By Dalai 20 Comments
- The glowing reviews from critics and fans who praised Xenoblade Chronicles?
- The grassroots organization known as Operation Rainfall who began pushing the release of Japan-only Wii games last year?
- The lack of anything worthwhile on the Wii in 2012?
- The hope of a JRPG that maybe I might like?
To be brutally honest, I blame all of that. With the promise of a great and uniquely refreshing JRPG on the Wii during the end of its cycle, it was just a matter of whether I wanted to spend the money on something I can ultimately dislike in the end. Then I spent the money. It was well spent money.
The part of the blog where I explain why Xenoblade Chronicles is awesome.I guess the first thing that comes to mind is its setting. The entire world consists of two sleeping gods, Bionis and Mechonis, who fought each other and... got tired I guessed. Or mortally wounded each other. Life forms on both gods, one bionic, the other mechanic. Makes sense so far. Now these gods are massive and make for some beautiful settings. With plenty of variety, lovely vistas, and spectacular landscapes, it's hard not to stop and just look around to enjoy the scenery. How did they pack in all this world on the Wii? The fuck do I know, but I don't care.
The second thing that comes to mind is the story. My biggest gripe with the JRPG genre has to be the general "spiky-haired boy of destiny finds ultimate weapon, fights to save the world alongside a rag-tag group of friends." Xenoblade Chronicles is about a... spiky-haired boy of destiny who finds the ultimate weapon and fights to save the world alongside a rag-tag group of friends." To be honest, Shulk's hair isn't really spiky in the traditional sense... it points downwards so it's cool. The rest still applies. But to Xenoblade's credit, the characters are likable and there are some twists and turns in the plot that kept me interested. It's a good vs. evil story done right. Personally, I'm partial to Riki for a lot of reasons. I can't find a reason to hate the guy. He's great for comic relief and he's so underappreciated by the group. And from my experience, he's the most versatile of the bunch and a great asset to have. Also, he's a sex machine.
The next thing would have to be the combat and sometimes, the lack of combat. It's much more action-oriented and fast-paced which makes it tougher to strategize at times. I did feel a bit overwhelmed trying to understand some of the nuances of the game and it does take many hours to discover and understand everything, but once you know the strengths and weaknesses of your characters and enemies and what weapons and gems are worth equipping, the combat feels great. The best part about the combat is the ability to not just avoid fighting anything not worth fighting. Basically, you fight enemies whenever you feel like it with few exceptions. And even if you decide to kill something, you can just jump right in and start slashing away. The only issue I have with the combat is how easy it becomes if you are like me and must finish every side quest you can find. Those who like a challenge should probably skip the more annoying side quests (the majority of them) and earn those kills.
Another reason why Xenoblade Chronicles is awesome is all the moving parts in the game. Monolith Soft made sure to add as many mechanics in this game as they can. For those who like meeting everybody, there's the affinity system. Like making friends? Talk to your fellow allies... which may lead to intimacy. For those who like making stuff, there's gem crafting. Like learning stuff? There's an arts system with the ability to upgrade. Skill trees? Sure, why the fuck not? Achievements? Absolutely and on the Wii of all places. If you've played Xenoblade Chronicles for any extended period of time, you probably had to spend a solid 20 minutes or more just messing around with your inventory, learning and upgrading your skills, choosing which armor will give you the best advantage, and on and on just to maintain maximum efficiency.
Lastly, Xenoblade Chronicles does all of the things above smoothly. If there's one thing Nintendo hates, it's waiting. And if there's one thing Nintendo knows, it's its own hardware. Combine the two and you have one of the smoothest games of this size and scope. Xenoblade Chronicles doesn't waste your time with loading screens or unnecessary traveling and I am so grateful because if some other company was in charge of the game, I'd lose a week of my time just looking at loading screens. Instead, I wasted time collecting flamingo nut sacks for the local cook. Fucking side quests. I can only take so many fetch quests before going mad.
So in conclusion, it's a game. And it's really good.
But Dalai, did Xenoblade Chronicles change your opinion on Japanese role-playing games?But at least somebody dared to be a little different. With the sheer volume of games that are released, there will always be a few oddballs that stand out in the crowd. And with the world proclaiming that Japanese gaming is as dead as PC gaming, Xenoblade Chronicles came out and showed America that Japan is still a threat, or at least can be with a little originality and great design, but it's still the exception. Just like I believe Persona 4 and The World Ends With You were exceptions a few years back. What the genre needs is another Final Fantasy VII.
If you're facepalming at the moment, I don't mean we need more Final Fantasy VII clones. That's the problem. I think what Japanese developers need to do is some type of dramatic Final Fantasy VII-esque shift in the genre, whether that means incorporating some elements seen in Western games without compromising the "Eastern"ness of JRPGs or... more guns, maybe? I'm drawing a blank here, but some things need to change. The Operation Rainfall constituency might like things the way they are, or maybe not. I don't know them all personally. I'll have to ask around.
Speaking of Operation Rainfall, Dalai, did it change your opinion on petitions?No. I didn't sign a goddamn thing and it made its way to my living room. The only ways I contributed to this operation was a simple tweet and actually buying one of the games. I don't think Reggie Fils-Aime is following me... yet.
Nobody truly knows if Operation Rainfall made any impact in bringing Xenoblade to America, but it really doesn't matter at this point. What matters in the end is that two of those games championed by the group has or will be released in the U.S. But I think it was all about padding out the lousy 2012 Wii lineup and in a way, fulfilling a promise of a U.S. release that was hinted at long ago and less about a relatively small group of individuals pushing for games that are too Japanese for the general public at large. It's not like Xenoblade Chronicles came out of nowhere... remember Monado: Beginning of the World? It did have one of those vague TBD release dates back in 2009. People remember these obscure games that get little fanfare and will often never forget about them. I see these passionate cries for something unique as being healthy to the industry and helping get the word out about unknown games. Xenoblade Chronicles would not have done as well as it did if not for the outcry of support and it will likely be true for The Last Story and maybe Pandora's Tower if it rains down upon us. I do think petitions do have an impact on sales and spreading the word around, but I have my doubts petitions persuaded the suits to take a risk like this.
But if it helps you sleep at night, go for it. I'm always up for different game experiences.
Now all that's left to do is actually finish the damn game. Technically, I'm near the end, but I think I have some side quests left undone and if ZombiePie is listening, I also have some shit to suck out of a lead pipe. You know what the lead pipe is marked.