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Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition Review

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There’s no shortage of quality JRPGs on the Switch, but where’s the harm in adding another one to the pile?

Having wowed gamers on Wii all those many years ago, Xenoblade Chronicles found yet even more success when ported to 3DS. But it’s only now, spruced up and enhanced even further for Switch, that it really comes into its own. This truly is Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition.

Two warring titans form the basis of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition‘s story. Long ago, Bionis and Mechonis fought to the death, their lifeless bodies then becoming lands. On Bionis, organic lifeforms came to be, the most prominent of which are Homs; humans, basically. Meanwhile, on Mechonis, Machina happened. Repeating history, the Homs and the Machina, known as Mechons, don’t get on. And unluckily for the Homs, Mechons can’t be easily killed, either. Only a weapon known as the Monado can seemingly do damage to them.

“The story of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is your typical JRPG yarn, but it’s compelling nonetheless”

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition opens with a dramatic battle between the Homs and the Mechon before jumping to a period ahead. The Mechons are assumed to have been defeated, but lead character Shulk, his friends Reyn and Fiora, and the rest of Colony 9 are soon going to discover that their presumed period of peace is going to be short-lived. Ultimately, an encounter with an unusual Mechon with a face triggers an event that will change Shulk’s life forever. Pledging to destroy the Mechon once and for all, he leaves Colony 9 and sets off on an epic adventure.

The story of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is your typical JRPG yarn, but it’s compelling nonetheless. It’s full of drama, and there are many surprising twists to keep you on your toes. It’s the characters you meet on your adventure that really make it, though. Like in most JRPGs, some of them can get on your nerves at times, but they’re generally a likeable bunch, brought to life with decent voice acting. And on Switch, they’ve never looked better.

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“These characters have never looked so good”

Anyone that has played Xenoblade Chronicles prior will notice that Shulk and co. have been given somewhat of an anime makeover for this Definitive Edition. While some may not be all too happy with the change, I’m sure most will agree that it’s a good move. These characters have never looked so good, and the increased fidelity allows them to express much more emotion. The graphical enhancements don’t just stop at the characters, either. An extra layer of detail has been added to pretty much everything, making the entire world of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition more enticing to explore.

It’s just a shame that you can’t fully appreciate the detail packed into each scene. Whether you play handheld or docked, you’re stuck with a soft image thanks to to the low resolutions employed to keep Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition running smoothly. It perhaps fares a little better in handheld mode, but there are times where the visuals are rather blurry indeed. Still, with every cloud there’s a silver lining, which is that performance remains decent throughout. You’re not going to get distracted by any nasty framerate drops in the middle of combat.

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“A massive world is available for you to explore, filled with things to see and do.”

But story and visuals are just part of the package; Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition‘s gameplay also does its part to draw you in and then keep you hooked. A massive world is available for you to explore, filled with things to see and do. In the past, Xenoblade Chronicles‘ ridiculous number of optional quests was extremely off-putting due to the lack of information it gave to players. Now, however, you have an extremely useful map to help you in your endeavours, and quest markers to point you in the right direction.

Of all the improvements made to Xenoblade Chronicles for this Definitive Edition, it’s those that enhance quality of life that are the most welcome. It’s still not recommended that you attempt to complete every single one of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition‘s optional quests because most of them are banal, but it’s no longer such an insurmountable task. Changes to the user interface are also very welcome, as well as a new Casual mode for those who find combat too trying. It’s just so much easier to get things done, allowing you to make more effective use of your time and simply enjoy yourself.

Of course, being a JRPG, combat plays a large role in Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. It employs a unique combat system that lets you take the backseat for the most part. Up to three party members can join in any battle, but you only directly control one of them. Upon instigating combat, your designated character will attack automatically once you move them into range. Success largely relies on your use of advanced techniques such as Arts and Chain Attacks, however, which requires strategy and effective use of resources.

To effectively overcome Mechon and other powerful foes, for example, you need to topple them, leaving them momentarily thrown off balance. Shulk’s mysterious weapon, the Monado, also allows him a glimpse into the future at times. Knowing that a enemy will possibly kill an ally with an upcoming move, you need to quickly act to either create a protective shield, or prevent the enemy from pulling off the attack. You’re effectively an overall director of combat; it’s just a shame you can’t issue specific commands to allies not under your control.

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“The Switch has just got another mighty fine addition to its library”

Completing Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition‘s main story is likely to take at least 50 hours. Many will probably spend twice that amount of time playing thanks to the abundance of side quests and other activities. And new to the Definitive Edition is a playable epilogue, Future Connected, adding another 10-20 hours of gameplay. It features some tweaks to the combat but is largely more of the same. Still, fans will appreciate a new area to explore, as well as a little more time to quest with Shulk while unravelling a new ending.

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition isn’t going to blow anyone away, but it’s undoubtedly the best version of a very good JRPG. Those unacquainted with the Wii and 3DS versions of the game will get the most out of it, but thanks to Future Connected, the introduction of many quality of life improvements, and considerably enhanced visuals, fans aren’t likely to be disappointed either. The Switch has just got another mighty fine addition to its library, and anyone in search of a meaty game that will eat up tens of hours of their time should definitely consider picking Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition up.

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is available on Switch. This review was facilitated with a code provided by the game’s publisher.

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Editor in Chief // An avid gamer since discovering the wonders of the Acorn Electron in the '80s, Rich has nearly played more games than he's had hot dinners. Not one to put all his eggs in one basket, Rich is happy to play games of all genres, but he particularly enjoys racing games and anything that's full of non-stop action, especially if it includes a good dose of humour, horror or crudeness!