I'll say it, I'm not a huge fan of the Final Fantasy series. It's not that I don't like the series, but as JRPG franchises go, FF simply isn't the best in my opinion—a statement that many devoted fans would probably hate me for saying, but it's the truth.
I've played a lot of JRPG's: Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Eternal Sonata, the latter being my favorite JRPG game of all time. But a close second for greatest JRPG of all time is the entire Xeno series! Technically speaking, the titles in the Xeno series, while sharing a similar name, are completely different games.
First there's Xenogears, one of my favorite PlayStation 1 games, and the only game in the original series. Then there was Xenosaga and its various sequels, which are considered spiritual successors to the original Xenogears. A few years after the final Xenosaga game, we were given yet another spiritual successor in the form of Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii.
Fast forward to 2015, and yet ANOTHER spiritual successor has come in the form of Xenoblade Chronicles X! It may share an extremely similar name to Xenoblade Chronicles, but X isn't a sequel. And after playing through the game, I can honestly say that I hope Xenoblade Chronicles X is the start of a new and long Xeno series!
Xenoblade Chronicles X is the second entry in the Xenoblade saga of Xeno games, and the first Xeno game to be released on the Wii U. It's an open-world action-adventure role-playing game developed by Monolith Soft and published by Nintendo.
I got the chance to check the game out and give my two-cents on it, something I was more than happy to do! After playing through the game for a couple of days, I am ready give my honest opinion on it.
I'll admit, I'm a little new to the game reviewing scene, but I'm definitely not new to the game playing scene! So as a gamer, I'm going to pick the game apart and talk about a few of the key elements of it, and whether they held up or not.
Character customization is a staple in RPG's. The ability to create your own character, no matter how bizarre you envision them to be, is one of the great things about role-playing games!
Xenoblade Chronicles X is the first game in the Xeno series to let you make your own character, choosing presets like gender and base face to start. There aren't a lot of options to choose from in the base face category, but all of them are awesome and unique. Still, fans of games like Bloodborne and Fallout 4- both of which provide a boatload of customization options to choose from- may be a little disappointed by the amount of presets Xenoblade Chronicles X gives you out to start with.
However, once you're done choosing your base face, you'll be happy to know that the game allows you to make a bunch of cool edits to your character's visage!
For starters, you can be any color of the rainbow you want; from red to green. Which is great because I hate it when games limit me to only actual skin colors—if I want my character to be indigo I should be given that option regardless of logic!
You can also change your character's body size, hair color, moles, cheeks, the basic customization stuff. And of course, if you want your character to sport a bad-ass face scar, there's that option.
Hair types, like the base faces, are sort of limited, but the styles you can choose from are pretty cool. There's also the option of giving your character a face tattoo or face paint, so he/she can either look super tough sporting a tat, or super silly sporting panda face paint!
And while the option to change your clothing isn't available at the start of the game, clothing, armor and gear can be found on dropped enemies. This gives the player a little bit more freedom, but it's worth noting that choosing the right armor or clothing could mean the difference between life or death, since each piece has certain strengths or weaknesses that can help you in battle. It's not about fashion, it's about survival!
Character Customization: 7.5/10
The customization options on Xenoblade Chronicles X are awesome! Unfortunately, the options are just a bit slim compared to the amount of customization options we've seen in recent games. Customization opens up just a bit more later on in the game, but as far cosmetics go, it's just a bit limited. That shouldn't steer you off though. If you're a super creative character maker, there's still plenty of tools to make a serious (or incredibly ridiculous) in-game persona!
After you've made your character, the story begins. Your still unnamed character is found in a cryo pod by Elma, the captain of the Reclaimer's Division of BLADE, a military organization.
Elma acts as the "Navi" of X (but less annoying and more effective), asking you to input your name and giving you some helpful advice to start off. After giving you a weapon and telling you how to use the compass, Elma informs you that you were one of the lucky few to survive and escape the attack on the White Whale, an evacuee ship for Earth citizens.
After Earth got caught in a war between two alien forces, it was destroyed, and the surviving members of humanity were forced to evacuate on the White Whale. Unfortunately, the White Whale was found and attacked by an alien force two years later, causing it to crash land on the planet Mira.
With Earth gone and the White Whale wrecked, the ship's survivors were stranded on the island and forced to build a giant human settlement known as New Los Angeles.
After Elma tells you this backstory, you're immediately taken into a tutorial that puts you right in the action! Some strange bug-like creature attacks you, and Elma teaches you how to fire your new weapon. After that harrowing encounter, you make your way to New LA.
There, you meet more characters/potential party members like Lin and Kentaro Nagi, and are told one of the main focuses of the story; to find the Lifehold, a giant pod in the White Whale that contains cyrogenically frozen humans. After crash landing on Mira, the Lifehold broke apart and the pieces scattered across the planet. It's up to you to find them and rescue the remaining survivors.
A cool thing about the story is that there are a few different ways to play it. Sometimes you'll be given a choice of two paths, and sometimes one path is safer than the other. It's entirely up to the player to choose which path to take, and the outcome is nearly the same, but it does require a bit of strategy.
For example, if your health is running low, you may want to take the safer path so as to avoid mean and nasty creatures that could swallow you whole. But if your health is high, and you're feeling daring, taking the dangerous path offers a lot of baddies to kill for XP.
You're also given different dialogue options that may change how a situation plays out. For example, there may be a dangerous enemy in front of you, and you might be given the option to tell your party members that you can take it, or that you think they should run away. Choosing different dialogue might also reveal different pieces of information on a variety of things in the game.
Overall, the story is great. The characters are wonderful and diverse, and without giving away too much, the plot is fantastic! Plus, the game does give you a bit of freedom when playing through it.
The gameplay of Xenoblade Chronicles X is pretty much just like your standard RPG's. Let's start with the fighting mechanics.
You attack by targeting an enemy and selecting either a normal attack or a special Art. You can use your normal attacks as much as you want, but Arts understandably having a cool down time between uses. You also have access to a variety of different weapons- from guns to knives, to swords and shields, the pickings are far from slim!
I will say that I like the fighting mechanics, but they were a little confusing at first because they were sort of just sprung on me with barely any time to prepare. However, once I got the hang of it, fighting enemies became fun and enjoyable!
Also, make no mistake, fighting is ALL about strategy in this game! You can't just go after any enemy firing your rifle or slashing at them with your sword as much as you want. You have to decide when to strike and when to fall back for a bit.
You also have to manage your party, choosing which members you want and giving them direction to win. But don't worry, it's not one-sided. Your allies will help you by healing you and even giving you advice that you can either take or ignore.
Sometimes, it's good to take their advice, as they might have found a weakness in the enemy that you can exploit. But if you feel that you've got everything under control, it's totally cool to ignore their words.
And if things aren't going your way at all, there is absolutely no shame in retreating to recover. Like Elma says in her best wise old man impression: "There's a fine line between self-defense, and picking a fight."
Moving around in the game isn't hard to do either. As you might imagine, there's the ability to walk or run (most games have this..), and a handy auto-run feature for when you just want to let your character do all of the work!
What's great about Xenoblade Chronicles X is that there is absolutely ZERO fall damage, so go ahead and jump off of that cliff like the daredevil you are! But there's much more to do in the game than just walking, fighting, and defying the laws of physics.
Being that this is a JRPG, there are a ton of quests to complete. But before you're given access to all of the cool quests that the game has to offer, you first have to choose a Division.
Taking a note from every fictional sci-fi/dystopian city ever, New Los Angeles has class and skill based professions known as Divisions- which are sort of like the jobs in The Hunger Games and The Divergent Series, only without the themes of class struggle and slavery...
There are eight divisions in total: Curator, Harrier, Interceptor, Mediator, Outfitter, Pathfinder, Prospector and Reclaimer. Each Division has its own set of support effects and objectives, and missions may slightly change depending on which Division you join.
For example, if you're a Prospector your job will usually focus heavily on finding resources such as minerals. But if you decide to become a Harrier, your job will usually focus on taking down dangerous monsters.
But choose wisely, because it isn't just a matter of "miner versus awesome monster hunter". While choosing one Division over the other doesn't limit what you can do in the game, each Division gives you perks and special abilities. Of course, if you don't like your Division, or just want to try something new out, you can always change your Division whenever you please...for a fee of course.
That being said, I totally chose Harrier because I can be an AWESOME MONSTER HUNTER (and get a Melee Master perk)! Speaking of monsters, if you're going to go out hunting the big ones, you're going to need proper protection. Luckily, there are Skells.
Later in the game, you get your Skell License, which gives you the ability to man a Skell- an awesome robotic power armor suit! It helps with exploration and battling larger and stronger monsters. Skells have their own weapon and armor slots, and are completely customizable!
Not only can Skells be used to fly around the planet, but they also have the ability to transform into vehicles, so that you can BE Optimus Prime (not actually)!
There are seven types of Skells, each with their own skills and price range. Personally, I enjoy the Lailah Skell the most, though that's mostly because it turns into an awesome three-wheeled motorcycle- sort of akin to the Batcycle in the Dark Knight trilogy! It's a bit expensive though, but then again I'm EXTREMELY cheap when it comes to spending money in games.
There are a lot more gameplay elements that I didn't talk about, because if I did, this article would become exceedingly lengthy! All I'll say is there's a lot to do in this game, you won't get bored.
The fighting mechanics are simple once you get the hang of them- which doesn't take long- and the game gives you a ton of freedom. You can choose your own weapons, skills and party members—and the Division you choose can effect and change mission requirements.
All in all, there's a ton to do in the game, and a few different ways to do it. It's all about strategy, so you can play how you want to play.
The world in Xenoblade Chronicles X is MASSIVE! It's larger than Skyrim, Fallout 4, and The Witcher 3 combined! And that's not me exaggerating (though I tend to do that), that's something that Nintendo loves to openly boast about- and for good reason!
New LA is large enough already, with areas like Armor Alley, the Commercial District, and the Industrial District. But once exploring those and other NLA landmarks, you have the whole planet to explore!
From plains, to desert areas to swamps, planet Mira has a ton of places you can explore. And the best thing about it all? NOTHING is off limits! You have access to any part of the large planet, no matter what level you are. But obviously, you're going to want to avoid the areas with high level monsters, at least until you're a high enough level to stand a chance against them.
Speaking of monsters, there's a lot of them. From Graxes, to Oris and Tyrants and any other strange and fake sounding name you can think of—X has them all!
But like I said earlier, you don't want to just go around fighting anybody. Obviously you don't want fight level 21 monsters when you're only a level 5, but even monsters you're own level or lower might be a little tough.
The AI in this game is smart, and they'll definitely have a strategy to beat you- whether it's by hunting in packs or using some special decimating skill.
The World is HUGE, and luckily, it's not just a bunch of empty space. There's tons of stuff to do, whether it's fighting enemies, searching for resources, looking for Lifeholds, etc.!
Xenoblade Chronicles X was given the task of bringing the Xeno series to the next generation of Nintendo consoles- and it definitely succeeded! With a world larger than you could ever imagine, and so much to do in it, you'll find yourself playing X for hours on end with ease!
Whether you're an offensive player, taking the fight straight to your enemies, or a defensive player, Xenoblade Chronicles X lets you play it the way you want to play it—all while providing a great story to follow!
Xenoblade Chronicles X comes out on December 4 for the Wii U!