For those of you who have played the game or obviously just want New 3DS-exclusive experience, there is one weakness to this game. If you’ll recall, Xenoblade Chronicles didn’t use any Wii-specific features in its gameplay and it didn’t need to. This is a new version of a system, and Nintendo used this game to sell the system. Outside of the fact that the New 3DS can handle Xenoblade Chronicles at all, it doesn’t really show much improvement with extra goodies. It’s sort of like how Xenoblade Chronicles downplays its entire style, so, too, do the 3DS-specific features. Before I get to what it doesn’t have, let me tell you what it does have. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D has a token system where you spend tokens to get models and music for a jukebox. The jukebox feature is lovely, as it lets you listen to collected music from the game which you can even listen to with your New 3DS closed.
Here’s the catch, though. To earn tokens, you must do one of the following: StreetPass someone with the game for two tokens, use a very hard-to-find Shulk amiibo once a day to get three tokens or spend five of your play coins for one token! If the third option is your only available option, get ready to shake — err I mean walk with that New 3DS very often to get play coins. I swear I’m not lazy and I walk with my New 3DS to get play coins! You can spend one token to have a shot at getting a new model or song, or three tokens to guarantee something new.
The only other major improvement is the fact that the map and the HUD are now on the bottom screen. This is mostly done to avoid clutter on the smaller screen, and it’s a welcome addition for those who felt the Wii (with a lack of HD capabilities) had to blow up the HUD too much and add clutter. There are some major missed opportunities here with the New 3DS version, though. Not being able to use the bottom screen to tap anything on it a terribly missed opportunity. You could have used it to select items, scan the map or, most notably, tap each of the art icons to avoid having to switch back and forth with them on the D-pad. You could have also had customizable features during active gameplay on the bottom screen. Even a very lazy port in Tales of the Abyss for the 3DS made some use of the bottom screen with tappable features. It makes the bottom screen feel completely like window dressing and, for the first New 3DS exclusive, it’s disappointing. Every 3DS game as complex as Xenoblade Chronicles 3D should provide some kind of interactivity with the bottom screen. Making use of only one of the screens only gives you half the experience. I will not tolerate mono screening in this generation, especially on Nintendo systems!
Let’s talk about the port of the game itself from Wii to 3DS. It’s a straightforward port for the most part. The 3D effect isn’t that glorious, although, in some ways, I can’t play without it because of the next slight issue. The textures took a minor hit due to the smaller resolution. It really feels like Nintendo was just determined to get Xenoblade Chronicles to run on a 3DS no matter the cost. It’s admirable, but it becomes obvious. The game is still beautiful on its own merits due to the art style and its collage of far-away sights which you will stare and gaze at for minutes at a time on your quest. It’s not a major complaint, but it is noticeable. This makes me want to keep the 3D on to keep the graphics looking sharper with more depth, and it can make the cutscenes in the game more epic-looking. It doesn’t make the 3D a great 3D effect, it makes it a requirement to avoid looking at slightly downgraded textures. It’s kind of like taking a drug when you’re feeling down just to feel normal again.
The music in this game still sounds excellent, though. It’s the same amazing soundtrack in full effect composed in a manner that harkens back to games like Chrono Trigger and Xenogears. The voice acting is still the most anti-cliché scribing I’ve ever heard in a Japanese RPG. The British voice acting in this game makes everyone sound very classy, of course. It’s phenomenal for other reasons such as the fact that I don’t have to hear yet another character in this genre voiced by overexposed voice actors from North America which breaks immersion. I definitely don’t need my RPGs to sound like every typical cartoon or localized anime.
I did run into an audio bug in Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. It’s happened to me twice in my playthrough. Very rarely during a battle, the voices and music will cut out entirely. I don’t know what causes it other than possibly lengthy play sessions. You won’t get the voice audio or music to return until you reset the game. It’s very rare, but it’s questionable as to why this happens. It almost reminds me of when an old PlayStation game fails to read content off the disc. Could this happen with future New 3DS games? Is it failing to read content off the tiny SD card that is a miracle to fit this game onto? I don’t know. All I know is it’s notable and it shouldn’t happen.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is polarizing as a port when you think about it, at least in terms of reviewing it and giving it a straight-up verdict. It’s a masterpiece as a base product, in general. The problem is when you compare it to handheld remakes of perfect classics such as Persona 4 Golden or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, it lacks in the extras department. It also doesn’t help that this is a slight graphical downgrade. It’s more a straight lazy port such as Tales of the Abyss. I can safely say that, if you don’t buy a New 3DS for this game alone, I won’t blame you. That hurt a little bit to say. The real truth of the matter, though, is that, no matter what, if you choose to buy a New 3DS because you want that upgrade, you still have a shot at playing the greatest RPG to come out of Japan on last-generation consoles. You have a shot at playing the game that turns the entire genre on its head. It will make you question every Japanese RPG (except the likes Chrono Trigger, Xenogears and Persona 4) before it due to the amount of bloat removed from the typical genre tropes and replaced with lots of substance. I’ll still be playing it on the go when I can because it’s honestly a blessing to have it wherever I go. In fact, I demand that Monster Games give the same treatment to The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower. Now, time for me to start that second run through and 100% this beast of a game!
Review copy purchased by author.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is available on Amazon: