On June 10th, 2010, MonolithSoft released Xenoblade Chronicles on the Nintendo Wii exclusively in Japan. For western JRPG fans, this came as a disappointment, with many being extremely intrigued by the unique themes and vision of Xenoblade Chronicles. This ultimately led to the creation of Operation Rainfall, an initiative designed by fans to voice support of bringing over 3 Japan exclusive Wii titles to the West – Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, & Pandora’s Tower. After over a year of fan demand through Operation Rainfall, Xenoblade Chronicles was officially announced for North America on December 3rd, 2011. The game released on April 6th, 2012, and proved Operation Rainfall’s success. Three years after the North American release, Xenoblade Chronicles got ported to the New Nintendo 3DS, in the form of Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, this time for all regions within a week of each other. Over the years, countless texture packs and mods were released online for Xenoblade Chronicles, with many fans hoping one day the game would be seen updated in a new light. Here we are now, and Xenoblade Chronicles is back better than ever, with beautiful new visuals, remastered music, and a brand new epilogue, as Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition.
After the massive success of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and its expansion, Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna – The Golden Country, there is a huge, ever-growing fanbase present now, most of which did not get to experience Xenoblade Chronicles. Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is what I feel everything Takahashi and MonolithSoft originally wanted Xenoblade Chronicles to be, and will now get to be experienced by millions for the first time.
Long ago, the world was nothing more than an endless sea…
Our story takes place on the back of two massive titans, the Bionis and the Mechonis. These titans were locked in timeless battle, until damaging each other so much that they froze in place, becoming the very world that life has inhabited. As time has gone on, a battle has emerged from the two groups inhabiting the Bionis and Mechonis, the people of Bionis, consisting of Homs, Nopon, and High Entia, and the Mechon from Mechonis. It is a battle of Man versus Machine, seemingly never ending.
You play as Shulk, an eighteen year old Homs living in Colony 9. By surprise, the Mechon, enemies from Mechonis, attack Colony 9. The Mechon are seemingly invincible to everything but one weapon, the Monado. Shulk obtains the Monado and is granted the ability to glimpse into the future. Using this power, he sets out on a quest for revenge against the Mechon.
The story in this game is just phenomenal. Absolutely one of my favorite stories in video games, Xenoblade Chronicles is full of massive plot twists and turns, and nails delivery on ever single one of them. It’s been amazing to get to experience this story again updated with the brand new pretty visuals, truly elevating it to the next level with emotion.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition’s gameplay has you exploring various areas completing quests along the way. Each area is absolutely massive, and the game encourages you to explore each one in its entirety thanks to quests and secret areas. You’ll travel through the Bionis and into Mechonis, starting from Colony 9, located at the Bionis Ankle. Secret Areas are hidden around in each location, and most of the time, a very pretty location is waiting for you once you reach a secret area. I took plenty of screenshots at each one, the sights are incomparable. It wouldn’t be a Xenoblade game without ridiculously high level enemies in each area, and I can assure you they’re here. The quite famous Territorial Rotbart is still roaming Gaur Plains, and it will chase after you if you get too close.
The sense of scale in this game is unreal, it’s truly unparalleled. This game really delivers this so perfectly, and the setting really allows it to go to that next level. For example, Shulk lives in Colony 9, which is located around the Bionis’ ankle. When you make it to Colony 6, if you look over the edge, you can actually see Colony 9 and it’s anti-air batteries. Details like these sell this world and the locations in it, making it truly feel immersive. Makna Forest also does this well, with the sky being the actual Eryth Sea. You can even see Valak Mountain from Makna Forest, which makes sense considering Makna Forest is on the Bionis’ Back, with Valak Mountain being the right arm. Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition will immerse you so much with these details, which is something so many games strive to do, but unfortunately fail at.
The Combat feels better than ever
Xenoblade Chronicles uses a real-time action-based battle system, which consists of auto attacks and the use of arts while the player is free to control movement. As the player, you control one of three party members. You can choose the primary party member, the one you will fight as, in the menu. There are a total of 7 different playable party members, each playing completely different from one another. Engaging in a battle is as simple as targeting an enemy, and pressing the A button the engage in combat. Once in battle, the player has a wide variety of options at their disposal. There are two main different types of attacks in Xenoblade DE, Physical and Ether. Both are different in the sense that they effect the enemy in different ways, and in some cases one might work better on one enemy than the other. Automatically, you will auto attack and deal a standard rate of damage towards the enemy.
However, you also have a selection of unique attacks and skills at your helm called arts, which are crucial to the combat. Each character has a unique selection of arts that may be equipped, and can be adjusted in the menu. Through arts, you can also establish the play style you specifically one for each characters, such as opting for arts with bonus aggro draw for Dunban. There are plenty of uses for these arts, not just for enemies however. You can equip healing arts to certain characters, allowing them to heal one party member or even the whole party, which absolutely comes in extremely handy. Arts can be leveled up through the menus, increasing their stats over time. Each party member also has a Talent Art. Talents Arts are more or less “ultimate arts” which do massive damage to the enemy. To touch on one party member’s Talent Art specifically, Shulk has a series of Talent Arts he can choose from by wielding the Monado. These are referred to in game as the Monado Arts, which consist of Arts such as Buster, Enchant, Speed, Purge, and more. There are even two “secret” arts, which can be obtained through specific quest lines. Using a balance of auto-attacks and arts in battle is the key to success against the many enemies you may face.
To touch on enemies a bit, Xenoblade has an absolute abundance of them. From the literal hundreds of common enemies to the 157 unique monsters, Xenoblade has so many enemies the player can encounter and defeat. Focusing on the unique monsters, these are absolutely a highlight. Donning a red name tag sprawling with lightning, these beasts are tough foes in the world of Bionis and Mechonis. They’re incredibly fun to hunt down and defeat however, I had a blast going through the world and knocking each one off my list. Another highlight are of course, the boss battles. Xenoblade DE contains 47 boss battles, and they’re all quite fun. From thrilling cutscenes to tons of combat and action left and right, these are quite amazing to see revitalized with new textures at a higher resolution.
Of course, you cannot just use arts over and over again, they have to recharge to be used again. This recharge is done on a time based motive, where after a certain amount of seconds, the art will be available for use again. Talent Arts are a bit different, recharging from auto-attacks. After a few auto attacks, your character will be able to use their Talent Art once again. Another key factor for combat is the Party Gauge, absolutely critical to combat. You fill this gauge throughout battle by hitting random B prompts, landing critical hits, and also obtaining bonus effects from certain areas for arts. The Party Gauge is divided into three sections, sitting in the top left of the screen. You have two options when it comes to this gauge – you can use one third of the gauge to revive a party member (or have them revive you!), or you can wait until the gauge is full and unleash a deadly Chain Attack!! Chain Attacks are used to deal huge amounts of damage to enemies, switching from one party member to the next. They feel quite easy to obtain, and it makes some fights quite easier than they may seem. This is exactly how everything played in the original game though, so no complaints here.
Where Xenoblade’s combat truly excels to the next level are Visions – a mechanic allowing you to see into the future, and change it. Going along with the party gauge, visions shake up battles tremendously. You will be warned of an enemy’s attack, with it plying across the screen with a blue filter. Then, you’ll have a specific number of seconds before the enemy will land that devastating blow, and it’s up to you to change the future. A majority of the time, simply using the Monado with its Arts will do the job, protecting the party member from impact using Shield or Speed. However, there is also another mechanic which the player can choose to use if they have at least one bar of the Party Gauge filled. Using one bar, the player can run up to another party member and prompt for help by pressing B. This will allow them to take control of the party member, and use an art against the enemy before time is up. This can be pretty useful in instances where you can apply a Topple or Break effect with another party member, then follow up with an attack from the party member you’re controlling.
When compared to Xenoblade Chronicles 2, it’s definitely much easier to pickup and learn, although personally I do prefer the complexity and depth of the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 combat system. Orbs presented a new challenge, and the Party Gauge was harder to fill, making it feel much more rewarding when initiating a chain attack. Some will prefer the simplicity and ease of Xenoblade Chronicles’ combat, while some will prefer the depth of Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s. Both games offer great and enjoyable combat systems, it just boils down to preference.
Regardless of my opinions between the two games, the combat is still absolutely thrilling and a blast to play through. It’s quite addictive to be honest – I found myself fighting battles just to fight at times, simply because I wanted to. Very few JRPG combat systems have done this for me, but Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is definitely one of them.
Prettier and more heartfelt than any HD mod
Definitive Edition is absolutely gorgeous, and the facelift it has received is something I never could have expected. The game has actual emotion now, where the original had it but nowhere near this. Every character has legitimate expressions, making each tragic event even more heartfelt and impactful. Expressions also help convey the feelings and moods of the characters, something that was only really supported by the voice acting in the original.
Xenoblade DE reuses both the original voice work and choreography from the original, which quite frankly I think was the best choice. This game already had one of the best dubs to date, and the choreography was phenomenal. Adam Howden’s screams are felt even more here with the new visuals, and it’s absolutely aged like fine wine. The whole cast for this game is just phenomenal, they all do an undeniably good job with voicing their character. The emotion is conveyed, and it is absolutely felt.
Menus and UI
Hands down, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition has the best menus and UI in the series to date. Whether it be the map or navigation, camera controls, or health bars (FINALLY), Xenoblade DE has got it all.
Menus have been completely reworked, and for the better. Everything is so easy to find, it’s not a complicated mess like the original. Changing weapons, armor, and applying gems has never been so easy. Everything is really laid out well, making it much easier to get a grip of the game from the get-go. Tutorials also walk you through the simplified menu, helping establish a sense of understanding. My favorite addition to the menus is absolutely the ability to set an appearance for your party members. Being able to have them in their original outfits, while also having the stats of quality armor, is amazing. MonolithSoft even went a step further, allowing you to set the appearance of a weapon if you want, which is just great for those who like the simplicity of Reyn’s original driver, or Melia’s original staff, etc.
In the original game, UI was quite a mess. Everything was thrown into a cluttered menu as well, which didn’t make things easier. This time around, taking from Xenoblade Chronicles 2, MonolithSoft has drastically improved both the menus and UI. One of the most noticeable changes from the get go is the map/navigation system, which has been completely overhauled. Instead of a mere arrow pointing your direction at the top of the screen, now we have an actual map, and with it brand new tools. You can select any quest, main, collection, or side, and the map will show you exactly where to go. No more finding the path to your location, this new navigation system will tell you exactly where the path to your destination is.
Another amazing addition is health bars for party members. In the original game, you had mere numbers depicting how much health each member had left. This time around, an actual health bar has been implemented, making it so much easier. It was kind of tedious having to read the numbers in the original, but now it’s a breeze. Speaking of health bars, enemies’ health bars have been reworked for the better as well. Originally, enemy health bars would hover above the actual enemy, and in some instances you’d have to physically move to see their health bar. Now, it’s permanently fixated to the top of the screen. It’s also much bigger this time around, compared to the minuscule size of the original’s health bars, making it quite easier to comprehend.
Lastly, a big thing that Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition has taken from Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is camera controls. The original in a sense suffered a bit from fixated camera controls. You couldn’t rotate the actual camera, and draw distance was fixated as well. Now, you are free to freely control the camera and its angle, being able to rotate around as well. You can set the distance to be super super far, allowing you to see things quite easier, or even set it to practically first person mode, where you can see the Monado swinging in front of you as if you had it in your hands.
The remastered soundtrack is seriously unbelievably good, even further excelling the already phenomenal soundtrack. With the likes of Yoko Shimomura, ACE+, Yasunori Mitsuda, and Minami Kiyota at the helm of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition soundtrack, it is nothing less than perfection.
For the remastered soundtrack, MonolithSoft stuck with remastering field and battle themes due to budget constraints. Fan favorite tracks like Unfinished Battle remain unchanged (Though honestly Unfinished Battle is perfection already), which is a bit unfortunate. However, the remastered music tracks are amazing to hear in game, doing a lot for this title. The boss theme, An Obstacle In Our Path, has been completely reworked, with the track being in an entirely new key this time. This small change does absolute wonders for the track, no longer sounding like it is supposed to have a sad tone. Engage the Enemy has also been remastered, adding in much more electric guitar and a brand new singer in an opera style. While this can be debated, I actually quite enjoy the remastered version, as I feel the vocalist really matches with the tone the track is going for. Another highlight is You Will Know Our Names, the unique monster theme. Absolutely fast paced as ever, the remastered version adds in actual brass and just more flair. A common theme with the remastered battle themes is more electric guitar, which I’m all for, as it does wonders for these tracks.
Onto field tracks, these are better than ever as well. With the remastered tracks, it helps pull the player into this world even more. Gaur Plains received a nice remastered touch, reworking the strings and making it sound bolder than ever. Eryth Sea is as beautiful as ever, elegantly playing in the background of the mystical location. Overall, the field themes are better than they ever have been, and are a joy to listen to.
Something Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition does is change battle themes, which is something not too too common in games, but absolutely appreciated. The second battle theme, Mechanical Rhythm, blows Time to Fight! out of the water, and it’s extremely rewarding to get to hear Mechanical Rhythm for the first time in battle. Speaking of which, the remastered version of Mechanical Rhythm is godly.
MonolithSoft really went all out with options in Xenoblade DE with the soundtrack as well, letting players have the option to choose either the original or remastered soundtrack. It gets deeper though, with players specifically being able to change both field and battle themes. So, if you liked the remastered field themes but not the battle, you could set your game to play remastered tracks for field themes and original tracks for battle.
So about Future Connected…
It’s finally time to talk Future Connected. With a name like that, many Xenoblade fans (including myself), started to theorize just what this title could imply. So many theories were thrown around, and it’s safe to say Future Connected definitely wasn’t what I was expecting with a name like that. However, it still was extremely enjoyable, and I still was very pleased with what me got.
Future Connected takes place one year after the end of the base game. (If we want to get technical, this is a year and a half after the final battle in Xenoblade Chronicles, as the last cutscene of the main game takes place six months after the final fight.) Our journey takes place on the Bionis Shoulder (the left one), which was honestly so cool to actually see. For those who are unfamiliar with the original Xenoblade, the Bionis Shoulder was in the code as a beta location, used as testing grounds for character movement during development, which was cleared up thanks to interviews with Tetsuya Takahashi. The Shoulder is only visible in the main game twice, as seen in two particular cutscenes. With cutscenes being rendered real time, a model had to exist for the Bionis Shoulder. Back to Future Connected, MonolithSoft decided to bring back the Shoulder for this epilogue, finally making it an explorable area. Future Connected sees Shulk and Melia travel to Alcamoth, meeting some new allies and enemies along the way. Shulk just tags along for this adventure, Future Connected isn’t about him. Instead, Melia takes the spotlight this time, closing her character arc after kind of being left in the dust in base game.
The Bionis Shoulder is really gorgeous, I’ve got to say. I truly enjoyed exploring this area a lot, as there was quite a bit to see. The new party members for Future Connected, Kino and Nene are real highlights as well, especially Nene. Although combat wise they play identical to Reyn and Sharla, they’re both a great bundle of joy, and it was super special to get to meet two of Heropon Riki’s littlepon. I wish that Kino and Nene played a bit more uniquely combat wise, but nonetheless this was a welcome addition I really found myself enjoying.
Future Connected is quite quest heavy, but not required. It offers many quests for the player to complete, and I found a lot of meaning in these, building the world up even more. From one quest, you might learn some details about the Shoulder, or even a character, that contribute to the world. If you enjoyed the side quests in base game, they’re practically the same thing so I have no doubt they will be found enjoyable. You can obtain special variants of Shulk and Melia’s outfits through certain quests too.
There was a bit of misunderstanding that Future Connected had an all new battle system, similar to Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna – The Golden Country when compared to Xenoblade Chronicles 2, however that is most definitely not the case here. This is the same battle system we all know and love from the base game. There is however a new mechanic, that being Union Strikes, provided by the Ponspectors. These replace Chain Attacks in Future Connected, similarly functioning as you will need to fill the Party Gauge to use it. In order to obtain Union Strikes, you must recruit these Ponspectors, with at least one member being on each of the three teams. Ponspectors can be acquired through quests, where generally they will ask the player to complete a task. It’s definitely worth it to complete the tasks and gain Ponspectors, so I recommend doing so.
To touch a bit on the soundtrack for Future Connected, absolutely phenomenal, as expected from the Xenoblade series. The battle theme Time to Fight! (No, not the Bionis Time to Fight!, a new one) is absolutely a joy to hear, feeling like a celebration with it’s beautifully orchestrated themes. This battle theme is right up there with the rest, being absolutely spectacular. The Bionis Shoulder theme is real pretty, quite fitting for the location. My favorite track, however, is the second battle theme for Future Connected. While I won’t say the title as I feel it could considered a spoiler, I cannot not talk about this track. From its ripping guitar chords to the beautifully played classic piano, it is an absolute masterpiece. Touching on piano for a second, the various composers behind Xenoblade, whether it be Kenji Hiramatsu or ACE+, have absolutely mastered making amazing tracks incorporating the classic piano. They just do it right, unlike many. Back to the track, the melody is extremely catchy, and with the electric guitar rips and daunting bass in the background, you can’t help but jam along.
Melia and Shulk are also donning new outfits in Future Connected, and I got to say, I love them both to death. Shulk’s outfit fits him well, looking advanced and something of a tinkerer, which perfectly matches his personality. Melia’s outfit is very fitting as well, being quite royal with lots of flair. Character design is still top notch in Future Connected, it was quite nice to see something new.
Voice acting is Future Connected is still quite good, but a noticable downgrade from base game. Some lines seem like they could have had more emphasis behind them, however I do think that this has something to do with age. Facing the facts, it’s been over 8 years since Adam Howden and Jenna Coleman first recording their lines for Shulk and Melia in Xenoblade Chronicles on the Nintendo Wii. It’s been a long time. Melia especially sounds much older, but even then Coleman still delivers a good performance as the High Entia. There were also moments where dialogue and subtitles did not line up, seemingly some disconnect between the translation teams. Hopefully those moments in particular will get patched at some point.
The best way I can describe Xenoblade Chronicles: Future Connected is simply “sweet”. It was truly heartwarming to finally see a legitimate conclusion to Melia’s character arc, after being somewhat shafted during the main game. This epilogue is a bit messy and quest heavy. Honestly with the name I was expecting quite a bit from this epilogue to the main game, however it was not as grand as I had previously thought. To 100% complete Future Connected, I ended up spending a little over a little over 20 hours. Players will easily be able to complete this epilogue in around 8-12 hours on normal difficulty, while most likely around 5-6 in casual. Overall though, I quite enjoyed exploring the Bionis Shoulder and revisiting the world of Xenoblade Chronicles. Although we could have gotten something so much more, Future Connected was enjoyable for what it is.
Let’s talk specifics. Xenoblade Chronicles is a very pretty game, quite honestly one of the best looking JRPGs on Switch, right up there with Xenoblade Chronicles 2. However, some may be wondering what specific resolutions and frame rates the game may run at.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition runs at a dynamic 504p – 720p in docked, and 378p – 540p in handheld. The game is locked at an incredibly steady 30 FPS. Despite the lowerish resolution, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is visually stunning, looking absolutely gorgeous at every sight. From the colorfully vibrant Eryth Sea, to the beautiful Valak Mountain, there is no sight no pretty in this game.
I highly recommend playing Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition in docked. You’re going to get the best experience with the game on the big screen in my personal opinion, as the game just looks so much better there. However, I completely understand some players’ desires to play handheld, and luckily the game is still playable there, just not as pretty. At that point though, you’re trading pretty graphics for portable play, and you can’t really beat taking a massive JRPG with you wherever you may decide to go.
I spent 250 hours in my initial playthrough of the game, completing absolutely everything it has to offer. I am absolutely beyond happy with the product we got, and it still is surreal to see “Xenoblade HD” finally be a real thing. I remember hoping one day we’d see Xenoblade on the Switch, and had envisioned they’d just port it over. However, we all know that didn’t happen, and Xenoblade DE has blown away my expectations.
From the beautiful new visuals to the UI updates, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is truly the definitive way to experience this timeless classic. Although Future Connected, the brand new epilogue adventure, isn’t anything groundbreaking or super excited, it’s still a nice touch that nicely closes Melia’s arc. The story is as amazing as ever, and if you haven’t ever experienced Xenoblade Chronicles, I highly recommend playing DE to experience it for the story alone.