Pros: Vast open world to explore, Fantastic Story, Extraordinary Soundtrack
Cons: Limited by the Wii Harddware
I could write a hundred paragraphs on the story and barely scratch the surface of this massive RPG. With a main story that clocks in at 80 plus hours it is a monster of an adventure. The game begins with a legend of two warring giants, one mechanical, one biological, in the end they both fell. Millennia later our story picks up with a last stand against the Mechon, the residents of Mechonis. After a heroic last charge the story cuts to a year later on Colony 9, Dunban, the hero of that battle is still recovering from the injuries he received from wielding the Monodo, an ancient sword and one of the few weapons that can harm the Mechon. Shulk is a mechanic who has been trying to uncover the secrets of the Monodo and is the main character. He is joined by Reyn a member of the local Malitia and his best friend. We are also introduced to Fiora, Dunban's sister. We spend a few hours following the lives of these characters and the citizens of Colony 9 until the story kicks in.
After a year of peace the Mechon return and Dunban takes up the Monodo again in an attempt to defend his home, however his injuries prevent him from fighting for long. Shulk in an act of desperation, activates the Monodo himself and learns he can wield it without any of the negative side effects. He also gains the ability to see into the future. This ability to see into the future is what drives the story forward as Shulk sets out to change the vision given to him and find a way to end the threat of the Mechon once and for all. So begins one of the longest stories in gaming with more major twists and turns than a pack of Twizzlers tied in knots.
Similar in many ways to an MMO, battles are carried out in real time on the overworld with normal attacks happening automatically. Skills are on a cool down timer and can be used at any time. Timing your skills with other party members can be used to inflict various status effects onto your enemies. Exploration is carried out similar to many RPGs, what makes it special is the scale of the environments. Each new area has miles of terrain to explore with tons of secrets to find. The game even rewards you with experience for going out of your way to find these secret areas.
The game uses a 24 hour clock that runs at an accelerated rate. It can also be manipulated freely from the main menu, so you are never stuck waiting for a certain time to meet that NPC who is only out for one hour a day. With hundreds of side quests that span the entire adventure, this is a welcome addition for the completionist. Monsters are also influenced by the time of day and even the weather. The game also places several high level monsters in each area to encourage you to return around the end of the game.
Monsters and bosses and your ability to fight them are entirely level based. The system is based on the number 5, more than 5 levels weaker than an enemy and you won't even hit them, more than five levels stronger and they won't even scratch you and aggressive enemies will leave you alone all together. This greatly reduces the frustration when going back to old areas and not having to worry about being forced to fight a bunch of weaklings. It can backfire on you against bosses if you are over leveled, taking all the challenge out of the fight.
*Xenoblade plays best with a classic controller, but a Wii Remote and Nunchuk setup won't prevent you from enjoying the game.
Not much to say here, it looks good for a Wii game. The impressive part is the scale of this world. Rarely will you see something that you can't reach. It truly is a technical marvel that the Wii could manage this.
Solid performance from the British voice cast, and the option to use the original Japanese voices is a welcome addition. The music is the true star of the show, with a soundtrack to rival anything in gaming. Overuse of voice clips in combat can get annoying.
I felt this deserves a special mention, but even with these massive environments that should crush the Wii's hardware, Xenoblade manages to have not one load time over two seconds long, even when fast traveling from one zone to another. Fantastic job Monolith!
Xenoblade is a truly amazing experience, it leaves you on the edge of your seat often and one you will not be disappointed if you can manage to find a copy. With a follow up by Monolith Soft code named X in the works for the Wii U, now is the perfect time to give Xenoblade a shot. Who knows, maybe Nintendo will release an HD Remaster some day and AV junkies can finally enjoy the game without having to stare at giant pixels.
480p Widescreen at 30fps
Played to completion in 88 hours on my Sharp 70LE732 using stock speakers.