Xenoblade Chronicles was a long fought battle by “Project Rainfall”, an attempt from the fans to get various Wii exclusive RPGs released in the United States. It was successful, even if in limited quantities, and it became a scarce game to come by due to retail exclusivity. Now with the New Nintendo 3DS exclusive release, it seems Nintendo has decided to give it a wider availability, utilizing the power of their improved handheld. Main protagonist Shulk has gained a bit more notoriety thanks to Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS, and Xenoblade Chronicles X is on the horizon for the Wii U, so it was perfect timing to release this little RPG gem again.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D was ported by Monster Games Inc., the developer that also ported Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, as well as the creators of the more recent Excite series games. Surprisingly, despite the lower resolution of the screens and the limitations of the system, Xenoblade Chronicles ported well to the handheld. Many textures appear blurry, but for the most part, it doesn’t affect gameplay, and the character and enemy models still look detailed enough to stand out. Even things like armor and weapons being changed out affect the characters, even during the cutscenes, which all play out in the game engine fairly well.
The game performs well, even in full 3D, as the framerate rarely dips, even with all the details like moving foliage and enemies on the screen. The vast and open areas can be seen from across the map, and even though the enemies and characters don’t show up until getting much closer, it’s still a rather impressive feat. Having the 3D on full blast really sharpens things up and makes objects pop and gives a great amount of depth. This game really shows the power that the New Nintendo 3DS can offer for new games.
The story of Xenoblade Chronicles follows protagonist Shulk, a young man who ends up gaining the ability to wield the power of the Monado, a mysterious sword that has special abilities. The Homs, or humans, are in a constant struggle for survival against the robotic Mechon, who threaten their way of life while living on top of two enormous gods. Over the course of the game, the Monado continues to gain new secrets and powers, unlocking new strategies within the real time combat. Most notable is the ability to see visions, where at various points, an enemy will activate a vision for the player to see. In most cases, the enemy will land a powerful blow to a party member, and it is up to the player to change the events in their favor. It’s a great mechanic and it allows for interesting pacing in the battle system, having to choose certain things to focus on.
Characters will attack automatically when close to the enemy that is currently locked on, and the player will be able to choose various “Arts” to use for more powerful attacks and abilities. The Arts all have a cooldown, but there are up to eight that players will have access to, giving opportunity for some intense battles. Shulk is the exception to this rule, as he also has the Monado Arts, which is a separate menu that gains access to special abilities that can do more damage to the Mechon Army. Players will be able to fill up a “Party Gauge”, allowing them to use extra abilities like encouraging other party members, reviving them, or even the powerful “Chain Attack” when the gauge is full. Chain Attacks allow a combo of Arts, which even in the cooldown phase, become accessible. Using Arts wisely can allow Chain Links, which will add more combos from party members, allowing up to 15 attacks in one chain. It can be rather powerful if used effectively, and really adds a lot to the combat.
It’s unfortunate that they didn’t take advantage of the release for a new English voice track. It still uses the British voice acting, which isn’t exactly bad, but it would have at least been nice to have the Japanese voices for people wanting a more natural looking lip sync. It does have a certain appeal though, and the game still has a good amount of voice acting in this lengthy adventure, which can easily take over 75 hours. Voice acting aside, the music of the game is fantastic, and the addition of a music player is a nice touch for the fans.
The quest system is probably one of the more versatile ones in RPGs these days. Players can gather as many quests as they want, and most of them will reward the player upon completion right then and there. Only a few will require a few extra steps or the need to meet up with the quest giver again. Quests can be anything from material collecting to defeating a powerful enemy, and they are retroactive, so if the player has already done the task at hand, the quest can be completed instantly. Granted there are exceptions, like selling a quest material before taking the quest will require the player to get it again, or various missions needing the quest to be active for it to count. Regardless, the game has hundreds of quests, giving hours upon hours of game time.
The game has an interesting difficulty curve, as it truly takes skill to take on some of the bigger story bosses, and powerful enemies are roaming the land from the very beginning of the game. Players will have to choose their enemies wisely and pay attention to combat if they intend to survive. The game also has a lot of extra features that could easily go over the player’s head, like leveling up skills or utilizing effective gem crafting to improve equipment. Even improving affinity between players can be a bit complicated in terms of how to properly take advantage of it. Luckily, the game has a nice and organized system for the tutorials, giving players a nice reference in case they forget how to do something. The “Story Memo” feature is also a nice feature, as it gives players a way to know what their next objective is in the story, great for coming back from a potentially long break.
Aside from 3D visuals, a new model collection feature, and the music player, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D may not add much to the original experience. However, putting it all in a portable and more convenient package makes it a worthy addition to the 3DS library. If one were to adopt a New Nintendo 3DS, and has never played this RPG gem on the Wii, there is very little reason not to own the game. Even on a platform where there are plenty of high quality RPGs, Xenoblade Chronicles is still a worthwhile investment, and a great first start for the New Nintendo 3DS library.
Final Score: 10 out of 10