Saturday, 5 November 2011

Xenoblade Chronicles Review

2011 has been dark times for Nintendo's Wii. Personally I can't recall a single game worth buying on British shores. I could say it's to be expected towards the end of a consoles life, but then I see Portal 2, L.A. Noire, and countless other games on other consoles, so this can't be the case. Luckily enough, the Wii has this. While Wii owners may have spent the better part of a year finding their consoles simply collect dust, once again we have a gem to play.
The premise is quite unlike any game that has come before. The star of the show, Shulk, is a homs(this world's humans) who lives atop a giant titan, the Bionis. It once waged war with the Mechonis, another titan but eventually the battle ceased and life prospered on both titans. The inhabitants of Mechonis, the Mechon, launch an assault on the Bionis city of Colony 9, which for reasons I won't explain due to spoilers result in Shulk leaving on a quest to defeat the Mechon. All hope seems lost, but there is a sole hope in the Monado - a powerful blade that has the ability to seamlessly destroy any Mechonis threat where other weaponry would fail. It may seem like a typical JRPG storyline of Boy with powerful sword beats overwhelming odds, but there's so much more. This game's plot took me and didn't let me go until the very end. It's gripping. I won't shy away from admitting I shed a tear multiple times. I won't spoil anything of course, but once you enter you need to find out what happens next. Some of the plot elements are predictable, but many are not and nonetheless it is interesting throughout.
So the story gets 10/10, but gameplay must match it. It was widely believed that combat had stagnated in JRPG's, but Xenoblade Chronicles throws away this idea. You have a series of "arts" that you can execute in battle on various cooldowns to smite your foes. Each character will specialise in something different, and you can choose which arts to take to battle, so while one persons Reyn may be there to absorb damage another could just hit hard. I really can't do it justice through words alone, but it's fun. Really fun. It does not tire as the game goes on thanks to new tactics needed and new skills acquired. I have a criticism that the main character, Shulk, has little customisation as to which skills to use. While you can choose where your specialisations lie, the arts themselves stay the same. You'll probably be playing as Shulk, so it's annoying to have a lack of customization where there are several spare skills on each other character where you may not know which is best. Regardless, this is a small qualm, as I still enjoyed the game with the skills I had, and thanks to the Monado he does have more skills at any one time than each of his comrades.
For a Wii game, it looks good. Perhaps I've been spoilt by seeing how well Final Fantasy XIII can run on the PS3, so I had to adjust to the Wii's level. But this fault is not with the game but the system, so is irrelevant for the review. For its console, it looks good. Even with the restrictions, there are some simply breathtaking views in the game that really do make you question which console you're on. Elsewhere production is a little off, with occasional discrepancies between what characters are saying and what the subtitles read. Sometimes the voice synch is a little off too. But I only noticed because I was looking, it really does not matter. Where the game really excels is in its soundtrack. All the songs fit the mood perfectly, and some are truly awesome. When entering an expansive field not only does the view impress, but the music alongside it really gives that epic feeling.
All in all, this game is brilliant. I have so much I could say, but in doing so would ruin something for you. I'll end with this. Buy it. It's one of the best Wii games out there. I hope America gets it soon.

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