I personally have an interesting history with Xenoblade Chronicles. I learned of the series via Operation Rainfall, which brought the RPG made for Japan to the West, but I couldn’t get it for one reason or another. I got Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U and felt that it was an incredible title (despite an ending I’m still bitter about). Then the original title got ported to the 3DS…but to a version I didn’t have. With Xenoblade Chronicles 2, I couldn’t get my hands on fast enough, and I maintain that it’s one of the best RPGs I’ve ever played. And now, I’m here to deliver my Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition Review. Which in many ways is 10 years in the making, but it was worth the wait.
Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Developer(s): Monolith Soft
Release Date: May 29th, 2020
Price: $39.99 | Nintendo eShop
**Review copy of Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition was provided by Nintendo of America**
Whether loosely or in full, many of you know lightly of the story of Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition. In this world, there are two mighty Titans, the Bionis, and the Mechonis, both of which have lifeforms living on them. On Bionis, a young boy named Shulk is trying to live his life peacefully alongside friends Reyn and Fiora. An attack from the Mechonis is a catalyst for many things to come, including Shulk being the “heir” to a blade known as The Monado.
As Smash Bros players will know, the Monado is an incredibly powerful sword that not only gives Shulk the power to kill Mechon soldiers but also see the future. His visions are not just warnings, but chances to change the future. So to avenge a loss he goes to try and save the Bionis from the Mechon and make sure it wasn’t all for nothing.
If this sounds like a “typical RPG fare”, it is. But trust me when I say that it’s worth it in many levels. Because while it may start out infinitely typical, it grows into something much more far-reaching, and even surprising in some elements. The story is long and detailed and full of plenty of RPG plot twists and shocks that even got me and I live for RPGs in many ways.
Easily one of the best parts of the game are the frequent use of cutscenes. Instead of just loads of text boxes the game fully embraces its deep story and the various characters you meet to ensure that everything feels important, even if it’s only a small scene. And thanks to the improved graphics via the Switch port, everything looks rather beautiful.
Granted, some scenes do feel pixelated in handheld mode (which is what I play in), but even then, it’s minor, and everything else feels truly grand.
One thing that really surprised me in terms of size, scope, and detail was the level design. Don’t forget, EVERYTHING you’re doing is on one of two Titans, the Bionis or the Mechonis. So that means the team had to not just shape the two Titans, but figure out how they would look on the outside and the inside in order to make it all work. Putting that on the Wii must have been daunting, but on Switch it looks amazing. The details and the scope of it all are very impressive.
Now sure, you have your basic plains, mountains, cities, colonies, that kind of thing, but then you go into places like Gaur Plain and see the scope of it all, or you go high into a mountain range and see the Mechonis in the distance and get a reminder that you’re always right across from your enemy. Or dive deep into Sword Valley which is LITERALLY a sword that is in the gut of the Bionis and connects the two Titans. It’s a lot, and there’s plenty of beautiful areas that are begging to be explored.
And the best part is that the more you explore, the more landmarks you can find, which are how you fast travel, AND, you get EXP for traveling around, which is good because you’ll need EXP to battle everything you’ll encounter while wandering across the two Titans.
The Battle System for Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition is about what you’d expect if you’ve played Xenoblade Chronicles X or Xenoblade Chronicles 2. It’s a deep system of mixing attacks with combos and trying your hardest to maximize damage while trying to ensure that you’re protecting your team. Which trust me, you NEED to do.
Admittedly, in the first few hours, it took me a while to really work out the system. Now I’m much better at it and know how to work it to my advantage. That being said, between it and the leveling up system for your characters, it is overly complex. I STILL don’t know how to fully utilize the Chain Attack system where you get to do a special sequence where everyone attacks IF you do certain combos and you can have it go a long time or just three attacks. It’ confusing, and it will be a turnoff for some.
Plus, like an old-school RPG, it’s a game that really hammers home that you need to level up, which can be problematic at times when enemies seem to just dominate you despite being on par with you in level. Which is why they made “Casual Mode” which you can turn on and off in-game to help you out. And you honestly will do that if you don’t level up like they want you to because you’ll just want to get through it without the grind.
Another problem is that like many RPGs, you can power up attacks to make your characters strong, very basic. However, Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition has a weird thing where there’s a level cap, and then you’ll need to find “Manuals” to give you the rest of the levels. This is odd and didn’t make any sense to me, as you don’t get these manuals in the main gameplay most times. You can get them from random monsters or random sidequests or having to backtrack to certain shops to find them for ONE art. This means if you don’t go looking for these manuals, you’re characters are going to have a limit on their power, and that’ll hurt your combat.
Another love it or hate it part of Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition are the sidequests. From almost literally the beginning of the game you have the option of doing a LOT of sidequests. Some grant you money, some give you items, some give you experience alongside your money, it’s a lot. Which is great, because it fleshes out the game, and as you’ll find out, the sidequests can even help rebuild certain areas of the game.
I liked that you can just set a sidequest into your quest slots and be guided to where you need to go to complete it. Sometimes though, you won’t be able to, like in the reconstruction sidequest I mentioned, and that’s kind of odd.
Obviously, these are optional, and some of them are a bit too on the nose in that they’re “item retrieval” or “kill monsters” most of the time. But sometimes they do get creative and do interesting things like go and explore areas, investigate matters, talk to people, etc. You can lose many hours doing these and build up your experience and cash reserves as a result.
As for the down points, it’s honestly a mishmash of various elements I’ve talked about before. The combat system will not be easy for everyone to adapt to and understand. The sidequests are a bit overwhelming in their number, and at times you’ll pick up an item and get a “vision” about you getting it and noting it’s for a sidequest so that means you have to keep the item.
This is another problem, you’re almost overloaded with items of various natures and while you can sell them all off easily sometimes it’s hard to do so because you don’t know if you’ll need them for a future sidequest or such, and thus it all just stockpiles.
As for the story, while it’s very well crafted, there are times when cutscenes just stop and then restart after a few seconds that kills the momentum. And while characters like Shulk, Dunban, and Sharla are very fleshed out, others like Reyn, Riki and more aren’t unless you do “Heart-To-Hearts” which you won’t be able to unlock for MUCH of the game because they won’t be available or you won’t have the right affinity level to go and unlock them when they ARE available. It’s very frustrating.
Ugh, don’t even get me started on the typical “love triangle” arcs in the game. There are two of them……..TWO!
Plus, in the later levels of the game when you’re on Mechonis, you have very repetitive “main quests” that have you pressing switches and just roaming all over doing the same thing over and over when you really just want to get through the story.
And speaking of through the story, there’s the epilogue Future Connected which reunites the cast and delves into an unseen region of the Bionis before. It won’t be for everyone to enjoy (especially if you don’t like the Nopon) but with it adding more hours to the game? That’s always a plus.
When I think about how much I enjoy Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition, I find myself a bit unsure. Is it a great game? Absolutely. Visually stunning, fun story, good voice acting (that was somehow more annoying in the trailers…), solid combat system, and more. But honestly, I feel that the other two games were better in ways that are hard to describe. Don’t get me wrong, this is a wonderful RPG and another great addition to the Switch lineup that you should get. Just be prepared for some flaws that do bring it down a little.
Review Disclosure Statement: Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition was provided to us by Nintendo of America for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
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Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition Review
Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition has been a long time coming in many ways. And for those who haven’t gotten to play as Shulk and his allies before, now is definitely the time! It’s not perfect, but it’s still a game that you’ll want to check out and see just how incredible the original Xenoblade Chronicles is!
- Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition is an incredible RPG that blends visuals, story, depth of gameplay and more for a fun experience!