Playing With Imagination is a series where I talk about video game stories and plots. Many video games have incredible stories and are often overlooked in our society. Today, I talk about Xenoblade Chronicles 2 from Nintendo and Monolith Soft.
Playing With Imagination: Early Thoughts on Xenoblade Chronicles 2
I got into this series back in 2014 when Xenoblade Chronicles X was on the Wii U. I heard of the stories of Operation Rainfall. Three Wii titles were set to be Japan exclusive. The campaign fought to bring those titles to the US and not only did they succeed, but Xenoblade has become a pretty big franchise for them. It’s not on the level of Mario or Zelda, but it’s become a cult hit.
So naturally, I was excited for Xenoblade Chronicles 2 for the Nintendo Switch. It was on my “to buy” list since it was announced. Now that it’s come out, I’m pretty happy with it. While Persona 5 set a high bar for me in terms of how JRPGs should be, Xenoblade 2 had a lot to bring to the table.
For me, an RPG’s most important element is the story. I want to be engrossed in the world both visually and artistically. While I am barely through the game, I’ll talk about my early thoughts about Nintendo and Monolith Soft’s latest JRPG.
The main world takes place on a literal sea of clouds and the only land masses are massive creatures known as Titans. One of them is the home of Rex, our protagonist. He rides a smaller Titan, which the hero refers to as “Gramps.” Rex is a salvager with dreams of finding the lost land of Elysium. Along the way, he stops by another Titan owned by the Argentina Trade Guild. Rex is offered a job to retrieve the aegis, a mysterious Blade that is sought after by a certain group.
Blade’s are living beings that act as weapons. They support their partners, known as Drivers, and fight side by side. Some of them are humans, like Pyra, and others are animals, like the white tiger, Dromarch.
However, a situation involving this group uncovers and aegis and turns their backs on Rex, killing him. There, he encounters a young Blade named Pyra. The land of Elysium is real, and Rex must seek it out if he hopes to make a better life for the world around him as the Titan’s die one by one.
It’s so far an interesting enough story to make me want to push ahead. Although I have a long way to go, I enjoy this game so far. It has its issues, which I’ll get to in a moment, but they’re few and far in between.
What I like
The worlds are what interest me in any RPG. The Titans are a unique take on continents and make this world come alive in more ways than one. Some of them are based on sea creatures, some fly like dragons and some, in the case of the Argentum Trade Guild, act as blimps. The world is beautiful and enormous all at the same time. It’s truly a sight running around in a vast open world where you periodically see the Titan’s head in the distance.
The characters are also a positive. I like the personalities and humor on each one. The serious ones like Jin and Dromarch to Rex and Nia’s rivalry. The Nopon, an unusual race with small arms and hand-like ears, are also a wonderful sight with their accent and speech pattern. The one you meet eventually, Tora, saves Rex’s life just because he wants to help. They’re also pretty cute looking, almost like a mascot race.
There’s a lot of positives in this game that I’m sure any RPG player can appreciate, but there are also some downsides to counteract that.
To start, the animations are a little stiff. At times, they’re vibrant, but at other times, they remain still and flap their gums. It’s almost like the early days of Kingdom Hearts, and Xenoblade Chronicles X had this issue, but its follow up is more animated in that regard. Their personalities really shine in this one.
There are a few scenes that I did get a kick out of, notably how Nia sees a wanted poster of her and Dromarch makes a remark about how similar the two are (the poster is her with a cat-like face). Her reaction is hilarious. And a few others happen in this game.
Speaking of the cast, their voice acting is average at best, cheesy at worst. Many of the actors had British accents (Nia has a clear Scottish accent). The game does have a Japanese voice option (as free DLC, though, but at least you have the option). I prefer to play my games in English, but I don’t mind playing in another language if there’s no other option (such as an anime episode that hasn’t been dubbed yet).
Either way, while I’ve heard much worse, the voice acting is a hit or miss for some people. So it’s worth keeping in mind if you plan to pick it up.
Speaking of the voice acting, the characters like to talk during combat. A lot. While I’m usually not adverse to chatter during combat, it goes a little overboard. Thankfully, there’s a way to turn it off (by turning off the dialogue in the overworld), but it’s extremely aggravating to hear the same lines uttered. Especially if there’s more than one enemy and they all utter the same thing.
I’m not the only one who noted this issue, and I thought many of them were exaggerations, but no, it’s super chatty.
As far as combat, it’s kind of underwhelming. It has that MMO feel of characters standing there taking all the hits. It’s starting to get a little more interesting the further in you get, but early on, I felt a little cheated. I liked Xenoblade Chronicles X’s combat, but that was because the protagonist had a gun, and I could move about and dodge if I need to. Once you get into Gormott, the combat gets a little more interesting.
It does seem like a lot of downsides than upsides, but I’m still enjoying it so far. As I write this, I just met Tora and now I’m rescuing Nia and Dromarch. The first few moments don’t drag on forever, and this is a genre notorious for taking forever for the story to get anywhere. I’m three hours into this and I’m going to continue playing
The Future of Xenoblade Chronicles
Despite being published by Nintendo, it’s not one of their bigger franchises like Mario. In fact, I don’t think it’s a huge RPG in general. As far as JRPG’s go, unless your series is called “Pokémon” or “Final Fantasy,” it’s going to have a hard time breaching the west in popularity. I would say it’s in the same tier as other JRPGs such as Megami Tensei, Disgaea or the “Tales of” series. Most of them aren’t massive money makers, but they have their audience and fans.
I feel the fact that this was announced and promoted as it has, it’s bound to produce more entries and I’m glad that it’s become one of Nintendo’s staple RPGs. I would like to see some improvements and more fluidity in the combat and animations, but I’m ready for Xenoblade Chronicles 3 (Or Xenoblade Chronicles X2 if they ever decide to do that. Like alternate between two universes).
So I would recommend picking this up if you have a Switch. The console has a ton of amazing games and it’s never been a better time to be a Nintendo gamer.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.