Review – Xenoblade

Best-rated RPG of this generation, Xenoblade was reason enough for me to consider getting a used Wii. But was it worth this investment?

The first contact with Xenoblade is disappointing. It’s nothing very serious, but the SD graphics and the clumsy character modeling hurts the HD-conditioned eye. However, when you get accustomed to it, you realize that Xenoblade deserves your praise : Monolith Software transcended the Wii hardware and achieved beautiful backgrounds. The developers also made wonders in the animation department because the ingrated a lot of small details that makes the whole thing astonishingly lively : just watch Sharla reload her bolt-action or cool it off and you’ll understand why Xenoblade, even though on Wii, is pleasure for the eye. It is also a pleasure to hear, sound & music are very cleverly chosen throughout the story, and the OST is pure joy.

The storyline, mixing revenge and theology, isn’t very complex or remarkable in itself, but it remains effective as “classic” JRPG story. Understand by this that it has this little thing you could feel in old Final Fantasy games, the one you can’t put into words but which makes a story truly unforgettable. The epic cutscenes clearly help : I was really stuck to my screen during the critical events and few games actually felt that great to watch. Not to mention the great care put in character design. Xenoblade has some of the most charismatic villains in JRPG history, the Mechons, cruel, cynical and unforgiving. The good guys are extremely nice as well : I especially fancy Sharla and her Barrett-like sniper rifle, Dunban is admirable, Fiora’s destiny is touching, Melia and Riki were a huge laugh.

Xenoblade is a bit more inconsistent when it comes to gameplay : the first half of the game is really easy. By leveling and completing quests, you become too strong for bosses (let alone normal enemies) and they just keep missing you! Because of that, it’s hard to appreciate the subtle battle system. But once you reach Valak mountains, the difficulty suddenly increases tenfold and from there it takes a great deal of patience to progress. At the end of the game, the difficulty crosses the borders of sanity : bosses need 10,20 or 30 tries to beat, even after doing hours of XP. Exhausted in both my body and mind, I threw the towel when I realized I could barely hurt the final boss. This schizophrenic difficulty setting is easily the weakest point of Xenoblade, because it’s nothing but frustration. However, the advantage of this is that you come to enjoy making strategies by mixing the various abilities of your characters, and make a correct use of the foreseeing capabilities of the Monado. Your sword, Monado, can tell you when one of your character is going to fall because of an enemy’s attack : up to you to cast a protective spell, heal your character or launch a preemptive attack to change the course of events. The IA of your allies is little weak, which is a shame, because they rarely use the best art to adapt the situation (i.e. the one you would want them to), and even wouldn’t do anything at times… The accessory system is also a little annoying, the best items available sometimes make your character look ridiculous. That said, some of the oufits are truly great, like Fiora’s Mecha-armor or this one of Melia’s above (^o^)/

But the most striking trait of Xenoblade is its IMMENSE world : every environnement takes hours to visit entirely and has tons of sidequests. The world in Xenoblade is roughly 2 or 3 times bigger than the one in FFXII! Monolith’s game takes exploration farer than any game I know : environnements are not just vast, they also have a complex design, with treacheous cliff paths and unbelievable slopes. Walking around in Xenoblade just feels awesome and you can’t stop exploring until you reach the end of the line. The world in a whole is extremly rich but yet very coherent, featuring different tribes, some impressive towns, a flurry of NPCs and a remarkable fauna.

The answer is clear : Xenoblade is worth buying at least a dozen of Wii. Colossal achievement in its story and art direction, it revives the classic JRPG genre and by that might simply be the best of this generation, even if it’s one of those games I couldn’t finish. Here you have it guys, hurry up and make Xenoblade a success!

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