Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition
Developer: Monolith Soft
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 29/05/20
A code was provided for review purposes.
Remastering a game from a beloved franchise can always be a dangerous game, especially one that’s held in such high regard as Xenoblade Chronicles. There are three groups that will be picking up this game and it’s important they’re all treated with the respect they deserve. Firstly you have the dedicated and hardcore fans that will want to have everything as it was, with minimal changes as to not risk damaging the memories of a game they hold dear. Then you’ll have the players who are familiar with the series but may have missed this entry; essentially they’re going back in time to try out a game whilst comparing it to the newer entries in the series.
Finally, you’ll have gamers who have never stepped foot into the series before, this being their first-ever encounter with the franchise and therefore have no preconceived notions of how the games will be. Monolith Soft has managed to hit the nail on the head with Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition (known as XCDE from here on out), continue reading to find out just how they pulled it off.
Originally released for the Nintendo Wii back in June of 2010 (in Japan that is, other regions had slightly later release dates), Xenoblade Chronicles was the first entry in the Xeno series of games since Monolith Software was purchased by Nintendo. Much like the Final Fantasy series (for the most part), no previous Xeno game knowledge is required to play and enjoy this game (given that the first Xeno game, known as Xenogears, was released in 1998, that’s a blessing). Since the Xenoblade Chronicles collection of games has come out (of which there are three now), they have all released a different platform with XCDE being the first to buck this trend and come out on the Nintendo Switch just like Xenoblade Chronicles 2 did back in December of 2017. Now that the short history lesson is out of the way, let’s get right into things.
An Endless Sea, Cloaked in a Boundless Sky
XCDE is set on the back of two ginormous titans known as the Bionis and the Mechonis, that have become entangled and ceased to move after a battle many, many years prior. Life is now teaming on both of these titans: the Homs reside on the Bionis and the Mechon on the Mechonis, however, all is not well. The game introduces us to our protagonist, a young Hom’s engineer known as Shulk who is currently studying and researching an ancient sword known as the Monado. After a few quests to explain how the game plays and how to navigate the user interface the story quickly picks up with an attack from the Mechon to one of the Hom colonies.
That’s all that can be said about the start of the plot without getting into the realm of spoilers. That being said, the story of this game is amazing. The writers have done a great job to keep the player guessing and always seek to take you down a twisting and turning pathway as opposed to sticking with standard story tropes found in the Role Playing Game (RPG) genre. Tears of joy and sorrow have streamed down this reviewer’s face whilst completing this game, the world that Monolith Soft has created in this game is just a pleasure to be a part of.
Show No Restraint!
XCDE is an action RPG with a twist. Parties in this game are made of three characters, with the player controlling one character whilst the other two are controlled by the AI. Basic orders can be given to these other two (such as focusing attacks on one target or to run away) but the AI does a really good job of managing how the battles go. Being an action RPG you’d be expecting to be focusing on timing every single one of your attacks, however, in XCDE this is not the case.
The player character will auto-attack the specified target at will, however, the player has control over when a multitude of special attacks (known as Arts) can be used during battle. These range from attacks that deal more damage when hitting from a certain side, healing spells, stat buffs and a whole host of others. As you win battles you’ll gain the ability to upgrade these Arts allowing them to become more powerful over time (“manuals” can also be found that unlock further levels of these Arts). Another key feature with these Arts is that although you have only a maximum of eight of them at a time, most characters have a few more that you can swap in and out.
This allows for different characters to be played in different ways entirely, for example, a character that joins your party in the latter portion of the game can be used as an all-out debuff and DPS machine, but they can also be built to be a tank without much hassle. It’s a great concept that adds a lot of depth to party layouts. A question that is often asked when games feature more characters than the player’s party can hold is “But what about the characters I don’t use in battle, won’t they be so under levelled that I’ll need to grind to get them to be useful again?”. Thankfully, XCDE doesn’t suffer from this at all. As you play with each character in (or out) of your party, they all gain the same amount of experience and skill points to allow them to still be useful even if they haven’t been used for several chapters in the game.
When battles need to be taken up a notch and basic Arts aren’t going to cut it, the ability to perform what is known as Chain Attacks becomes an option, as long as the party gauge is full. To quickly explain what the party gauge is, it’s a meter (broken into three bars) that appears in the top left corner of the display that will fill up over time allowing you to perform chain attacks (costing three bars), revive fallen teammates (costing one bar) as well as warning other about incoming attacks (also costing one bar).
Chain Attacks will give the player the ability to combine attacks from all three members of the party (providing none of them are incapacitated at the time), allowing for incredibly high amounts of damage to be done. The strategy here comes two-fold, firstly in that if attacks of the same type of Art are done in sequential order, a damage multiplayer increases. Secondly, there is also a button press that must be timed to execute each attack as well as extend the combo once all three party members have attacked; get this wrong and the combo is over, get this right and a chance for even more damage is presented.
There are many more layers to the combat and many other mechanics that are brought in to keep this interesting. XCDE does everything in its power to make sure the battles are anything but boring!
Born in a World of Strife
Outside of battles, the areas the player travels through are teaming with life. From NPCs going about their ways, creatures big and small roaming in packs and collectibles in every nook and cranny. Nothing in this game feels forced, every monster fits the environment in which it’s found. From the flamingo-like beasts that can be found on the edge of a lake to the dinosaur styled monsters that travel protecting their young, every consideration has been made to ensure this game feels as epic an adventure as it can.
Landmarks offer the player fast travel locations and can be found in a multitude of places allowing for easy navigation. Towns are scattered around too, offering up merchants for a variety of items as well as a lot of side quests. Speaking of side quests, they’re the bread and butter of this game. To skip over them all is to do yourself a disservice. A great feature of this game is that you don’t always have to return to the quest giver to receive your quest reward (those who are versed in RPGs will understand how annoying this can be at times), a simple change that is welcomed with open arms as it doesn’t break the immersion at all.
Another gameplay mechanic that’s synonymous with the RPG genre is crafting, and XCDE is no exception here either. Allowing the player to combine different crystals found throughout the game to create gems that can be affixed to weapons and armour allowing for all kind of stat buffs, further adding to the customisation of battles. Speaking of armour, regardless of what type is chosen the player has the option to choose any aesthetic look for their character. This is a great way of allowing the player to not be torn between choosing a good looking set of armour and a set with amazing stats, a feature that would be welcome in many other games.
Witness the Birth of a Universe
Let’s get this straight, XCDE is a beautiful game. Visually it is a treat for the eyes and the music is some of the best video game music that has been created. This comes as no surprise for those who are familiar with the other games that Monolith Soft have created (as well as having a major part to play in the visuals of The Legend Of Zelda Breath Of The Wild and Skyward Sword), but even still it’s just amazing how they capture the feeling of each environment just right. Take for example an area known as Makna Forest, a vast jungle filled with all types of monsters but also brimming with so much detail. From the cascading waterfalls to the fireflies that light up the night sky, there isn’t a single aspect that will not have you sat there in awe of the world that Monolith Soft has curated.
Therein lies another feature that is worth noting, the time of day impacts not only the quest lines that are available but also the appearance of each location. Day time will see different enemies out in the wild than at night, which is usually when the more powerful and higher level monsters come out to play. The visuals adapt as necessary too, which is a great touch. It’s not just a case of the Sun dimming and things being dark, luminescent plant life and insects will start to light up the land, the music will change to reflect this too, the whole feeling of a location completely changes. The user interface is crisp and clear, and player models are of really high quality to boot. No expense has been spared in fully immersing the player in the world of XCDE.
From an audio design point of view, the soundtrack is memorable, the effects are great and the dialogue…is better than Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Let’s talk about what the game does right first, the soundtrack is as amazing as ever. Although you may not spend a tremendous amount of time in certain areas, the music will stick with you. At no point was the music out of place with what was happening on screen. To this day the music is still being played at home (in fact it’s being listened to right now as this review is being written). The battle music, monster sound effects and attacks are all brilliant too.
Although there isn’t a wide array of voice clips used, the ones that are in the game are delivered perfectly. That’s where an issue lies though, lines of dialogue get repeated a bit too frequently. Usually, you’ll end up hearing the same line of post-battle dialogue (providing the party doesn’t change) at least twice in the space of about 10 battles. Which may not sound too bad, and it isn’t, but if there was one thing to nitpick about with this title it would be that.
I See Life Outside my World is not Easy
A key feature of XCDE is the inclusion of a new adventure called Future Connected. This ties up the story for a couple of the main game’s party members, as well as changing a few battle mechanics. Whatever you do, do not attempt this before completing the main story as it will spoil the ending for you if you do! It has to be said that this additional content is not as in-depth as the main game, and doesn’t use a lot of mechanics introduced in the main game, which was a surprise. Gone are chain attacks, instead a band of characters from then Nopon race, known as the Ponspectors, will deal massive damage (or provide buffs and debuffs) to enemies in what this section of XCDE refers to as Union Strikes. These follow the same principle of requiring timed button presses, but they feel more shallow as you’re not picking each attack per character, it’s just three button presses.
Future Connected also doesn’t allow for the huge variety in party layouts that the main game does; this is due to the player only having a choice of four party members to pick between. Armour and weapons are also not as plentiful as the main game, although the crafting is removed and instead the gems you would craft can be found in the wild, which is neither a good thing nor is it a bad thing. The world is still the same immersive experience, although some areas you will revisit from the main game have changed slightly, except the locations you will go pale in comparison to the main quest.
Future Connected is not meant to stand as its own game, it would not be fair to compare this to the likes of Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna – The Golden Country as they are two completely different gaming experiences. Future Connected is worth a playthrough, just don’t expect a hugely deep and rich experience.
Behold the Power…
Being the “Definitive Edition” of the game, the developers have added a few quality of life improvements and changes to the game. Without listing everything off, here are a few of the key changes that fans of the original will recognise. A new Time Attack Mode has been added which allows players to face an assortment of challenges to receive new items and armour; these are battles that come in an open or restricted style with the latter allowing for minimal changes to a predetermined party layout. These are a great change of pace and allow you to experience a character you may not be familiar with, as well as letting you put what you’ve learned in the game to the test.
As with Xenoblade Chronicles 2, an Event Theatre has been added which allows cutscenes to be watched again, a great way to catch up if you’ve forgotten or missed anything. The aforementioned ability to change the aesthetic of items without changing their stats is a new feature that was absent from the first title. Lastly, the user interface has also seen some tweaks and improvements, with side quests now leading players to the required areas as well as general navigation changes around the menu system. There are a whole host of other improvements added to XCDE that really to bring out the best in the game without hampering the experience that the original supplied.
I’m Really Feeling It!
XCDE is an amazing experience from start to finish. Taking an already exceedingly good game, polishing it up and bringing it into the modern era of gaming is no mean feat but Monolith Soft have outdone themselves here. A combat system which is a lot deeper than initially anticipated, a story that will make you laugh and cry whilst feeling a whole host of emotions as it takes you on an epic journey through the lands of the Bionis and the Mechonis. Even Future Connected does a great job of adding to the story and wrapping up a lot of plot points, just don’t expect to be taken on the same rollercoaster of emotions as with the main game. Overall, XCDE was a joy to complete. It’s a beautiful game that any JRPG fan should experience. This is one to pick up.
Rapid Reviews UK Rating
Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition can be purchased for the Nintendo Switch at the following link: https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch/Xenoblade-Chronicles-Definitive-Edition-1633054.html
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.