WARNING: THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THE GAME’S MAIN PLOT!
This past year, I’ve been following a YouTube Let’s Play series of Xenoblade Chronicles, by Chuggaaconroy and man, did it look excellent then. The only problem was that the game was only in Europe and the US in a very limited supply and due to this, the cheapest you can currently find the Wii version of the game is around £60, which is more than what the game originally cost. However, back in August, Nintendo announced that Xenoblade Chronicles would be ported to the New Nintendo 3DS exclusively. Let’s just say I was jumping about like I was on a sugar rush with excitement for about 2 minutes after that announcement.
The game follows the story of Shulk, the party’s ‘glass cannon’ and his team consisting of Reyn, his best friend and the party’s tank; Fiora, his love interest and the party’s secondary damage dealer; Sharla, Reyn’s love interest and the party’s healer; Dunban, a stereotypical awesome character who wrecks everyone in sight and the party’s primary damage dealer; Riki, a hilarious little Nopon creature and the party’s all-rounded character and Melia, the future queen of one of the game’s many diverse factions and the party’s mage. The group explore the unique world of the Bionis and Mechonis, two titan-like beings who, after a long battle with each other, both froze and formed life on each other. The Bionis formed the life on normal beings, such as Homs (the humans), the High Entia (the high society humans) and the Nopon (I can’t even explain the Nopon) whereas the Mechonis formed the life of the Mechon, robot beings that are hell-bent on destroying all life on the Bionis. So does the game live up to its mighty descriptions and more importantly, is the port to the New Nintendo 3DS any good? Let’s find out.
In Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, you’ll primarily either be running around the vast, beautiful world of the Bionis or Mechonis or fighting anything from the local wildlife to giant Mechon beings. The game’s combat system is fairly simple, your character auto-attacks the enemy you are targeting when you get close enough and can use special abilities (called Arts) at your command which can have a number of different effects: Stat reduction, Poison which damages the target over time, Break which allows the use of Topple, which knocks the enemy over making them vulnerable and unable to attack for a few seconds and daze which prolongs the effects of topple etc. A lot of fairly standard JRPG features can be found in the game including quests which reward you with Experience Points which allow you to level up but also some new features can be seen, such as the ability to change time at your command. The game brings a fresh breath of air to the JRPG genre whilst also keeping many of the standard features of the genre in place, which is perfect for JRPG fans both new and old.
Many people consider Xenoblade Chronicles to be quite an ugly game graphically and I’d tend to agree with them there, artistically however I believe it is a different story. Whilst the game may look like it belongs on the PS2, it certainly is made up for in the enormous size of the game’s world, with certain areas taking over 15 minutes to get from one side of the map to the other. On the New 3DS, the game has been (sadly) downscaled quite dramatically in terms of both graphical quality and resolution to make it work on the game, so much so that long periods of playing the game actually made me motion sick and I had to put it down. The 3DS port is in dire need of Anti-aliasing, but if you can get over that, then I guarantee that you’ll love the game’s visuals, whether it be graphically or artistically.
The game’s soundtrack is incredible. Every new area that I enter brings with it a new piece which is fits so perfectly with the area. The very first ‘dungeon’ of the game, Tephra Cave, has very eerie and dank music which goes brilliantly with the feeling of uncertainty that the player experiences the first time they enter the area. Another area of the game, Gaur Plain which is one of the largest areas in the game, has a very pumping and ‘outdoorsie’ music which fits perfectly with the fact that all you can see ahead of you in that area is sprawling fields that go for, quite literally, miles. Throughout many of the battles you’ll fight in Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, one or more of the characters in the player’s party will usually say one of their weird, charming and quite funny lines: Lines such as Reyn’s “Yea! It’s Reyn Time” and Shulk’s “I’m really feeling it!”, both of which has stuck with fans of the game since it was first released.
Sadly, the New 3DS port’s controls are, less than great. To use on of the character your controlling’s many ‘arts’, the player has to take their finger off of the circle pad, cancelling any previous movement and leaving them a sitting duck which is less than desirable in game where you have to move about your character constantly and timing is key. I also feel that the C-Stick which is used to move the camera isn’t quite as responsive as I’d like; with it feeling very weird to move as no movement is actually made on the stick itself. In order to make the camera move to a rate where I like it, I had to move the Axis speeds both to high as they just felt too damn slow, especially for this type of fast-paced game.
Throughout my current playtime of Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, I’ve encountered on one technical issue: That one thing would be the fact that I experience FPS drops on quite a regular basis which is less than favourable to say the least when I’m in the middle of an important boss battle and suddenly, everything slows down which really breaks my immersion in the game. Other than that, the game has run, technically, perfectly so far!
Overall, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is good port of this Wii blockbuster. The visual quality and FPS issues are heavily noticeable in playing the game and honestly deteriorate my enjoyment of the game significantly. If there’s one thing you need from this review, it’s this: If you don’t mind exchanging graphical and resolution quality for mobility or you’re looking for the ‘cheaper version’ then definitely pick up the New 3DS edition. However, if like me, the graphical downgrades aren’t something you can deal with (especially considering it gives me motion sickness for whatever reason) then I’d suggest either picking it up on the Wii when you get the chance of getting it for a reasonable price or just wait until Xenoblade Chronicles X comes out on the Wii U later this year.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is available for the New Nintendo 3DS for £39.99 from the Nintendo eShop.