Review | Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition
Ten years after the original release, Monolith Soft’s Xenoblade Chronicles gets another chance to reach RPG lovers everywhere. Now on the Nintendo Switch, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition gives a fresh coat of paint and a lot of new enhancements. While the experience is still just as excellent as ever, the game does show its age in various ways. Luckily, the additional upgrades help to ease that feeling, and the brand new epilogue helps to give more incentive to those returning to the game.
Xenoblade Chronicles tells the story of an engineer named Shulk, a young man with big aspirations. When his home is attacked by mechanical beings known as Mechon, Shulk’s life changes forever. With a fixation on the legendary Monado blade, a weapon that can hurt the Mechon, Shulk soon gains the power to wield the mighty weapon. Using the Monado, Shulk sets out to bring the fight to the Mechon, taking the journey with multiple allies along the way. The adventure eventually transforms into something as grand as the two dead titans it takes place on, offering an unforgettable JRPG tale.
Since the Monado is the only weapon effective against Mechon, it creates a bit of strategy for combat. Players will fight enemies in real-time, with some attacks automated while players move around the field. They’ll have access to combat arts as well, which they can manually activate and use to gain the upper hand in battle. Using the Monado’s evolving powers, players will also be able to see into the future, which plays a part in combat too. Every so often, Shulk will get a vision to a powerful attack, and depending on the player’s actions, they can change the future. This adds an interesting dynamic to combat that makes it feel unique to other JRPGs.
With the Mechon being immune to normal weapons, the Monado has to enchant the other party member weapons to make for a fair fight. Luckily, some combat arts that use ether don’t fall under this rule. Special Mechon have their own rules as well, making certain battles more about survival. Using various combat arts, players can even topple enemies and use the chance to deal devastating damage. Players will even gain the ability to use chain attacks, which allows for a string of several combat arts in a row. Combat is definitely engaging, and it takes a bit of tactical ingenuity to perform well.
Outside of battle, players will have a large open world to explore. There are many areas that exemplify variety and give off a really cool atmosphere, made even cooler by the fact you’re roaming around on giant beings. With many areas to uncover, the game offers a ton of quests that will range from defeating specific enemies to collecting certain items. Since the game world offers an open approach, there will be many strong enemies that players may want to avoid. Defeating these enemies are usually connected to a quest, but it also gives a good sense of accomplishment to take down the ones you once feared.
Being a remaster, the game makes huge strides making the jump to high definition. Characters are redone to look more aesthetically pleasing, and environments, which were already awe-inspiring, look incredible. That is to say until you play in portable mode, which cuts resolution for performance. It’s an unfortunate sacrifice, but playing in TV mode is still an excellent experience. While the game does look better, there are still a few remnants of the ten year old original. The most noticeable element would be the animation, which seems for the most part unchanged. While the new textures and crisper resolution improve the look, it clashes with some of the older animation. The new textures are leaps and bounds better, but some still feel like slight upgrades to the originals.
As far as gameplay changes go, there are a lot of quality-of-life improvements to consider here. The UI has been overhauled to a much more manageable system, making navigation much easier. Side quests and objectives are now marked on the mini-map, and players even have an improved guide to take them to their next plot objective. Players can even activate a new auto-run feature, which is incredibly useful. You can even choose their ideal outfit for your characters, regardless of the equipment they wear. Another useful change comes in the form of a new indicator during combat. Players are now alerted to a “chance” when they are in the prime position for various combat arts. This makes it much easier to perform the various abilities and take full advantage of your skills. The added health bars to the combat UI are a welcome change as well.
The already beautiful music gets even better, as most of the soundtrack gets the remaster treatment. Players can switch between the original or new versions whenever they wish, giving the best possible outcome. While the voice work remains unchanged, players will have access to both English and Japanese options. They’ll even be able to turn it off if they so choose. This becomes especially useful during combat, as a lot of the dialogue gets repetitive. Oddly enough, some of the dialogue doesn’t feel like it mixes well with the remastered audio. It was only during some cutscenes, but it was enough to notice a slight issue. Speaking of cutscenes, the game offers a theater mode to relive the hours upon hours of cinematics.
While the game gets a lot of improvements and changes, other features could’ve used an upgrade or overhaul. Crafting gems still feels like a chore and takes away from the game. Being able to find gems like materia in Final Fantasy VII would’ve been a better solution. Even though the mechanic could be simpler, it’s undeniable that it’s a deep system. There’s also the skill link tree, which uses affinity coins to let characters borrow skills. It doesn’t feel like an engaging progression, though it does give a gameplay reason for the affinity between characters. As that builds, more Heart-to-Heart events open up, giving good character moments and development. It’s just too bad the skills don’t seem all that necessary.
Once you finish the 100+ hour campaign, you’ll be ready for perhaps the biggest addition to Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, the new epilogue. Taking place a year after the events of the main campaign, Xenoblade Chronicles: Future Connected puts Shulk and his friend Melia on a new adventure. Joined by two Nopon allies, this epilogue adds even more hours to your JRPG adventure. For those that want to jump right in, they can start the epilogue without the need to complete the campaign. While there aren’t too many changes to the gameplay, there are some notable differences.
For starters, the story takes place in new area on the Bionis’ shoulder. The future sight mechanic is also completely absent from the combat, mainly due to story reasons. Gone are the Mechon enemies, meaning there’s no longer a need to enchant weapons to fight with. Chain attacks are replaced by new special cinematic attacks called Union Strikes, which honestly feel more entertaining, so that’s a plus. The Skill Link system is also absent, simplifying the overall structure. Finally, I have to talk about Nene and Kino, the new Nopon party members. Let’s just say you may need to raise your tolerance levels for them. If you don’t like Riki in the main campaign, these two might truly test your limits. At least with the Japanese audio, it’s not nearly as bad.
While the story of Future Connected doesn’t feel quite as engaging as the main story, it’s still an entertaining addition. At the very least, it gives a bit more time with two characters you may have grown to enjoy. While it only offers another 15+ hours, that’s a lot of content to add to an already enormous game. It’s just part of what makes Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition the full experience. Not even Xenoblade Chronicles 3D can make that claim now.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition may not be a “new” game, but it’s definitely the best way to experience this story. Remaster or not, the quality-of-life changes and new epilogue make it a much more enjoyable time. While the game may take a few visual hits in portable mode, it’s still playable and helps to grind out that extra experience. With an incredible world to explore and several great characters, there’s no better time to jump into Xenoblade Chronicles. If you’re a fan of JRPGs and you haven’t played Xenoblade yet, you owe it to yourself to start now.
Final Score: 9 out of 10