Xenoblade Chronicles 2 may just be the cherry on top for what has been a fantastic first year for the Nintendo Switch library. Not just in quality, but in variety too. As such, Xenoblade fulfils the criteria of those longing for a Japanese style action role-playing game and I regard it as one of the headliners for this year’s Nintendo catalogue alongside Mario and Zelda.
The story takes a hold on you very early on, gripping tight but slightly caressing you too. Characters are cemented, relationships form and the plot thickens. Rex is a scavenger, he explores the world for what could be considered junk and a little bit of treasure and sells it on. A huge portion of the money he makes he sends back to his family, isn’t that nice? Unfortunately for him he gets thrown into a sticky situation, taking a job that wasn’t quite everything he was originally told.
Pyra accompanies Rex as the Blade to his Driver. The Aegis is a legendary Blade with an emerald core crystal and Pyra just happens to be that Aegis. Highly powerful and highly desired but usually for the wrong reasons, the antagonists seek to control that power for themselves and stop her reaching Elysium. Rex and Pyra join forces with the goal of reaching Elysium and ultimately end strife in the world. They have big goals and little resources, which I feel lends itself to building this amazing journey built on friendship and hope.
One thing with writing a review is to perhaps not go too overboard and talk about every character, which is tough because there are so many interesting and likeable ones. Nia is a Gormotti with a short stature but brimming with attitude and Tora is a happy go lucky Nopon with a knack for engineering. You will constantly find new characters to interact with or even have join your party which makes choosing your party somewhat difficult because you want to hear what everyone has to say and experience all the heart-to-heart moments.
Heart-to-hearts are interactions that you encounter throughout the adventure and occur between two of the playable characters. These moments serve as a means of both character development and actual tangible progression by way of affinity either increasing or decreasing as a result of dialogue choices. This allows you to spend time getting to know your party members without diluting the main story which is appreciated. Whilst they are optional I would recommend taking the time to complete these as you find them along the way.
An action role playing game at its core must provide a fun, intuitive and interactive combat system which Xenoblade delivers on. Once a fight is initiated normal attacks are automated and build up a meter for each of your skiils. Utilise those skills to build up a separate meter for an ultimate type ability which has four stages, each one becoming more powerful. The fourth stage attack is the best in your arsenal and of course rewards you for holding off on using your ultimate until you are at the best tier. It sounds overly complex on paper, but it becomes second nature so easily.
Combine this with being able to prompt the other party members to use their abilities you can create combos to deal more damage. Throughout the battle you can change which Blade is currently in use to better suit the scenario, leading to so much experimentation and trial and error. There is no one right way to go and it offers the chance to players to have these discussions with each other on how they overcame the various challenges in their own way.
There are 38 unique special Blades to collect along the way, not including the more common generic ones you can obtain which lead to a huge number of possible combinations for your party setup. I highly advise trying out as many as you can to find ones that not only suit your playstyle but to learn their strengths and weaknesses against certain enemies.
This year has been particularly good for stunning visuals, this is absolutely no different and delivers a world that is just breath-taking. Even with the aliasing and other visual performance discrepancies, every area looks great with its fair share of scenic views and unique aesthetics. Every main character has their different looks which is accentuated by the varying races, gender, shapes and sizes. There is some controversy around the designs of some of the female characters, with some assets a little exaggerated which I agree with, a lot of jiggle and fanservice in places for sure. But having said that, the characters look great damn it, diverse and detailed.
The music in-game is used to highlight the wonder, fantasy and often whimsy of the world known as Alrest. In battle there is a separate track that plays that builds the action and excitement, and whilst many fights can be drawn out with either the difficulty of an enemy or sheer number of them, it’s the music that keeps you going and in the moment.
I have some small issues with the voice acting, some of the lines are delivered and don’t quite hit on matching the context of the dialogue and scene, which takes you out of the experience a little. But I liked the voices for each character on a whole, they matched perfectly, with my favourite being Nia, which may be a little biased because she is played by a Welsh woman.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has to be experienced to fully appreciate every aspect that shines bright, the combat is exhilarating, the visuals are beautiful, the soundtrack is emotive, and the characters are memorable. All that mixed into a pot with a whole heap of content makes for a worthwhile adventure. For it’s few flaws I feel every other aspect more than makes for it.
OVERALL: 8.9/10 – GREAT
Written by Rhys Baldwin.