A More Mobile Monado
My love for Xenoblade Chronicles knows no bounds. The only title that’s taken up more of my Wii gaming time is Harvest Moon: Animal Parade , and even then, it’s close. Xenoblade ‘s distribution woes were its only real failing, and likely the only reason we didn’t see it go on to become one of the console’s signature and best selling games. As I wrote before , it’s an issue that’s about to be remedied. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is going to make everyone appreciate Shulk, Monolith Soft, the 3DS, and JRPGs again.
Of course, using the term JRPG may set some people on edge or cause certain expectations. Some are justified. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is the story of a young man granted a tremendous power necessary to protect the people he holds dear. Shulk is a Hom (read: human) living on the gigantic Bionis, the body of a godly titan forever locked in a deathblow pose with Mechonis, its eternal nemesis. Despite the titans’ fight having come to an end, the races living on them continue the feud. The robotic Mechon from Mechonis are invading Bionis and winning, leaving only Colonies 6 and 9 alive.
Why are they winning? Because Mechons are near indestructible. Only one blade, the Monado, is capable of damaging them. No one is really able to wield it, though Shulk’s friend Dunban is able to tap into a little of its power. Due to “circumstances,” which you all either know about from playing through the game before or will see for yourself come April 10, Shulk takes hold of the blade and proves to be some sort of chosen one. Not only can he wield it properly, but it also allows him glimpses of the future and to tap into its special abilities.
Yes, I realize that probably didn’t help my argument that Xenoblade Chronicles 3D isn’t your typical JRPG. It’s the battle system that does that. It plays more like an MMO. The characters will automatically attack when a battle begins, with players directing their movements around the field or triggering special attacks. This makes the flow of battle feel more realistic, while also allowing people to focus strategic brainstorming on special skills. Don’t worry about the small stuff – the characters will handle regular melee. You need to concentrate on more important things.
Don’t let this make you think Shulk will be doing this alone, or you won’t be able to decide what his party does. A number of characters go along for the ride and can be swapped in and out of the party. If you prefer to use one of them as your leader instead of Shulk, you can. The Monado also grants the ability to determine what skills teammates use in a crisis. If a monster is about to devastate the party, you’ll get the chance to run over to a friend and ask them to use one of their moves in order to save the day.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D ‘s battle system isn’t the only thing that will have people questioning its state as a JRPG. Yes, this is a game that will demand weeks of your life. There are hundreds of side quests, complimented by an affinity system that lets people see more of the story and build bonds with other characters by spending time on things that matter to them. However, there are also a number of elements designed to save players time. In fact, it almost makes you wonder if this game wasn’t better suited to be a handheld title all along.
While JRPGs are never really considered games you play in fifteen minute intervals, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D has a number of features designed to accommodate. Whether you’ll be there for fifteen minutes or an hour, the game has you covered. Want to save anywhere? You can do that. Need to explore a region, but would rather not spend the entire time trying to get to that place? There are warp points to get you where you want to be. Is an in-game event happening at night, but right now it’s “daytime”? Well, all you need to do is fast forward, and the time is right. All of these were helpful elements in the console release, but will prove invaluable on the 3DS.
If anybody was expecting an array of new features, that’s the one area where Xenoblade Chronicles 3D may disappoint. Not a lot will be changing in the transition from the Wii to 3DS. You can play in 3D, of course, and there will be a gallery mode where players can look at character models and listen to music. However, none of those really alters the gameplay.
On the plus side, this new mode gave Nintendo and Monolith an excuse to add Amiibo support to Xenoblade Chronicles 3D . To see this extra content from the game in the gallery, people have to earn and spend tokens. If you have the Shulk Amiibo, then you can tap him to the New 3DS screen every day to earn instant tokens. I guess you could call that rewarding collectors with items for a whole new collection.
It seems like Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is going to end up getting its proper chance and reception in a few months. Like perhaps the limited release of the Wii iteration was a trial run, and the real event is coming in April. We’ll know for sure how well it will adapt to the portable platform soon enough.