Xenoblade Chronicles Revisited

With an impending sequel now imminent, and the original available in handheld form, it is time to revisit this hidden gem and take a look into how it captured our hearts.  

Pictured:  Half of the world map...Plus some grass at the bottom there.

So what is Xenoblade Chronicles all about?  Well, it can be hard to describe.  It starts out with a playable introduction of Man vs Machines, of one confident man and an inexplicably powerful weapon. Through the use of this weapon he is able to defeat them, though he struggles to control it's power.  Of course, this is just to set the scene, an image of times gone by depicting a hero bravely fighting off an advancing robotic horde.  Well, that is one of the images shown, however the game soon revolves around the ability to control the aforementioned weapon - the Monado.

Get used to hearing that name.  After discovering the protagonist, Shulk, can wield this, the story arcs in the sword's direction.  After peeling away at some obvious layers, and some less so, it moves along at quite a good pace.  The voice acting is actually very effective, and the interactions between characters can be quite believable at times.  You're even encouraged to view each of their interactions in 'heart to heart' areas, unlocked if you increase their friendship levels.

All of this would unfortunately grind to a halt, however, were it not for the excellent gameplay systems put in place.  The combat is an intuitive mix of real time movement and menu based action selections.  Think Kingdom Hearts but with a slower, more meaningful movement system.  

Pictured:  A leg.

This movement system really comes into play when considering the archetypes at your disposal - One character is quite obviously a tank archetype, and whilst you can choose to control him if you wish, new players with predominantly control Shulk, a heavy dps archetype.  It is not uncommon to find yourself in the position of facing a difficult enemy considering whether to attack from the side to inflict a debuff, or the back for major damage.  Do I knock this enemy over, or perhaps attempt to poison it?  Should I save my major heal, or burn it now and hope the cooldown is over by the time I need it again?  These are all decisions required in the heat of the moment, where getting it wrong will mean a restart.  However when you get it right, and your team of three work in tandem to down a rare spawn, it will feel very rewarding.

Rewarding feelings not good enough?  Well, luckily there is a fully fleshed out loot system, replete with rare drops, armour pieces and even gems to slot into your equipment for extra effects.  Collectable items sparkle in each zone encouraging the perfectionist in you to, well, collect them all. 

Pictured:  A Dance Apple... No I am not making these up.

I could go on.  I could extol the virtues of the break system, the tiered skill system that encourages party diversity, the post end game super bosses, the sheer massive size of the map.  Alas, the space available here and indeed the words within are not fully capable of describing this masterpiece.  With it now faithfully converted to run on the 3DS, there is no excuse to miss out.  Buy it.  Love it.  You're welcome.


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