Critical Reception: Nintendo/Monolith Soft's Xenoblade Chronicles

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Monolith Soft's Wii JRPG Xenoblade Chronicles, described as "a magical game which deserves to be hailed as the revolution it is."
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Monolith Soft's Wii JRPG Xenoblade Chronicles, which reviews describe as "a captivating, magical game which deserves to be hailed as the revolution it is." Xenoblade currently earns a score of 92 out of 100 at Phil Kollar scores Xenoblade Chronicles at 9.5 out of 10. "Nintendo of America very nearly didn't bring the game to our shores," he notes. "If you're even remotely interested in JRPGs, give thanks that this dark future was avoided. Xenoblade Chronicles is a must-play game that single-handedly proves there's still fresh, exciting ground to cover in this often-stale genre." The setting proves especially compelling. "The people of this universe have settled in makeshift colonies on the backs of two warring giants that are frozen in time," Kollar recalls. "You'll often catch sight of the opposing giant in the clear afternoon sky or flashes of a far-off body part during thunderstorms. These brief glimpses of future destinations build atmosphere for this strange world." Kollar continues: "Xenoblade backs up the story with a complicated but approachable battle system. Fast-paced encounters challenge players to use a wide variety of skills, many of which gain bonuses depending on your positioning. Combined with the mountains of upgradable loot and deep character development, players have a lot of strategy to uncover and master over the game's imposing length." "I fell in love with JRPGs in the 16-bit era because they constantly showed me things I'd never seen before," Kollar says. "Xenoblade Chronicles is the first JRPG I've played this generation that has me excited for the future rather than simply reminding me of happy memories from my past. Monolith Soft deserves praise for creating it." Keza MacDonald at IGN rates Xenoblade at 9 out of 10. "Yes, in Xenoblade Chronicles, you play an orphaned young hero who, for reasons unexplained, is the only one capable of saving the world from a mysterious evil," she admits. "Yes, there is an ultimate weapon with untold power. Yes, you wander a giant world in a party of three, following a story punctuated by enough cutscene to make the Godfather Trilogy look comparatively brisk." "But this is also one of the freshest and most innovative Japanese RPGs of the past decade," MacDonald assures. "It feels more modern than anything else in its genre." Xenoblade's gameplay remains inventive throughout. "Although Xenoblade Chronicles honours many positive JRPG traditions, it's not afraid to dispense with other, more tedious ones," MacDonald notes. "It's impressively non-linear, letting you wander from the story to explore its gorgeous world, toddling off in search of side-quests and extra-mean monsters to kill and caves to loot. It has fast-travel. Its story, which initially seems a little predictable, is actually a deep and varied tale that spans some 60-odd hours without ever feeling painfully drawn out." In addition: "There are no random battles and the combat system is brilliant, a mix of real-time and command-based fighting that feels like an updated Final Fantasy XII mixed with a splash of White Knight Chronicles' chain system." "Xenoblade Chronicles is the best Japanese RPG of this generation," she asserts. "The fact that it looks like it's from the last generation is its only drawback, but its technical limitations are offset by imaginative artistic direction, innovative and compelling combat, and thoughtful design. It's a throwback to the glory days of the genre, proof that there are always new ways to tell a story. If you've ever felt neglected by the lack of in-depth gaming epics on the Wii, you owe it to yourself to buy this." GameSpot's Ashton Raze also gives Xenoblade a score of 9 out of 10. "Xenoblade Chronicles is groundbreaking," he begins. "It's a true evolution of the Japanese role-playing game, shedding the restraints that have caused the genre to stagnate, while retaining the tropes that made it popular in the first place. "It's fast-paced yet in-depth, challenging without being punishing, and features a combat system that draws on the best parts of the RPG world, both Eastern and Western. It's remarkable to think that this understated release [...] might justifiably be hailed by many as one of the most important JRPGs in years." Raze praises the combat system, in particular. "Action takes place in real time, with enemies immediately visible in the field," he writes. "Some enemies are aggressive, others passive, enabling you to pick your fights wisely. In the beginning, fighting involves choosing one of a series of attacks." "Rather than simply requiring you to choose a command then sit back and watch, each attack has certain criteria that can be met to power it up or achieve a status effect," Raze continues. "This system adds a hands-on, real-time element to the combat that -- while menu-based -- is immediately accessible." "A massive level of care and attention to detail is prevalent throughout the game, from the beautifully crafted environments to the excellent soundtrack," Raze concludes. "It retains the traditions it wants to and modernises the aspects it needs to. It's not only one of the best JRPGs in years; it's also one of the best RPGs regardless of subgenre. Xenoblade Chronicles is a captivating, magical game which deserves to be hailed as the revolution it is."

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