Welcome to Retro-Replay! The article series where we review old games, check whether they aged well, and how they have impacted the video gaming community. In this edition of Retro-Replay, we’re going to be tackling Xenoblade Chronicles.
With the upcoming Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition releasing on the Nintendo Switch soon on May 29, I think it’s the perfect opportunity to turn back time and review the original Xenoblade Chronicles released back in 2009.
So, grab some batteries and put em into your old Wii remote. It’s time for us to jump back in time and another replay Xenoblade Chronicles!
Table of Contents
Art set back by its console
The Wii was a unique and great gaming console during its time. Its controller, the Wii Remote, gave the developer’s unique hardware to experiment and tinker with. The Wii Remote’s gyroscope and optical motion sensors allowed it to be used as a steering wheel for the Mario Kart Games, swung around like a sword in Zelda, and as a basic control scheme for fighting games like Super Smash Bros Brawl.
But the Wii had its limitations. Its small and compact form sacrificed processing and graphical power, something the PS3 and Xbox 360 excelled at. The novelty of the Wii remote would eventually wear off, and developers would revert to standard control schemes.
The unique control schemes and setup that was the Nintendo Wii’s strength now became its weakness. allowed it to Xenoblade Chronicles was released during a time when the Wii was struggling to compete with the PS3 and Xbox 360 – to consoles which had superior graphics and processing power than the Wii.
Even in the low-resolution graphics of the Wii, the Mechons still look nasty and as terrifying as ever
Xenoblade Chronicles helped show the world the Nintendo Wii, despite its lack of graphical prowess, could make beautiful games much like the PS3 and Xbox. Although not as crisp or high-definition, the artistic direction of Xenoblade Chronicles allowed it to stand out compared to other games on the Nintendo Wii.
The beautiful locales inspired by the stories lore (more of which we’ll get on with later, the mechanical, rough shapes of the mechon just goes to show that pixels and resolution shouldn’t hold your game back. But again – this game could have been a lot more if it weren’t for the Wii’s limited graphical power.
A More Accessible JRPG
A lot of Xenoblade Chronicles appeal (for me anyway) comes from the game design choices. Mainstream JRPG’s at the time such as Final Fantasy XIII had very linear levels and map design – with little to no room for exploration. In Xenoblade chronicles, however, it’s a large open world for you to explore!
Sure, when you head into story pivotal dungeons, some traces of linear JRPG will be present, but even then it’s a minor inconvenience – and even then the plot of this game is an absolute joy to watch.
But the best part about this game is all the quality of life features. Unlike JRPG’s which force players to return back to the quest giver, you won’t have to in Xenoblade chronicles! You’ve also got fast travel, automatic save points and other small additions that make the game absolutely convenient to play.
Fantastical World Building
If there’s one thing that JRPG’s have an edge over Western RPG’s, it’s the absurd and over the top settings. And let’s be real, Xenoblade Chronicles truly has one of the most ridiculous but coolest settings in gaming.
The world of Xenoblade Chronicles came to be when two giant gods, Bionis and Mechonis, both died after centuries of combat. Their dead, frozen, corpses became the foundations of the world Xenoblade Chronicles takes place in.
From their two hulking corpses, sprung different types of life. Bionis gave way to biological life, wild animals, and the Homs (the game’s humans) springing forth from Bionis’s corpse.
Meanwhile, the dark corpse of Mechonis gave rise to the Mechons, mechanical beings who serve as the antagonists of the game. Their appearance easily reflects that – with their thin, sharp limbs and black color scheme almost akin to that of twisted metallic marionettes.
Overall, the over the top fantasy setting of Xenoblade Chronicles is just a pleasure to immerse yourself in.
Simple yet Nuanced Combat
I was worried that combat would feel dated – after all, this game is 11 years old. Despite its age, combat mechanics in Xenoblade Chronicles still feel fluid and natural. If there’s one thing replaying the game has shown me, is that its special moves system was smartly implemented.
Sure – you could spam your special moves. But timing it provided your character’s special bonuses. Backstab moves, of course, would only be appropriate when your enemy is distracted, and when executed correctly would deal tons of bonus damage.
Another memorable aspect of combat was Shulk’s foresight ability due to his weapon, the Monado. Quick cut-scenes give you a premonition of a boss’s upcoming super move. It’ll be your job to guess as to what to do to stop the attack or at least avoid it.
It’s nice to remember that I don’t have to get through a million menus just to find the right attack. And I’m glad to know that your allies aren’t slouches either. For a game released back in 2009 – the AI of your allies pretty good, dealing consistent damage and helping you fell your enemies.
The mechanics are easy to get a hang of, but still have plenty of depth and nuance. After going through two playthroughs, I’m still learning new ways to better defeat the nasty Mechons.
So how does the game age?
The game ages surprisingly well. Despite the lackluster graphics due to the Nintendo Wii, the game is still good. It would be the first of the many JRPG’s that would be integrating modern, Western game mechanics – allowing JRPG’s to shine and thrive in the next decade.
So if your Wii is still working and if you’ve got a copy of Xenoblade Chronicles, go give it a go. It’s a game you can definitely play again, even after 11 years.
And if you don’t have a Wii, no problem. As previously mentioned, a remaster called Xenoblade Chronicles: Definite Edition will be releasing for the Nintendo Switch on May 29. Apart from giving it better graphics and updated controls, the Definitive Edition will also have added story.
The epilogue will explore a story set 1 year after the events of the main story. So if you’ve been itching to relive nostalgia, give this game a damn go on the Switch!
So overall, after playing this 11 year old game – I can say that I’ll be looking forward to getting a remaster on the switch. It’ll finally get the graphical update and power that this game deserves.