Xenoblade Chronicles is the game the Wii needs. The console is drowning in an endless amount of party titles and half-assed platformers to the point that its relevance has dropped considerably. The Wii began as a novel concept later co-opted by its competitors. It isn't the most beautiful or socially relevant device, but it is the ideal platform for nostalgic role-playing games.
Xenoblade embodies a bygone era of RPGs. Its orchestrated score and breathtaking world harken back to PlayStation games capitalizing on a budding trend.
Countless reviews will describe the intricate combat and quest systems, prattle on about the heart-to-heart character interaction sequences, and wax rhapsodic about the richness of the environments. These are valid points to evaluate a game by, but I would rather convey the feeling Xenoblade delivers. All of these elements examined on a macro level blend into an experience I've longed to revisit.
Oddly, I find myself thinking of Final Fantasy 8 any time I reach for a comparison. Not the convoluted and nonsensical mess FF8 became in the end…. I mean the expansive and revolutionary RPG that captured many players with a shocking leap in both character realization and world design. It doesn't really hold up today, but it marked the grand transition in Square Enix's timeless franchise. Xenoblade embodies the hopeful experimentation FF8 brought to games without following the same unfortunate path.
Xenoblade's world is massive. Much like stepping out onto the world map for the first time in FF8, it's easy to lose yourself in the magnitude. It brings back old feelings of when side quests seemed like grand opportunities rather than chores, and when hour-long cut-scenes were worth sitting through because they actually benefited the story. Xenoblade is an old soul and warms my retro-gaming heart.
It's a terrible shame that Xenoblade is only now coming to the U.S. If Nintendo had given it a proper release outside of Japan two years ago, it might have brought about an RPG revolution — one that could revitalize its lagging platform. The PlayStation Portable proves that consoles can have a bizarre half-life once RPGs start coming out for it. The PSP isn't a wild success story because of this trend, but it held its corner of the market longer than anticipated because of this.
The Wii is an awkward and sometimes uncomfortable console to use. When games master its interface, it's an absolute delight to use. But so few do that my Wii sits unplayed for months at a time. Its controls are ideal for casual RPG play, much like those weird one-handed controllers released for the PlayStation during the massive role-playing boom in the late '90s. Yet this potential is relatively untapped. But, you can use the classic controller with Xenoblade if the traditional setup is too awkward.
Xenoblade Chronicles is a quiet, pretty declaration of what the Wii could have been. Nintendo has done just about everything in its power to relegate this moving, beautiful experience to obscurity. If you want to buy a copy in North America, you can only purchase it through GameStop and Nintendo's website. While selling it through a major retailer is a smart move, Xenoblade fades into the background when you take in all the 360 and PS3 exploding all around the average store.
Xenoblade is the Wii's last gasp. It is a massive, captivating experience that will shine dimly in limited quantities. The people who feverishly campaigned to convince Nintendo to finally release it in North America likely understand this feeling I'm having now. Xenoblade, in the right situation, could have changed how we view the Wii. Instead, it will sit on my shelf next to Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon and quietly reflect on what could have been.
GamesBeat 2014 — VentureBeat’s sixth annual event on disruption in the video game market — is coming up on Sept 15-16 in San Francisco. Purchase one of the first 50 tickets and save $400!