Back in August, 2011, Xenoblade Chronicles, an exclusive RPG developed by Monolith Soft, dropped onto Wii and wowed players and critics alike, who acclaimed it was one of the best genre entries in an age.
Now, almost four years later, the adventure of Shulk and his friends reappear as the first exclusive title for New Nintendo 3DS. But how comfortable a fit is it for titans Bionis and Mekonis on handheld?
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D takes place in the dead body of the titan Bionis, where life has blossomed. The word "titanic" is a good description for the game's world. It offers a range of environments, with any visible point on the map open for exploration. Foes are equally fresh and unique.
Of course, a big map like this needs to be filled with plenty of content, and Chronicles delivers. During your adventure, you'll pass through cities and areas where NPCs provide you with a variety of quests that breathe life into the world and may affect the main story. Exploring the map will give us experience and skill points as well as items, so discovering new places and secret areas is not just a means to an end, but an end in itself.
Exploration comes hand in hand with combat, with battles in Xenoblade Chronicles 3D playing out in real time.
Generally, the characters perform auto-attacks, but they can also use Arts, special skills that serve multiple functions. These can cause a number of effects, such as poisoning foes or making them bleed, and they also let you use special moves, like rear attacks, to cause severe damage.
Enemies are classified according to their level of experience, which indicates their power. On the one hand, you have normal enemies, which tend to attack in groups, and on the other, single, powerful bosses.
During encounters, each characters fulfils a different role -for example, you can be a warrior, who aims to cause as much damage as possible in a short time, a healer, or a tank, who draws attention from foes to keep the rest of the team safe. These roles, plus the ability to choose what character to play as, adds some variety and keeps battles fresh.
During combat, you will also need to keep an eye on tension points, which measure character morale. Fired-up warriors are more prone to score critical hits and dodge attacks, while dispirited fighters are likely to be hit by enemies.
Shulk's ability to see the future is certainly the most characteristic and original element in Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. During encounters, you will sometimes see visions that show a future attack by an enemy, which give you time to prevent the strike by knocking the enemy down, using a defensive Art, drawing its attention to another character or defeating it before the attack comes. The system is the most unique element of the game and it makes for a very entertaining experience with a huge variety of situations.
Of course, you can't fight without a good weapon. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D offers an almost endless range of weapons and armour, with the possibility of selecting equipment and crafting gems to improve stats allow for a highly customisable experience.
Unlike Star Fox and Majora's Mask, this isn't a remaster of the original game. Instead, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D compresses the original Wii title into handheld form, bringing with it the original's weaknesses as well.
The map in Xenoblade is so huge that some visual sacrifices had to be made, and those that have to do with the characters' textures are especially noticeable. While the protagonists are not too bad, the design of the rest of the characters in the game is simple and lacks detail, with underwhelming textures. Fortunately, the game makes up for it by featuring only a few close ups and making the most out of panoramic views instead. You will certainly find some more visual issues during the game - blocky rain anyone?
Despite these issues, the overall presentation of these enormous environments is still wonderful. It's a luxury to have a game where the player feels tiny in a huge world that's brimming with quests. And nicely all the HUD elements have been moved to the touch screen so we can make the most out of the visual spectacle on the top screen.
The original Xenoblade's soundtrack stood out for its wonderful diversity and quality, and of course this new version is just as good. It's true that the console's speakers don't do justice to some of the effects, but if you use headphones the experience can be deeply moving.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D faced two challenges. One of them was becoming the first exclusive title for New Nintendo 3DS and prove what the console can do. The second challenge was living up to the high bar set by the original game, one of the best JRPGs of recent times. This 3D port has exceeded our expectations. This title perfectly shows the differences between 3DS and New 3DS, and it has become one of the most complete, entertaining, and diverse JRPG experiences for portable consoles.
It doesn't matter if you played the original game some years ago or if you are just looking for an adventure (or an excuse) to start using your New Nintendo 3DS. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D offers around 70 hours (or 120 if you want to achieve 100%) worth of adventure in which you will have to fight, explore, collect items, cheer up your characters, manage your party and prevent a terrible future from happening.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D just again highlights those qualities that made the original a new benchmark for the JRPG genre.