Xenoblade Chronicles was one of those RPGs that I started playing, got completely invested into, but then just didn’t end up completing because other distractions got in the way during its very lengthy runtime. It sucks, but it was something that I was guilty of doing with video games on a regular basis ten years ago, with the game originally releasing on the Nintendo Wii back in 2010. I was younger then, alright… I didn’t have the same attention span that I have now that I’m older.
Now, ten years on, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition has taken the original game and given it a fresh lick of paint, refined features, and an additional epilogue sequence that fleshes out the adventure even more. It makes it the perfect way to experience MONOLITH SOFT’s epic RPG escapade, especially since it also has the convenience of being able to played on the go via the Nintendo Switch’s handheld mode.
I’m really glad I revisited the game too, with Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition easily standing out as one of the finest RPGs I’ve played for some time. Nintendo Switch owners really are spoilt for choice as far as the RPG genre is concerned…
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition puts you in the shoes of Shulk, a young adventurer-type that ends up in the possession of a sword known as the Monado that allows him to look into the future. With the vision of a potentially dire course of events ahead of him and following an attack on his home village by a deadly threat known as the ‘Mechon’, he looks to change the desolate future that the world seems destined to face.
The game tells a story that features plenty of your typical RPG hallmarks in many ways, but is also so rich in lore and history that you’ll constantly be in awe at the sheer depth of the world and its tales. The characters you meet and those that form your party are diverse and interesting with their own little stories to be told, whilst the locales you explore interweave into the gameplay perfectly and offer a fair share of fascinating sights and secrets. There are plenty of moments of genuine laugh out loud humour too, which all feel all the more fun to experience given the quality of the overly British voice acting.
Did I mention that the game also takes place on the remains of two gigantic warring titans that battled to the death? Yeah, it’s pretty awesome and it’s also something that you’ll learn more about as you progress through the story, proving that Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is packed with unique details that help it stand out amongst its RPG peers. You can DEFINITELY expect to find yourself hooked into the narrative and it’ll certainly keep you invested in the game’s lengthy adventure.
Exploration plays a big role in your journey in Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, with an expansive landscape to explore that sees you traversing through vast heights and great depths as you uncover every small detail of the world. It’s massive in scope and it’s almost unbelievable to think that this started off as a Nintendo Wii game, with the way that everything is inter-connected even rivalling the likes of the worlds seen in FromSoftware’s Souls releases. You’re given a lot of freedom in how you explore this world too… well… outside of the vicious nasties blocking your path, that is.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition’s battling takes an action-orientated approach with all of the combat taking place in real-time, though it’s also very similar to that found in online RPGs such as Final Fantasy XIV with its automated attacking and use of a hotbar of special abilities to assign actions to your characters.
Saying attacking is ‘automated’ might be a little inaccurate, with players expected to initiate attacks and assign targets for characters to unleash their hits upon. Your Talent Gauge builds up as you perform these attacks too, which allows you to use your Arts in order to deal extra damage, apply buffs, or even heal your team. You’ll only control one character at a time, so there’s a bit of switching involved if you want to experience how everyone feels to play and take advantage of their different capabilities – it can actually prove vital to your success at times too, with certain character’s Arts proving more effective against specific enemies. It is worth noting that you can’t switch mid-battle though, so a bit of preparation is required before you face each encounter.
There are other things to consider in combat though, with your position affecting different Arts, enemy aggro allowing you to exploit their aggression, the gear you equip offering varied battle-based boosts, and the ability to daze enemies to stop them moving and make your attacks more powerful certainly adding plenty of strategic elements to each showdown.
I probably haven’t given combat the justice it deserves by condensing it into a few small paragraphs, with it proving intense, tactical, and satisfying throughout. Whilst some enemies can be conquered by simply attacking and landing Arts as they become available, others can be a true test of your virtue and push you to think carefully, utilise each member of your party’s capabilities efficiently, and require you to use every element of combat to your advantage in order to attain victory. Sounds a little gruelling, right? Well, it’s actually makes for a hell of a good time and ensures that combat remains rewarding and unpredictable right until the very end.
That’s not to say that it’s perfect though, with the AI of your allies proving to be inconsistent at times. There’s nothing worse than finding yourself on the wrong end of a defeat just because one of your party members did something stupid, which happened on a regular enough basis for it to become a little bit of a nuisance whilst playing.
Then there’s the fact that there are some mighty high-level enemies roaming the world in some unexpected places, meaning it’s easy to accidentally find yourself encountering a tough as nails battle that’ll send you to a swift game over. In fairness, there are danger levels associated with enemies that’ll let you know which ones you’ll want to avoid, but the amount of times I accidentally got into an encounter with a deadly enemy and got caught off-guard was embarrassing. It’s not a big enough flaw that it really affected my time with the game, because let’s face it: it’s something that the player themselves should work to avoid. Still, when you do get caught by a high-level baddie and find yourself pummelled? It’s rough.
Between the exploration and combat alone, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition really does have enough to keep you completely hooked into its top-quality adventure. However, there are some extras to dive into, with plenty of side quests to be completed along with the main story. Admittedly, some of these do feel a little generic in design, but they give you an extra incentive to delve deeper into world and often come with some decent rewards to make the venture worthwhile.
There’s also the addition of Time Trial-based battles this time around, which challenge you to take down a party of enemies in a fixed amount of time. What I particularly appreciated about these encounters was that it let me experiment with my party a bit more with less consequence and I certainly established more strategies and worked out how to tie together allies’ Arts in more effective ways. It really does help flesh out the experience in an enjoyable and meaningful way, further strengthening Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition’s status as one of the Nintendo Switch’s best RPGs.
It’s worth mentioning that the soundtrack has been remastered too, and whilst I didn’t necessarily remember how the original songs sounded enough to comment on how much of a change there’s been, there’s no doubting the sheer quality of the musical pieces that accompany your grand journey.
The biggest addition of all comes with the game’s epilogue which is known as ‘Future Connected’. When I first heard about this, I expected an experience that lasted a handful of hours. Instead, it felt like a full-blown expansion that adds over ten-hours to the game’s lengthy story – it introduces a few additional gameplay mechanics that tie into the game’s Nopon, whilst it also fleshes out different elements of Shulk’s story a year on from the original conclusion. It’s good stuff and will be especially appealing to those who already finished the game the first time around and want that extra piece of incentive to re-visit it again, though I’m sure the overall improvements to the gameplay and the visuals will be more than enough reason for most.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition has a fair share of visual improvements that help the game stand tall with modern RPGs on the Nintendo Switch, with the character models particularly standing out as a highlight in the game. Not only do they look more slick and clean, but they’re also more emotive than ever with clear and detailed facial expressions on show throughout.
The environments have also seen a facelift, though in a less prominent fashion than the character models. It’s hard not to be impressed by them all though, especially if you played the game in its original and non-HD form when it released on the Nintendo Wii – it already offered a breath-taking world to explore then, but it’s better than ever ten years on. It’s just a very impressive game to look at and the team at MONOLITH SOFT deserve some credit for genuinely revamping the visuals of the game.
It’s all helped by the consistent frame rate, which sees the action of the game feeling smooth whether you’re exploring the vast environment or battling against a hulking beast. The resolution on the other hand could be a little bit of a mixed bag, especially on the Nintendo Switch’s handheld mode where things could look a bit blurry in places. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a visually impressive game to play handheld and there’ll be times where the lower resolution is barely noticeable, but when you’re out exploring or gazing across one of the game’s larger locales it can be pretty obvious that things aren’t quite as sharp as you’d hope they would be.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition’s brilliant world and thrilling combat help it stand tall as a remarkable RPG ten years on from its initial release. It does have some imperfections, most notably with the lower resolution in handheld mode and some sketchy party AI, but for the most part it offers an adventure of the highest standard.
If you missed out on MONOLITH SOFT’s epic adventure back in 2010, you really couldn’t pick a better time than now to dive in. It’s as simple as this: Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is an unmissable release for RPG fans.
Developer: MONOLITH SOFT
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch