Developer: Monolith Soft
Release Date: 3/25/2015
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Highly ambitious open world RPGs don’t really exist on handhelds. There just hasn’t been the technology to support them. Porting an open Wii game over to the 3DS was a bold move and nothing that has never really been done before. Using the more advanced CPU in the New 3DS, Xenoblade Chronicles shines and becomes a nearly perfect port.
The game has actually quite an entertaining and deep story, definitely something you will want to stick through and see to the end. The story of Xenoblade Chronicles starts off by showing the battle between Mechonis and Bionis, two gods fighting for all eternity. They continue to fight until Bionis cuts off Mechonis’ left hand, and then both of their swords pierce each other at the same time. Over time, life flourished on top of these gods, but the battle waged between Mechonis and Bionis would be continued by their progeny, Bionis’ Homs and Mechonis’ Mechon.
Eons later in Sword Valley, the Homs army is fighting off a Mechon invasion. The Homs are quickly losing ground and are forced to retreat to Colony 6 where they will put up a last stand. Dunban, the current wielder of the legendary Monado, decides to ignore orders and engages the Mechon forces with Dickson and Mumkhar. Mumkhar runs away and plans to return after Dickson and Dunban have died to collect the Monado; however, he is killed by the Mechon after running into their base. With the Monado, the only weapon that can pierce Mechon armor, Dunban and Dickson are able to push back and destroy all the Mechon, leaving the Homs victorious and earning Dunban the title of “Hero of the Homs”. Unfortunately, Dunban was not able to fully control the Monado, and after the battle, he was unable to use his right arm and almost died from his injuries.
The story just gets deeper and more involved as the story goes on and it’s fantastic. Outside of the story, this is an open world RPG that allows you to traverse massive areas around Bionis. These massive areas have stunning vistas and can sometimes take up to 10 minutes just to walk across from end to end, and again, that’s just one area out of dozens. One of the game’s biggest downfalls is that there’s not much to do or see in the massive areas. In towns you can pick up side quests, however, these suffer from standard JRPG tropes and become almost too monotonous and repetitive to do them all. There are spots you can get to know your characters better, but you have to meet weird conditions to do so, there are items to pick up all over the place to sell and that’s about it. I loved these open areas, but they were so boring to traverse through. There are enemies spread all over the place, and that’s when combat comes in.
The game has quite a unique combat system that revolves around executing set moves in a strategic way. You can control any one character at a time and executing moves that range from passive, defensive, and offensive is key to winning boss fights. This is one tough game, and I have had it for nearly a year and I still haven’t beaten it. The game requires an insane amount of grinding and finding skill books to level up your powers. Characters learn moves through combat and you can level them up, but each skill has a cap and you have to increase that by buying books at certain stores to make them more powerful. Nowhere in the game does it explain this and I learned the hard way later on. Finding these stores is nearly impossible on your own and requires internet research. This type of JRPG is just frustrating and annoying and makes the game less enjoyable.
While the combat system is fun and fast paced it just feel limited in scope. You have to balance out your party members or you will die often. You need a healer, and at least one power heavy character or you will be annihilated. However, you can’t just spam moves and win as you need to hit enemies from certain angles. There are linked chain attacks, but the Monado is your secret weapon. You can use the power to protect allies from main attacks, and most of all, predict when an enemy will use a powerful attack, and it will tell you who it will hit and how much time you have. It’s then your job to warn that character or use the Manado to protect them. The downside to this is that it messes with the flow of battle as it stops everything dead, shows you the attack in slow motion, then goes back to the battle. The battles get interrupted over a dozen times and it drove me insane as I had a good flow going and the controls would get yanked from me.
Battles also tend to drag out as this isn’t an easy game. Some monsters will actually be 10x your level and show as red health bars so you know to stay away and come back much later in the game. This is just a hardcore RPG through and through and you must devote several dozen hours of your time to finish this game as it is quite long. This isn’t exactly designed for handheld gaming sessions, but most fans of the genre will appreciate what is being done here.
Actually knowing where to go is also not a problem as you always have a quest arrow and if you hit a level wall you can backtrack and grind which is the worst part about the game. Outside of all that the graphics are quite nice with huge draw distances and lots of detail, but everything was just ported over and smushed down rather than being remastered. The game has muddy ugly textures that are some of the worst I have ever seen, and the character models are just so bad. From a distance when you’re playing normally you won’t notice, but during cut scenes, the ugliness ensues and it’s cringe worthy. There are some nice street pass options that will transfer items to your collection and you can save anywhere which is another plus.
Overall, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is a game that is too ambitious for its own good and you can clearly tell. With beautiful open vistas and nothing to do in them to heavy level grinding and slightly clunky combat that is a bit too involved for this type of game. The game is butt ugly up close and the added 3D effect is completely useless and doesn’t work with the game at all. The story and characters are pretty amazing, but the length and investment in this game is so over the top for a handheld that only hardcore JRPG fan s will carve out time for it.