I like to consider myself a gamer at heart, but my gaming habits are horrible and clash with this idea I have about myself. One of my worst gaming habits is starting a game and then not finishing it. This might sound like a normal thing for gamers since they may have other obligations that take them away from the game, though this is usually for maybe a week at most. My problem lies in the fact that I often start a game and don’t finish it for at least a year or more. Xenoblade Chronicles is one of these abandoned games of mine, and after revisiting it thanks to Shulk’s inclusion in Super Smash Bros. 3DS/Wii U, I can say with certainty that it’s one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played in a long time.
Warning: spoilers of Xenoblade Chronicles below! Read at your own risk!
The gameplay was one of the most difficult aspects of the game that I was put off by when I originally started it. Since I didn’t give myself enough time to learn and understand the combat system before abandoning the game, I had a hard time trying to relearn the mechanics. Despite the difficulty, it didn’t take too long to catch on, and at times the challenges were fun and appreciated. I also like that the game didn’t punish me for the constant Game Over’s I was getting throughout my playthrough. Where the gameplay really shines is through the abilities Shulk gains and can use to his advantage throughout Xenoblade Chronicles, making the combat more diversified and fun.
The story deals with a classic conflict between humanity and some greater beings, but in Xenoblade Chronicles, the conflict feels much more real and grounded because of how small the human population is. The refugee camps and destroyed cities that need rebuilding really drive this conflict home, and as a result the story really shines. It seemed like the story meandered in the middle with separate political conflicts, but despite that, it was still enjoyable because it contributed to the characters and world-building aspect of the game. Fortunately, the story doesn’t take long to get back on track, creating a memorable, driving plot with urgency and plenty of exciting twists.
The characters are all sympathetic, interesting, and their banter, while perhaps unnecessary at times, does help establish their personalities. With all of that said, Shulk is easily the best character in the entire game and the one I related to the most, though I will admit that Dunban is a close second for how much of a bad a** he is. But what I like about Shulk the most is that he’s an intelligent, strong, and compassionate leader who has a lot of great moments. I didn’t mind that Shulk was hesitant to disclose his visions of the future to others because it showed his consideration of how it would affect them (how awkward would it be to tell someone that you saw them die within the next ten minutes?), but that changes as the story goes on. What really grounds his character is his voice acting by Adam Howden, who does a great job at expressing the wide array of emotions Shulk shows throughout the game.
The graphics show their age, but seeing as how the game came out a quite a few years ago, it’s hard to judge it too harshly. On a positive note, the graphics are stylized to coincide with the style of the artwork of the characters, which I appreciate since it contributes to the Xenoblade Chronicles unique look. The locations throughout the game are very memorable and aesthetically pleasing to look at even with the aging graphics and presentation of the game.
The soundtrack was collaborated on by a group of composers, including Yoko Shimomura. The combination of various composers makes for a diversified soundtrack that is appropriate to the fantasy-esque quality to Xenoblade Chronicles. The music is easily one of the best parts of the game, with each track unique and enjoyable to listen to (even if you only hear it once, as is the case with the track “Unfinished Battle”) and making it one of the best video game soundtracks I’ve ever heard.
Perhaps my favorite part of Xenoblade Chronicles, the setting is massive, unique, and extremely fun to explore. The idea of the remnants of humanity living on a gigantic, robotic being is fascinating and extremely well done. The game encourages exploration, and it’s impossible not to try and fill out the map and find various items scattered across each new location. It was motivation enough to get through the game just to experience these different, distinctive settings and how they worked together to create a fantastic world.
I really enjoy Xenoblade Chronicles, and while I wish I had played it years ago, it’s still a great game to experience even now. It’s immersive, exciting, and definitely worth playing.