Jonathan argues that the Japanese role-playing game Xenoblade was one of 2012's best and overlooked games for more reasons than its story and world. What do you love about it?
I fell in love with Xenoblade in 2012. I’ll never forget its endless landscapes with towering mountains and vast oceans. Xenoblade just gave me so much beauty that I had to honor it as my game of the year.
I’ve played my share of Japanese role-playing games. Many of them had their own set of problems, such as bad voice-acting and goofy motion-capture animations. Xenoblade makes up for all those painful moments with tons of amusing side quests to complete for other villagers. I wanted to play through every single one of them just to build social bonds with these characters.
I took occasional breaks to try other games over the course of 2012 because Xenoblade’s massive landscapes can take days to explore. I thought about trying the newfangled blockbuster hits, but I always returned to Xenoblade. It offered me a phenomenal amount of content on one disc. Unlike other modern RPGs, I didn’t have to pay extra to download anything else.
The story is also far more dramatic than all the stilted cutscenes in The Elder Scrolls or Fallout 3. Xenoblade starts off as a simple journey to avenge the death of a girl. After the plot twists halfway through the game, the whole quest becomes even more complicated. One particular development is as shocking as the part in the film The Empire Strikes Back where Darth Vader reveals he’s Luke Skywalker’s father. It changes the main hero’s own mission as he struggles to understand.
Xenoblade is also a swan song for the Wii. Although the console had its issues, I respect it a lot more than I did when Nintendo first released it. It was one of the last systems that didn’t need a constant Internet connection; it had plenty of downloadable games that didn’t require long periods of installation. Xenoblade reminded me of everything I loved in the old days of gaming.
The game has so many touching moments that brought back all my favorite memories of JRPGs such as Final Fantasy VII. The soundtrack evokes many of the emotions that I’ve missed. The “Thoughts to a Friend” song, for example, plays a part in one of the most touching moments I’ve seen in a long time, and the delicate violin solo actually made me cry tears of joy as a flashback montage showed precious moments of a character’s life. (In case anyone is wondering, I’m trying hard not to give away spoilers.)
Xenoblade is like a long-lost reunion with the glorious adventures of the past. I’m not sure why other publications haven’t given this game top honors because it delivered one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve ever had from a current-generation game. Hopefully, everyone will remember this legendary game long after it disappears from store shelves.
Do you think Xenoblade deserves more recognition? What are some of the titles that you consider the best of 2012? Share your thoughts in the comments below.