Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition (Nintendo Switch) Preview

By Justin Prinsloo 13.05.2020 6

Review for Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition on Nintendo Switch

This critic has been playing Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition for about 18 hours as of this writing, retracing the path forged by one of the most innovative and impactful JRPGs of the last decade. When Xenoblade Chronicles originally released on the Wii in 2010, Cubed3 praised it for its revitalisation of the JRPG genre, citing its terrific sense of personality and perfectly-paced storytelling. It was only a matter of time before such a universally acclaimed title found a new home on the Switch, and based on some first impressions, the early signs are very good. Here are a few preliminary thoughts.

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is a thorough remastering of the original. It's not a remake by any stretch, but it's so much more than a port. Thanks to some fine-tuning, it manages to feel fresh and modern; a faithful retelling exempt from any drastic shakeups to its tried-and-tested formula. What's on offer are some seriously beefed-up visuals, refinements to the core mechanics, streamlined menus, a remastered soundtrack and a wealth of quality-of-life improvements - not to mention a brand new epilogue chapter, 'Future Connected.' In short, Monolith Soft is doing everything it can to make the experience feel accessible to a modern generation while retaining everything that made it excellent in the first place.

Screenshot for Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition on Nintendo Switch

What's immediately apparent from the trailers, screenshots and side-by-side graphics comparisons released thus far is that Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition has received a massive visual overhaul. The upgraded character models are quite stunning, breathing some new and much-needed life into Shulk & Co. They aren't quite perfect, though. There are some frustrating clipping issues, with some weapons passing through armour pieces that should be solid. Character heads have clearly had more work done on them than their bodies, creating some awkward continuity problems with faces looking noticeably more polished on some armour sets, but on the whole a great job has been done to modernise and further humanise the characters.

The supercharged environments are simply gorgeous. Not only have they received sizeable resolution bumps to squeeze as much as possible out of the Switch's hardware, they've also been bolstered technically with some upgraded lighting, particle effects and other visual elements. Satori Marsh is the perfect example: by day, it's a run-of-the-mill boggy environment; grey, misty and uninviting. When the dynamic time-of-day pendulums to night, however, the trees light up, illuminating the map with beautifully rendered luminescent leaves. The mist transforms from a dreary grey to delightful reds, blues and greens, affording an otherwise unimpressive area a newfound beauty. Of course, this is only one of the beginning areas in the myriad of unique environments on offer. From sprawling plains to leaky caverns, lush forests to futuristic cities, the vast world of Xenoblade Chronicles has been given a new lease of life in this faithful retelling. The trailers do not lie: this is gorgeous. So far, there have been zero hiccups in performance - despite the fact the visuals do take a very noticeable hit when playing in handheld mode as opposed to docked.

Screenshot for Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition on Nintendo Switch

The exemplary soundtrack makes a refreshed return as well, with remastered audio to coincide with the enhancements elsewhere. It's still early days in the journey, but so far the experience feels fully realised in a way it never has before. The fantastic soundtrack's beautiful remastering is merely one aspect of the upgrade. The classic feel of the game's epic music is still present - at times light and playful, at others suitably dramatic and compelling - but dynamically, it feels bigger and better than ever.

Combat is still as fun as it ever was and has aged extremely well, feeling in many instances just as rewarding and innovative as it did ten years ago. Basic melee attacks are executed automatically when in range of an enemy, while cooldown-based skills need manual input. Timing and positioning are the keys to victory. Many skills require that the player-controlled character is in a certain position, such as behind or beside an enemy, in order to be most effective. It's a crisp blend of real-time action and strategic combat, and the wealth of unlockable combat skills (or 'Arts', as they're referred to in-game) hint at a deep but accessible sense of progression. Unfortunately, the Combat Arts bar has not been revamped to make skills easier to access. There are no quick button inputs for those, meaning players must side-scroll through the list and manually select them, which can detract from the flow of battle when trying to fire off multiple Arts in quick succession.

Screenshot for Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition on Nintendo Switch

The menus have undergone some much-needed fine-tuning and modernisation, though. Every menu, from the equipment screen to the HUD, has been streamlined and tidied to make the experience feel more modern as a collective whole. The Affinity Chart, for example, which displays the dynamic relationships between the inhabitants of Bionis in relation to each other and your party, has been upgraded to show some more helpful information. Not only does each named townsperson have a unique time of day they'll be out and about but they now also have their trade and location displayed in their profile as well. It's little things like these that serve to boost the interconnectivity of the many mechanics at play, squeezing as much as possible out of the existing systems without making them feel unfamiliar.

There are many other changes and improvements - such as the ability to adjust only the cosmetic appearance of your party's clothing while retaining the stats of currently equipped armour - which seem to be directly addressing the (admittedly minor) niggles and issues present in the original release. It's still early days and this reviewer has only scratched the surface of what this title has to offer, but the first signs are incredibly promising. This seems at first glance to be the remaster that Xenoblade Chronicles so desperately deserves.

Screenshot for Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition on Nintendo Switch

Final Thoughts

The first indications point to Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition delivering on its promise to be the ultimate version of this modern JRPG classic. Based on the experience with it so far, it faithfully retells its masterful story and recaptures all the charm of the original version, managing in instances to even surpass its contemporary thanks to the graphical overhaul and further fleshing-out of its many interlaced mechanics and features. It's an epic tale and there's so much yet to discover and explore, but the reasons to press further into this absorbing, sprawling tale only grow the more it unfolds.

Developer

Monolith Soft

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date 29.05.2020   North America release date 29.05.2020   Japan release date 29.05.2020   Australian release date 29.05.2020   

Comments

Our member of the week

I poured a lot of time and effort in the affinity chart back in the day. I'm glad to hear about the improvements they brought to that one. Looking forward to May 29th, though I may not be able to get my hands on the game on day 1.

( Edited 13.05.2020 15:45 by RudyC3 )

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

For sure. One of the many quality-of-life improvements they've injected into the game... I will defo unpack all of them in more detail for the final review! When you do eventually get to play it, you're in for a treat Smilie 

I played very breifly on the wii, combat seemed kind of slow and reminded me of WOW (not in a good way) has this changed at all?

Mechanically, combat remain largely the same, but at higher levels it's quite fast - can get downright sweaty against high level enemies! The streamlining of the HUD and other menus goes a long way to make things feel snappier on the whole too, but this isn't a remake so if you weren't sold on the original you might not be this time around either. Defo worth giving another shot though if you're on the fence!

I can't buy this game yet again, but it is great that Nintendo are leaning on Xenoblade, I want the series to continue doing well and it's great that JRPGs like this make their westwards these days. 

Flynnie said:
I can't buy this game yet again, but it is great that Nintendo are leaning on Xenoblade, I want the series to continue doing well and it's great that JRPGs like this make their westwards these days. 

I agree - well said!

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