One of the best and most innovative Japanese RPGs has received an Ultimate Edition.
Similar in spirit
The JRPG genre is very conservative, and in many ways this was the key to its decline. Classic turn-based RPGs could not compete on the AAA field with spectacular and dynamic Western blockbusters, so in the mid-2000s they finally went out of fashion.
Since then, not many large and impressive JRPGs have been released. Persona continues the old turn-based tradition, but pleases once every ten years, modern Final Fantasy with varying success hit the action. But they are not trying to turn the genre upside down, reinvent it, as Final Fantasy XII (and Valkyria Chronicles in the case of TRPG) did.
The last game that decided on something like that was released ten years ago, Xenoblade Chronicles .
The best of both worlds
Many have called Final Fantasy XII an offline MMO – although this is certainly not the case. After all, FFXII combined the conditional open world and real-time battles with the classic turn-based combat series. But Xenoblade Chronicles is a real offline MMO, where the combat system is strikingly different from all JRPGs that came out before. The game does not have the concept of move, MP and items that could be used in battle. Characters attack automatically – the player needs to activate their skills in time.
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Abilities have long animations, and at this time auto-attacks do not pass: the local summoner-caster has no time to be distracted by them at all
Like the different classes in MMORPGs, each Xenoblade hero has unique skills and fighting styles. One “tank” and relies on combinations of blows, the other poisons groups of opponents, the third, for maximum efficiency, needs to alternate attacks from the side and from behind. And the fourth, for example, heals powerfully, but periodically has to be cooled. In short, all these archetypes are probably familiar to MMO fans.
Xenoblade has many other features that are common in online role-playing. Huge open locations with fast movement between key points, cool unique monsters, for the murder of which a significant reward is relied, hundreds of NPCs with hundreds of optional quests. And with all this, the game remains a real JRPG – with vivid characters, many cutscenes, a rich plot and an exciting adventure for dozens of hours.
In the middle of the endless sea there are two titans, who have struck each other to death in time immemorial. On the body of one of them, Bionysus, biological life blossomed; in the other, Mechonis, there are machines. They continue the war started by their ancestors: humans and other races living on Bionysus are desperately holding back the onslaught of mechanical hordes.
The protagonist of the game is Shulk, a young man who lives in a settlement on the shins of Bionysus. To protect his native lands from the attack of machines, he takes into his hands Monado – a sword, with whose legendary power only a few can cope. The artifact gives the hero the opportunity to see the future, and he rebuffs the aggressors – but it is impossible to save all loved ones. Driven by his thirst for revenge, Shulk sets out in search of those who will not let the war end.
And his path will not be easy: through spacious fields on his leg and swamps on the lower back of Bionysus – to the dense jungle on his back and the huge sea on his neck. Used on most of Xenoblade – one big road trip through outlandish edges
It’s worth saying bluntly: the plot in Xenoblade is a typical anime. In some places he tries to be too dramatic, in some places he throws really good plot twists in the spirit of Xenogears, but he does not even come close to her greatness. The story here is holistic and logical, but its main merit is in dynamics: something is constantly happening around, and the heroes always have both a global and a local goal.
Tactics and convenience
At the center of the gameplay are two things: exploring the world and battling with representatives of the local fauna (or evil robotic aggressors). All this happens as organically as possible, without switching to separate screens and loading. We saw the enemy, took out a weapon and rushed into battle, and after that we collected loot and went for a walk further. Xenoblade has a lot of spacious locations, so if you want, you can just run past the monsters; enemies six levels weaker themselves will try to bypass you, so you won’t have to stumble over completely unnecessary battles.
The contractions themselves are fleeting. You can deal with ordinary opponents in a matter of seconds, even bosses and unique monsters will hardly take more than 5-10 minutes. In case of defeat, you do not lose anything, and you will have to run from the nearest control point for a maximum of one and a half minutes. Therefore, it is not shameful to die in Xenoblade: death gives you a chance to rebuild tactics (choose other heroes or skill sets) for a specific battle and try again.
Three characters from the group participate in the battle, but you can control only one. Alas, you cannot switch between them in the manner of Final Fantasy VII Remake, although it would be very useful here.
Also, in battles, it is important to monitor the morale of the wards. Critical hits increase it, misses and (especially) fallen comrades – decrease it. If things go wrong, you should always go up to your friend and cheer him up – or compliment him by pressing the button in the QTE in time. This fills a special scale that can be spent either on resurrecting partners, or on powerful joint attacks. If you get the hang of competently managing resources, then these combos can control even the most powerful enemies.
Xenoblade is a very flexible game in terms of tactical possibilities. There are no useless characters, the scope for customization is wide. The main thing to complain about is that the level of pumping is too influential. It’s easy to fight with monsters around your level, and if you get involved in a fight with someone who is too tough for you, the heroes will often miss. However, towards the end of the game, this can be corrected by choosing the right passive skills and equipment.
Is the enemy two dozen levels higher? No problem!
By the way, Xenoblade, unlike many other JRPGs, where dialogues, battles and walks across locations exist in separate worlds, perfectly intertwines the plot and gameplay. Take Monado, for example. The miracle sword sends Shulk visions not only in plot scenes, but also in side quests, and even periodically tells which of the newly obtained items will be useful in the future. And in battle, he directly warns the player about deadly attacks and gives a few seconds to find a way out.
This detail greatly influences the gameplay and gives the battles an element of crisis management. How to save your skin? Playing as Shulk, you can use Monado’s defensive power based on the type of enemy attack. For a tank – try to divert the attention of the enemy from a frail comrade to yourself. For the healer – try to heal the victim to the fullest and apply some kind of buff. And for a piece of the scale, you can turn to a friend for help and order him any attack, even if it is recharging.
If your decisions have changed the future, it will immediately be reflected in the “forecast” in a convenient window – it’s always nice to see this. This is how Xenoblade intertwines plot and gameplay, giving us the ability to prevent tragedy not only in cutscenes, but in every difficult battle.
Megaton of content
Even those elements of Xenoblade, in which she did not make a revolution, are still performed at a decent level – at least above average. NPCs are limited by a couple of personality traits, but each has its own home, daily routine, and relationships with other people. They don’t exist in a vacuum. The quests they give out are, for the most part, pretty commonplace: collect such and such items, kill such and such enemies. If desired, these instructions can be safely ignored, but without them the vastness of Bionis and Mechonis would have remained just decorations, a background for the race from one plot event to another. With them, the player has dozens of small goals that provide motivation to explore the world and pay attention to details that might not otherwise be found. Xenoblade encourages the initiative with experience, loot, money, unique dialogues, and simply achievements.
The synergy of plot and gameplay also works here. By interacting with NPCs in the city, you expand your network of acquaintances and find out how people relate to each other. The more acquaintances, the more side quests – and by completing them, you increase your reputation among the inhabitants of the location. If you get into the trust of the locals, they will be ready to trade more and more rare items.
Relationship map of all NPCs in the game
The heroes themselves also communicate with others and with each other. And in battles, they constantly cheer each other up – this is how relations between them improve. The more friendly the comrades, the more passive skills they can borrow from each other and the more successful their joint crafting is. In addition, the heroes who have become friends are waiting for optional scenes in which they will reveal themselves deeper.
In the Definitive Edition, it is possible to customize the appearance of characters separately. If you wish, you can dilute the seriousness of the plot scenes with a beach outfit.
Best Game – Best Edition
All of the above applies to previous versions of the game: the original released on Wii in 2011, and the port on New 3DS in 2015. The graphics in them were, of course, unpretentious, but from a technological point of view, they were still a miracle. No joke: many kilometers of locations inhabited by dozens of NPCs and monsters, and all this – without noticeable loads!
It takes 1.5 seconds to teleport from here to the foot of that mountain in the distance.
In the Definitive Edition, the visuals are much prettier. The game runs in a fairly high resolution (like XC2), the interface no longer takes up half the screen, key characters have facial expressions, and the cutscenes look especially nice. They didn’t re-record the voice acting, but it’s even good – the English dub from 2011 is great. If you wish, you can choose the original Japanese voices, but I would not recommend: among other things, you can understand what the AI partners are doing from the lines in battle.
In addition, the re-release has some small but insanely nice improvements. For example, a car race, very important for a game where you have to travel so much. Convenient markers for side missions, notifications that tell you where to stand up to use the skill most effectively. “Casual” mode, which allows you to simply enjoy the plot, and “expert” mode, where you can manually lower the level of the charges. So that even a pumped-up group would still fight interesting opponents more or less on equal terms.
The game’s excellent soundtrack has been re-recorded. In my opinion, in the new version it has become a little less great – luckily, you can play with classical music. Rate this same melody in the original
Also included in the Definitive Edition is an optional Future Connected scenario: a standalone episode that follows events one year after the game ends. This location was found in the files of the original Wii game, but then it was never used. And for the Definitive Edition it was completed and replenished with content for another 12 hours – for those who, after the Xenoblade finale, would like to add more. Nothing special, but still not bad – it’s like a solid DLC for an outstanding game.
Over the ten years since the release of the original Xenoblade Chronicles, sequels have tried to repeat its success, but in vain. Xenoblade Chronicles X beckoned with a stunningly beautiful world, but failed to cope with the balance of JRPG and MMO elements. And Xenoblade Chronicles 2 turned into a shameful harem and shamelessly dragged on the battles, forcing the player to carry them out according to the same scenario.
So the first Xenoblade is still relevant. And her Definitive Edition is really the ultimate edition.
It is essential not to hit enemies who do not attack themselves and are not needed for quests.
Xenoblade Chronicles is a Final Fantasy VII Remake or Persona 5 Royal tier titan. if you missed the original on the Wii or the New 3DS then now is the best time to catch up. And if you are familiar with the original, then you are probably already playing the Definitive Edition. After all, JRPGs of this caliber don’t come out very often.
Source: Game Informer