Joystick: “Xenoblade Chronicles” hits U.S.

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

I love the power of the people.

Thanks to thousands of ardent video game fans, one of the most interesting-looking Japanese RPGs in recent memory comes stateside Friday, April 6.

Nintendo Wii title “Xenoblade Chronicles” looks like an interesting beast. It’s the brainchild of Monolith Soft, which is headed by Square Enix alum Tetsuya Takahashi. That means “Xenoblade” has a prestigious pedigree. Never mind that Takahashi did graphic work on cult classics like “Secret of Mana,” “Final Fantasy V, VI, VII,” and “Xenogears” at Square. Monolith Soft is the company behind the thought-provoking “Xenosaga” series, famous for its heavy emphasis on religion and philosophy — not to mention its somewhat ridiculous plot.

“Xenoblade” is a departure from “Xenosaga.”

The game takes place in a world where people co-exist with machines on long-dead titanic creatures. “Xenoblade” earned rave reviews for its open-world atmosphere, as well as its action-type battle system and plot. Yet for all its strengths, the game wasn’t even slated for a U.S. release.

It took a giant protest by die-hard fans to bring the game over, even after Nintendo of America announced it wouldn’t offer a North American localization in the summer of 2011, long after the game had been released in Japan and Europe the previous year. U.S. fans pleaded with Nintendo and made the game an imported best-seller on Amazon in June 2011.

Since then, fans have had to wait for “Xenoblade” and Hironobu Sakaguchi’s “The Last Story,” both titles people sought from Nintendo.

Time will tell whether either game will sell well, as cult J-games with big Internet buzz have flopped more than they’ve succeeded in recent memory (see “Shadows of the Damned”).

Regardless, it’s good to see some life breathed into the JRPG genre. I know this column tends to extol Japanese games a little too much, but for gamers who like a little depth and don’t mind putting in the hours, “Xenoblade” looks to amaze and impress

—Look for a review of “Xenoblade Chronicles” next week.

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