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Gaming Review

'Xenoblade Chronicles' (Wii)

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Released on Friday, Aug 19 2011

Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)

© Nintendo


Also available on: N/A
Developer: Monolith Soft
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Role-playing game

Xenoblade Chronicles is the first game from the Operation Rainfall trilogy to bypass North American territories and hit PAL regions. It is also one of the finest JRPGs to land on these shores in quite some time. Featuring an engaging story, an enjoyable battle system and some of the more impressive audio and visual effects we've seen on the Wii, it's understandable why US Nintendo fans aren't too happy about its absence from their high-street stores.

Xenoblade Chronicles begins with an epic cut-scene showing the battle between giant titans Bionis and Mechonis, a battle that forms and shapes the continents of the modern world. Fast-forward a few millennia and there is still strife between the biological and mechanical ones, only now it's humans and robots fighting in frequent, vast and bloody battles.

The plot revolves around young protagonist Shulk and a mysterious sword called the Monado. The Monado is the only weapon capable of slicing through the seemingly endless waves of Mechon, but its secrets are not yet known. Shulk is the man in charge of unlocking its hidden powers and wielding the all-powerful sword in the ultimate battle between man and machine. With a vast selection of well-balanced characters, plenty of highs and lows and more twists and turns than an episode of Top Gear, Xenoblade Chronicles is a captivating, roller-coaster ride, chock full of surprises and secrets.

The visuals are the perfect accompaniment to the wonderful narrative, as players will be equally as excited to see the next location as they are to discover the latest plot twist. The landscapes are lush, the expanses are vast and the whole package is incredibly detailed. It's definitely one of the more visually appealing games that we've seen on the Wii. Granted, some of the character models and enemies are a little basic, but moving through the forests, caves and fields during day and night or exploring the huge towns and cities makes up for the lack of HD polish.

The combat is equally as impressive, and, although by no means revolutionary, the developers appear to have hand-picked the finer touches and techniques from some of the better RPGs in recent memory. For a start, the dreaded random battles are no more. Instead, enemies have different levels of hostility. Some will initiate a battle on sight, others must be bested in order to move on, while some simply wander around waiting for the player to make the first move.



Battles take place in real-time, with players automatically attacking at regular intervals. Powerful attacks and spells (which have a cooling off period) are called Arts, and can be selected from the intuitive battle menu. Also, despite controlling only one character, players are able to issue commands to their team-mates with a quick press of a button. As the game progresses, more and more techniques are introduced - such as the team combo - which adds an increasing amount of depth and complexity to the combat. Fortunately, despite the challenge, the battle system never overwhelms and always remains fun. Perhaps most importantly of all, the combat is something you'll want to do, instead of feeling like you have to.

There are lots of other nice touches to be found in the game, such as the heart-to-heart feature, which allows specific characters to have a good old sentimental chin-wag if they share the appropriate level of affinity. Bonds can be formed by giving encouragement and aid during battle, as well as by chatting with locals and completing the plentiful array of side-quests.

The side-quests, which could have been a real nuisance if the developers had adopted the typical fetch-carry formula, are a great way to gain additional cash and experience without having to constantly travel back and forth between distant lands in order to reap the rewards. In fact, Xenoblade Chronicles positively eliminates all of the irritating, time-consuming touches that plague most RPGs. Players can save the game anywhere, restart at the nearest landmark when they die, and even teleport between locations.

Xenoblade Chronicles's biggest problem depends on the available control method. Playing the game with a Wii remote and nunchuck can be incredibly fiddly and frustrating, purely due to the lack of dual analogue sticks. A Classic Controller is a must and makes everything from combat to exploration infinitely more fluid and fun. Without it, players will be blind-sided in battle, miss hidden items and fail to appreciate some of the more majestic sights.

The English voice acting is also a little hit-and-miss, occasionally failing to convey the appropriate emotional response to certain situations. It does grow on you over time, however, and there's always the option to flick between English and Japanese vocals at any point throughout the game. Complaints are minor, however, and fail to detract from what is an essential Wii game during a transitional time in the console's life-cycle. The plot, combat, visuals and multitude of minor touches combine to make one of the best RPGs to date.

Monolith Soft has undoubtedly breathed new life into a stagnating genre, while retaining all of the fundamentals that make the RPG such a popular choice with gamers. Xenoblade Chronicles doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it does add a stylish new body and a slick new engine.



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