Roughly a decade ago, there were concerns over whether or not Xenoblade would even make it over to the West. Thankfully for JRPG fans over on this hemisphere, it did. What would spawn from that decision would be a series of games with millions of sales and a loyal fanbase. A decade later, in 2020, we now get to relive the original Xenoblade Chronicles thanks to its definitive edition and all the improvements it brings.
Xenoblade Chronicles focuses on discovering the origins of Shulk as he and his companions clash against a seemingly unstoppable mechanical menace. Shulk wields a future-seeing blade, chains together attacks, and carefully positions your party members in strategic, real-time combat as you journey across a massive world.
From a technical standpoint, the immediate disappointment of the definitive edition is resolution. Disappointingly, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition runs at 504p and 720p when docked, dropping to a 540p-378p window when playing in portable mode. By 2020 standards, it cannot be overstated how disappointing this is and just highlights the limitations of the Switch hardware. As far as frame rate is concerned, I’m glad to be able to report the game runs at a smooth 30FPS with only very infrequent drops.
When it originally released all the way back on the Nintendo Wii, Xenoblade Chronicles was a technical marvel at what was possible on Nintendo Wii hardware. For the entire lifespan of that console, Xenoblade serves as the highlight of one of the best and biggest games on the Nintendo Wii.
Almost a decade later on the Nintendo Switch, the game is as big and beautiful as ever. Environments in particular definitely benefit from the more powerful Nintendo Switch hardware, but there are some assets from the original Wii version still prevalent in this definitive edition.
From a technical standpoint, it presents a welcome upgrade with some limitations. However, from a gameplay perspective, the definitive edition feels just as good as the first time round. Xenoblade Chronicles, like any RPG worth its salt, must nail the following three aspects: combat, characters, and the world. When an RPG nails all three of these aspects, it is a recipe for success.
Firstly, the world of Xenoblade Chronicles is a massive world to get lost in, and get lost in it you will. Its world is huge and welcomes you to explore every corner it has to offer. The world is a mashup of fantasy and sci-fi, which is a consequence of the world’s origin; an almighty clash between two Titans, the Bionis and the Mechonis, the sound of their battle was shaking the sea bed and sending ripples through the air.
As the duel reached its climax, the Titans poured their remaining strength into one last slash of their great swords. Both struck forth with immeasurable power. Once the dust had settled, only their corpses remained. Eons later, biological and mechanical life started to spawn on their respective sides.
In terms of combat, what we see in Xenoblade is a mash-up of real time action-oriented combat but also with the damage numbers that MMOs/JRPGs are known for. I personally prefer the more action-oriented combat, but there’s also a surprising amount of tactics for the traditionalists out there.
Shulk’s squad-mates are AI-controlled and perform a series of auto-attacks to support you in combat. Shulk also has a unique ability allowing him to see momentarily into the future, allowing you to avoid an otherwise fatal attack.
Character relationships are at the heart of any good RPG game. JRPGs such as Final Fantasy and the Persona series routinely demonstrate just how much better a game is with strong character relationships between the main cast and supporting actors.
Shulk gradually meets new party members along the way – and ends up on a party of 7. Of course, there are other important characters you meet and interact with along the way. Voice acting is also top-notch, which helps elevate all these relationships to a higher level.
The original 50+ hour long story would be enough on its own, yet the Definitive Edition also delivers an entirely new 12-or-so hour long epilogue of all brand new story content. The new epilogue, Xenoblade Chronicles: Future Connected, takes place one year after the main story and delves deeper into the relationship between Shulk and Melia in the face of a mysterious new threat.
In the epilogue, Shulk and Melia have find out the discovery of the Imperial City of Alcamoth located near the Bionis’ Shoulder, in previously unexplored territory. Shulk and Melia embark on a journey to reclaim Melia’s home, only to be shot out of the sky by a mysterious rift above Alcamoth. Shulk and Melia start to investigate the mysterious Fog King who has taken over Alcamoth and learn more about those who survived and have made the Bionis’ Shoulder their new home.
As a definitive edition of an already amazing game, Xenoblade Chronicles continues to shine. Whilst still let down by subpar hardware, the entire package of the world, the characters and the intense combat really ensures Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition cements itself as a must-have for any RPG fans and Switch owners.
Developer: Monolith Soft
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 29th May 2020
Gaming Respawn’s copy of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition was supplied by the publisher.