Gameplay is often overwhelming, UI is cluttered
+ Beautiful design and soundtrack – Field skills unnecessarily halt progress 

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