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Friday, May 29, 2020

Xenoblade Chronicles: A Modern Classic

By HEAVY LOBSTER - The Legacy of Xenoblade Chronicles, 10 Years Later.

Ten years ago, on June 10th, 2010, an obscure JRPG called Xenoblade Chronicles was released in Japan, and while the game garnered critical praise, there were no plans for the game to release in North America. The game was localized for Europe in 2011, but it took until 2012 after a fan campaign for it and 2 other JRPGs known as Operation Rainfall gained traction for it to finally release in the US, though it did so as a limited run GameStop exclusive that was notoriously hard to find. While the game sold through its limited run, it still languished in obscurity as the Wii had long been forgotten by that time. But over time, the game gradually got more attention via word-of-mouth, was spotlighted by Chuggaconroy's Let's Play, culminating eventually in Shulk appearing in Smash, followed soon after by a New 3DS-exclusive port of the game, and was later followed by Xenoblade Chronicles X and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. The game is now considered by many to be the best JRPG of the 7th generation.

So what is it about this game that allowed it to leave such a lasting impact in spite of its inauspicious beginnings? In part it's because of when the game came out, as at the time many Japanese developers were moving away from home consoles towards handhelds, and Final Fantasy 13 was notorious for its excessive linearity, which gave Xenoblade a chance to stand out with its vast open areas to explore. In spite of the Wii's graphical limitations, the game's art direction and unique setting allowed for some awe-inspiring vistas. The game's memorable cast of characters and gripping story likewise captured players, and the unique battle system served to blend elements of action and turn-based RPGs. It set a standard for modern JRPGs and in many respects it represents a transition between early 3D JRPGs and more recent entries in the genre. The world manages to balance openness and exploration with traditional linear storytelling, as while you travel through each new area in a linear progression, these areas are so vast and open and rich with content that it has a distinct open-world feel while still retaining a strong narrative and sense of direction. It manages to balance so many elements so well to create an unforgettable package.

Xenoblade's success has had massive implications for Nintendo as a whole, especially the status of Monolith Soft, the series developer, within Nintendo. Monolith Soft was bought out by Nintendo in 2007 from Bandai Namco, when it was known as a small developer of JRPGs like Xenosaga and Baten Kaitos. Since then, Monolith Soft has expanded greatly, opening up a Kyoto branch back in 2011, which has played an important role in assisting other studios at Nintendo develop games for bigger franchises like Zelda, Splatoon, and Animal Crossing, earning a reputation of being one of Nintendo's best and most important studios. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is perhaps the biggest game among these to show Xenoblade's impact, as it actually borrowed personnel from the Xenoblade team, and the game's world design borrows especially from the open-world Xenoblade Chronicles X, which was Nintendo's first fully open-world game. Breath of the Wild also incorporated the common Xenoblade trope of placing more powerful enemies in early-game areas to create a sense of danger and progression, a trope which was likewise used in Pokémon Sword and Shield in their attempts to incorporate more of an open-world feel into the Wild Area.

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is out today.

It's hard to fully put into words the significance of Xenoblade Chronicles, but the phrase "modern classic" applied to it in the March 2020 Direct Mini trailer might sum it up best. It's a game that bridges the gap between modern and classic JRPGs, something that captures the essence of what made so many classic JRPGs great while also being forward-looking in its design, showing what the genre is capable of accomplishing with more modern hardware capable of handling expansive 3D worlds. Were I to make a "bucket list" of essential games that everyone should play at least once in their lives, Xenoblade would be prominently featured. I strongly recommend that everyone go out and pick up Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition.


Are any of you planning to pick up Xenoblade? Have you played this or any of the other games in the series before? Leave your thoughts below!

1 comment :

  1. My store couldn't get them in on time for release day D: They said HOPEFULLY next week.

    ReplyDelete

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