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Xenoblade Chronicles

Platform(s): New Nintendo 3DS XL, Nintendo Switch, Wii
Genre: Action
Developer: Monolith Soft
Release Date: May 29, 2020


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Switch Review - 'Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 3, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Xenoblade Chronicles brings to life a universe where two worlds called Bionis and Mechonis fight a war that knows no end.

Buy Xenoblade Chronicles

Combining a giant world, a massively complex plotline, and a unique combat system, Xenoblade Chronicles was ambitious beyond belief for a Nintendo Wii exclusive. To its credit, it shone as well as it did despite being on the weakest system of the console generation. Perhaps that is why Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is as good as it is. It takes a game that's too big for the system it was on and finally gives it a home.

The original Xenoblade Chronicles holds up as well as it did during our original review. It is perhaps one of the finest JRPGs to ever come out, and it's easily one of the stars of the Wii. Even the 3DS port, which struggled even more to get the entire game running on an infinitely weaker system, still managed to shine despite everything looking like a blur. Definitive Edition contains the complete story of the original game, including its excellent gameplay, but it adds a number of significant changes to improve the experience.

The first of the major changes in Definitive Edition is a complete revamping of the quest system. When you accept a quest now, you can mark it on your map to show you where you need to go to find the items or location you need. It's difficult to express just how huge of a change this is. In the original Xenoblade, you had to wander around mindlessly for quests and be on the lookout for moving people or randomly generated items. It became absurdly easy to burn out or skip the side-quests because they were so annoying. Now the quests are fun to do and encourage exploration of new areas without requiring you to tediously kill random enemies or collect blue orbs to find the one item you need.

The second major improvement also ties into the side-quest system. Xenoblade is intended to be played at about the same level as the enemies in an area. If your level is too high, you'll steamroll them without playing with the fun combat system. In the original game, you would generally be on the same level if you followed the plot, and participating in side-quests would quickly over-level you. This is fixed by the new Expert mode, and despite the name, it should be turned on by all players. In Expert mode, rather than experience automatically being applied, it is "banked," and you can choose to spend or remove it as you like. This gives you full control over your leveling, which means you can do of all the side-quests without wrecking the difficulty curve.

This is important because they add a ton of "extra" content to the game. Sure, it was there in the previous versions, but it was such a tedious experience that most people probably didn't touch it. Now you can enjoy the absurdly in-depth side-quest system as it was meant to be, fun NPCs and all. It makes the game world feel fuller and more alive. The main story is about 80 hours long, so making the rest of the content more accessible gives the game even more value.

There is also a selection of positive user interface changes. The menus are cleaned up and easier to explore, and the combat menu shows special markers when your Arts will use a bonus effect. Considering how difficult it could be to tell if a positional attack was going to hit in the original title, these moves are now way easier to use. There is also a Casual mode if you want to experience the story without messing too much with the gameplay. Perhaps my favorite feature is that your weapon and armor visuals are now separate from stats, so you can make your characters look awesome instead of like a random mishmash of gear.

There are also some brand-new features, such as Time Attack, which is similar to what's in Xenoblade 2. Time Attack challenges let players take on a variety of enemies and situations, and you are scored on how well you fight and how quickly you finish. Doing these quests will give you exclusive armor and the ability to buy powerful gems to cut down on grinding.

The other and more significant new feature is the Epilogue: Future Connected. Set after the main game, this feature has you rejoin some of the new heroes and a group of Nopon friends as they set out on a mission. I don't want to spoil the context, so I won't go into details. Imagine Future Connected as its own stand-alone mini-story, rather like Torna: The Golden Country was for Xenoblade 2. It provides 10 extra hours of gameplay, but it doesn't change the story much. It's mostly an excuse to revisit the world for a few hours after the ending.

Definitive Edition also comes with a graphical rework, which is mostly an improvement. Character models and environments have seen a noticeable improvement, particularly in the characters' faces. With that said, any area where things haven't been updated seem rather jarring, such as spots where textures look more at home on the Wii than the Switch. There is also some significant pop-in, which was present on the Wii but is a lot more noticeable on the Switch. The only possible downside is preferring the art style of the original Xenoblade Chronicles over the slightly more anime-inspired facial artwork used in Definitive Edition.

Definitive Edition also reunites all of the voice actors, so any new content retains the original cast. Considering Xenoblade Chronicles had an all-time great dub, this is a bonus. The amazing soundtrack is as good as ever, and you also have the opportunity to use remixed versions of songs if you want. While the remixes are good, I preferred the original in most cases. Thankfully, both are an option and can be swapped at will.

Overall, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition lives up to its name. The changes are almost universally for the better by taking an excellent game and smoothing out the faults, flaws, and weak points while providing additional content. Considering Xenoblade Chronicles was one of the best JRPGs of the last console generation and arguably one of the best JRPGs of all time, this improves upon an already outstanding title. Fans of the original and newcomers alike should find Definitive Edition a wonderful way to experience Xenoblade Chronicles at its best.

Score: 9.5/10

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