Xenoblade Chronicles is a role-playing game developed by Monolith Soft and published by Nintendo is 2010 for the Nintendo Wii. After this original release, Xenoblade Chronicles was then released on the Nintendo 3DS in 2015 under the name Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, and its most recent release is for the Nintendo Switch with the name of Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition (Xenoblade Chronicles DE) in 2020. This game was developed by Tetsuya Takahashi and Koh Kojima, with the art done by Norihiro Takami and KunihikoTanaka, the writing by Tetsuya Takahashi, Yuichiro Takeda, and Kazuho Hyodo, and the music was composed by ACE+, Yoko Shimamura, Manami Kiyota, and Yasunori Mitsuda.
Xenoblade Chronicles features a vast overworld where NPCs, enemies, and party members roam together. As such, the battle system is integrated into the playable characters traversing the world. As protagonist Shulk and his companions roam the vast world of the Bionis, both small and large monsters will appear, and the party will have the opportunity to fight or ignore those enemies. The battle system is also unique compared to traditional turn based JRPGs. In Xenoblade Chronicles, the party will attack automatically when in range after a set period of time. Instead, the player controls the positioning of each character and when they use special skills called “Arts”. By the end of the game, seven characters are playable, with the active party being composed of three characters.
Besides combat, Xenoblade Chronicles features many quests for players to partake. From simple fetch quests, to hunting monsters, to even communicating between NPCs, the game has many options for players to enjoy. There are even special quests that unlock special side stories for the main characters to interact with during different parts of the overall plot.
Now, with most of the background established, I am going to quickly go over my personal thoughts on the game without spoiling too much. Don’t worry if you haven’t experienced the game yet; this portion will be entirely spoiler free.
First things first, I just want to mention that Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition is by far my most favourite game of all time. From the gameplay, to the story, to setting, to the music, everything is almost as close to perfect as possible. The next few thoughts will be spoiler free, however, later sections of this article will contain spoilers. The spoiler section will be clearly marked. With all that out of the way, let’s get into it.
First thing’s first, let’s start with the setting. I think the best part about the setting is how open world this game is. Yes, there are some loading screens between certain areas of the map, but in each of those specific sections, you could easily spend a few hours in exploring all the whole area, discovering both landmarks and hidden locations alike. What I also like about the setting is how well it blends into the story of Xenoblade Chronicles DE. Since the game takes place on the Bionis, I loved how you can explore each place on this massive titan. Not only were you able to explore its whole body, but each place was also unique. For example, Colony 9 is on the Bionis’ leg. It’s close to the boundless ocean, so in certain areas of the map, you’ll be able to see that same ocean. However, as you move upwards, you have a place like Valak Mountain, which is near the right arm. Since this place is higher up, it’s covered in snow, which reflects perfectly with being higher in altitude. What I also loved about the setting was the placement of the Mechonis. The other looming titan is visible when venturing outside and watching its position shift slightly with the player was amazing. It’s great attention to detail and makes the whole world building even more believable. Another amazing part of the setting is the night and day cycle. For one, there’s amazing music in both times, but I’ll discuss the music later on in this article.
What I want to mention about this cycle as it relates to the setting is that certain places change based on the time of day. The place with the most effect of this is in Satorl Marsh. Now, if you haven’t seen Satorl Marsh during the nighttime, play the game and check it out. You won’t be disappointed. If you don’t have the game, below is a screenshot to compare what this location looks like at the two different times. What I also appreciate is that you can head almost anywhere you can see. There’s a good chance that if you see a location while adventuring, there is a way to get there. As a final note, the ice physics in this game are second to none. Just explore Valak Mountain, and you shall see.
Since I mentioned music, we can discuss that next. Out of all video games I’ve played my entire life, the Xenoblade DE OST has a special place in my heart. When I usually play a game, there are always a few tracks that I can never like. Not for Xenoblade though. Obviously, not every track is my favourite, but they all are enjoyable to listen. As I mentioned earlier, I love having a day or night version of each song when in the overworld. It’s also great that each area’s song is unique to their location. The twinkling sounds in Valak Mountain, to flute in Frontier Village, each track is lovely. I think my favourite overworld theme has to be Gaur Plains. Now, I know this may seem a bit basic, but the grandeur of the field combined with the upbeat soundtrack really pumps you up for adventure. Combine that with the timing of the plot, and this track is a masterpiece. Even the night version, which is less intense, still perfectly the atmosphere.
Besides overworld themes, I’m going to discuss some of the battle themes. Out of all the tracks that we have, “Time to Fight” is probably my least favourite. Since you hear this track for almost the whole game, it does get a bit old quite fast. Combined with the fact that the song itself isn’t too upbeat and powerful, it feels a bit tame. The new track called “Mechanical Rhythm”, which isn’t introduced until the later half of the game, is a much better fight theme. The electric guitar is a nice touch, and it even gets intense near the end. Now, the next two songs, “Engage the Enemy” and “You Will Know Our Names”, are both masterpieces in their own rights. Although “Engage the Enemy” is barely played during a real fight, it’s a song that plays in cutscenes right before a major conflict. It’s one that will get you pumped up for sure. “You Will Know Our Names” is the song reserved for fights with Unique Monsters, which are special monsters with unique names that are typically stronger than other monsters you find. Having this theme play is a great way to get pumped up fighting this different monster, and it also sounds eerily different to the other themes. It really sets the tone and gets you ready for the fight of a lifetime. The final battle theme that I wish got played more than once is “Unfinished Battle”. With amazing strings in the background, the cutscene this theme plays over capitalizes on the events of the story. You have to experience the game to feel the intensity of this song.
On the topic of cutscenes, songs like “Tragic Decision”, really help create the atmosphere for some of the more daunting and heartfelt moments of the game. Xenoblade Chronicles DE has one of the greatest stories in all video game history, and the soundtrack really backs this up. For some of the cheerier moments, the music reflects the feelings of the characters, but as soon as the oppressive and daunting tracks start playing, you know that something big is about to happen.
Now, when it comes to plot, I think I’ll discuss this more once we reach the spoiler section. In brief, the story is wonderful. From the foreshadowing, to the twists, to the emotional beats, this game is a rollercoaster of emotions that will leave you breathless at the end. After completing the game, I loved how the story evolved from simple revenge to a question of morality. As stated earlier, this will be explored more later.
With such a long game, I think the characters all get their moments to shine. What I appreciate is that everyone in the main cast gets plenty of time to fully flesh out themselves. From heart-to-hearts, to certain quests, to even some post battle dialogue, the personalities of the characters are really shown. I also like the affinity system, which is used to quantify and qualify the strength of the bonds between characters. The gifting system is also great to add more depth to these characters. Besides the main cast, even side characters are given opportunities to develop. Even NPCs are given personalities through their dialogue or unique quest line. With this much detail in each character, the world of Xenoblade Chronicles feels alive and immersive.
The heart of all RPGs lies in their gameplay and battle system. The more intuitive and fun the gameplay is, the longer the player will play the game, and in turn, learn more about the story the developers wrote. When it comes to Xenoblade Chronicles, its battle system is one of the most unique that I’ve seen. I loved the auto attacks with focus on positioning and skill usage. This battle system is a nice marriage of turn based combat with strategic knowledge. The vision system was also interesting to add, not only due to story reasons, but it also changes the way some battles are fought. With both visions of strong attacks coming and quick time events popping up, it keeps you on your toes constantly. And when it comes to story fights, I appreciate that sometimes you don’t finish off your enemy. There are other games I’ve played before where after you defeat your foe, the story makes it seem as if you lost the fight, even though you actually won. This is where Xenoblade Chronicles does well. There’s a fight near the beginning of the game where the party loses. And during that fight, the player never wins. This is a great way to set up the atmosphere for the story and doesn’t infuriate the player with inconsistencies.
Now, with all that done, the next section is going into major spoilers. Do not read further if you haven’t played the game. Xenoblade Chronicles is a game you have to experience spoiler free.
So, everyone past this point should’ve either played the game or doesn’t care about spoilers. Alright, last chance for those who don’t want to be spoiled to click off. Everyone set? Then let’s get started.
Alright, first things first, I think the best part of the story that I enjoyed was following Shulk’s journey from revenge, to self discovery, to challenging fate and discovering the meaning of life. From a narrative standpoint, I am still astonished how the developers of this game got this point. When it comes to the beauty of the game, I think I really appreciate the foreshadow throughout the whole game. After playing the game a second time, I have a new found appreciation for Shulk’s dream where he falls into the void. Watching that other version of him that stares at him falling was a great call to Zanza, who currently inhabits his body. The next bit of foreshadowing that I enjoyed was when the party first visits the High Entia. After hearing the prophecy about the fall of the race through the Monado, I at first was perplexed, but once the ending was revealed and that the Monado is the part of Zanza, everything makes sense. I also enjoyed the small details that foreshadowed the Trinity. Dickson and his shady dialogue, Alvis and his ability to use the Monado, and even Lorithia and her insolence, I mean, her cutscenes, everything was laid out perfectly for their reveals.
Speaking of story, my favourite moment was Dickson’s betrayal and the reveal of Zanza. All the moments leading up to that point, with the high emotion and the intense boss fight, gave a false sense of security when everything was over. But when the shot was taken, everything became tense again. This was the moment when the story became more than revenge. In this case, it revealed more themes than I expected would come out of this game.
Along those lines, another thing that made each scene so much better was the amazing voice acting. Each voice fits each character perfectly, which made it really easy to fall in love with everyone. I think one of the best examples of the voice acting is the scene with Shulk confronting Metal Face after the death of Fiora. Shulk’s iconic “I’ll kill you!” was delivered so perfectly. Each small tremor and rage delivered through Howden’s performance made the scene a million times more intense.
On the subject of characters and plot, I think another great aspect of the game was the progression of villains. From Metal Face, to Egil, we as the player don’t get much time to stop and consider the real motivating reasons why each character fights their war. Instead, since the aforementioned characters embodied true evil, we were too blind to see what was actually happening. It’s only through Vanea and the other Machina that we see how the Mechonis and its people aren’t as evil as we thought.
When it comes to music, the final boss theme is awesome. The off putting sounds combined with the choir sets the perfect atmosphere for the final fight. Then, once the intro is done, the combination of electric guitar and piano set up the heroes’ determination. Once everyone is pumped up, the song reaches a crescendo, which is a perfect way to get the player in the right mood throughout the fight. The music sounds imposing, as you’re up against a literal god with the fate of the world in your hands. Of all final boss themes, “Zanza the Divine” is quite literally divine.
Another tack that I loved was “The Fallen Land”. In this track, you first hear it when Shulk is on the Fallen Arm. Compared to the first game, this was one of the tracks that got revamped. And after the revamp, it was amazing. The instruments blend well to create this sad and melancholic atmosphere, which is what they player feels when they look up and see the two great titans above them.
To wrap this part all up, Xenoblade Chronicles DE is a masterpiece of a game. From the plot, to the characters, to the music, to the gameplay, everything in this game is pure perfection. Obviously, not everyone will enjoy this game as much as I did, but it is for sure worth it to experience once in your life. If there was ever a game close to being perfect, then Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition is the one.
Epilogue: Future Connected (Spoilers)
Now, this wouldn’t be a true Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition article without mentioning the epilogue to the story: Future Connected. As Future Connected was an epilogue, this portion will also be shorter as well.
First thing’s first, the fate of the High Entia was always a small thread that I wished would get tied up, and through Future Connected, we get that, kind of. Now, in this story focused around Shulk and Melia, I liked how we found out about the lives of the High Entia after the events of the main game. With this part of the story focusing on the darker aspect of a group of people exiled from their home, I loved following Melia’s journey in becoming a leader. Now, this story did bring up some more questions, such as where the Fog King came from in the first place, but other than that, this was a great way to develop Melia’s character.
Now that I mentioned the Fog King, and subsequently, the fogbeasts, I can’t mention these two entities without praising the music. And, I guess I should mention the regular battle theme as well. As I mentioned before, “Time to Fight!” was my least favourite out of all the battle themes. Now, with the Bionis Shoulder version, “Time to Fight (Bionis’ Shoulder)” is great. The jazzy intro is something that I can never get bored off. The jazz throughout the whole battle theme was a great change of pace for a battle theme, and it works wonders. On that same front, “FogBeast Battle” also uses a jazzy track. This one also became a favourite really quick. The only gripe I have with these two songs is that, while playing the game and engaging in fights, the fights end too early, so you won’t hear the whole song in its glorious entirety.