Xenoblade Chronicles 3D Game Review

Available on New Nintendo 3DS and New Nintendo 3DS XL
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D release date – April 2 2015

 
Released towards the end of the Wii’s life span and manufactured in such limited quantities that it practically became a collector’s item from the moment it hit store shelves in 2011, Xenoblade Chronicles is a sprawling epic that deserved to reach a much wider audience than it did in the west. This is Japanese role-playing at its finest, with a likeable cast, gripping story, expansive setting and unique battle engine. Monolith Soft’s biggest game to date (at least until the sequel Xenoblade Chronicles X hits the Wii U later this year) has now been ported to the New Nintendo 3DS hardware, a fact which should hopefully create a whole new legion of fans.
 
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D’s setting is certainly unique. The “world” you inhabit is actually the corpse of a massive beast known as a titan. Years ago, two such titans – Bionis and Mechonis – were locked in a fierce battle which only ended when both succumbed to their injuries, and they have remained locked together ever since, motionless on a shimmering sea. You assume the role of Shulk, a surprisingly mild-mannered and pensive hero and a member of the people of Homs who try to eke out a peaceful existence on Bionis. From Mechonis’ lifeless body come the evil robot-like Mechons who are intent on destroying their human opponents. With the people of Homs now on the backfoot, it falls to Shulk – armed with a unique blade known as the Monado and aided by a team of close friends – to turn the tide.

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Xenoblade Chronicles 3D

If you were never lucky enough to experience the Wii version then some explanation is possibly in order. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is roughly divided into two sections – exploration and combat. You can move freely around the game world exploring the environment and tracking down secret items, and when you’re in a settlement you can chat with other characters and purchase items. In other Japanese RPGs the exploration element is usually quite light, but here it’s given a much greater focus – finding new landmarks actually earns you experience points, which is a neat way of encouraging you to stray off the beaten track. The locations you visit are truly impressive and are only possible thanks to the improved tech which resides within the New Nintendo 3DS and New Nintendo 3DS XL. While the graphics still fall short of the gorgeous Wii original – and the transition to the smaller screen undoubtedly limits their spectacle – this is nevertheless one of the best-looking 3DS titles yet seen, and the 3D effect – while subtle – adds immeasurably to the experience.
 
When placed in a battle situation, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D continues to impress with its unique take on tried-and-tested tropes. Unlike your typical Japanese RPG, combat isn’t turned based. You can move your character around freely at all times, outflanking enemies and getting yourself into a prime position to inflict the maximum amount of damage. Placement is of vital importance, as some characters have attacks that cause additional damage from certain angles – or cannot be used at all unless you’re standing behind an enemy. Once you’ve selected your move, it is executed automatically when you’re within range of your targeted opponent. A cool-down period then occurs – the game’s only concession to its turn-based ancestors – but you’re still able to move freely, dropping out of range of enemy attacks while you wait for your next move to charge-up.
 
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Xenoblade Chronicles X

When you consider that you have other party members ducking in and out of battle – as well as multiple enemies trying their best to take you out – it’s unsurprising that things do become rather hectic, especially later in the game. This was an issue with the Wii original, but the smaller screen of the 3DS exacerbates it. However, once you become accustomed to the ebb and flow of battle it is much easier to keep track of openings and impending threats, and the fact that some icons have been relocated to the bottom screen in this version means it’s a little easier to see what’s happening. Another obvious upshot of this battle system is that it tests not only your brain but your reactions, too – unlike other games of this type, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is less dependent on luck and relies more of your own skills and judgement.
 
The game also makes use of the New Nintendo 3DS hardware’s additional control inputs, with the C-Stick controlling the in-game camera and the ZL and ZR buttons bringing up menus. The C-Stick is unquestionably the star here, as you’ll often need to adjust the camera when exploring the overworld or trying to find the right opening during combat. However, as we touched upon before, it’s the bolstered tech in the New Nintendo 3DS that has the most dramatic effect on this conversion; this simply would not have been possible on the standard 3DS system. Some of the locations and towns are complex in scope and dazzling in design, while the more heated battle segments boast a staggering number of participants. Despite this, the frame rate remains smooth and the game never feels as if it’s about to collapse under the strain. Monster Games – the American studio which has handled this port and previously brought Retro’s Donkey Kong Country Returns to the 3DS – has done a wonderful job of shrinking down one of the Wii’s most visually accomplished titles.

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Xenoblade Chronicles 3D
 
First Impressions
For those of you that expended the 50 or so hours that were required to beat the Wii original, this conversion is perhaps less essential as it doesn’t really add anything to the game, aside from a throwaway 3D character model viewer and mildly interesting music player which allows you to listen to tracks from the game at your leisure. In fact, with the Japanese language track removed – presumably due to space concerns – you could say that this offers a little less.

The English voice acting is actually of an incredibly high standard, with Nintendo taking the unusual step of employing English rather than American actors, but the Japanese voices seemed more authentic on the Wii, and it’s a shame they had to be expunged here.

Even so, Xenoblade Chronicles has one of the most dedicated fan bases of any Japanese RPG, and there will be few among that number who will balk at the idea of giving this epic adventure a second runthrough – this time with the added bonus of portability and glasses-free 3D.

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Xenoblade Chronicles 3D Game Review | TechNina | 4.5

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