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European cover art
|Genre(s)||Action role-playing, open world|
|Distribution||Wii Optical Disc|
European cover art
|Genre(s)||Action role-playing, open world|
|Distribution||Wii Optical Disc|
Xenoblade Chronicles, known in Japan as Xenoblade (ゼノブレイド Zenobureido?), is a science fiction role-playing video game developed by Monolith Soft and published by Nintendo for the Wii console. The game was announced during E3 2009 under its original title Monado: Beginning of the World. It was later renamed Xenoblade in January 2010 to honor Tetsuya Takahashi, the director of the game that had also directed all prior games in the Xeno series.
The game was first released on June 10, 2010 in Japan, and later localized and released in August 19, 2011 in Europe. Despite this, significant time passed without any confirmation on a North American release, which eventually led to part of the Operation Rainfall fan movement to generate interest in release in the region. Despite Nintendo's official word that they were not influenced by the movement, the game was released in North America on April 6, 2012. The game was very well received by critics, with many citing it as a great example of innovation and improvement in a rather stagnant genre of Japanese role-playing video games.
Xenoblade Chronicles plays as a action role-playing game, that employs an open world design, allowing much of the game world to be explored. The player controls the character with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, or the Classic Controller.
The game has several time saving support features, many of which are not found in other games of its genre. For instance, while the game has a day-and-night time cycle, rather than just waiting for time to elapse, players can "set the clock" to the time they want to go to. Additionally, while the game is about exploration, many areas, called "Locations" and "Landmarks", are added to aid in traversing the land by serving as warp points (though this only applies to the latter). The game also supports a "save anywhere" feature".
Another of the game's systems is the "Bonds" system, in which characters can partake in many optional sidequests with non-player characters. Completing such quests can alter perception of the character in the towns, and open up additional story sequences. The game also has an "Affinity" system, where each member has an Affinity stat that indicates how they feel about another party member, ranging from indifference to high friendship/love. These affinities can be raised by having characters participate in battle together, giving gifts, or using the "Heart-to-Heart" system. These "Heart-to-Hearts" are intimate moments between two characters that can show more of a character's personality, history, or thoughts, and can be initiated by having a certain level of Affinity between them. The Affinity system ties into other aspects of gameplay, from gem crafting to linking Skills to use in the field and in battle.
The game also has extensive customization, which includes changing the characters' outfits and weapons. These changes are directly reflected in the game, appearing in the field and even during scripted event scenes.
Xenoblade Chronicles has a real-time action-based battle system, where the player manually moves the current lead character in real-time, and party members will "auto-attack" when enemies enter their attack radius, most comparable to the system found in Final Fantasy XII. However, special attacks are available as well, with those belonging to the lead character activated manually by the player; these include "Battle Arts"/"Arts" (which can be used once but become unavailable until their "cool down" periods expire) and characters' unique "Talent Arts", which only become available after enough auto-attacks are executed. Both party members and enemies have a finite amount of health points, and attacks deplete this value. Combat is won when all enemies lose their HP, but the game is lost if all characters lose their HP. Health may be restored by the player by using healing Arts in battle, or the player may let characters' HP regenerate automatically outside of battle. Winning battles earns the player experience points, which allows the characters to grow stronger by leveling up and learning new Arts. Arts for each character must be set by the player on their respective set up, called a "Battle Palette", outside of battles.
Several other systems are present to affect the flow of battle. The "Party Gauge" slowly fills as party members successfully land hits on the enemy players, and filling the gauge allows the player to chain multiple attacks together, for extra damage. All party members have an "aggro ring" around them as well; the more actions a character performs, the larger it grows. Larger aggro rings lead enemies to focus their efforts on that respective character, leading to a strategic aspect of luring and diverting attention of enemies. The game's "Visions" system, where Shulk can see glimpses of enemies' future attacks, also factors into battles. With this information, the player must either try to react by trying to get out of harms way or prevent it from happening.
The setting of Xenoblade originated in a world that was nothing but endless ocean, until two great titans, the Bionis and the Mechonis, came into existence. The two giants fought a timeless battle, until with one final strike, only their lifeless bodies remained, forever locked in combat. Eons later, new forms of life arose on the corpses of the two titans; organic lifeforms such as the humanoid Homs on Bionis, and mechanical life forms, such as the machina, on Mechonis. Like the respective titans, the Homs of Bionis, and the mechon of Mechonis fight endlessly for their existence.
The protagonist of the game is an 18-year-old young man named Shulk, who lives in Colony 9 of the Bionis. When the colony is attacked by the Mechon, he obtains the Monado, the legendary energy blade capable of severely damaging the Mechon, and leaves to stop the Mechon threat. Those who fight with him are Reyn, a young and headstrong Defense Force soldier; Fiora, Shulk and Reyn's childhood friend; Dunban, the previous wielder of the Monado and Fiora's older brother; Sharla, a medic and sniper from Colony 6; Melia, mage and crown princess of the High Entia; and Riki, a member of the Nopon race of small creatures, who is chosen as the hero of his village.
The game's story opens to scenes one year prior to the present time in the game, detailing Dunban's use of the legendary sword "Monado", to lead an effort against the Mechon. It is successful, and temporarily restores peace, but it cripples Dunban's arm. One year after the battle, Shulk and Reyn return to their home in Colony 9 after surviving an attack from monsters. After meeting up with Fiora and helping with an errand, the Mechon launch a large surprise attack against Colony 9. Shulk and his friends return to find Dunban, with the Monado. However, the Monado's power overwhelms Dunban, and he drops the weapon in agony. Shulk picks up the Monado, showing greater control over the weapon, and exhibits the ability to see enemies' future attacks.
During the assault, they encounter a large "faced" Mechon leading the attack, called "Metal Face." Unlike the rest of the Mechon, the Monado does almost nothing to Metal Face as it incapacitates them. Fiora arrives in a tank to save them; however, Metal Face dismantles the tank and stabs Fiora, killing her. The Mechon then withdraw from the devastated colony. Resolute, Shulk and Reyn leave Colony 9 in pursuit of Metal Face, to reach Galahad Fortress, the Mechon stronghold located at Sword Valley. Shulk and Reyn travel through the Bionis' leg, where they meet and recruit Sharla. Shulk has a vision of him fighting Metal Face on a black island, which is deduced to be Prison Island, making its their next destination. The group gains imperial sanction from Alcamoth, the High Entian capital, to enter Prison Island. On the way up, Melia and Riki join Shulk's group. Shulk also meets Alvis, a male Homs who can use the Monado.
In Alcamoth, Shulk's group manages to foil assassination attempts against them, while learning of Melia's identity as a princess of the imperial family. Later, while meeting with Melia, Shulk has a vision of Metal Face killing the Emperor; before he can tell the others, Metal Face and the silver Face Nemesis lead a Mechon attack on Alcamoth. Realizing that the city's defenses will soon be overwhelmed, Melia's father, Emperor Sorean Antiqua, travels to Prison Island to try and counter the attack. Shulk, Melia, and the others travel there as well, where they meet Zanza, a Giant who claims to be the creator of the Monado, and the prisoner of the island. Zanza offers to "release the shackles" that prevent Shulk from harming Faced Mechon.[full citation needed] Shulk accepts, but Metal Face kills Zanza shortly afterward. Shulk fulfills the vision by quickly defeating Metal Face; however, Face Nemesis takes Shulk's killing blow to Metal, revealing a Homs with a mechanical body inside. To everyone's shock, the Homs reveals herself as Fiora; however, she doesn't recognize Shulk, and leaves with the retreating Mechon.
Shulk decides to follow the Mechon to Galahad Fortress, passing through the snowy Valak Mountain. On the way there, Fiora (inside Face Nemesis) comes to see Shulk, although she behaves and speaks benevolently, calling him "Heir to the Monado". Metal Face suddenly appears and attacks, its operator revealed to be Mumkhar. During the resulting fight, Egil, the leader of Mechonis, intervenes to take Face Nemesis back with him. The group follows Egil and his forces to Sword Valley, where they fight Mumkhar again, finally killing him. At the heart of Galahad Fortress, the party encounter and fight Egil and Fiora, the latter being forced to fight them. Before Egil can eliminate the group, the one controlling Fiora, apparently hearing Fiora's plea to save Shulk, stops him, causing an explosion. Shulk jumps after Fiora's falling Mechon as the others are separated. Egil escapes, the power of Face Nemesis troubling him.
Waking up from a dream, Shulk finds himself on the Mechonis' Fallen Arm. He finds Fiora and kisses her reviving her as her old self. Shulk learns that until the fall from the fortress, "someone else" was controlling Fiora's body, while she herself could only watch. The two decide to find the others, finding Sharla and Reyn first. They reunite with Melia and the others in a village, where they meet the people of Mechonis, the Machina. Linada, a doctor, helps Fiora adjust to her new body; while Shulk and the others meet with Miqol, the village leader and father of Egil. Miqol requests them to kill Egil, saying that Vanea, Egil's sister, will try to assist them.[full citation needed]
The group leave the village to reach the Mechonis capitol, Agniratha. During their journey, they are ambushed by Jade Face, who is revealed to be Gadolt, Sharla's supposedly dead fiance. Narrowly escaping a fatal attack, the group meets Vanea shortly afterward. As Vanea wishes for peace between the denizens of the Bionis and Mechonis, she takes them to Agniratha. Once there, Fiora is temporarily taken over by Meyneth, the goddess of the Mechonis and the "other person" from before. Shulk and the others learn that the Bionis and Mechonis were once at peace with one another, before the former inexplicably attacked the latter, killing many of the Machina. Understanding Egil's desire for revenge, the group heads for the Meyneth Shrine, where Egil is located.[full citation needed]
After a brutal fight, Egil reactivates the Mechonis, beginning the attack on the Bionis. After entering to the Mechonis Core, Shulk reconciles with Egil, beginning a truce between them. However, Shulk is shot in the back by Dickson, revealing himself to be a "Disciple of Zanza". At this time, Zanza, the god of the Bionis, is revived from Shulk's body and takes the Monado to lay waste to Mechonis. In the ensuing fight, Fiora loses Meyneth's Monado, which Zanza takes for himself, expelling Meyneth in the process. Egil stays within the Mechonis to give the party enough time to escape, although Zanza destroys him, much to Vanea's dismay.[full citation needed]
With life on the Bionis in chaos, Fiora and the others take Shulk's body with them to escape. As they pass over Sword Valley, Lorithia, a member of the High Entian court, turns out to be another Disciple, turning many High Entia into Telethia to eliminate life on Bionis. The party fights back, retreating to Colony 6 with Telethia in tow. Meanwhile, Shulk and Alvis speak to each other through the former's dream, with Alvis subtly encouraging Shulk to continue. Shulk reawakens just in time, using a Monado-esque Machina weapon to fight off Zanza's forces. At the same time, Alvis reveals himself as the final Disciple, following Dickson to Prison Island. Shulk lets him go, saying that his allegiance does not matter.[full citation needed]
After defending Colony 6, the group travels through the Bionis' interior to defeat Lorithia, then to Prison Island to defeat Dickson. The party then finds themselves in what appears to be a simulation of the Solar System. At the end of the simulation, they catch a brief view of the planet Earth before facing Zanza, now a god-like monster wielding his and Meyneth's Monados. He voices his intent to create a new world, as the current world is no longer needed, and offers to make Shulk immortal; resolute, Shulk rejects the offer. Partway into the ensuing battle, Shulk, encouraged by Alvis, calls the True Monado, which he uses to destroy Zanza.[full citation needed]
After the battle, Alvis appears before Shulk, and shows him a vision of the past, in which Zanza was once a human scientist named Klaus. He and Meyneth performed an experiment that attempted to create a new universe, but accidentally destroyed their universe and caused the two of them to become gods. They then created the universe of the Bionis and Mechonis. Needing a physical host, but unwilling to risk their departure for other worlds, Zanza initiated a cycle of destruction and rebirth to keep life on Bionis, creating beings from the ether and destroying them with the Telethia when they threatened to leave. Alvis reveals that he was originally the administrative computer of the space station where the experiment was performed. Alvis then informs Shulk that their world is expiring, and that Shulk, as its new god, must decide the world's fate. Shulk chooses to recreate the universe as a world without gods, causing the Bionis to collapse and fall. In the epilogue, Homs, High Entia, Nopon, and Machina are all shown living peacefully together in the new world, the Bionis has fallen, and Fiora has been restored to a Homs.
Development of the game predated the release of the Wii console itself, leading to a four year development period for the game's Japanese release alone. However, despite development starting in 2005, the game was not revealed to the public until June 2009 at E3 2009. At the time, the game was announced under the title of Monado: Beginning Of The World. The game was later retitled Xenoblade in January 2010 to honor Tetsuya Takahashi, as Nintendo president Satoru Iwata described, was the one "who poured his soul into making this and...the Xeno series". Takahashi involved himself in every aspect of the game, from creating the original concept and script to the final debugging stages.
During the game's long development period, the game went through many changes. At one point, the development team tried to implement a turn-based battle system, but they felt it was too difficult to implement the "changing the future" feature in such a system. Great care had also gone into making the protagonist, Shulk, likeable by audiences. At one point, to do this, the team proposed having him act as a silent protagonist. However, the team instead took the opposite approach, and focused on Shulk's interactions between the other characters, especially through aspects such as the "heart to hearts" and how team members cheer each other on during battles.
Takahashi's goal for the game was to convey a feeling of freedom to the player, with less focus on lengthy cutscenes than prior games in the Xeno series. He has described the game world as "overwhelming, like an MMORPG" and compared its size to that of Japan, stating that from "one end to the other," the game's world is "about the size of the Japanese archipelago."
The game's music was composed by a total of six musicians. Included in the number was the three member team of "Ace+" (Chico Yamanaka, Tomori Kudo and Kenji Hiramatsu, respectively), of which was referred by Nobuo Uematsu's Dog Ear Records. Together, the team created over 90 tracks for the game. Takahashi was very involved with the music, constantly rejecting pieces due to what he felt was not fitting for the game. Takahashi and the rest of the music team's goal was to use a large variety of different instruments to create a sound that was not typical of a Japanese RPG. Yasunori Mitsuda was brought in to do the music for the game's epilogue due to his involvement with the music of prior Xeno games Xenogears and Xenosaga Episode 1. The track caused much stress to Mitsuda, who was tasked to create the game's most important song, which needed to incorporate both the diversity of the entire rest of the soundtrack, and mesh with Takahashi's grand vision for the ending of the game. Takahashi even wrote the lyrics for the track personally.
Xenoblade: Special Soundtrack, a sampling of the twelve tracks chosen by Takahashi himself that best encapsulate the game's music, was released in Japan
Despite the game's August 2011 release date in Europe, during this same time period, Xenoblade Chronicles did not have a confirmation of a North American release. Additionally, the game was absent altogether from E3 2011, a major medium for promoting upcoming games in North America. In an interview on the French television station Nolife, Mathieu Minel, the marketing manager of Nintendo France, stated that Nintendo of Europe had desired to show the game at it, but Nintendo of America would not allow it, sparking speculation that it would not be released in North America. In response, a fan campaign called "Operation Rainfall" formed to persuade Nintendo of America to localize Xenoblade Chronicles, along with fellow Wii RPGs The Last Story and Pandora's Tower. The group organized several efforts to raise awareness of the game's demand, such as encouraging people to pre-order the old Monado placeholder on Amazon.com. On June 25, 2011, the pre-orders from the campaign made the game the No. 1 best-selling video game on Amazon.com for that day.
The game was eventually confirmed for North America release, but it wouldn't be until the following December. The game was released on April 6, 2012. While Nintendo acknowledged the efforts, and Xenoblade staff members even voiced support for it, in December 2013, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime stated that ultimately, "Operation Rainfall" had not affected their plans for releasing the game in North America.
Concerning the game's localization, Takahashi stated that while some minor changes were made in the English versions of the game, like some bug fixes, minor adjustments to gameplay balance, and slight rewriting of some written content, none of the changes led to any significant differences.
Xenoblade Chronicles received acclaim from reviewers, with average aggregate scores of 91.74% at GameRankings, based on 42 reviews, and 92 out of 100 at Metacritic, based on 59 reviews. The game had the fourth highest ranking on Metacritic for all video games released in 2012, and many reviewers referred to the game as the best Japanese role-playing game of the seventh generation of video games.
Many reviewers lauded the game for revitalizing and reinventing the otherwise stagnant and traditional Japanese role-playing genre. GameSpot awarded the game an Editors' Choice award, saying that it "is a remarkable game" and "drags the JRPG into the 21st century, modernising many of the genre's traits and nailing a pace that outclasses the majority of its peers." Eurogamer similarly stated that "It's a game that invites us to reassess an entire genre, pointing to a bold future while nodding its respect towards the past. It's a towering triumph", Game Informer praised the game's sense of adventure, with the reviewer stating that "I fell in love with JRPGs in the 16-bit era because they constantly showed me things I’d never seen before. Somewhere in the last 15 years, most RPG developers in Japan have lost sight of that, instead rehashing the same fantasies and floating by on nostalgia. Xenoblade Chronicles is the first JRPG I’ve played this generation that has me excited for the future rather than simply reminding me of happy memories from my past. Monolith Soft deserves praise for creating it." IGN especially praised the characters, stating "The likeable voice acting makes it easier to form lasting relationships with the characters, who are better-written and more believable than most. Their relationships with each other really make sense; rather than a band of random people thrown together by circumstance, your party really feels like a band of brothers (and sisters)."
The game has received several awards. In December 2011, GameSpot gave Xenoblade Chronicles the award for "Best Wii Game" of the year, while also being nominated for the "Best RPG" and "Game of the Year" awards. The Daily Telegraph also nominated it for the "Game of the Year" award. Nintendo Life chose it as second place for the "Wii Game of the Year" award and gave it an honourable mention for the overall "Game of the Year" award. Xenoblade also won the "Best RPG" award from MMGN's Community Game of the Year Polls. Nintendojo chose it as the runner-up for its "Game of the Year" award. IGN gave Xenoblade Chronicles its award for " Best Wii/WiiU Game of 2012" and well as IGN's People's Choice Award for the same category. The game won best sound in a RPG as well as the readers choice of "best RPG of 2012" by the gaming site RPG Fan, in their 2012 RPG awards. At the 2012 RPGamer awards Xenoblade Chronicles won many awards including: "Best Music","Best Console RPG", "Best Story" and "Best overall RPG of the year".  The editors of Slant Magazine gave the game the first place in their "Top 25 Best Video Games of 2012", stating: "...in a year of several marked technological adjustments, and the effective birth of the next generation with the Wii U, our favorite game is a callback to the era of the classic JRPG." concluding with "Monolith Soft's ambitious epic is boundlessly beautiful, challenging, emotionally gripping, and most distinguishably of all, effortlessly transporting."
The game debuted at No. 1 in its week of release in Japan, selling 83,000 copies. At the end of 2010, the game had sold 161,161 copies in Japan, making it the eighth best-selling Wii game of the year. It debuted at seventh on the UK game charts, and at second place on the Wii charts, despite stock shortages. According to Gamasutra, it was the fourth best-selling game in the UK during its first week. Investment banking firm Piper Jaffray estimated it to be one of the best-selling games in the United States during the month of April 2012, along with Mass Effect 3 and Prototype 2. The NPD Group excluded the game from their monthly report as it was a retailer exclusive.
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