After playing Xenoblade for a seemingly immeasurable number of hours, I can think of only one word to describe this game: Vast. Xenoblade may be the longest game for the Wii yet and it rivals the lengths of many 360 and PS3 epics. The game is packed full of content and it is extremely easy to spend days putting off the main quest in favor of side ventures.
Xenoblade has a gorgeous art style. The environments are lush, vibrant, expansive. and incredibly diverse from each other. The game takes place on the dead bodies of two warring gods. This is the craziest premise that I have ever heard of for a setting, and yet it works perfectly here, providing so many amazing areas. Would the game look better on an HD system? It might, but so much other content would have to be trimmed to stay within the same budget. I’ll take a better, but slightly uglier game. Console JRPGs just do not exist like this anymore. I think that Xenoblade may be their swan song. The development cost is too high for many developers who now opt to put their JRPGs on portables.
Each area is expansive and teeming with monsters. Many will not go out of their way to attack and only fight back when threatened; some will attack on site. Each area has monsters with a very wide range of levels. In the first area there were enemies about 70 levels above me. Your party fills typical job classes. There’s a healer, a tank, a mage, and several others. You’re free to customize your party with any three characters, even removing the main character if you so desire. The player controls the leader of the group while the computer controls the two other party members. Attacks have no inherit cost to them, but require a cool down time of varying seconds or even minutes before they can be reused. Dying in battle merely returns you to the last landmark that you passed with no ill effect other than having to re-cross a bit of terrain.
Xenoblade has far to0 many side quests and other diversions. Many are the standard trope of kill x monsters or find y items. While these quests are not terribly exciting many can be accepted and then fulfilled without having to return to the quest’s originator. This makes them slightly less annoying. The quests are not essential and it would take a long time to search out and complete every one. The quests usually only offer exp, money, or some basic items. Depending on how many quests you do and how many people you talk to, your rank and reputation in an area will go up. Each party member has an affinity rating with each other member that can be raised by fighting together, giving items, or by viewing unique scenes called heart-to-hearts. The game world operates on a 24 hour clock that gives the world mornings, days, and nights. Certain people, monsters, and quests can only be found at distinct times. Thankfully the game gives you the option to change the time at any point. This allows for a more flavorful world without detracting from the game play. One little touch that the game adds is changing your characters appearance based on different armor and weapons. I love when games alters a characters appearance based on equipment. Xenoblade even shows these changes in cut scenes.
The story of the game is standard JRPG fluff, but kept interesting enough to keep you engaged. The main character, Shulk, is on a quest for revenge after seeing his hometown attacked. The plot gets more complicated as the story progresses, but revenge is always an underlying theme. The aspect that really gives the game soul is the English accents. The game has been ported right from its European release to America with the same voice over. Each character has a very distinct accent. The characters talk to each other in cut scenes and in battles. This leads to one of my biggest complaints with the game. The lip synching in cut scenes is horrendous. No effort was put into it. It is incredibly jarring until you learn to look away from their mouths. I don’t know if the mouths were programmed for the Japanese voice over or if they just do not match up at all with spoken words. Either way it is a big disappointment.
Xenoblade is unfortunately one of the last of its kind. This game and The Last Story may be the last big console JRPGs for a while. If you were a fan of the genre especially during the SNES, PS1 and PS2 heyday, then you owe it to yourself to pick up and play this game.