Long ago there was no land, only a world of ocean and sky. On this world two Titans, Bionis and Mechonis, engaged in an endless war, but as time passed the titans eventually both fell in battle against each other. Eons pass and the bodies of the titans sit unmoving, but life soon evolves on each Titan. On Mechonis evolved the robotic race known as the Mechon and on Bionis the Humanoid race called the Homs. These two races fight each other for control of the only world they know.
As a young boy named Shulk you fight to stop the Mechon and to uncover the secrets of your past and the mystical sword called the Monado. Xenoblade is a Japanese RPG developed by Monolith Soft and published by Nintendo for the Wii console. Almost immediately after its Japanese release this game started received almost flawless reviews and was even praised as the “best Japanese RPG of this generation” but sadly for some of us in the US, we may never get the chance to play this game. As of now this game is only being released in Japan and Europe, with Nintendo of America stating they have no plans to market the game locally in the US. Because of the Europe release of Xenoblade there is an English version of the game out there, but unless you happen to own a PAL system or have some other means of playing imported games, this is one game that you may not be lucky enough to add to your collection.
The first thing I noticed about Xenoblade is the fact that the graphics themselves are nothing impressive, but that does not stop them from building a game with a beautiful environments and a massive world to rival that of any Final Fantasy game. This World in this game is beyond anything you would expect from a Wii game and is rendered surprisingly well; even the load times are minimal for such large maps. The music throughout the game is wonderfully orchestrated, whether it is the light music from the world map or the electric guitar wailing boss fight music, all of which is currently leading me on a quest to find a copy of the soundtrack for this game.
During the Intro you play as Dunban the current wielder of the Monado, the only weapon capable of truly hurting the invading Mechon forces. You get a basic rundown of the battle system including the Auto Attack System, Aggro, and the Battle Palette. This system is very similar to both the auto attack functions in Final Fantasy XII and White Knight Chronicles. The Battle Palette is a battle menu that allows you to set up to 7 Arts to be used in battle. Arts are special attacks that operate outside of the timed auto attack functions and allow you to perform special moves that, depending on your position around the enemy, will grant you different effects whether it is additional damage, breaking your enemies guard, or even lowering their defense. The Aggro system is very helpful in positioning your character, your teammates can assist you in drawing the creature’s attention allowing you the freedom to position yourself in areas that will allow you to uses you Arts to their fullest. Though the Monado is the only weapon that can hurt Mechon enemies you have nothing to worry about, the Monado has an Arts ability that allows you to enchant your teammates weapons for a limited time allowing them to damage the Mechon forces as long as the buff is active.
After the Intro is over you take control of the true hero of the game, Shulk, 1 year after the events in the Intro known as the Battle of Sword Valley where Dunban stopped the advancing Mechon Forces using the Monado but paid a price, the excessive use of the Monado left his body weak and bedridden for over a year. Shulk is researching the power of the Monado trying to determine what powers the sword hides and why it is the only thing that can harm the Mechon and at the same time incapable of doing harm to a human.
Once you take control of Shulk you begin to get a more detailed training on the battle system and begin to understand the size of the world ahead of you. You will begin to learn about Chain Attacks and the Chain Gauge system which can easily turn the tide of a battle in your favor, and the use of the Vision system which allows Shulk to see the future at certain points in battle so that you can prevent the attacks or warn your teammate about their possible impending doom. This allows you to avoid or even prevent attacks that could possibly devastate you during battles.
You will also notice during battle that there is no item system. You only options for healing in battle are the use of healing Arts and outside of battle your characters will auto heal at a rather respectable pace making an item system useless. Reviving characters is also item free, instead using a bar from your Chain Gauge to assist your fallen comrade.
The map system for this game encourages exploration as this not only fills out your map screen but allows you to discover Landmarks and secret areas that give you EXP boosts for locating them. The landmarks you discover also serve 2 additional functions, they allow you to “Skip Travel” between them instantly by selecting them from you world map, and they also serve as revive points. Unlike most RPG in Xenoblade death has no penalty other than warping you back to your last landmark visited with all you EXP/Money/Loot intact. The game also boasts a save anywhere option that does not require you to wander looking for a Save Point.
Right from the beginning of the game you will discover the quest system is fairly expansive as well. As you navigate the town you will begin to notice ! markers on your map and above the NPC’s in the town. These quests range from item collection, deliveries, monster elimination, and even unique monster extermination quests. The quests also serve a dual purpose, they not only allow you to get EXP and items, but also allow you to build your Affinity levels with both your party members as well as the town members themselves. This allows you to unlock additional quests or even achievements.
A Wii game with achievements? I found this to be an interesting feature.
The Achievement system, much like the exploration system, is a feature that gives you EXP boosts for completing preset goals. These Achievements are very helpful in relieving the monotony of grinding as the primary means to level up, as many of the Achievements give large EXP rewards upon completion.
Another fun feature is the Gem creation system, it allows you to use monster crystals dropped after battle and ether crystals found from mining sites to create gems that can be equipped to certain pieces of equipment in order to provide enhancements to your character. The number of different enhancements is extensive and gives you any number of possible combinations.
I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of this game but so far it only keeps getting better. This is the first game in a long time to renew my love for the Wii, cause me to dust it off, and spend hours glued in front of my TV forgoing any games I was currently in the process of playing.
For those of you who do not have the means to play this game there is currently a petition online to get Xenoblade as well as 2 other amazing Japanese RPG games released in the US. It is called Operation Rainfall and you can learn more and join the movement at Operation Rainfall.