How Xenoblade Chronicles 3’s Heroes Fix the Giant Party Problem

    Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Has A Lot of Characters For a Little Menu

    Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has a lot of party members. There are 6 playable characters and a whopping 21 non-playable heroes (including postgame and DLC). 27 characters is a lot for any story to juggle. Many JRPGs have tried to balance big casts of playable characters to varying degrees of success. While the wait for wave 4 of the game’s season pass seems to be taking forever, I thought it would be fun to try and understand how Xenoblade Chronicles 3 pulls off its large roster. Before doing this, I think it’s worth looking at other games in the genre. By better understanding their strengths and weaknesses, honing in on the hero system afterward will show how large JRPG parties have evolved.

    A Promising Start


    The first major JRPGs to include more than 4 party members, or in fact, party members with any kind of personality were Final Fantasy II and Dragon Quest IV. For the most part, these games set a solid framework for how they approach their characters. Final Fantasy II uses temporary guests to the main party. They all have their individual stories and then either leave the party or die. Dragon Quest IV, on the other hand, gives each character their own adventure to introduce them. It then bands them together with the hero for the main story.

    In both cases, after the individual character’s story is over, that character is mostly forgotten. While Final Fantasy II removes its guests from the story, Dragon Quest IV leaves its characters with larger-than-life personalities completely silent once they join together. This ends up being jarring because their stories have been cut short. Instead of forming a fun group dynamic, the characters feel like strangers in an elevator, nodding at each other and waiting to get out.

    A Strong Development

    Final Fantasy VI Pixel Remaster

    Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy would go on using this blueprint for most of the fourth console generation. Final Fantasy IV used its party as a revolving door for different characters. Dragon Quest VII introduced the party chat system so the characters wouldn’t feel left behind. Final Fantasy VI was the next game that tried to manage a larger party. With 14 playable characters, the game manages most of them fairly well.

    The main way it does this is by splitting them up into smaller groups. This gives each character breathing room and lets them grow on the player as individuals before joining back together as a larger group. Even with this, some characters aren’t given enough to do in the game’s second half. This even includes the main character, Terra. Final Fantasy VI may have fumbled the landing slightly, but it found a way to flesh out its characters that the series would follow for many years to come. However, the genre wasn’t exactly following along.

    How Many is Too Many?

    Chrono Cross The Radical Dreamers Edition Party

    Chrono Cross is a game with 45 playable characters. It doesn’t manage them well at all. However, each character does manage to work as a part of the wider world of the game. While some have side quests to flesh them out, the party suffers from the same issue as Dragon Quest IV. Once they join your party, many of them stop being characters. While most party members have situational dialogue depending on what you interact with, they are mostly more engaging as characters before they join your party.

    Take Greco, the luchador exorcist (who looks as cool as he sounds) for example. He only has about 2 cutscenes to shine. His past is only ever explored in tiny snippets and his unique abilities add to the worldbuilding. The mystery of the character ultimately makes the world seem bigger. While it’s hard to imagine many of the characters even being in the same room as each other, Chrono Cross gives each party member purpose through its world. Each character adds their own flavor to the mixture of cultures and lifestyles that make up the game’s otherwise small archipelago.

    Other, more recent games have also tried similarly large party sizes. Trails of Cold Steel IV tries to include its many party members in the main story as much as possible. But I think you get the point by now. It doesn’t work. every cutscene feels like the characters are fighting for attention, spouting anything just to remind the player that they exist. For the longest time, it seemed like it was impossible to do a large cast justice. That is until Xenoblade Chronicles 3 came along.

    What Does Any of This Have to Do With Xenoblade Chronicles 3?


    Xenoblade Chronicles 3 makes its party work by keeping heroes mostly separate from the main cast. Rather than having too many cooks spoil the broth, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 puts each cook in a different kitchen to make a different dish. What I mean by this is that the game gives each hero an entirely independent, optional story that develops them as characters without killing the flow of the main story.

    With most heroes being tied to a newly liberated colony as its commander, they simply have too many responsibilities to join the party fully. Instead, heroes have character-specific quests that are tied to their colony’s culture, its future, and the hero’s role within it. They all have time to grow as characters without taking the limelight away from the main six. What they actually end up doing is the opposite. By linking each hero with one of the main party members as the inheritor of their class, the main cast gets fleshed out too.

    With this approach of worldbuilding being tied to characters, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 takes a lot from Chrono Cross’s playbook. The key difference is that it doesn’t bring along Chrono Cross’s mistakes. Much like Chrono Cross, Xenoblade 3’s heroes have situational dialogue.  Valdi, the mechanic will comment on the robotic Levnises in different colonies. Others will also comment on locations that are relevant to them. They never feel separate from the party or forgotten like in Dragon Quest IV.



    Xenoblade Chronicles 3 does everything in its power to make the world of Aionios feel lived in. A large part of this comes through in the way that it handles its heroes. Rather than simply being guests to the party that give their class to the player and leave, they all have problems to work through.

    Each colony has issues that tend to be solved through interactions with other colonies. This creates a web where different parts of the world interweave and share ideas. Leaving most of the heroes out of the main story allows this web to form independently, even if the main party has to give it a few nudges along the way. It’s an amazing piece of storytelling that wouldn’t be as effective if the heroes stayed with the party constantly. It all adds to the themes of unity against oppression and making the most of your life, making the experience all the more unforgettable.

    Mazen Haggag
    Mazen Haggag
    Mazen is an aspiring writer who spends way too much time playing video games. He has a passion for storytelling and actively looks for weird and unusual PS2 games. He also dislikes talking about himself in the third person.

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