Should You Play “Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition”?

“Xenoblade Chronicles”, considered by many to be one of the best JRPGs of all time, will soon have a remake known as “Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition”. This remake releases on Nintendo Switch on May 29, 2020. It has remade graphics, at least some updated music, an epilogue, and likely uses parts of the engine that “Xenoblade Chronicles 2” used (that’s an educated guess based on how long development can take and how some code can be re-used) . For fans of the game or series, this is great news! But what if you haven’t played the original “Xenoblade Chronicles” game (or even the series for some of you) and don’t know what the original has to offer?

I’m will discuss why I believe the original is so good, where I think it has some shortcomings, and what I think a remake can improve upon (without changing the story too heavily). I’ll also do my best to cover both objective and subjective reasons why you may or may not like the game. I’ll do so by listing the reason why (or why not) and describing how I’ve heard others feel about it. Please note: As we don’t have exact details on the remake yet, I can’t promise that all of what can be improved upon will be. I will also do my best to avoid as many spoilers as possible. With all of that out of the way, let’s go!

Graphics

As many may know, the graphics of the original were great from a distance, but less impressive up close. This is due to the models and textures being more limited and/or less developed back on the Wii. While screenshots and footage would indicate that graphics have gotten an objective upgrade in texture quality and resolution (see: the trailer for the original vs the trailer for the remake), the graphics also look even more like part of an anime in the new version than they did before. When I say that, I’m referring to the colors and style of details. While there are a few outfits in the original that seemed a bit more suggestive, there is far less of that theme in the original vs the sequel as far as I can tell. Some may appreciate this, and others may not as much.

Music and Audio

The music in Xenoblade Chronicles is originally done by Yoko Shimomura (previously from Capcom), Manami Kiyota, and ACE+, with a special theme done by Yasunori Mitsuda (known for other Xeno games, the Chrono series, and Shadow Hearts). At least some of this music will be remastered in the Definitive Edition. I don’t know whether all music tracks will be remastered, or if it’s just going to be a handful. Something else that we’ve heard, but I have yet to see officially confirmed, is that the Definitive Edition will supposedly have an audio setting to give the player the choice between the original soundtrack or the newer version. While the soundtrack is subjective in either case, more options is objectively better here.

Here is a tweet from Nintendo of America with one of the remastered tracks.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

For voice acting, I felt that at least most of the cast did really well the first time, even with how often they spoke outside of the dialogue (such as surrounding combat). While I don’t believe there are many, if any, new voiced parts in the base game, the epilogue included in the game is voice acting no one has heard yet. There is some new voice acting in the Definitive Edition, but nobody but you can be the judge of whether or not you like the voice acting of Adam Howden and the rest of the cast.

Story

I reviewed the original “Xenoblade Chronicles” game for The Well-Red Mage back in 2017. Here’s an excerpt on the Narrative portion of my review:

The story in this game took me by surprise time and time again. Some things where completely surprising, such as very large twists in the story. Others were not a surprise to me in terms of outcome, but very much so in terms of how the story got to that position. Shulk has the Monado, but how does he get it, how does he unlock its power, and how does he complete his objective? The biggest mystery in this game, by a longshot, is the Monado, its power to defeat Mechon and perform other actions, why it allows Shulk to see the future in order to change it, and this mysterious character that is first seen in a vision.

The Valiant Vision Mage, (2017, November 7), Xenoblade Chronicles (2010), The Well-Red Mage, https://thewellredmage.com/2017/11/07/xenoblade-chronicles/

The narrative is pretty big, even stronger than one would expect at times, but this doesn’t mean that it’s for everyone. For a matter of about three weeks, I was even upset about a part of the story. I got past this specific part eventually, but it does remind me that there will be some people who take issue with the story and/or the way it is told.

I don’t think the original has the absolute best story, nor the best way of telling it, but it does have my favorite combination of the two, and I can’t wait to see the addition of the epilogue. It’s my understanding that many feel the same way regarding said combination and the epilogue. As I want anyone going in to be as spoiler-free as possible though, I’d rather not go any deeper into details. Aside from story themes, which I’ll go over later, you’ll have to see for yourself whether you like it or not.

Gameplay

Xenoblade Chronicles is a role-playing game with many of the common JRPG elements. It features leveling up, multiple ways to gain experience (including battling, quests, and discovering new locations), quests, skills, equipment… the list goes on. It can get very complex if the player decides they want to try everything out. They may even have too much to do! But thankfully for some, not everything is a requirement.

Combat is done in a fashion similar to many MMORPGs, where an enemy is selected and attacks are done in real-time with cool-down timers, buffs, and debuffs. Something even more unique is that when a party member is about to be knocked out, the party will get a vision of the event a bit before it happens. This gives the player the opportunity to save themselves or their teammates. I found this to be unique and enjoyable, but those who prefer a by-the-book RPG might not enjoy it as much.

Themes (Game, Story, Presentation, Life Lessons)

If I were to classify the genre of Xenoblade Chronicles while ignoring the game elements, I’d say it mostly has a fantasy action theme with some elements of sci-fi. It has little (if any) real science in the context of sci-fi, can be very emotional at the right moments, and has plenty of action in a fantasy setting in an anime-esque style.

Xenoblade Chronicles has a lot that fits together in terms of presentation. The cutscenes can have so much that fits together that it would be near-impossible to add or take away any part of it without the scene losing impact. I’d probably be okay with the graphics engine and remixed music, but without playing the remake, it’s hard to say. What I can say though is that there’s a certain music track that is played during some of the most dramatic cutscenes that seems to either be made with each of these scenes in mind, or alternatively, the scenes were choreographed to this bit of music. I’m really not sure which. This is why I strongly suggest playing the game with audio on, if you’d consider doing anything different with an RPG.

Xenoblade Chronicles also changed my approach to some things in life. There will be more on that when my piece for “The Characters that Define Us” drops on normalhappenings.com within the next few weeks, but I’ll go over them very generally for now. Xenoblade Chronicles taught me to be more determined and strongly reinforcemed the idea of setting any need for revenge aside. The story is all about changing the future, and while it also quickly becomes a revenge story, there are some important realizations that happen with the characters. Not everyone wants/needs these lessons, and not everyone would appreciate these themes either, but I’m confident that even those that find other sources of these lessons would agree that they are good lessons in just about any form.

Your Time

Xenoblade Chronicles can take a long time to complete, even if all tasks unnecessary for completion are skipped. While most experience-grinding can be replaced with other activites, such as quests or exploration that gives experience, the game can still be long. I feel this makes the time one spends more meaningful.

The Question of “I didn’t like Xenoblade Chronicles 2. What are the chances that I would like the remake of the first game?”

Even though Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 are part of the same series, they are quite different. They do share many gameplay elements, and as of Definitive Edition, they seemingly share a graphics engine. I felt that Xenoblade Chronicles struggled with the technology it runs on. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 improved much (though not everything) in its engine, but is also was not as well-received in more subjective manners. If you don’t know what I mean, think of the story, certain themes that some characters fell under (notably certain outfits and some of their personality and dialogue at times), and how segmented the worlds felt. I’m not saying the original is without its own aspects that people don’t like, but if you ask what people think these days whether they prefer the original or the sequel, I’d bet that most will say the original. I also think that if you bring up the story and other more subjective themes of both games, most will say the original did a much better job (but again, this is the subjective portion).

So why am I telling you all of this? Xenoblade Chronicles had the more-agreed-upon subjective elements, while the sequel had the better engine for the most part. Combining the technology of the sequel, seemingly enhancing it (shown in a Japanese trailer, which contains spoilers in the form of character-portraits), and implementing the content from the original game (including all those more well-received subjective elements), then we likely have ourselves a game that is difficult to disagree with. You should still form you own opinion, but I feel like this is a valid argument for those who played the sequel first (and didn’t like it) to at least give the series one more try.

Conclusion

There is quite a lot that most people agreed the original did well. While the original still struggled, I think the refinements make a good reason to try the remake. One reason isn’t usually enough, so let’s backtrack on what I’ve talked about and let you evaluate each reason for yourself.

  • Graphics
    • The texures and models have been cleaned up compared to the original.
    • The colors make the style look even more like part of an anime.
  • Music and Audio
    • The music of the original was done by Yoko Shimomura, Manami Kiyota, and ACE+, with a special theme done by Yasunori Mitsuda (kno.
    • Choice between original and re-mastered tracks.
    • The main character (Shulk) is voiced by Adam Howden.
  • Story
    • It may take you by surprise.
    • It has a well-told narrative (in my opinion, decide for yourself whether or not you agree).
    • Parts of it may be difficult for people who are sensitive in certain ways (this only happened once for me, but it lasted for a while).
    • Addition of an epilogue
  • Gameplay
    • It has many of the common JRPG elements.
    • It has combat more similar to an MMORPG.
    • It has visions as a battle mechanic.
  • Themes
    • It’s mostly fantasy action, but also has a bit of sci-fi.
    • Can be emotional at times (in my opinion, decide for yourself whether or not you agree).
    • Its presentation needs all its parts, including audio, for the full experience (in my opinion, decide for yourself whether or not you agree).
    • It changed parts of my perspective on life (this may or may not happen for you as well).
  • Your Time
    • The main story usually takes a very long time, even if unnecessary parts are skipped.
    • Grinding experience can be done in more exciting ways than just beating enemies, such as quests and exploration. This might make your time more meaningful.
  • Original (and in most cases, the remake) vs. the sequel
    • They’re not the same game.
    • But they share some gameplay elements.
    • The original had its technological struggles, which should be fixed in the remake (considering most of them were fixed in the sequel).
    • The original had more positively received subjective elements than the sequel.
    • Combining the content of the original, some of the technology of the sequel, and seemingly some extra enhancement, there should be less reason that people dislike the remake.

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