Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition finally gave Xenoblade Chronicles the graphical and user interface update it needed. Released on May 29th, 2020, it has quickly become one of the fastest selling switch games, already surpassing 1.32 million units within its first month. The reputation held by the original was always that it was considered a near perfect game, held back by the Wii’s hardware limitations. So, how does it actually hold up after getting all of the necessary upgrades?
The story and characters are exactly what the game is known for, as it excels in this element. The world of the game is made up by two enormous titans, the Bionis and the Mechonis. The Bionis is full of natural life and beautiful environments, while the Mechonis has artificial life and great technology and machinery. Upon the creation of the world, the two titans were locked in a timeless battle until nothing remained but their lifeless shells, which life and the world as we know it began to spring up on. Despite the battle ending, the people residing on each titan are not able to keep a lasting peace, and there are constant attacks launched from the members of both titans. The game follows the story of Shulk, a boy living on the Bionis and one of the numerous people seeking revenge on the Mechonis. What makes the story so interesting is that the story focuses not mainly on just revenge or defeating the bad guys, it focuses on why. The enemies often share your same motivations, and are just as if not more justified to fight than you are, making for an extremely compelling, morally grey, and emotional story with great villains and characters. On top of that it holds numerous plot twists and the cast continuously develops as the game goes on. Luckily, Definitive Edition does not change the story whatsoever, all the lines are the same with the same voice acting, camera angles, and poses, just in higher definition. The graphical update does definitely help though as the character models now clearly show emotion and everything looks very realistic, giving serious moments a much better edge.
The gameplay of Xenoblade is also largely unchanged in the remake, with a few convenience updates. In combat, each character will automatically attack while moving around, and they have eight ‘arts,’ which are their unique attacks they can use anytime. Many arts have positional effects, for example a move might do extra damage if you land it from behind. There are seven playable characters that you use to form a team of three, which is the group you will walk around and fight enemies with. Each character has a very unique playstyle and role, while also having their own special abilities. You can also equip items to your characters that will benefit them in combat or change up how they play, so the combat can be heavily customized to your liking.
Xenoblade also has a very high number of optional quests you can complete. Each of the areas have tons of characters roaming around who will offer hundreds of different quests. Quests can range anywhere from finding items, defeating enemies, exploring areas, and more. While the quests are the same as they were in the original game, they have been made significantly more convenient to do in the remake. Each objective you need to complete will be marked on your map with an exclamation point, which makes it so much easier and more enjoyable to complete the side content. In the original, it could be extremely frustrating trying to find items for side quests, as they can be anywhere within the large areas of the game. For example, you might run through the entire area just to still not be able to find a single copy of the item you need six copies of to complete a quest. However, now you will be able to instantly see if the item has spawned and exactly where it is.
The change in the graphics from the original game to the remake is insane. The biggest issue with the original game was that it came out on the Nintendo Wii which just was not graphically capable of handling a game like Xenoblade with detailed character designs and huge open areas. Now, there are no limitations and the game looks significantly better. The game is much brighter, more colorful, and more defined, leaving visuals as the main major upgrade from the original. Below is an example of one of the environments after being updated, along with a comparison between the main character’s old and new appearance. Almost every single song in the original game has been remastered. More instruments are added and it has better sound quality, though you still have the option to change the music back to its original versions if you do not like the new songs as much. Overall, many of the remastered songs sound great, and having the option for both just makes it a straight up upgrade.
The new content in the remake is what I would consider to be the weakest portion of the game. It includes a new challenge battle mode, along with a separate story taking place after the events of the main game. The challenge mode has two main ways of playing. The first one is a locked mode, where the game sets up a team for you and forces you to complete the challenge with that specific setup. This mode is not very well designed in my opinion, as the difficulty comes more from the fact that the team and equipment you have to use is often extremely bad and you are under-level rather than the fact that it is a fair challenge. The second mode is a free mode, where you can use any characters and any equipment, which basically has the opposite issue. You are facing a challenge they created for you to beat with the bad equipment they set up for you in locked mode, so it becomes extremely easy when you play it with your own properly levelled up and equipped characters. Also, each time you complete a challenge battle, you earn a currency called Noponstones. These can be exchanged to buy new items and equipment, but you need thousands of them in order to actually get all of the stuff. This combination results in having great gear locked behind playing the same levels over and over for hours on end, which can be very boring.
The postgame story also has a lot of notable issues, though it is still an overall enjoyable experience. It consists of two of the main party members, Shulk and Melia, journeying together to Melia’s old home before the events of the main game. However, the ship that they take to go there crashes on the way, and they learn of an evil being having taken over the place Melia used to live in. The actual new story presented in the post game does not become much more than what I just described, and is overall very mediocre while leaving a lot of rushed and unexplained content. Despite this, it was still able to add a bit more closure to Melia’s character in the end. The main appeal of the postgame though is the side content. There are tons of new quests to complete, a beautiful new environment to explore, great music, and new optional voice-acted conversations between the characters which expand on them a bit more. The side content made the postgame worthwhile and enjoyable to me, though the main story of it was still a big letdown.
Overall, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is an amazing remake. Even if some of the new content was not as impressive, the actual base game is improved and made so much better. Having new music, updated environments, more realistic looking characters, convenience updates, and everything it improved on make it a great experience even for those who played the original many times. I would personally give it a 10/10, and it is my all time favorite game.
Photo Credit: Ellen Heitmann