April 6, 2012
is a new addition to the “Xeno” series that began back in the PS1 with Xenogears
, and continued with the PS2 trilogy, Xenosaga
. Although the games share similar titles and are from the same franchise, this does not mean they are direct sequels, so none of the previous titles need to be played in order to fully appreciate the new one. Monolith brings an amazing and grand adventure to the Wii, which is now available in the states thanks to “Operation Rainfall”
Monolith Soft takes on the newest addition to the series by creating a whole new world and cast of characters although it retains some of the themes the last 4 games explored. The Xeno series has always had a few themes in common, including the use of Mechs for battle, and the games usually take on different philosophies or ideas, such as reincarnation. Xenoblade is no different.
The game starts out in a battlefield were three warriors and an army of humans or “Homs” is taking on an opposing army of Mechanical creatures named “mechons.” The intro almost immediately states some of the more important ideas in the game, such as the war between Humans and Machines, and the fact that the strongest weapon against them is the legendary sword “Monado.” Most importantly, you will be introduced to the most interesting aspect of the game, the fact that the world our characters live in is in fact two giant golems that battled each other to death in times past. The story might sound very cliché, but as it progresses, it becomes more interesting and much more deep, dealing with more themes than just war. After the introduction, we are presented with the main character and his best friend, Shulk and Reyn, and the people of Colony 9.
Once the game is done introducing you to some of the gameplay mechanics, it will throw you into the meat of the matter. The Mechon will launch another attack against the Homs causing massive damage and casualties, which send our two friends into a revenge-fueled adventure. Although the cast of main characters is a bit old and cliché, it still serves as a very dynamic and powerful cast. All of the characters serve a purpose in the main storyline and it feels as if they truly make a difference in the team, there is no dead weight. An amazing set of cutscenes truly encourage the player to sink himself into this marvelous story, dialogue that seems human and realistic engages the player even more in the ordeals of the characters. Under what appears to be a cliché and overly told story, lies a deep and incredible tale that explores themes of Godhood and religion, Culture Clash and others. The characters are models that we have seen before, but thanks to a rich dialogue and incredible writing all of them end up being really interesting. Xenoblade is sure to entertain anyone with its astonishing story with all its twists and turns and never gets stale, the amazing locations that it will take you to are almost jaw dropping, a complete success on the story department. There is no confusing elements, or plot holes, everything is explained as it should be and it comes to a close without leaving anything open ended.
Xenoblade is not the most detailed game in the world, but it sure does bring out the Wii’s capabilities. The characters look pretty ugly, the facial animations are really not on par with anything that some other RPGs have managed, and the lyp synching is pretty bad, but this is made up by the smooth cutscenes and the fight sequences that are fast paced and very intricate. Not only are the cutscenes well made, but also the design of the actual characters is not half bad, fully customizable equipment that changes depending on what weapon or armor piece you have equipped at the moment make it so that not one combination is the same, and the Mechons look very interesting and have a very sleek design that varies from enemy to enemy, There are all kinds of monsters and Mechons all with their own different designs, you won’t find your common Japanese Mechs here.
The graphics really shine in the setting, there are some incredible and jaw dropping huge areas for the player to explore, all fully detailed with waterfalls, plains, ruins, caves and just about everything you’d expect. Multiple different locations on the two giant Golems make it so that there is no one location similar to the last one, you will be exploring Luscious Jungles and Lively prairies on the Mechonis and highly advanced civilizations further into the game. All of the world maps end up being huge and full of things to do, such as giant monsters that serve as optional bosses or just plain beautiful views that will have the player soak in for a while, adding the weather changing mechanics of the game, makes it so that all of these already rich locations seem even more lively and active. The game is truly a very beautiful work that takes advantage of what the Wii can do.
The score prepared for the game is another knock out, composed by a combined effort of, Yoko Shinomura composer for Square and Capcom, famous for his work on the multiple Mario RPGs and even Kingdom Hearts, Manami Kiyota, and even legendary Chrono Trigger composer, Yasunori Mitsuda all took part in the games soundtrack. As a result of having such big names working together, the soundtrack ends up being truly masterful, incredible pieces that not only sound incredible, but they aid to the overall atmosphere of the game. The songs end up being so well made and placed that they enhance the story by making it even more dramatic, whether it’s a sad tragedy or an action packed fight. The voice acting is also on par with the music. A cast of British and European voice actors supply the characters with a breath of life that is rare in Japanese RPGs were voice acting is one of the more common criticized elements. Xenoblade rises above and beyond when it comes to music and voice acting, having a really incredible cast of voice actors that do an excellent job, and a score that adorns everything perfectly.
The Gameplay of Xenoblade is quite unique; it takes the form of an action RPG with an interesting twist. The battle system is not complicated in the least; the player controls one character at any given time with few options to issue out to the other 2 party members that are fighting at the moment. All of the party members are issued with different abilities each, all of them complementing each other quite well, and it’s a way of giving the player the chance to customize each character the way he sees them fit. There is one thing, the character is always set to an “auto-attack” mode by default and it is forced on the player, which means that the character will issue out normal attacks by itself, the player is then in charge of the special abilities and the movement of said character. This does feel a bit awkward at first, but it in a few battles it becomes very easy to master. Thankfully all the monsters are roaming out in the world, eliminating the system of random encounters. There are also no consumable items that heal or revive, so you will have to depend on your characters to heal up during battles, although this is made up by the fact that after each battle the party will be healed up.
The overall difficulty remains stable throughout, there are never any bosses that are tremendously tough followed by a weakling. The game makes it so that at the right level, the boss fights become a challenge rather than just a simple battle, although there is not a lot of variety in the way the boss fights are conducted. An interesting mechanic the game employs is the fact that enemy Mechons can only be hurt by the main characters weapon, The Monado, although thanks to the sword’s special ability, the player can use certain spells to cause massive damage to the robot enemies, or to enchant the weapons of the party members enabling them to take on the mechanical menace.
Just like the Monado has the specific abilities to enchant weapons or deal massive damage to specific weapons, the other characters have a special, character specific ability as well. Some will just do massive damage, or will cause the enemies attention to be drawn entirely to a specific character for a short amount of time, giving the player incentive to try the other characters in battle. Debuffs and buffs, ailments and other abilities give the ability system a very diverse and interesting feel to it. There is also a skill tree for each character in which depending on the play style, the character will gain specific bonuses, such as extra HP, high defense, higher chances of landing a critical hit, and so on and so forth. Aside from the personal skill tree, players can also share some of these abilities with the other characters, so if Shulk has a specific bonus, it is possible to spend some coins to make it so that Reyn can also use this bonus making the character customization even deeper still. Gem crafting is another thing worth noting. It is a system in which the player can create or find gems that power up equipment so that it can give extra bonuses once its equipped. Xenoblade’s battle system, its incredible amount of side missions and variety of abilities and bonuses are incredibly unique and terribly fun.
The game offers an immense amount of things to do, seemingly endless side missions and collectibles, optional bosses and deep customization make it so that no one run of the game is alike, although other than “New Game+” which grants the player to start the game all over with the equipment they had and other benefits, there is no much incentive to start a new game, as all the other optional bosses and extra places to go are already accessible by the first time the player reaches the last dungeon.
Monolith’s RPG is truly a game deserving of sending off the Wii. It is made full and thorough, there are very few issues that affect it, but it has even more things that make up for its faults and then some. Xenoblade
stands as a game with a powerful story, fun gameplay and incredible music. It is a game that any Wii owner or RPG fan should not miss out, it is truly an incredible game that should not be overlooked and it will surely become a classic in time.