If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s the game plan for the remastering of the uniquely special Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition.
When the original Xenoblade Chronicles was released on the Wii in 2010, it’s fair to say that it was a hit amongst both reviewers and players. It was so popular that it warranted a 2015 re-release on the 3DS and now it’s received a revitalising shot in the arm with a major uplift for the Switch.
Side-by-side comparisons with the original really highlight the amount of work that’s gone into this faithful update. Developer Monolith Soft promised to deliver enhanced visuals, updated controls and remixed music, along with a new epilogue, which should be more than enough to keep fans of the original happy. Unlike this year’s Final Fantasy VII Remake, which completely overhauled the game, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition doesn’t deviate from the original content, providing a shiny new coat for an already polished product. Given that the graphics were one of the big detractors from the original release, this surely scratches a significant itch for a lot of players.
The game does look much better than the original. Gone are the harsh angles and blocky textures, replaced by smooth lines and bright colours which will have fans wondering how they ever played the original version. The design of the characters looks like they learned a lot from the recent Pokémon Sword and Shield titles, and it suits the style of game. It’s the gaming equivalent of going back to your high school photos and airbrushing away all of the hideous haircuts and fashion choices that you regret now as an adult. If only this technology were available in real life!
“Xenoblade Chronicles manages to stay relatively grounded, or at least as reasonably realistic as you could expect from a sci-fi fantasy epic about robots fighting humans on the time-frozen corpses of two space titans.”
Newcomers to the series are introduced to a collection of excellent game elements pulled together in a neat little package. There’s open world exploration, well-crafted stories, fleshed-out character development, and a singularly unique auto-attack combat system. In combat, players lock onto an enemy, select an attack type and stand close to said enemy and the game does the rest. There are some particularly easy battles in this game which make it entirely unnecessary for you to even be in the room to win. You could literally set it on auto-pilot and just walk away. It’s like a self-driving car – yeah you’ll get to your destination, but is it worth the trip if you’re not in control?
This combat system was praised during the original release as being a combination of other elements from games like Final Fantasy and White Knight Chronicles, and remains identical in this Definitive Edition. If you loved it before, be ready to love it again. It does become much more fun during fights with some of the tougher grunts or bosses, but it really can drag with the low-level enemies. Some of the initial combat is too easy, almost to the point of irrelevance, although you will need to grind out a few of the early levels in experience and gear to prepare yourself for later challenges.
The game’s story is one of the standouts, and while there’s an extremely formulaic setup, it deviates wildly and often from what you would expect to keep players entertained. While JRPGs are often known to be terrifically fanciful and over-the-top, Xenoblade Chronicles manages to stay relatively grounded, or at least as reasonably realistic as you could expect from a sci-fi fantasy epic about robots fighting humans on the time-frozen corpses of two space titans. It’s a solid storyline that rivals many other titles in the genre. It also paces itself well, meaning that while there are a lot of cutscenes and some lengthy dialogue, it inserts other activities in-between them, so you aren’t sitting watching a movie for half of your playtime.
One of the truly excellent things that Xenoblade Chronicles delivers is the streamlined gameplay. A complete lack of circular quests is a MASSIVE bonus for anyone who’s played an RPG before. Gone are the endless fetch quests which require you to travel from one end of the map to the other, and back again, in every second mission. Once you’ve completed an objective it’s done or, at the very least, you’re able to fast travel back to the delivery point. No longer will you have to suffer trudging through a well-worn path just to deliver the latest McGuffin back to the 100th person that should’ve been able to fetch the item for themselves. It’s something that should be setting the standard for all RPGs, and it’s staggering that it’s not already. Immersion be damned, we’re sick of walking everywhere!
The voice acting in the cutscenes is also very good, with lots of super-English people and a few Cockney robots thrown in there for good measure. They’re interesting characters, uniquely developed and carefully constructed – although some of their post-battle chatter can get super repetitive after the 100th time you stomp on one of the numerous miniature monsters scattered around the open world areas.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition really captures everything you need to know about this game in the name. It is the best possible edition that we’re likely to get and that’s something special. Given that the original release was at the end of the Wii lifecycle, it’s good to see that this popular and well supported game has been given a new lease of life on Nintendo’s current gen success story, the Switch. While it might not be a specific reason to upgrade to that platform, like a Zelda or Mario game, it definitely provides an additional excuse to get onboard. While some of the game mechanics are showing age, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition does so much right that it’s hard to class it as anything but an essential JRPG experience.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is available May 29 on Switch.