After a massive petition kickstarted Xenoblade Chronicles‘ relevancy in the West, gamers quickly fell in love with the series. Not willing to poke the bear twice, it wasn’t at all surprising to see that the game’s successor, Xenoblade Chronicles X, would waste no time arriving on Nintendo’s current-gen platform. While it has been a long wait since the title’s unveiling almost three years ago, it appears that the patience of JRPG fans everywhere has paid off.
Sticking with what made the original, Shulk-filled installment worth checking out, the series has transferred over to the Wii U quite well – progressing leaps and bounds over its predecessor thanks to the improved hardware as a result. Xenoblade Chronicles X features an absolutely massive world to explore and an almost absurd amount of content to-boot, making it a triumph for both developer Monolith Soft and the Big N – but be prepared for a lot of grinding.
The narrative kicks off with Earth being destroyed by an immense alien war, leaving only a handful of survivors on a massive spaceship – known as the White Whale – to continuously drift through space in search of a new home. Eventually the forces that brought about an end to our beloved home planet catch up to the United States-branded space vessel, and cause it to come crashing down on the planet Mira. Fortunately, it’s quite habitable – albeit incredibly dangerous.
The first things players will notice is the scale of the environment they’re roaming around in. The alien planet of Mira is massive, sprawling, and beautiful, but it’s also littered with wildlife. Everything from massive dinosaur-inspired creatures to smaller wasp-like bugs inhabit the surface of the planet, and most of them aren’t friendly. Players will quickly find themselves becoming acquainted with the lifeforms spread across the globe, as they’ll constantly be attacked by them, tasked with taking them out, or be forced to kill them just for some much-needed experience points.
In order to help speed up traversal, Monolith Soft has implemented mechs known as Skells. These hulking mechanized exoskeletons become essential for traversing the land later in the game, and they transform to suit the needs of the players as well – switching between a standard battle mode and speedy vehicle form in a similar fashion to Optimus Prime. They can even fly which makes them incredibly valuable, but it takes hours for these machines to be unlocked to begin with. This makes earning them all that much sweeter, but it’s a slow build that’ll leave many aching to get setup in a Skell of their very own.
This philosophy rings true throughout the majority of Xenoblade Chronicles X, as there’s an ample amount of grinding required to overturn bosses and defeat legions of foes. Users will find themselves continuously taking on Mira’s wildlife in a bid to level up and gain more powerful Arts. Completing any of the countless side missions also helps with this task, but some of the later levels in the game are unforgiving – although this could easily be seen as a plus for those that want to sink as much time as possible into the massive in-game world.
The aforementioned Arts are also incredibly useful, as they act as super attacks that slowly recharge after being used during a fight. Combining these together, as well as equipping the right gear for battle, is crucial to walking away from an encounter intact. The end result is a battle system that will feel immediately familiar for anyone that played Xenoblade Chronicles on either the Wii or the New Nintendo 3DS, which is both good and bad for dedicated gamers. This is because it hasn’t been refined in a way that makes it immediately accessible, nor does the game direct players in an intuitive manner.
Anyone that hasn’t previously been introduced to these mechanics will be confused, and not much has been put into place to make it readily accessible to newcomers. Instead, a great number of brief pop-ups will appear on-screen that flood the display with text, and reading through these quickly becomes a tedious chore. Even then, not all of them are exceedingly helpful when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, presumably assuming that players will know what they’re doing when they suit up as their makeshift protagonist. This is the only major drawback to the final game, but those willing to do a little research will get to the core of the adventure in due time.
Xenoblade Chronicles X is one of the prettier games on Nintendo’s Wii U console, and it’s a standout addition to the platform’s library. Setting aside the learning curve for newcomers and an astute lack of immediate aid from the game itself, the title offers fans a massive world that they’ll easily get lost in. The detail in every portion of it is admirable, and the story (while lacking a central character as likeable as Shulk) is engaging enough to merit trucking through. Even the core battle mechanics are engaging, and the scale of all of these elements will suck up countless hours of any gamer’s time. This could very well be considered the largest title ever published by Nintendo, and it stands tall alongside some of the system’s finest.
Xenoblade Chronicles X is available exclusively for the Nintendo Wii U on December 4, 2015.