Back in 2011, a game known as Xenoblade Chronicles was confirmed for release in Europe. During that timeframe, there were whispers at the time that there were no plans to bring the game to North America. This in turn angered many of us here in North America, and in response to it, a group known as Operation Rainfall was born. Now Operation Rainfall actually broke the ice with two other games as well, but their primary target was Xenoblade Chronicles and we knew it for a fact.
An incredible effort, including write-in/call-in campaigns direct to Nintendo of America, actually getting to the point where even executives within the company caught wind of the efforts. Ultimately our prayers were answered; Xenoblade Chronicles was released for the Wii here in North America in early 2012. Exclusive to GameStop, the game nonetheless went on to sell extremely well, so well that it actually sold the best in North America over all the other territories put together.
Fast forward 3 years later and not only has Xenoblade Chronicles garnered critical acclaim, but the game was ported to the 3DS by US based Monster Games, by that I mean the upgraded New 3DS. Nintendo actually had their engineers develop a 3DS system with a more powerful CPU and GPU on the die in order to have the game run properly on the handheld and unlike the Wii iteration, we didn’t have to write or call to Nintendo of America to bring the game over. But in order to play it, you do have to upgrade your 3DS to the newer model. Is it worth the price of admission to do so? We’ll get to that later.
So here’s a brief overview of the story for those who are unfamiliar with this game. According to in-game lore, two gigantic robots known as Bionis and Mechonis were engaged in what seemed to be an endless battle between the two behemoths. Ultimately, both of these titanic mechs ended up critically wounding one another to the point where they both just stopped dead. Several centuries later, and we see life is flourishing on both of their husks. Humans or “Homs” as they are called in game on Bionis, and Mechons, mechanical creatures on Mechonis; to say these two races hate one another would be an understatement as they are locked in bitter war at the start of the game in an area known simply as Sword Valley.
You begin the game with what’s basically an introduction to the game’s interesting battle system, controlling three characters that all become integral to the game’s storyline later on. After that brief but storied introduction, you now end up controlling a teenage boy known as Shulk. This plucky young man ends up leading a band of unlikely heroes on a great quest to possibly destroy the Mechonis, with all sorts of interesting twists and turns throughout the campaign’s 60+ hour playthrough. In Layman’s terms, this game is absolutely huge and will take you a long time to finish.
Not only is the world itself enormous, but there is plenty to do within the confines of this world itself. Just about everything is reachable with little exception to that rule. Transitions from towns to overworld map are seamless and you can take your time talking to all the citizens within each town, doing so might open up side quests within the game expanding the gameplay time considerably if you want to take them all on. The huge world map is obviously populated by all sorts of various, exotic creatures based off real world creatures like wolves, spiders, bats, etc. You can actually choose to either leave them be and not engage in battle with them, or you can actually go for it and challenge just about any creature you see to combat.
Speaking of which, battles take place in real time right on the map, and can be engaged by hitting the R button on the New 3DS or the Wii if you’re using a Classic Controller attachment. If you hit A, the battle begins, bringing up a command menu that you can use with Shulk and his crew to issue commands. The battle system can get a little complex at times, but for the most part I’ve had no problems issuing commands as needed and winning the battles presented to me. With rare exception most organic creatures will not attack you if you are within their level group. But if you’re not leveled up enough, prepare to get slaughtered as when a powerful creature smells blood, you’ll be crushed in no time flat.
There are special moves available once Shulk acquires a powerful weapon known as the Monado; again this is a key artifact in this game’s long and twisted tale. The Monado actually allows Shulk to do a few things in battle, for one it allows you to damage Mechon whom would be untouchable otherwise. There is a special ability in the game that if you wish to battle Mechon units, is practically required as it allows normal weaponry carried by your teammates to damage the Mechon as well. Not only that, the Monado opens up other forms of special attack and status boosters that would be inaccessible otherwise. It is safe to say that the battle system and story all revolve around the Monado and its abilities. I say this because you’ll primarily be controlling Shulk throughout the game.
Now, regarding the differences between the Wii and the New 3DS versions of the game? It’s safe to say they are pretty negligible. The New 3DS version has two things over the Wii version; one is compatibility with the Shulk Amiibo to unlock extra currency, which is pretty nifty all things considered as currency is not exactly easy to acquire in the game itself. There’s also a dossier of beasts you encounter throughout the game as well. However, because of the reduced size of the 3DS cart, the Japanese voice acting that was present in the Wii version is absent. This is a small loss all things considered though because the British voice acting present in this game is very well done, and gives the characters a ton of personality.
There are reports that the textures are downgraded on the New 3DS version but it is extremely hard to tell, and honestly, when viewing the game on both the New 3DS and the Wii? The difference is pretty negligible at best. That is pretty impressive all things considered as the Wii version had to use every last bit of horsepower available in the system in order to produce the visuals present in the game. The New 3DS version looks stunning on the handheld; it is amazing that they were able to cram the entire game onto a handheld with minimal losses.
The differences between the two versions are so miniscule that you’ll be quick to overlook them and just get completely lost in the huge, open world that sprawls out before you upon getting to the Gaur Plains and listening to the beautiful music that plays upon your arrival during the daytime. Which brings me to another selling point, the game’s soundtrack itself is amazing being composed by six amazing composers including two legends, Yoko Shimomura and Yasunori Mitsuda, this soundtrack is a treat for the ears with some melodies being hauntingly beautiful and memorable. It runs the gamut from epic orchestral scores that illustrate the world you’re traveling in so perfectly to crunchy guitar riffs that serve to add intensity to battles. Somehow this incredible soundtrack manages to always befit the atmosphere as needed, never straying out of place, and hitting all the right notes at all the right times. Beautiful is a massive understatement when it comes to describing this soundtrack.
So between the awesome story, the massive in-game world, the incredible soundtrack and the likeable characters, is Xenoblade Chronicles a must have? Is it worth upgrading to the New 3DS XL to get? In the end, I would say yes. The New 3DS XL version is much easier to find, it is every bit as good as the Wii version having 99% of the content with the only thing missing being the Japanese voices, and it looks fantastic no matter what system you get the game for.
All in all, Xenoblade Chronicles is an amazing game that came out at the right time during the twilight years of the Wii, and is the perfect game to show off the capabilities of the New 3DS XL and what the machine is truly capable of. Bringing attention to the fact that this game is truly massive in scale, it is no small feat for it to be running on a handheld a mere 3 years after the Wii version was released, even if you have to get the upgraded hardware to pull it off, it is still amazing that 99% of the game is all present and accounted for. But no matter what system you get the game for, Xenoblade Chronicles is a tale for the ages. A stunning masterpiece that needs to be experienced by everyone who loves RPGs at least once in their lifetime; especially if they desire something that fuses throwback with current day, if you haven’t checked this game out yet, you are missing out on a very special game.
Overall Score: 9.7/10
RGN Rating: Platinum Game
Developer: Monolith Soft
Available on: Wii | New 3DS XL
Played on: Both systems
Review Copy: Physical copies of both games were purchased for the purpose of this review.