Review: Xenoblade Chronicles 3D (Nintendo 3DS)

Reviewed by Brandon Boui, posted Mar 31, 2015
Mar 31, 2015
  • Release Date (NA): April 10, 2015
  • Release Date (EU): April 2, 2015
  • Release Date (JP): April 2, 2015
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Monolith Soft
  • Genres: Action, Role-playing
  • ESRB Rating: Teen
  • PEGI Rating: Twelve years and older
  • Also For: Nintendo Wii
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
A game that has always been hard to find in North America, Xenoblade Chronicles is a port of the Wii title of the same name - allowing players to once again experience the grandeur of the world on a portable platform.
Brandon Boui


This game is a puzzling one. It had its fair share of issues when it was originally released back on the Nintendo Wii, especially with its North American fanbase, which found itself locked to purchasing the title through a specific retailer, at an enormous price. The game was savaged by critics, citing dull gameplay, unimaginative storylines, and other nitpicks. For me, I was more intrigued with the title not due to its notoriety, but due to the love of RPG titles that I had not had the opportunity to really sit down and play for quite some time. Given that Xenoblade Chronicles is a hundred hour romp on average, I was ready to sit down for the long haul and try the game out with an open mind, compartmentalizing all of the negative feedback to some distant corner of my mind so that I would not be disturbed by those thoughts during gameplay. It became a very interesting bum rush that took place over the period of several days, in which I was able to knock out a ton of the game's content. Here's the game in its full blown glory, out April 2 for Japan and Europe, and April 10 for the North American audience.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D (NA, eShop, 3.6 GB/~25,000 Blocks)

Where does the review of a one hundred hour game even begin? There's a plethora of information that could possibly be discussed, but the immediate opener was just getting the game onto my console itself. The game, a New Nintendo 3DS exclusive, is an absolute monster to download, coming in at about 3.6 GB. With the increased RAM capabilities of the New Nintendo 3DS, the title still took about three hours and twenty minutes to download. It also cost me a decent chunk of my memory card space. So for those of you who are anticipating the game on the eShop, be prepared for a long slog on the eShop as you listen to the orbs drop into the present box. 

The size and scale of Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is readily apparent from the moment the game opens. The environments open up and what we see is a beautiful yet alien looking world. The 3D effect brings a lot more depth to the gameplay, making environments look a more realistic. Unfortunately though, the resolution of the 3DS screen is too low for the wonder of the game's world to really reach out, as it often times looked muddled and murky. It's a terrible shame because the game has a ton of potential to be something great but at this point it's just another reason for naysayers to nitpick. The scale of this game, though, is a marvel that requires true dedication to sit down and complete - something that a lot of titles have been lacking for me lately. For titles that I have reviewed, I've been able to romp through them in a few hours that made it not really worth the full price tag, but here right off of the bat the enormity of the title is apparent. Scale is something that should be marveled at and admired, and not tossed aside. 

Xenoblade Chronicles follows the story of the merry band of Shulk and his companions, advancing from one location to another in an interconnected world that actually sparks a sense of intrigue and interest as the quest proceeds - the many side quests and missions that the game holds within would make this a completionist's wet dream. There is an incredible amount of things to do in this game, and the little side quests add development to characters to make them more interesting - I actually wanted to give a damn about several of these characters at some point, honestly! It's one of those RPG staples - characters that are worth paying attention to, that makes them fun for me. We're left following two races, the Bionis and the Mechonis, where the Mechonis are a bunch of robots that are attacking the Bionis, a race of humans and animal creatures that inhabit the world. In the middle of all of this is the Monado, a mythical great sword that was used in the original war against Mechonis. Speaking of which, that initial cutscene is pretty nice to watch as it sets up a bit of an exposition as to the war and the events surrounding the game - all in very pretty 3D that looks like a mash of Yu-Gi-Oh! and Godzilla mashed together. I'm not an entirely lore-based player that goes into all of those details, but it is sufficient to say that those details exist in this game's universe. I found myself more tied into the game's "reality" that was the main character, Shulk, and his friends. The game has some twists and turns that, as the final act of the story approaches, actually got very interesting, but felt like it was a bit late. 


From a writer's perspective, the story and dialogue are well written. The story felt interesting to keep me slogging through the game for hours at a time. It never got exceptionally dull, but by the midpoint I was more than ready to stop playing as some parts just felt like they weren't up to par. And that's the joy of a large-scale RPG for me, because there's going to be bumps along the way. What irked me though was the voice acting, which sounded rather poor. I felt like I was stranded in a territory that was British-Australian - the voice acting felt cringey, it felt uninspiring, and listless with little emotions and inflections. I couldn't attach to the voice acting, and it was definitely a shame that the North American version didn't have a second sound option to replace with Japanese audio. Characters slogans were charming at first, but after a while just started to wear down from the experience. 


Now, with any RPG, the gameplay should be a huge part of it. I usually expect a complex level of structure in my RPGs such that I am able to leave feeling like the game was played as it was meant to be played. For a JRPG, leveling up and obtaining new equipment is standard fare, and it's no exception here for Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. Skills and status exist, with new means of refining each piece with the addition of crystals that are able to modify the style of gameplay. It sounds like a small feature, but it adds just the right amount of complexity and structure to the title. The battles themselves are defined by their Arts - using the directional pad to activate a set of key skills that deal large amounts of damage. The idea of attacking a monster from a certain direction dealing extra damage makes a warm return, as well. These Arts are a lot like the roles of players in MMORPGs, as some of these arts focus on CC (crowd control), stuns, tanking, healing, and attack-related arts. They can be used in tandem with each other to create an unlimited amount of combinations to make battling that much easier. Knowing the ins and outs of your team, which you will more than likely find out over the course of the story, will be crucial for later battles as their attributes play critical roles in your successes during battle. The game felt like a solo play MMO, compounded even further with the plethora of NPCs that wander the game's universe, handing out quests. The depth that this title had is almost incredible, and its complexity breathtaking for a portable handheld. It's hard to fathom that this is a handheld title at times.

With gameplay being one crucial step, the last piece that makes or breaks an RPG is exploration. RPG exploration is something that should be a given for a JRPG - going back to the old school open world RPGs was kind of what I had in mind here, and Xenoblade did not disappoint. Its universe is crawling with over the top creatures, villains, and characters. People have an interesting foot print that doesn't feel so NPC-like. Playing the quests and receiving new gear is one of the best and most rewarding parts - and the game kind of tells you if you need to work at your levels a bit more, as you will die fairly quickly if you are under leveled or under geared. There is an economy subsystem that exists to work in tandem with side quests. Becoming a well-rounded player is something you have to earn - in this title, money can only get you so far. I love titles where I have to earn my equipment because it makes victory that much more meaningful. All in all, the scope of this world is huge, and to complete it all 100% is going to be a daunting task that will take much longer than a few days for almost all of you, guaranteed. 

Overall, I'm not really sure what happened with this title. I saw a lot of flat out hatred and disdain for a game that didn't really deserve any disdain. I have played a heck of a lot worse in the RPG departments. I'm not even sure as to why people were clouting it as bad as they were. And for your information, no, I wasn't paid off to say any of these positive remarks or anything, either. Sure, there were a few nitpicks that I had that went as far as slightly dull visuals, low resolution on the bottom screen making a muddled mess of character portraits, uninspiring voice acting, and a few rough patches in the story overall, but nothing that made it seem like a truly awful title that does not deserve money. The game deserves credit where credit is due - and the game certainly earns my respect in being a truly entrancing experience that pulls you in from the get go in an expansive world. People felt fleshed out on the journey and only grow from there - they never felt stagnant or irritating like they did in some of the recent RPG titles that I have read about from the media. For a Nintendo 3DS handheld title, this title exceeds any and all expectations that I had going in. It brought me several dozen hours of enjoyment that I can still continue on with - something that a lot of Nintendo games failed to catch on with me. The game never felt over the top plot wise, it excelled in keeping its characters grounded. The battles felt natural, and never felt truly repetitive. I felt engaged in all of my encounters and never had an instance in which I could just zone out, do some work on the computer with one hand, and spam the attack button on the 3DS with the other. The scale is gigantic and is able to work wonderfully on a small screen. This alone does not mean that the Nintendo Wii version is inferior in any way, but it merely provides a more pleasing alternative to make a rare title more accessible. Would I recommend this title? Absolutely, the title has a lot going for it, and it makes me even more eager for the Nintendo Wii U version of Xenoblade Chronicles X coming out later this year!

+ Expansive, living world
+ LOTS of quests, collecting to do
+ Provides many hours of exploration and entertainment
+ Intriguing battle system, fleshed out
+ Has MMORPG elements but in a single player environment
- Graphics feel a bit dated
- Voice acting uninspiring
- Game file size is enormous
8 Presentation
The game is probably one of the better titles I've played this year and in recent memory. It's presented so that it can be played for any duration, and feels very much like a JRPG with MMO elements. Top notch game from the Nintendo headquarters.
9 Gameplay
Gameplay was incredibly solid, there was plenty of things to do, game is very achievement based and dedication based, does not require vast sums of money to win. Side quests and collection quests will make this a dream for those who like to 100% games, and players will be satisfied to know that this game will take a long time to beat.
9 Lasting Appeal
There's a ton of stuff to do - it should never feel empty. The plot is intriguing, and the title is extremely long - something that won't be beaten in the course of a day or two.
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Very strong title to add to the Nintendo 3DS's library. Lots to do, pleasing gameplay, and decent visuals. Battle system is more than just an average RPG, has more complex elements that makes for some truly unique scenarios. Definitely deserves a purchase at some point but will require dedication and time to truly enjoy.


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