Dusting off your Wii: Xenoblade Chronicles
The Wii has had a year to forget in 2011, as we look forward to the impending release of its predecessor, the HD Wii U, in 2012. However, it’s far from done and dusted, with a strong ending to the year reminding us why the console was once so dominant and even echoing Nintendo’s pledge to give “core” gamers what they want next generation.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the obvious example, but that doesn’t even have a release date. However, it’s not alone. Xenoblade Chronicles should be high on your wish list, but all is forgiven if you're mystified by its existence.
Xenoblade Chronicles is a Japanese role-playing game developed by Monolith Studios (and published by Nintendo). It has a fluid action-based battle system, reminiscent of that from the Final Fantasy of old. There’s plenty of loot, a standard party system and it has the core foundations of any RPG. But it’s so much more than that. It goes above and beyond the fundamentals of the RPG genre with just about everything you could want, and more, from a modern day JRPG.
Once a Japanese exclusive, having been released there in June last year, Xenoblade Chronicles was localised in Europe last month to overwhelming reviews, unearthing a gem that had once not seen hope of an English release. It has been released in Australia today (September 1) and that’s where its journey will end for the time being.
That’s right, no North America. After the pain endured throughout our lives of having to wait months for a release after the US, Australia gets a fantastic title first. That’s if it’s ever released there at all as we edge closer to the transition of generations.
We’re normally sitting on the other side of the fence, complaining, but it feels good to wield the power and hopefully give US gamers a taste of what we’ve been forced to put up with for far too long.
On that note, we might be their only hope. Nintendo America has been cautious about localising Japanese exclusives, and will be watching Xenoblade Chronicles’ success in Europe and Australia closely. How the tables have turned.
While our full review is still a few days away – sorry about that, chief – Xenoblade Chronicles will not disappoint. The JRPG has disappeared from the West this generation, largely surviving with the occasional Wii localisation over the past five years. Xenoblade Chronicles is the clear standout in what is a limited, but solid, genre on the Nintendo console.
It’s been labelled as the best JRPG of this generation and credited with reinvigorating the genre for an English-speaking audience. Games like that are scarce and should be cherished. Not only do they offer a unique experience or improve a franchise, they change the face of an entire genre.
If you’re a multiplatform gamer, you’ll be all too aware that 2011 is the year of the second or third sequel. Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Uncharted 3, Resistance 3, Gears of War 3, Forza 4 and even Skyward Sword is a continuation of a long running series, albeit not a direct sequel.
That’s where Xenoblade Chronicles distinguished itself from the pack. It’s unique. The aforementioned all have the potential to be fantastic, but none of them will offer the distinctive gameplay of Xenoblade Chronicles.
It’s a new, lavish experience. Xenoblade Chronicles is original in every sense of the word, especially for those of us without the ability to read Japanese or play through a game without its text. It’s embellished further by the Wii’s lack of releases over the past 6-12 months. It’s been a desolate landscape for Wii gamers for so long that they had every right to give up hope, only to be blown away by one of the best games to be released on the console. Period.
In that sense it’s a blessing and a curse that Xenoblade Chronicles has been released now. It’s given us hope for Nintendo in the future and a reason to dust off our Wiis. It is separated from Zelda enough not to be overpowered by the more seasoned franchise, but still strengthen the console’s farewell.
However, it has come after a massive drought. The Wii is repeating the demise of the GameCube, which left us without a substantial release for months as we awaited an elusive Zelda game that was eventually ported to the next generation. Core Nintendo fans could be all too aware that this has happened before and given up hope, which will cause them to miss a highlight of the Wii’s catalogue.
I hope that doesn’t happen. I hope Wii owners realise this is the game they’ve been waiting for, along with Zelda, and take the plunge. But most of all, I hope Australians and Europeans bask in the light of having a fantastic game that may never make it to America. Sorry, Americans, but it feels good.
By Ben Salter
Are you dusting off your Wii with Xenoblade Chronicles?