Joystick: “Xenoblade” a solid RPG effort

Published 10:43 am Thursday, April 12, 2012

Screenshot of "Xenoblade Chronicles." Image provided by Nintendo.

“Xenoblade Chronicles”

4 out of 5

Rated T for Teen: Wii

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Genre: Action RPG

•Much-hyped game delivers plenty of action.

•Game structure feels fresh and retro at the same time.

•Battle system takes away from a beautiful experience.


After all the hype, “Xenoblade Chronicles” is here.

The game, developed by Monolith Soft, is simultaneously a throwback to Playstation-era RPGs and an advance in the action-RPG genre.

The game opens as humans fight for survival atop two long-dead titanic beings, which make the frame of their world. To survive, humans must unlock the power of an ancient sword before they’re exterminated by the machines.

“Xenoblade” is an intricate title despite its PS1-style graphics. Your character goes around on numerous quests to help people while advancing the story, similar to a Massive Multiplayer Online game. The scenery and scope of the game world is breathtaking, far better than anything people could have dreamed of 15 years ago.

Characters level up in unique ways, gaining experience and skill points through battles, quest completion, and exploration. Though the menu system looks daunting at first, players will memorize the various pages soon enough.

What’s exciting about this game is its tweaks to standard RPG fare. Players get to use the Monado, the ancient sword of power (read: ultimate weapon) fairly early on, which is a smart turn from conventional fare where players search for better weapons for most of the game.

While you still have to unlock the Monado’s power, the format comes off as fresh compared to most titles.

Other tweaks include getting immediately rewarded for completing sidequests, as opposed to running all the way back to town and giving materials/proof to the NPCs who asked you to run errands. I enjoyed the localization, as Nintendo ported its United Kingdom localization to the U.S. instead of hiring standard American actors. The voices feel fresh and new, lending feeling to the game experience.

The game is not without its faults, however. The plot at times feels hackneyed, and players might not see all the action in a cutscene depending on the time of day they progress the game. Story quests are always highlighted at the top of the screen whenever players are exploring, and there is nothing players can do to get rid of the errant text.

What’s particularly frustrating is the battle system.

This game is clearly inspired by MMORPGs, but the developers took all the fun and strategy out of fighting things. There is no real strategy, although your attacks hit harder depending on where you hit your enemies. You can give basic orders to your teammates and can set which attacks they can use, but you don’t have direct control over them. You can also draw enemies to you or temporarily paralyze them, depending on what attacks you use.

All that means battles are often a matter of waiting as opposed to a matter of strategy. You can select special attacks all day long, but enemies will wipe the floor with you if you’re underleveled. It’s frustrating to know you can’t effectively speed-run through the game. Case-in-point: One of the early monster sidequests is impossible to beat until you’re about five levels higher than the monster in question.

Overall, the game is a great addition to the Wii. It may not live up to all of the hype, but it’s a solid RPG effort and a blast to play.