April 21st, 2012

Xenoblade Chronicles – First Look



Xenoblade Chronicles is a game that exists to show that the Wii could have been so much more, if this had happened earlier in it’s life. It’s an RPG game proving that the Wii can do more than those silly party/mini-games that unfortunately, came late in the Wii’s life. Along with this game comes The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower. These game are pretty much the swan song of the Wii, because coming November in Japan is the Wii-U, which looks to be even more party based mini-game gimmicks.

What is Xenoblade Chronicles about?
That sword of there, the Monado, is pretty much all you see about the game. However this is a standard jRPG. Complete with fridgings for motivation, sexualized female armor, and ridiculous weapons. There is the machine empire that seems to want to wipe out the human race and the people of the Bionis, (Homs, Nopon, Ancient Race of people that actually know what’s REALLY going on!) and they are at odds with each other and you have to find out why take revenge for your dead childhood friend. Of course being a jRPG there is so much more behind the scenes. “Why does that character have that other character’s voice” for instance if you happen to be a fan of Norio Wakamoto. Is the Bionis alive? Who made these two ultra-giant robots? Etc. Yes this game DOES have a Japanese Voice option. (Unlike The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower which need undubs.)

So you get to play Shulk (the chosen one), Reyn (the tank), Karna (Sharla: the “archer/healer”), Dunban (the other sword guy), Melia (the mage) and Riki (the cute team mascot character who actually isn’t as useless as the other cute animal characters).  These character have something at stake going with Shulk to get revenge on a certain Mechon for killing Fiora his childhood friend. Karna, for instance, wants to find Gadou who seems to either be her boyfriend or at least a good friend. Dunban just happens to be the former Monado owner, Melia becomes the guide character and Riki, well, is the mascot “cute animal” character. You can also take the main character out of the party completely!

So really that sword in the picture isn’t all that important to the plot other than it might provide tropey backstory to “The Chosen One” Shulk as to why he can only use it and what is it really.

What’s Different?
This game seems to borrow heavily from the western RPG market. Not all of it is good however, as it borrows from the MMO market more. You have skill trees and characters who’s character model reflects what they are wearing. You’ve also got pointless, seemingly never ending kill quests and impossible to find items! Huzzah! The story for itself is more a sci-fi story than a fantasy story so it’s got that going for it as well.

The Good?
The good bits are the fact it does have questing. These quests usually help to flesh out most of the named town inhabitants and partially flesh out the party characters. I say partially because they have repeating dialogue. It has Dunban, who’s “gimmick” is his naked fighting skills. He gets bonuses for fighting without armor, which does indeed strip him down to his shorts and skin. The plot can easily be advanced through if you want, by ignoring exploration and collecting completely and the characters all seem to be somewhat three dimensional even though they are the typical RPG stereotypes.
The music isn’t half bad either. It’s a mix of Final Fantasy VII and a little part of Phantasy Star Online as well as a bit of it’s own thing. The voice acting is of course top notch (Japanese voices, the English ones.. not so top notch.) and the fact it even HAS the voice option that SO MANY other jRPGs out there don’t even bother with. (Tales of Graces f, The Last Story, Pandora’s Tower, Arc Rise Fantasia *shiver*, Tales of the Abyss (PS2 and 3DS), Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, Persona 3+ and Portable, Star Ocean 1&2+portable remakes, Tales of Vesperia, Tales of Xillia, Final Fatnasy XIII+-2, Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon, FF: Crystal Chronicles, The list goes on and on and on and…)
Also, sometimes it feels good to sit back, run around and collect things and not worry about the next plot point. The frustration sets in when you have the time based quests and want to advance the plot yet can’t go forward without thinking you might go beyond the point of no return.
Being able to boot Shulk out from the party so you can have the party YOU want to play with and not be forced to play with “the dude” in the party.
Exploring is actually fun, since your getting a few battles in along the way and there are no random battles. It has the MMO setup that they will only attack you if your a certain level and if you trigger their aggro type (visual/sound). The enemies feel plentiful without feeling that there are too many or not enough as some enemies don’t aggro at all and others you can sneak by. Which is more fun when you level 20 and playing sneak by the 85 level ogre/giant to explore behind it!

There’s also “Unique/Notorious Monsters” that you can kill to get some equipment that can’t be bought in stores that is sometimes better than what you are wearing. These battles are usually more fun that the boss battles.

The quest system does leave little “!”s around the map for who you are to talk to and where that item you need to collect is. The problem is that you only see them when you get close to them and not on the main map.

The Bad?
Let’s start with the story! Tell me if you’ve heard it before. There’s a man and a woman and they are childhood friends/genderfriends/REALLY CLOSE SOMEHOW and then along comes the big bad or a big bad henchie and BAM the woman is killed! The man is so distraught by this he seeks revenge and thus the story is about how Dude gets his revenge, also some world story happens, but REVENGE! Yeah, that’s this plot. The ONLY reason Shulk leaves Colony 9 is because “his” woman died and he wants revenge. To add insult to this he has a dudebro chat with his buddy Reyn about how much he’s NOT CRYING over her death and is instead filling that in with anger. It’s a real dudebro story… really. Karna’s plot is second to his plot as she doesn’t have evidence of Gadou being dead, just his rifle. Of course her whole point is about pining after a man and if he’s dead or not. One of her death quotes is “Gadou, I…”, so she only lives for him.
The female characters armor. Yep, every RPG seems to have a problem putting women in reasonable armor,  this is no exception. Karna either has a boob squisher and short-shorts or a boob window and short-shorts. Melia has a choice of boob window or a very low cut top. The other characters? They can get armor that makes them look like freaking ROBOTS. (Of course this all looks different on each character. Another thing is that whenever Karna turns to speak, her breasts jiggle. Yes, the programmers decided they needed to sexualize her some more and add THAT. There is no reason for it and honestly it looks silly when she is trying to be serious and there they are wobbling all over the place. I really feel character creators and programmers need to go to a class on proper armor and how clothing and anatomy work, as all this stuff looks juvenile and is misogynistic.

Quests are both the good and the bad. The bad is that on some quests you end up spending numerous hours trying to find a certain rare collectable or getting a part to drop. The parts dropping hasn’t been too much of a pain yet as the “rare” parts tend to drop more readily than some of the common collectable items can be found. The collectables being these glowing orbs  that give you an item that is only good for trading… and quests. Some collectable can only be found in a certain place (usually a ‘secret’ area), at a certain time, in the rain. Even then it’s random. By the way the Fire Tarantula is only in the secret area called Believer’s Paradise. Some of the collectables can be traded for, however it only shows up when the town is at a certain affinity (star) level. Which  you need this quest in order to raise affinity. Then there’s the “overtrading” where you can get some items. Good luck with that. It’s good to have a guide on hand or a wikia up… which probably makes this game a Guide Dang It. It’s probably saved however if you get out some form of document creator and make a table yourself. The game doesn’t do that for you.
Also the quests are the common ones you usually find in an MMO: Kill X these, Collect X this, take this to X and come back. The not really fun quests. Some kill quests are short with the “Kill 2 X” while some collect quests are long “Collect 6 uncommon X collectable”. It seems when you get the quest the percent change to get that item drops considerably. However you can trade with NPCs for some items and just do it that way.. which brings me to…
Certain NPC characters + Night/Day + Huge Confusing Town + NPCs move around = I’m still finding NEW people in Colony 9 and I’m about 40 hours in. (Mostly questing/collecting/exploring). So if you DO want to trade for a quest item, have fun trying to FIND that NPC. The map does give pointers with blue dots for named NPCs, however you don’t know who they are and what they are willing to trade and what was your affinity level for the town? How do you get up to them exactly? Hey where’d they go they were here a second ago? So you also end up having to plot out where the NPC is at what exact time of day as well.

The visions!! While the visions are nice to point out quest items if you want to collect ahead of time, you can’t skip them. They also happen in battle and are unskippable. Sometimes I don’t care that a character is going to die, yes fine that’s nice, I was planning on healing them anyways.

The sound also has some bad to it as you can’t adjust the volume levels, so often the music is drowning out the voices and sound effects.

This game has good and bad going for it. The plot is a tired, misogynistic in parts and hackneyed one, however it also has the “mysterious invaders” going for it to draw you forward. It’s a jRPG at it’s core and it has a Japanese voice option. It’s on the Wii and it’s about time. It offers more exploration of the environment and the towns, however can overwhelm someone who wants to breeze by the plot just finding out how to navigate the landscape.

First LookjRPGWiiXenoblade Chronicles