Xenoblade Chronicles is a game about looking to the future, which makes this re-release from 10 years ago a bit ironic. Nevertheless, as one of the most defining JRPGs of the last decade, not only is it a welcome port but also one of the best ones yet. With a well-executed bump in graphical fidelity (save for handheld mode), an epic story and intense gameplay mechanics, Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition is a worthy return from the past on the Nintendo Switch.
The key element that makes this remaster great is how everything, from character models to sprawling environments looks sharper. This is all thanks to the superior hardware of the Switch when its docked in console mode. Characters look more vibrant and smoother. Particle effects and call-outs stand out more. This all seems to dip somewhat when combat gets a bit busier but it doesn’t detract from the rest of the experience. Where the game suffers slightly from a technical perspective is in handheld mode. There is a noticeable blurriness to the game when the Switch isn’t nestled in its dock. It’s not a big issue as animations still run smoothly and there aren’t any performance issues like frames dips. At this stage, it’s also something we’ve come to expect from the Switch.
Despite the graphical issues, Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition was meant to be played on the Switch in both modes. With so much to do in the game’s world aside from its main campaign, you’ll be needing some handheld time before bed or otherwise. Monolith’s magic of balancing a linear path story with nuanced world-building through exploration is second to none here. While it’s relatively possible to focus only on the campaign, you would be remiss not to partake in some sidequests. The brilliance lies in the fact that players can choose how they want to play.
With regards to side missions and activities, this Definitive Edition has made some improvements over its original release on the Wii. Quest targets and items are now distinctly marked. There are now also breadcrumb trails on your minimap to help guide you to your destination. This is particularly important considering some of the dungeons in Xenoblade Chronicles are a bit twisty and turney. The convenience train doesn’t stop there, though. Death now means that you are just transported back to your nearest landmark with all items and experience still intact. Teleporting anywhere in the world is just a click away as well as shifting from morning to night. If this all sounds like too much handholding then you can turn on expert difficulty to slow the levelling down through the same inn system Xenoblade Chronicles 2 had. This gives you more control over how fast you level.
Combat is also a lot more distinct and understandable. Even if you started off with Xenoblade Chronicles 2, the system here will still feel familiar. You auto-attack and unleash powerful arts with some unleashing their full potential based on positioning. Combos adhere to the usual system of breaking and toppling enemies. What changes here is that now your attack icons have clear markings that indicate you’re in the right position to get their full benefits.
The biggest misstep with this remake of Xenoblade Chronicles is the hyped-up epilogue chapter, Future Connected. It takes place in a previously unseen part of Bionis and involves essentially only two characters: Shulk and Melia. Of course, this all depends on your stance regarding Melia. Even still, the story tells some less than interesting parts about the history of Bionis. There’s seemingly no connection to either Xenoblade Chronicles 2 or another potential sequel down the line either. It’s one saving grace, however, is its jazz-inspired music which matches the rest of the brilliant soundtrack perfectly.
Overall, Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition is an excellent addition to the incredible port and remake library of the Nintendo Switch. Its quality-of-life improvements, great visuals in docked mode and brilliant story and world-building make it a must buy, whether you’ve played the original or not.
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