By Justin Guillou / April 6th, 2017
Today is April 6, or the day a certain game that a “certain group of people” campaigned for was released in North America. I am talking of course about Xenoblade Chronicles. It will forever be a mystery to me why Nintendo of America was so hesitant to release this game here. It’s a damn good thing they eventually did because not only was the game well-received, it also sold more copies in our region than in Japan and Europe. The localization was initially for Europe only, which means we ended up with a British voice cast, which isn’t entirely common for JRPGs. I actually really enjoyed the performance from most of the cast but the Japanese voice-over was also available which is incredible!
I will confess that I was originally not very interested in Xenoblade or at least back when it was called Monado: Beginning of the World. As much as I loved the Wii, I was always skeptical of action-adventure games on the console due to the trend tendency of shoehorning in silly motion controls. When I first saw the Monado announcement I kind of wrote it off but still followed the development. Eventually I saw an update online that the game was going to be renamed as Xenoblade. Being a HUGE fan of both Xenogears and Xenosaga, seeing the word ‘Xeno’ in a title is more than enough to get my attention. Needless to say, I put in a preorder soon afterwards.
When I finally got around to playing the game, I was immediately hooked. Right down to the title screen, Xenoblade was something special. The characters particularly Shulk felt so damn relate-able to me and the environments he would explore was so interesting and fascinating to watch. Seriously, just watching how some areas change from day to night is just as entertaining as exploring the area. In spite of this, Xenoblade was not quite the technical marvel when it came to the visuals even for the system and time. This is the kind of game that will make you wish an HD version was officially available. One thing we can probably all agree on, is that the music was incredible. I will never forget how I felt the first time I heard ‘You Will Know our Names’ play. It’s such a high energy song that to this day I play to help me get through any challenges that come my way as cheesy as that sounds.
Xenoblade was the kind of game that managed to capture your imagination and encouraged you to explore! The game was very story based but gave you just the right amount of freedom to prevent it from feeling too linear and that’s something I can give the game a lot of credit for. Just when it started to become the slightest bit repetitive, it threw a new twist at you often in the form of a new ability like the Monado visions. This simple gameplay mechanic of seeing the future and planning your moves to prevent it from happening made the already interesting combat that much more engaging.
Five years later and the thing that makes me really satisfied, is how much more popular the game and now series has become. Back in 2012, Xenoblade Chronicles was the definition of a sleeper hit. It was praised to death on the internet yet not many people I knew actually played it. I would often recommend it to my friends but unfortunately many were too busy with their Xbox 360s and PlayStation 3s to really care to “Dust off the Wii”. Thankfully through YouTube and eventually Smash Bros., Xenoblade would become a much better known title. If I mention Xenoblade today, I won’t get the same blank stares as I used to as people are much more familiar with the title. Prices for the original Wii version started skyrocketing quite a bit too for a while until Nintendo issued a reprint and more recently, released a New 3DS version. Personally, I prefer it on the Wii, but it’s nice to have the option to take the adventure on the go. Xenoblade Chronicles X would also follow and bring with it some cool ideas to expand on the groundwork laid by the first one, but it did leave fans wanting more . This is where Xenoblade Chronicles 2 will hopefully deliver. Unfortunately it does not seem to follow the narrative of X, but I do believe and hope that Monolith will continue to refine their engine and make something truly great and deliver an experience that even more people can enjoy!
Do any of you have fond memories of playing Xenoblade back when it was originally released? Please let us know in the comments.
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