October 25, 2011
I finally finished it and, you know, I’m just gonna go straight to the point: this Japanese RPG is a masterpiece. It’s certainly up there with the classics such as Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, Xenogears and — well, you guessed it — the list goes on.
Yup, it’s that amazing and I’m even proclaiming it as (oh snap, here’s comes one of the most overused phrases in 3, 2, 1…) one of the best games I’ve played this year.
Oh, what’s that — too much hyperbole for you? I swear, it’s pretty tame compared to other ridiculous fanboy blogs out there. But yeah, OK, if what I said earlier sounded like Nintendo and Monolith Soft paying me a bajillion dollars (oh that would be loooovely) just to say that; then how about this: It’s the best J-RPG of this generation since Persona 4. Let’s just go with that one, yeah? Because I’m so-sure people are going to expect a lot since I have (already) mentioned the words “chrono” and “gears”.
That said, everything about this RPG just feels fantastic, especially in this age of Final Fantasy XIIIs, Blue Dragon and (dear God) Infinite Undiscovery. Sure, they’re still a couple of goody ones out there for current systems (Persona 4 is a PlayStation 2 game after all) such as Lost Odyssey and Tales of Vesperia. But in terms of improving some of the features that define a presentable J-RPG in this era of Dragon Ages and Bethesda epics (as in trying something “new” for both Western & JP crowds); Xenoblade fills that gap.
The combat and system gimmicks are simple to get used to, yet ambitious in design. Ever thought of what would another, solid Japanese RPG team’s take on Final Fantasy XII’s visionary combat would feel and look like? It’s this one and it’s excellent. Even better than FFXII on some aspects actually, like the little things namely regenerating health after a battle, respawning w/o penalties once KOed, and the loots. The party’s AI — even though it functions pretty darn well on most situations — can still get clunky sometimes especially during those hectic boss encounters. A leader-switch option during in the middle of a battle would’ve been a godsend, but at least it’s still manageable for the most part.
As for the story, characters and the overall setting — it’s good. Mind you they’re semi-formulaic and nothing revolutionary like, say, the recent Bioware outings, or hell Final Fantasy XIII’s l’Cie bullshit (hey admit it: ’twas kinda unique because of its ridiculous terminologies). Though if there’s something “new” Xenoblade is bringing to the table of Japanese RPG ideas, it’s the setting. It’s very cool and I highly recommend skipping certain previews/reviews out there (Eurogamer, what’s up?) and let it all flow as soon as you boot it up. I was, seriously, not expecting that minutes after selecting “New Game”.
Story is, believe it or not, very engaging and not as messy as I originally expected. Wait, messy?! Oh that’s right — this game, in case you didn’t know (very unlikely because of the title itself), was spearheaded by Tetsuya Takahashi, the man responsible for creating Xenogears and Xenosaga. He’s widely known for creating these mega-epic storylines with tons of characters, factions, planets, etc., you name it!
They’re solid narratives, both ‘Gears and ‘Saga, I’ll give you that. But, admittedly, they can be heavily convoluted later on due to their chunky philosophical and biblical themes, in my opinion at least. In short — they’re not your typical Final Fantasy ‘mo and whimsical storylines. Xenoblade’s plot however — fortunately to those who just want to have a freakin’ good time — isn’t as puzzled as Takashi’s previous directorial works. I like comparing it to one of those fast-paced, 50+ episode, anime sci-fi epics. It’s worth mentioning too that the cutscenes are marvelously directed. Just make sure to switch to its native language (hello Japanese audio track!) because the English accents can get grating for the most part, personally.
So, if you’re one of those guys who grew up playing Japanese RPGs during the golden age (Super Famicom/SNES) and the silver and modern ages (PlayStation 1 & 2), then you really need to play Xenoblade Chronicles. Yes, it’s for the Wii and the graphics aren’t exactly on-par with whatever Square Enix’s doing with their crazy Tetsuya Nomura funds, but think about it — this is pure quality, RPG fun that deserves in every fan’s collection. Call it the “hope” of the genre.