Are you looking for a new game series on the Switch to sink your teeth into? A series that has engrossing stories and gameplay? Well Xenoblade Chronicles has you covered. For this first part of Xenoblade Retrospective, I will be analyzing the first Xenoblade Chronicles. I will cover its various aspects like the story, graphics, music, and gameplay. These elements blend together to create an immersive experience—one that can be considered one of the best experiences on the Switch. Keep in mind that this analysis is spoiler-free and will only cover early-game material. Xenoblade means a lot to me and I want others to experience the game’s surprises as they come along. The next part of Xenoblade Retrospective will be focused on Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and as for Xenoblade Chronicles X, unfortunately I currently don’t have the means to play it. However, if the opportunity arises I’ll gladly make an article for it too.
Before I move onto the analysis, you may be wondering: what is Xenoblade Chronicles? It’s a JRPG game series that started back in 2010 on the Wii with the first installment, Xenoblade Chronicles. At first the game was exclusive to Japan, but with the help of a major fan campaign it was eventually released overseas. Nowadays, Xenoblade is Monolith Soft’s most successful IP with Xenoblade Chronicles 2 being their best selling game yet and the series having multiple characters in Smash (Shulk and Pyra/Mythra). And with Xenoblade Chronicles 3 coming out in September, now is a good time to get into the series. With all that said, let’s go ahead and examine this first chronicle.
Overview of The Titanic Worlds
The first thing I’ll discuss is the premise. Xenoblade Chronicles takes place on the inanimate bodies of two Titans: the Bionis and the Mechonis. The Bionis is an organic creature home to biological lifeforms. The Mechonis is a mechanical giant inhabited by a robotic race called Mechon. The prologue begins by showing the inhabitants of these Titans engaged in a perpetual war. During this segment, you play as Dunban, a warrior from the Homs race of the Bionis. The Homs are human-like beings. Dunban utilizes the powerful Monado as the player defends the Bionis from an invasion of Mechon. The game sets a tone of desperation as you battle waves of enemies and watch your allies struggle to fend off the herd. The prologue ends with a wide shot of Dunban running deeper into the battlefield with an army of Mechon in front of him. This view gives the players a sense of the scale of this major war.
As Chapter 1 starts, you meet the main protagonist Shulk. He is a smart and strong-hearted young man who spends his time doing research on weapons. The game slows down here and introduces you to the peaceful Colony 9 on Bionis and its likable cast of characters. The cast includes Shulk’s childhood friends, Reyn and Fiora. Reyn is a strong guy with a big heart while Fiora is sweet and thoughtful. The player also gets more information on the Monado, a mysterious blade capable of bending to its user’s will. Though, no one has been able to handle it without injury so far. That is until one day a group of Mechon attacks Colony 9 with no warning. The mechanical foes are now immune to conventional weapons like guns and they storm the colony. During the midst of the invasion, Shulk taps into the Monado’s power (the only thing that can damage the Mechon at this point) and manages to drive off the Mechon, but not without heavy casualties. Shulk then sets out with his best friend Reyn to get revenge on the Mechon.
The first two chapters set up the main conflict of the game and start the story off strong with a tragic event that makes you feel for the characters. There is also some dialogue at the end that provides some clever foreshadowing (something you’ll see often in the game). In addition, the chapters build intrigue as Shulk is the only person to use the Monado without any harm and makes the player wonder why Shulk is unique. Overall, the first two chapters are a great introduction to the game that sells you on the characters and reels you into the story. That is as far as I will go for the story itself but trust me when I say it’s an unforgettable ride with some mind-blowing twists.
Next up are the graphics. Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition gave the game a makeover and it looks better than ever. The environments in the original Wii game already looked good despite the hardware, but now the levels have a much greater array of detail and lighting. The colors are sharp and the textures look more appealing. All the locations from Colony 9 to the Satorl Marsh look gorgeous. But another improvement which is equally as important are the character models. This was the biggest complaint that many fans had with the previous versions of the game and the Switch version remedies this. The character models were given a major upgrade, as well as the facial animations which have been improved to provide more nuance. These updates make the emotional cutscenes hit harder than they already did. All in all, Monolith Soft did a wonderful job remastering the game to make it look much closer to a modern game, providing some breathtaking scenery that flexes the Switch’s horsepower.
(Top: Definitive Edition; Bottom: Original Wii release)
Speaking of environments, you can’t forget about the major component that accompanies them: the music. The soundtrack for Xenoblade Chronicles is composed mostly by Yoko Shimomura (Street Fighter II, Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy XV, etc.) as well as Manami Kiyota and the music group ACE+. The latter two have composed remixes for the Super Smash Bros series. With an impressive team of music composers on board it’s no surprise that the music for Xenoblade Chronicles slaps. The music that plays when you are exploring is exquisite. When you walk into Gaur Plains for the first time and hear its theme start playing, it’s a magical moment. The music invokes adventure and wonder and it fits with the view of cliffs off in the distance, giving a sense of scale. Another example of an immersive track is Satorl Marsh which contains different instruments like a piano and a high amount of bass to provide a relaxing, yet upbeat tune.
But it’s not just the environmental music that is memorable: the battle and cutscene tracks are amazing as well. You Will Know Our Names is one of the best songs in the whole series in my opinion. It’s fast-paced and invokes feelings of danger and courage at the same time. Other notable battle themes include An Obstacle In Our Path and Time to Fight! (Future Connected). As for the cutscene music, Engage The Enemy is the standout. It plays during a lot of critical parts of the story and elevates the scenes. And as if the music wasn’t great enough, Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition remixes the majority of the songs. Most of the remixes are good, but if you don’t like them then you have the option of toggling on the original versions for battle or exploration music. Overall, Xenoblade Chronicles has a phenomenal soundtrack that manages to be fire while simultaneously mesmerizing the player and/or making them emotional.
Moving onto the gameplay. Xenoblade Chronicles offers a ton of lively areas to explore, from the iconic Gaur Plains to the lush Makna Forest. Exploration involves finding landmarks which give you XP and fast travel points. Secret areas can be discovered for major sums of XP. Furthermore, there are unique monsters that provide you with not just a lot of XP but also excellent equipment as well. This equipment can be equipped with gems that boost your stats. As for the battle system itself it’s comparable to MMOs where you have a row of arts, which serve different purposes such as hitting a row of enemies in front of you or giving your party a buff. You will eventually get more than three party members, which is the maximum you can have fighting at once. Each playable character fills their own niche when it comes to contributing to combat, so experimentation is encouraged. The beauty of the battle system is that it allows you to make the combat as simple or complex as you want. You can brute force your way through your opponents or equip a bunch of arts that debuff your enemies into oblivion. On the whole, the game allows for a wide range of playstyles. And if combat ever gets too difficult you can turn on casual mode so you can continue experimenting, or you can bump it up to expert mode for a challenge.
Finally, I will go over the various improvements and content that the definitive edition introduces to improve the experience of the original game. There are some quality of life updates such as auto-run. With the press of a button your character will now run on their own, allowing you to relax while marveling at landscapes. Another major improvement comes in the form of clear map markers for significant items, as well as waypoints for some side quests. One other appreciated change is the fact that you can choose what to wear without it affecting your stats. For example, you can put on high tier equipment while having the characters wear their standard uniform. And in general the HUD has been streamlined such as on the battle or equipment screens.
As for brand new content, the definition edition adds Time Attack Mode. This mode introduces time trials where you have to defeat a certain number of enemies before the clock runs out. The trials are rated based on overall performance in battle. For your efforts, you are rewarded with a new currency called Noponstones which can be exchanged for unique gear and items. But the biggest inclusion to Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition is Future Connected. This is a brand new epilogue where you explore a new area. It has its own missions and side content to discover. The storyline of Future Connected hints at what will happen in Xenoblade Chronicles 3, though it remains to be seen how they will link together.
In regards to length, Xenoblade Chronicles will take you about 50-60 hours to beat the main story and 100+ hours to complete. Future Connected will last you roughly 12+ hours. So there is plenty of content to enjoy here. Plus, fans who have played previous versions of the game will enjoy the new content and quality of life improvements.
On the whole, Xenoblade Chronicles is a wonderful experience. The locations are dazzling, the story is heartfelt, the characters are so likable it’s hard not to get attached to them, and the music is memorable. Plus the combat is customizable enough to appeal to players with different tastes and skill levels. Combine those factors with the Switch version’s quality of life upgrades and new content, and you have a title that stands on its own against its open-world brethren like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. Xenoblade Chronicles is not just a game; it’s an experience, one that will tug at your heartstrings and may even make you reevaluate how you view various aspects of life. And for that, it’s one of the Switch’s best offerings.
Editors: @Sari, @Ze Diglett, @Zerp
Thumbnail Graphic: @Zerp
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