In theory this should have been a system seller for me. Why? Because every other version of Xenoblade has been! I bought the New 3DS purely to play Xenoblade Chronicles 3D and the WII U to play Xenoblade Chronicles X. Why wasn’t Xenoblade Chronicles 2 a system seller for me? I’m not really sure actually. I think in general it was down to my dislike of the Switch outweighing the love of the game.
Flash forward to Christmas 2019 and Diablo 3 came to the Switch, and that was a system seller for me! I also picked up this game at the same time. Ironically, this has become my most played game on the Switch, and Diablo 3 has barely been touched!
So lets talk story
– Spoilers below –
The story follows your usual, annoying happy go lucky innocent kid. Rex in this case, who lives on the back of a small titan (now there’s an oxymoron for you!!), and he aptly names Gramps. He spends most of his time eking out an hard life as a scavenger. He and Gramps go out into the Cloud Sea and go diving on wrecks of the ‘Old World’. He picks up bits and bobs and then sells them in town. Most of the money he gets is sent back to his home town, so he lives the usual frugal life you’d expect from a JRPG hero.
When he’s not working he’s dreaming of going to Elysium, the secret hidden home of humans that sits at the top of the Worlds Tree…supposedly.
Rex apparently has garnered a bit of a reputation as being a good worker, and as such gets called in by Bana, the ‘ruler’ of Goldmouth, Rex’s home port. Bana offers Rex the job of a life time, worth 200k with half the money up front! Rex being the atypical jrpg protagonist instantly accepts.
This sets the stage for him to meet Pyra, and then instantly be killed for meeting her! Events happen, and Rex is revived as a Driver, someone who uses a Blade in battle, and Pyra is one such Blade, though with deep dark secrets….of course.
This sets the stage for the rest of the game, and I wont spoil that for you! What I will say is that for a JRPG I was highly impressed with the story and the way it played out, though the ending was your usual cheesy type, the journey there was highly satisfying.
Though I honestly have come to expect that in a Xenoblade game! Monolith have proven themselves to be the masters of story crafting.
What’s with the butt and boob fetish?
The directors of the game, Yokota and Kojima seem to have one insane fetish for buts and boobs; to the point of being almost to much. I love a nice ass and boob as much as the next bloke, but here it’s almost every other scene is of Pyra’s assets. Which would be fine, but her boobs are actually one of the worst parts of the game. This is due to them being static, no matter how she moves her boobs seem to stay rock solid.
No jiggly physics here, which with smaller boobs wouldn’t be much of an issue. However given the size of Pyra’s, and the fact the camera fixes on them so much, you can help but be put off by them at times. I also found myself wondering if they could be used as a weapon hehe.
Overall, I did find the constant focus on her boobs and ass to be a bit distasteful however. You’d get some amazing character dialogue and progression, being all serious and impressing you. Then it’s back to her ass and boobs. A bit disappointing really.
Not bad graphics, for a Switch game!
Lets move onto the graphics situation. Honestly, the graphics aren’t that bad! Anyone that says that needs to go have another look. Sure it’s not up to PS4 or PC standards, but are you genuinely expecting such high definition graphics on what’s essentially a tablet?
What we get is pretty decent, and over all is rather solid. However, this is only for the main characters. As the game progresses you see more and more of the side characters looking less crisp and sharp as rex and co. What’s more their animations seem to be limited, and again, not as sharp.
This can be a bit jarring when you are in a cut-scene with them. One minute you have Rex and Co with their fluid and expressive animations, looking crisp and clean. Then it cuts to the side character who looks a bit fuzzy and stuck in a generic animation loop.
Then you have the scenery, which is also a mixed bag. On the one hand, at times it looks pretty stunning, and yet at other times it’s kind of meh looking. The pop-in is a bit jarring, and when running around the world you have to be wary of mobs simply appearing in front of you.
At the end of the day though, based on the overall package the graphics are not bad.
Combat, easy to pick up but hard to master
Combat is deceptively easy, since it’s mostly an auto attack and pressing a button when your abilities are up. However that is just the combat on the basic level. As the game progresses it introduces way to get higher damage from your abilities in a mini timing game. As well as learning which blade to use for which fight, and comboing off and with your party members.
I have to admit the combat is where this game really grabbed me! Initially you steam roll everything, however it quickly ramps up and starts to kick your arse hard. You can just go through button mashing. However learning your abilities, when to use them, and getting the timing down; will make things a lot easier.
Blades, gotta catch them all!
Blades are this games Gacha, and just like Gacha it’s seriously addictive unlocking them! As you’d expect there’s different tiers of quality, ranging from common to legendary. Common ones are generic, mostly the same designs and low stats. Next up are rare’s which are a step up, but the ones you want are legendries, which are all highly detailed, have good stats, and are fully voice acted.
What’s more the legendary ones are frankly gorgeous!
I honestly don’t know where I stand on the voices. However it’s worth noting this game was made during the Voice Actors Strike, so they apparently went with UK based voice actors who were not a part of the strike. As a result we seem to have a whooooole lot of Welsh people. Which sadly doesn’t work some of the time, as it felt more like a family outing rather than a world. Since everyone sounds similar.
However as I spent more time with them I found it less grating and genuinely started to like them.
I did run with the Japanese voice pack for a while, but found some of the characters, especially Pyra and Rex’s Japanese voice actors didn’t really fit the characters. I honestly felt Pyra and Rex’s English VA to be perfect for them!
Ultimately though this is always going to be a personal choice, and I also think it will come down to which you hear first.
Let’s talk localisation
I’ve read a lot of reviews and some point to spotty localisation. I didn’t see it that way. The localisation was pretty solid for most of the game, probably 95% of it. There were a few times where I would say the localisation was a bit off, but not wrong. It came down to a different choice of wording. However this was only in secondary missions and chatting with random town folks. I didn’t notice it in the main story.
Another area that was criticised a lot is the map, and getting to missions. Missions do not show up on the map, only on the compass at the top of the screen. Initially when I first started playing I felt the same way, it’s frustrating. However I realised that’s due to me being conditioned to expect hand holding and way points with a line to follow straight to the mission.
This game breaks that trend. It tells you where the mission is, whether its above, below or on the same level as you; and also how far away it is. How you get there is up to you! I like it! You end up exploring more, finding more collectables and seeing more of the world Monolith made.
So yeah, the map does what it’s supposed to do
A living world? Sort of..
One of the great things of this game is that it’s got the illusion of being a living breathing world. If you look in one of the above screen shots, next to the mini map is another little circle with waves in it, and a dotted line.
This represents the high and low tides, when the dotted line is covered it’s high tide, when its not it’s low tide. This is important as tides shift and areas that once were open to you now are under the clouds and unaccessible. It does add for an interesting dynamic.
The other area that adds to the illusion of a living world is town and city progression. You can blast through the game, and indeed complete it, ignoring all the towns. However if you talk to people in town (even just the normal dialogues), and do all the side quests; the town will grow. As a result of this costs of buying things go down, and you get better sell prices.
Also the stores will have expanded stock. Overall it’s worth spending the time to bost the towns status as you can get access to some really nice loot.
Is this game worth buying? Yes! The game is expensive, especially if you buy the season pass (which I recommend if only to get the legendary blades!!). However I feel the cost, which worked out to around £1.70 an hour in my 130 hour play through, is well worth it. What’s more I’ve yet to do the expansion, so there’s another 30-40 hours apparently.
I’ve had a lot of fun with this game and do regret not picking it up at launch. It’s one of the games I will be replaying from time to time.
I genuinely feel this is one of the stand out games on the Switch. It’s one of those games everyone should have and play. I can’t wait for Monolith to do a Xenoblade 3, or better yet port X over to Switch.