Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition – Review
Follow Genre: JRPG
Developer: Monolith Software Inc.
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Switch
Tested on: Switch

Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition – Review

Site Score
9.5
Good: An incredible 100+ hour journey that holds up even after 10 years
Bad: Graphics performance struggles occasionally
User Score
9.5
(2 votes)
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Rating: 9.5/10 (2 votes cast)

When Xenoblade Chronicles originally released on the Wii, it received universal praise from critics, but it failed to capture the audience’s attention, becoming a niche title. The game got a second chance in 2015, when it was ported to the New 3DS, but the massive world proved too much for Nintendo’s portable system to handle properly. Since then, the Xenoblade franchise has become more mainstream, thanks to 2017’s Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Shulk’s presence in the Super Smash Bros games. Xenoblade Chronicles’ Definitive Edition gives the world of the Bionis another chance to shine. Third time’s the charm?

Story

Xenoblade Chronicles offers a multi-layered and epic story, mostly told through cinematic cutscenes, which makes sense given the sheer size of the game. The game starts with an origin story explaining how the world of the Bionis came to be. A very long time ago, two massive titans, the Bionis and the Mechonis, were locked in a timeless combat, until the pair collapsed. Over time, the bodies of these titans turned into two continents. The Bionis became host to organic species, such as the Nopon and the human-like Homs, and the Mechonis became the home of the robotic Mechon race.

Xenoblade Chronicles is centered around a massive conflict between the Homs and the Mechon, as the robot race keeps attacking the colonies of the Homs seemingly mindlessly and for no reason. During the prologue, which introduces us to side-characters Dunban and Dickson, we learn about the mysterious Monado, a sword with the unique ability to cut through Mechon with ease, something ordinary Homs weapons cannot do. Dunban manages to drive off a Mechon invasion, and it seems like this time, the robot menace has gone for good. Time skips forward, and we meet our protagonist, Shulk, as well as his friends Reyn and Fiora. While the three are on a supply run, the Mechon reappear in a surprise attack, under the leadership of the mysterious Metal Face. The Homs of Colony 9 suffer considerable losses. Vowing revenge on Metal Face, Shulk, now wielding the Monado, embarks on a quest to eradicate the Mechon once and for all, accompanied by Reyn. Needless to say, this is just the beginning. We don’t want to give out spoilers, so we won’t discuss any more details, but things get complicated as you progress through the story. 

Graphics

With the arrival of Xenoblade Chronicles on the Switch, the game has finally found its true home. The original Wii release suffered from low resolution, making character models look blurry and textures muddy. The New Nintendo 3DS release, on the other hand, suffered from having screens that were just too small to allow the massive world to make an impression. The improved hardware of the Switch finally gives the game a chance to shine. Graphics look crisp and character models have been massively improved, even if they still look a bit clunky. The game performs reasonably well in handheld mode and the sprawling open world really comes into its own on the big screen. That’s not to say that the game runs smooth as butter though. The graphic enhancements really push the Switch to its limits, and even though the game only runs at 30 fps, at a resolution of 720p, you’ll still encounter the occasional frame drop during action-heavy scenes. Still, the Bionis has never looked better and the game really plays to its strengths. Arriving on the Gaur Plains for the first time has always been a majestic moment, but this time it’s jaw-dropping, and Satorl Marsh’s bioluminescent glow at night is hauntingly beautiful. 

Sound

A game of this size should be accompanied by an appropriate soundtrack, and Xenoblade Chronicles certainly delivers one. The game’s OST comes in at a whopping 298 minutes -that’s five hours of original tunes- and features some of the best video game music ever. The music adjusts not just to the story and the areas you are exploring, but to the time of day as well. Music has been fully remastered, but you have the option to play the original version as well, should you want to. There are slight differences between the remaster and the original, such as the drums being more prominent in the original version of Gaur Plains, so the option to switch between the two versions is appreciated.

The voice cast does an excellent job, although it has to be said that their accents are very British. Most of the cast are veteran voice actors, and they manage to bring the characters to life. The quotes during combat can be a bit repetitive -some have even become memes in their own right- but during the cutscenes, actors manage to put the right amount of emotion in their voices. The audio has been taken from the original and has been remastered. Jenna Coleman -of Doctor Who fame- has returned to record lines for the new side-story. We’re happy to see the franchise maintain this level of continuity 10 years in, as Monolith could’ve easily opted for a cheaper soundalike. 

Gameplay

With a main story that will take you upwards of 60 hours to play through and dozens of hours worth of side-quests and extra content, Xenoblade Chronicles offers an RPG experience of epic proportions. Xenoblade veterans will notice that the game sticks fairly close to its original incarnation, although many small quality-of-life updates aid the transition into the current generation. The shining star here is the new control scheme, as we’ve come a long way since the Wiimote. 

Those new to the Bionis might feel a bit overwhelmed during the opening stages of the game. Just like other massive RPGs, Xenoblade throws a lot of information your way, and the game’s combat system is pretty unique. It’s difficult to explain exactly how it works without going into way too much detail but we’ll try to explain the basics. Combat is fought in real-time, with up to two NPC team members helping you in taking down monsters. Basic attacks are performed automatically, so you won’t need to mash any buttons. Shulk (or whoever you are controlling at that time) will continuously do damage, provided he is in attack range. As this happens, energy is built up which you can use to perform special moves. These can be chained together with the moves of your team members to unleash devastating combos on your opponents. The key to defeating powerful enemies is using the right combo attacks at the right time, as well as positioning yourself to target enemy weak points. It’s a system that takes some time to master and the automatic attacks may feel weird and even ineffective while you’re still getting used to the system, but once you’re used to how it flows, chaining attacks becomes second nature. 

It’s not just in combat that Xenoblade Chronicles is an atypical JRPG. Most games have you level up your party by grinding combat after combat to earn experience points. Xenoblade Chronicles relies far less on combat experience. The key to gaining a lot of experience is in exploring the Bionis and completing lots of side-quests. Every new location you discover gives your party an experience boost. Side-quests don’t always give experience, but any experience points awarded for completion are clearly listed in the rewards. As defeating enemies tends to give only a handful of experience, the best way to level up quickly is to backtrack to earlier areas of the game and check if any new quests are available. These are marked with an exclamation mark on your map. Character stats are also influenced by the gear they are wearing, and the game allows you to customize these items with gems that buff your equipment. Additionally, the moves that your characters use can be upgraded as well. These features allow you to optimize your party to suit your playstyle. The game handles experience management fairly well, but if you really want, there’s an optional expert mode where you can transfer experience from one character to another as well. 

With the main story that will take you roughly 70 hours to complete, hundreds of side-quests, and a collectopedia, you’re looking at a game that can take up well over 200 hours of your time if you’re a completionist. As if that wasn’t enough, Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition adds a side-story that adds approximately 20 hours of content not present in the original game. This side-story is unlocked immediately, so returning fans of the series are able to start playing it without plowing through the game again. The game does lack the amiibo support from the N3DS version, but those unlocks were so minor that we can’t say we’re sad to see them go. Finally, if you are a newcomer and you feel like this amount of content is a bit intimidating, you can play the game in casual mode. This allows you to play through the game simply to enjoy the story without having to worry about party management. 

Conclusion

If you haven’t played Xenoblade Chronicles during the previous two iterations, but are a JRPG fan, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up. If you have played the game in the past, we don’t have to convince you just how good of a game this is, but we will assure you that the tweaks and updates really make this port worth revisiting Bionis, if only for the new content that has been added. Here’s hoping Monolith Soft gives us a port of Xenoblade Chronicles X in the future. 

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Rating: 9.5/10 (2 votes cast)
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Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition - Review, 9.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
Sebastiaan Raats
Sebastiaan Raats


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