Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Justin Prinsloo 27.05.2020 4

Review for Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition on Nintendo Switch

It’s been a long time coming. Monolith Soft has finally ported this acclaimed entry in the Xenoblade Chronicles series to the Switch. Until now, fans have had to make do with Xenoblade Chronicles 2 as the only title available on the Switch but its (arguably better) predecessor now has a home on Nintendo’s flagship console as well. Much has been made of the changes and enhancements to the Definitive Edition, from its revamped menus to the reworked graphics and character models. Most importantly, though: does it run well on the Switch? And has the rest of the ten-year-old experience aged well?

Long ago, two gargantuan mechanical gods known as the Bionis and the Mechonis were locked in an epic battle. Each ultimately struck a killing blow on the other, resulting in a stalemate that saw their bodies locked together in a final deathly embrace, paving the way for life to form on their dead shells. The Bionis saw a variety of organic races evolve on its surface, including the humanoid Homs, while the Mechonis gave birth to something more sinister: the Mechon, a villainous brand of robotic predators that have terrorised the inhabitants of the Bionis for generations.

So the exquisite tale wrought in Xenoblade Chronicles opens and so it enthrals. Not an ounce of storytelling space is lost throughout its vast campaign, proving that it deserves the plaudits it has received since its first release a decade ago. This delightful tale follows the quietly resilient Homs boy Shulk and his ragtag group of mates, and is riveting from start to finish. The story follows their merry band on a tale of revenge as Shulk seeks justice after his quiet village is attacked by the Mechon and it rarely rests on its laurels as you are whisked away on a journey across the Bionis’ terrarium-like body. All of the party members that are added to Shulk’s group are distinct and lovable in their own ways.

They each bring something unique to the table and play off each other brilliantly, growing together over the course of the story despite already being deep and intriguing from the offset. There’s no impression that they exist in a vacuum; they all have a history and a story to tell which characterises them marvellously. This in turn is aided by a very strong voice-acting display from the entire cast, one that is astronomically good by 2010’s standards and which manages to capture the intended class and caste of each character by utilising various British dialects. It’s enjoyable to witness the chemistry between the main characters unfold alongside the story, which itself is full of twists and turns.

Screenshot for Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition on Nintendo Switch

Not only is each playable character distinct personality-wise - they all play very differently from each other as well, lending a variety to combat that keeps things perpetually fresh. The deep fighting mechanics feel even more rewarding than they did previously thanks to some tweaks that make hits feel a little punchier. For those unfamiliar with the combat herein, basic melee attacks are fired off automatically while skills called ‘Arts’ require manual input. It’s not a perfect system, but for what it is, it is executed very well. Unfortunately you still have to side scroll through the available Arts in order to manually select them. It would do much to aid the flow of combat if these switched to simpler inputs like individual button presses or even a skill wheel but alas, this was a bit of a missed opportunity.

The worlds of Bionis and Mechonis simply beg to be lost in. Exploring the variety of unique biomes, from luminous swamps to futuristic cityscapes, is a compelling exercise, and accompanied by the beautiful soundtrack it can be quite relaxing to jog across the map - when you’re not fighting off metallic adversaries and prehistorically inspired beasties, of course. One thing the experience is sorely missing, though, is a sprint button. It is at times arduous to backtrack through some areas, but thankfully fast-travel points are mostly well-situated. Nevertheless, this is a fully realised virtual world and the perfectly-paced story told herein remains one of the most captivating and charming in not only any JRPG but any form of fictional media as well.

As explored in a recent preview, the most obvious change to the experience is the graphical overhaul that has been applied. Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is much more than a simple port, which is a major relief given how frankly ugly the original looks on the Wii and 3DS. The flat character models are gone from the main cast of characters, whose faces have been entirely redesigned so they look a little more anime and a little less Roblox (though the flat models still exist on basic NPCs) - a welcome change, as the new character designs are quite fantastic. The environments have been fleshed out and modernised as well, so it’s safe to say the worlds of Bionis and Mechonis look quite at home on the Switch’s superior hardware. This reviewer encountered next to no technical issues and had a mostly smooth play-through, with the only hitches being seen in handheld mode, where the resolution takes a noticeable hit and minor slowdown occasionally occurs in busy combat sequences.

Screenshot for Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition on Nintendo Switch

Gameplay-wise, this is by and large the same experience as it was on the Wii, albeit with some streamlining to lend it urgency and modernise the presentation. The HUD and the menus have seen a rigorous upgrade and they feel a lot cleaner this time around, even if the inventory management is still nightmarish. Most of the armour you pick up on your travels will serve little purpose aside from netting you some coin when selling it on, so it’s worthwhile to offload the junk at any merchant you pass lest you be overwhelmed by the influx of mediocre new gear.

Still, this is to be expected from a sprawling tale of this magnitude - not every piece of equipment encountered along the way will serve a purpose, and that’s ok. The remarkable thing about Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition’s size and scope is that somehow the plethora of mechanics and systems at work manage to mesh together in near-perfect synchronicity. For example, character levelling is so well-balanced that grinding for EXP is pretty much unnecessary. On the flip side, completing a wealth of side quests before you progress onto the next story mission doesn’t over-level your party either; there seems to always be a good mix of enemies of varying levels throughout each of the distinct locations. Even by today’s standards, this is remarkable game design and it’s safe to say it holds up beautifully, whether you’ve played and enjoyed it before or not.

Of course, there is such a massive supply of side quests that streams in from the multitude of NPCs that it can quickly become overwhelming. It doesn’t help that most of them are little more than fetch quests and “go here, kill that” slogs. It does make it somewhat more palatable that most are completed automatically when you’ve collected or killed what you need to without having to backtrack to the quest giver, but it’s nevertheless a case of quantity over quality. Even this is not a deal-breaker, though: Perhaps this reviewer is simply being optimistic but in truth, it provides a decent alternative to quickly gain levels and money if needed. Furthermore, working through accumulated side quests can actually be quite an addictive gameplay loop in itself - but most of them can be totally ignored without any loss of sleep.

Screenshot for Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition on Nintendo Switch

This isn’t merely a fresh coat of paint on rehashed territory, either. The Definitive Edition comes with a few gameplay additions as well. Perhaps the most exciting of these for those that have already been through the experience on the Wii or 3DS is the new epilogue story, Future Connected. It is best if as little about this is said as possible as the happenings herein assume you are familiar with the core game’s story. What can be said, though, is that it is a fantastic end cap to Shulk & Co.’s adventure, one that pays homage to the journey while still managing to introduce a few new surprises.

Also making a welcome appearance are Time Attack Battles, which are a set of combat challenges along the same lines of the Time Attack Challenges introduced in Xenoblade Chronicles X. These are a good diversion that allows players to test their combat skills and earn some cool unique gear for scoring high in each challenge. Two new game modes, which essentially act as difficulty levels, have also been introduced: Expert mode allows taking firmer control of how acquired EXP is distributed among each party member, while Casual mode slashes the difficulty on battles to make them easier if need be.

All in all, it’s safe to say Xenoblade Chronicles has earned the ‘Definitive’ tag that it flaunts in its title. It’s not a remake but it is, without a doubt, a lot more than a port. For those who have never picked it up, it likely won’t get much better than this - this is a great game made even greater. And for those who are thinking about double dipping, there are plenty of reasons to do so: from the enhanced visuals to the sizeable new epilogue chapter, this fantastical JRPG world has never been more charming.

Screenshot for Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition’s appearance on the Switch has been a long time coming but it couldn’t have come at a better moment. It’s the sort of immersive, feel-good experience that gels well with a modern quarantined life. It begs to be lost in and boasts a phenomenal story, memorable characters, and a beautiful world to explore. Not even the periodically clunky combat can get in the way of that.

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

Got this pre-ordered can't wait!

I actually think the old facial animations were way more expressive and am kind of disappointed to see XC2's art style more or less adopted wholesale, but the character models do like nice, the overworld looks amazing, and I'm beyond excited to play this. 

The original is one of my favorite RPGs ever. 

Sandy Wilson said:
Got this pre-ordered can't wait!

You're gonna love it!
Renan said:
I actually think the old facial animations were way more expressive and am kind of disappointed to see XC2's art style more or less adopted wholesale, but the character models do like nice, the overworld looks amazing, and I'm beyond excited to play this. 

The original is one of my favorite RPGs ever. 


Fair enough, I personally prefer the more anime-esque style but I totally see what you mean. But yeah, the work they've done on the game world is mighty impressive... A worthy upgrade for the Switch for sure!

But does it have amiibo support! #OnlyOn3DS Smilie

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