Xenoblade Chronicles (video game)

Xenoblade Chronicles
Xenoblade box artwork.png
European cover art for the original Wii release
Developer(s) Monolith Soft[a]
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s)
  • Koh Kojima
  • Genki Yokota
Producer(s)
  • Shingo Kawabata
  • Takao Nakano
Designer(s) Koh Kojima
Programmer(s) Katsunori Itai
Artist(s) Norihino Takami
Writer(s)
Composer(s) Manami Kiyota
Series Xeno (main)
Xenoblade Chronicles (sub-series)
Platform(s)
Release
Genre(s) Action role-playing
Mode(s) Single-player

Xenoblade Chronicles[b] is an action role-playing game developed by Monolith Soft and published by Nintendo for the Wii. Initially released in Japan in 2010, it was later released in the PAL region in 2011 and then in North America in 2012. A port for the New Nintendo 3DS was released worldwide in 2015. Xenoblade Chronicles is the first entry in the Xenoblade Chronicles series, a subseries which forms part of the Xeno metaseries. Although no direct narrative connections exist to previous Xeno games, it incorporates aesthetic and narrative elements from both fantasy and science fiction. The game features navigation through an open world split into zones, side-quests tied to party members' affinity, and a real-time action-based battle system which incorporates the main character's ability to see glimpses of the future.

Xenoblade Chronicles takes place on the frozen bodies of two warring titans, the Bionis and the Mechonis. The people of Bionis, including the human-like Homs, are in a perpetual war with the Mechon machine race of Mechonis. Key to the Homs' efforts in fighting against the Mechon army is the Monado, a sword that is said to have been wielded by the Bionis. During an attack on his colony, the main protagonist Shulk discovers his ability to wield the Monado and sets out on a quest for revenge with his best friend, Reyn, with others joining in as the game progresses.

The concept for Xenoblade Chronicles originated in June 2006 when the game's executive director and lead writer, Tetsuya Takahashi, visualized and then constructed a model of two giant gods frozen in place with people living on their bodies. Development began in 2007 under the title Monado: The Beginning of the World, though it was eventually rebranded with its current title in honor of Takahashi's previous work. The script was worked on by Takahashi, anime writer Yuichiro Takeda, and Nintendo writer Yurie Hattori. The music was handled by six different composers, including first-timer and lead composer Manami Kiyota and industry veterans Yoko Shimomura and Yasunori Mitsuda, with the latter writing the ending theme.

The game was announced in 2009 under its original title and released in Japan the following year. Despite releasing in Europe and in Oceania, its North American release remained unconfirmed until December 2011, during which time a fan campaign called Operation Rainfall drew considerable attention to the game. Upon release, the game received critical acclaim as one of the best recent role-playing games, while its port was praised for successfully re-creating the game in portable form. It also met with commercial success in both Japan and the West. A spiritual successor by the same development team for the Wii U, Xenoblade Chronicles X, was released in 2015. A sequel for the Nintendo Switch, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, was released in 2017.

Gameplay

Shulk (middle) and Reyn on the Bionis' Leg. Xenoblade Chronicles features large, expansive environments that afford the player a high degree of freedom to explore.

Xenoblade Chronicles plays as an action role-playing video game (RPG), where the player controls one character out of a party of three using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk or the Classic Controller.[8] The game employs an open world design, with players able to freely navigate seamlessly interconnected environments.[9] A day-and-night time cycle exists in the game, with the time of day often affecting in-game events, quests, enemy strengths, and item availability: for instance, stronger enemy types appear at night. While time flows automatically and a day cycle repeats about every ten minutes in real time, players can adjust the in-game clock to the desired time at any point.[8][10] Additionally, while the game is about exploration, many areas, called "Landmarks" aid in traversing the land by serving as warp points, allowing the player to instantly return to that point at any time.[11] The game also supports a "save anywhere" feature, where players can save at any point outside battle.[10] The game also contains a New Game+ mode, which pulls over much of the player's progress from their first playthrough into future playthroughs.[11]

Exploration, quest completion, and item collection are large parts of the gameplay. The player is encouraged to explore the large environments, which generally allow the player to visit whatever can be seen in the horizon.[12] While exploring, the player may choose to take on side quests from various non-player characters that inhabit the game's world, as they commonly involve locating certain items or killing a certain number of enemy characters. When the necessary requirements are fulfilled, some of the quests are completed automatically without the player needing to manually notify in-game characters of its completion. Item collection plays a role in the game in the form of the game's "Collectopaedia".[11] Scattered across the game are glowing blue orbs, and upon coming into contact with the orb, the player is awarded a random item that they can add to the Collectopaedia; when a certain number are collected, the player is rewarded with new items.[11] Aside from the Collectopaedia, there are also ether crystals to be found from fallen enemies or ether crystal deposits, which give the player access to a multifaceted "Gem Crafting" mini-game, allowing for the creation of gems that may increase battle stats when equipped.[11]

Many in-game systems affect the general flow of gameplay. The "Affinity" system tracks the relationships between characters and locations in the game. "Location Affinity" tracks the interpersonal relationships between all of the game's named characters, depicting to which degree they get along with one another, and a town's general perception of the player's controllable party.[11] Completing quests can alter perception of the characters, and open up additional story sequences.[13] There is also "Party Affinity", which is strictly the level of affection between each party member, ranging from indifference to love.[11] These affinities can be raised by having characters participate in battle together, giving gifts, or using the "Heart-to-Heart" system.[11] 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.[14] The Affinity system ties into how efficient characters work together in battle and gem crafting.[11] The game also has an extensive customization system, which includes changing the characters' outfits and weapons. These changes are directly reflected in the game, appearing in the field and even during scripted cutscenes.[13]

Battle system

A battle between Shulk (the player), Reyn, and Fiora against some hostile wildlife in Xenoblade Chronicles.

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.[15] Manually input attacks, called "Arts", may also be performed by the player, but in a limited fashion. Battle Arts are only available after a "cool down" period that occurs after every use, while character specific "Talent Arts" only become available after enough auto-attacks are executed.[15] 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 the player's character loses all their HP and has no means of being revived. 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 battles.[8][16]

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.[16] 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.[15] Each character has a "Tension" gauge, which represents a character's morale: at its highest point, characters have a high probability of dealing a critical blow and less chance of missing an enemy.[8] The game's "Vision" system, where main character Shulk can see glimpses of enemies' future attacks, also factors into battles. With knowledge of an enemy's potentially dangerous attack, the player can prevent it from happening by alerting a teammate, allowing the player to activate one of their Arts, or by using an Art of their own to stop the attack.[17] The Vision system is tied to the "Party" gauge, which is filled by boosting team morale, using Arts with special effects, and avoiding or dealing critical hits. The three-tiered gauge gradually depletes outside of battle, and one tier is needed to either revive characters or alert a teammate to a vision. When all three tiers are full, the party can execute a chain attack.[8]

Synopsis

Setting and characters

The setting of Xenoblade Chronicles originates in a world that was nothing but endless ocean until two titanic gods, the Bionis and the Mechonis,[c] came into existence and battled each other until only their frozen, locked in battle corpses remained. In the eons following their battle, they became the home of multiple forms of life. The Bionis is home to organic lifeforms, most prominently the humanoid Homs, who are virtually identical to humans both in appearance and biology; the diminutive and furry Nopon, and the avian humanoid High Entia, whose lifespans span centuries. Conversely, the Mechonis is home to the mechanical humanoid Machina, whose lifespans span several millennia.[9][18][19] A key weapon used by the Homs in the battle against Mechonis is the Monado, a mystical sword which grants visions of the future to its wielder when fully controlled.[18]

The game's main character is Shulk, a young Homs scientist who lives in Colony 9 on Bionis. During an attack by Machina warriors called Mechon, Shulk comes into possession of the Monado. During his journey, Shulk is joined by Reyn, one of Shulk's childhood friends and headstrong member of the Defence Force; Dunban, a former wielder of the Monado and the brother of Shulk's childhood friend Fiora, who also joins Shulk; Sharla, a medic and sniper from Colony 6; Melia Antiqua, princess of the High Entia and a High Entia-Hom hybrid; and Riki, a Nopon chosen as the hero of his village. Other important characters include Zanza, god of the Bionis and the game's main antagonist; Lady Meyneth, goddess of the Mechonis; Shulk’s mentor Dickson; Mumkhar, a cowardly soldier who fought alongside Dunban and wished to wield the Monado for himself; Egil, self-proclaimed leader of the Machina; and Alvis, a mysterious man who aids Shulk on his journey.[20]

Plot

The game's opening details events one year past, when Dickson, Dunban, and Mumkhar were fighting a Mechon army. Mumkhar deserts and the Monado paralyzes Dunban's right arm after he uses it to defeat the Mechon. In the present, Shulk studies the Monado in Colony 9, where Dunban and Fiora live.[21] A group of Mechon, led by the Face Mechon Metal Face, soon attack Colony 9. Dunban is almost killed when he attempts to use the Monado again, prompting Shulk to try and use it: he wields it with ease and receives visions of the future from it.[22] While the Mechon are driven back, Metal Face proves immune to the Monado and kills Fiora before fleeing. Swearing revenge against Metal Face, Shulk sets out together with Reyn. They meet Sharla from the decimated Colony 6 and work to free it from Mechon occupation, reuniting with Dunban shortly thereafter. Guided by Shulk’s vision, the group travels to the High Entia capital to enter Prison Island, joined by Melia and Riki.[23] Shulk also meets Alvis, who shares Shulk's ability to wield the Monado. Gaining entry, they encounter Zanza, a being who created the Monado and who offers Shulk the ability to destroy the Face Mechon, revealed to be humans inside Mechon mechs.[24] Though Shulk accepts and the Monado is granted the ability to destroy humans, Metal Face kills Zanza and another Mechon called Face Nemesis during an attack on the capital. During the ensuing battle, Face Nemesis is damaged to reveal a recreated and amnesiac Fiora controlling it.[25]

While initially disheartened by this, Shulk is rallied by his comrades and sets out in pursuit of Metal Face and Fiora. During a peaceful encounter with Fiora, Metal Face attacks them again, revealing itself to be Mumkhar. Egil then intervenes, spiriting Fiora away.[26] On the way to the Mechonis, the party face off against and defeat Mumkhar, who is impaled and plummets to his death. The party battle Egil and Fiora. In the resultant fight, Shulk and Fiora are separated from the group. During their time together, Shulk successfully awakens Fiora's memories and learns that another being was controlling her body.[27] Reuniting with the group, they meet up with the friendly Machina Vanea and her people, the Machina. She reveals that the Bionis and Mechonis were initially at peace, before the Bionis' god Zanza launched an unprovoked attack, forcing the Mechonis goddess Meyneth to wound him enough for the High Entia to entrap him. Since the battle a year before, Egil has been working on his own to convert the life of Bionis into Mechon to render the Monado useless, as it feeds off the ether found in all Homs.[28]

Going to face Egil, Fiora is taken over by the other presence, Meyneth, who reveals that, after being wounded in the fight with Zanza, she went to sleep before being drawn to Fiora by her love for Shulk. They reach Egil as he reactivates the Mechonis and begins an attack on the Bionis, intent on destroying the Bionis as revenge for the decimation it had caused to the Machina thousands of years ago.[29] Despite fighting him, Shulk manages to make him see that they both wish for a return to peace, and declines the open opportunity to kill Egil upon the latter's defeat.[30] At this point, Dickson appears and shoots Shulk, revealing himself as a disciple of Zanza, who emerges from Shulk's body and reclaims the Monado. They reveal that Zanza resided inside Shulk's body after he was killed during in expedition to claim the Monado, and Dickson has been preparing Shulk to take control of the Monado and eventually awaken Zanza. Egil and Meyneth attempt to fight Zanza, but they are defeated and Meyneth's Monado is stolen. As the party escapes, Egil attempts to fight once more, but Zanza destroys both him and the Mechonis.

After the Mechonis' destruction, High Entia begin transforming into Telethia, who purge Bionis of life.[31] The party is helpless before the Telethia, but a squadron of High Entia intervenes to protect them. However, the High Entia Minister of Research Lorithia is revealed to be Zanza's disciple, and releases ether to transform the High Entia squadron into Telethia. While the party grieves for Shulk, Shulk awakens thanks to Alvis and manages to defeat a Telethia raid on Colony 6, but Alvis is revealed to be the third disciple of Zanza, though Shulk suspects an ulterior motive. Making their way to Prison Island, they defeat Lorithea and Dickson. The party then travels to face Zanza, who declares the life of Bionis as simply his food and vessels, and with both Monados, he intends to recreate the world as he has before, destroying the current world and both everyone and everything in it in the process. Zanza then offers Shulk the chance to become his new disciple.[32] Shulk rejects the offer, and during the ensuing battle produces a third Monado: prompted by Alvis, the spirit of the Monado who betrays Zanza, Shulk uses his Monado to destroy Zanza.[33][34] Alvis then shows Shulk Zanza's origins; both Zanza, then named Klaus, and Meyneth were originally human scientists from Earth working to create a new universe aboard a space station of which Alvis was the administrative computer. Klaus's obsessive desires caused the experiment to end in disaster, obliterating the universe and causing Zanza and Meyneth to be reborn as gods. After the new universe's creation, Zanza and Meyneth created life in their image, and Zanza created the cycle of Bionis out of fear that he would eventually die as his creations forgot of his existence and sought life beyond Bionis.[35] With Zanza threatening the universe, Alvis asks Shulk, now a god, to decide how he will remake the universe. Shulk wishes for a world without gods, where everyone can decide their own fates.[36] In the new universe, the survivors of Bionis and Mechonis build a new settlement and live peacefully together, Fiora is restored to her Homs form, and both she and Shulk optimistically look forward to Alvis' parting promise of endless worlds and races of people beyond their own.[37]

Development

A model depicting two giant gods frozen in mid-combat, created by Tetsuya Takahashi and Yasuyuki Honne from a concept by Takahashi. This model became the starting point for the development of Xenoblade Chronicles. [38] [39]

Xenoblade Chronicles was developed by Japanese development company Monolith Soft, with Tetsuya Takahashi forming the original concept and serving as the game's executive director. Takahashi had previously worked in the 1990s on Xenogears, then on the Xenosaga trilogy after founding Monolith Soft in 1999. Xenosaga was intended to be a six-part series, but low commercial performances forced the planned Xenosaga series to be halved.[40] After these events, the entire development team was in a state of low morale.[41] The initial concept for Xenoblade Chronicles, of people living on the bodies of gigantic gods, came to Takahashi in June 2006. Struck by his idea, he immediately committed it to paper and showed the draft to other senior staff, who were favorably impressed. One of them, an executive called Yasuyuki Honne, thought it would make a good 3D model and bought materials to create it. Construction began in July: during this period, younger staff acted as models so that Takahashi could establish which parts of the gods' bodies could be used as habitable and navigable environments in various poses.[38][39]

After the model's construction, Takahashi decided to combine the model's concept with an unrelated story idea, which became the basis for a new game after positive feedback from staff.[38][39] Takahashi later said that one of the main reasons for developing the game was to bolster team morale after the commercial failure of the Xenosaga games.[41] The team first showed their proposal to Nintendo prior to the final development stages of Disaster: Day of Crisis. Development began over four years prior to its release, with the first prototypes for the game being developed in April 2007. It was at this point that co-director Genki Yokota was brought in by Nintendo to handle any system-related issues due to his previous experience with RPGs.[38][42] After being contacted regarding both Xenoblade Chronicles and fellow Wii JRPG The Last Story, head of Nintendo's licensing department Shinji Hatano said that the games should be made for a wide audience and using a "romanticist approach".[43] Takahashi was involved in every aspect of the game's development, from its initial concept to the debugging stage.[44] At the beginning of development, the game was going to be a stand-alone title unrelated to the Xeno series, bearing the title Monado: The Beginning of the World. Later, then-Nintendo president Satoru Iwata had the title changed to its current one to honor both Takahashi's previous titles and the effort he was investing in Xenoblade Chronicles.[45] According to Takahashi, the "Xeno" designation was more along the lines of a symbol, calling back to the previous works of Monolith Soft.[46] When describing the title's meaning, Takahashi described "Xeno" as meaning "different nature" or "uniqueness", while the "Blade" part was closely tied to the narrative, particularly the game's ending.[47]

A key element of the game for Takahashi was creating an ideal balance between gameplay and story, something that he felt was lacking in other JRPGs which focused too much on story.[41] Takahashi's previous experiences with the Xenosaga games and Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean, which had been called out for being old-fashioned when compared to other RPGs of the day, influenced his work in this regard.[9] The mechanic of Shulk getting glimpses of the future became the foundation of the entire battle system. Takahashi briefly experimented with a turn-based battle system that incorporated the feature, but it did not work out.[42] In a separate issue, Takahashi decided against a transition between the environment and a battle arena as he felt such a transition would negatively interrupt the flow of gameplay.[9] The game features a fully open world, which was described by Takahashi as "overwhelming, like an MMORPG", describing the world size as being roughly equivalent to the Japanese archipelago.[9][46] The scale of the world was derived from Takahashi's wish to showcase the grandeur of the experience.[42] In addition to this, the number and length of cutscenes was cut down significantly from those present in the Xenosaga games, with Takahashi considering such a development method as having become a "dead end".[9][46] The wish for an expansive world also became tied up with the wish to reward players for exploration, which entailed the creating of a huge amount of content creation such as items and accessories.[39] The gameplay was influenced both by previous Japanese RPGs and Western RPGs.[48] When the team ran into difficulties, Takahashi went to Nintendo in a "deflated" state to suggest numerous means of meeting the game's projected deadline. Yamagami rejected all of Takahashi's proposals and instead insisted the team persist with their vision, saying he would persuade Nintendo to continue supporting them.[49]

Scenario

The scenario was created by Takahashi, Yuichiro Takeda and Yurie Hattori. Takahashi was responsible for creating the main concept, but as he was going to be director and executive producer, he was unable to also take on full script-writing duties, so he asked Takeda to be his partner in creating the scenario. Takeda was a writer for anime who had previously collaborated with Takahashi on adaptations of the first Xenosaga game, in addition to writing the script for Xenosaga I & II, the Nintendo DS remake of Xenosaga and its sequel. Takahashi deliberately chose someone outside the video game industry as he wanted a different perspective on the story's pacing.[39] Hattori was brought in during the early development stages due to her experience with scenarios for Nintendo games, which enabled her to look at Takahashi and Takeda's scenario from an objective viewpoint.[38] A key element in the scenario was contrasting senses of scale, which Takahashi described as "contrasting the realms of the micro and the macro", while the main story themes were characters embarking on a great and evolving journey, and overcoming a predetermined future.[39][50] Despite multiple fantasy elements, Xenoblade Chronicles is based within a science fiction premise, although such elements were kept low-key during the first part of the game.[41][51]

Despite their earlier work together, it was the first time Takahashi and Takeda were so intimately involved in a project. Takeda found working on the project more difficult than he initially anticipated: his standard writing form was for the anime series format, which was limited to 20-25 minute episodes. With Xenoblade Chronicles, the volume of story and writing work was much larger and offered more freedom for dramatic expression. Conversely, his previous experience enabled Takahashi to easily plan the structure and scheduling for the game. During the initial writing stages, Takahashi did not give precise instructions to Takeda: he instead gave a rough outline that they worked on together, then they passed the developing script between themselves, along with producers Shingo Kawabata and Koh Kojima, to iron out rough elements. Takahashi compared it to playing a game of catch, something he was unused to doing for his game scenarios.[39] The ending underwent revisions: while Takahashi and Takeda felt they had created a fairly explanatory ending, Hattori still felt unsatisfied. After a second look, Takahashi and Takeda realized that it would appear perplexing for someone outside the writing process, so they rewrote it to be more player-friendly.[38] The final script contained a large amount of dialogue: the sheer volume, which included dialogue spoken in battle, made for a difficult experience while recording. Due to all the effort, Takahashi was emphatic that as much of it as possible be used, although he sometimes felt that there was too much. In the end, some dialogue needed to be cut as testers felt that the characters talked too much.[39] Takahashi's overall writing style was made deliberately more mature and subdued than other games within the genre.[52]

One of the elements that was of great concern to both Takahashi and Takeda was the main protagonist Shulk. Takahashi had noticed that, in the majority of RPGs, the main protagonist was all too easily disliked even if other characters became fan favorites. Consequently, one of the main priorities was to make Shulk as appealing as possible to players. During this process, it was suggested that Shulk be a silent protagonist, but there was a general wish from the staff for him to speak. In addition to this, Takahashi needed to confront the problem faced in any RPG with voiced characters, which was developing them suitably and writing appropriate dialogue between them. The companion character Riki was cited by Takeda as a favorite of his: on paper Riki sounded an unlikable character, but his voice and appearance acted as a counterbalance to his remarks.[39] One of the scenes where Hattori had input was a scene between Shulk and Fiora which showcased their connection: the original scene had Shulk touching Fiora's cheek, which Harrori felt would look "creepy" coming out of the blue. The scene was altered so Shulk touched her hand instead.[38] One of the early concepts Takeda suggested was that one of the main protagonist's party would betray them and become the final boss, but Takahashi rejected this idea as he felt it would run counter to player expectation.[39] During the course of its development, the story underwent so many revisions that Takahashi forgot what his original concept was, although the basic framework remained intact throughout.[42]

Music

The original score for Xenoblade Chronicles was composed by Manami Kiyota, ACE+ (a musical production group composed of Tomori Kudo, Hiroyo "CHiCO" Yamanaka, and Kenji Hiramatsu), and Yoko Shimomura.[53][54] As with other parts of development, Takahashi was deeply involved, constantly rejecting pieces due to what he felt was not fitting for the game. He admitted that this was due to early samples he had given the team for his vision for the music, which they had followed too faithfully for his liking. At Takahashi's request, Nobuo Uematsu's record label Dog Ear Records assisted with production.[44]

The music team was led by Shimomura, who was initially very confused by the odd naming of tracks, along with getting the opportunity of using sounds not normally used in compositions in her other projects, such as electric guitars.[53][54] Kiyota had only previously done superficial work on video game titles; she accepted Dog Ear Records' offer for her to compose music. ACE+ was recommended to Takahashi by Dog Ear Records. Kiyota handled environmental tracks, while ACE+ was in charge of battle tracks in addition to other musical pieces. The team's main goal was to create music that went beyond the typical sound of RPGs. In hindsight, Yamanaka attributed the harmony of the six composers' works to Takahashi's organization and overall direction.[44] The final score contained around ninety tracks. One of the hardest tracks for Shimomura was a nine-minute track that Takahashi requested to match with a movie scene. Later, he said the track needed to change midway through, essentially necessitating the creation of two conjoined themes.[54] The majority of the game's music was written by Kiyota and ACE+, with Shimomura writing eleven tracks. The music was recorded at Burnish Stone Recording Studios in Tokyo. The chorus work was provided by Yamanaka, Kiyota, and Masao Koori.[55]

The game's ending theme, "Beyond the Sky", was composed by Yasunori Mitsuda and performed in English by Australian singer Sarah Àlainn.[56][54][55][57] Mitsuda was brought in to the music team due to his previous experience with the soundtracks of Xenogears and the first Xenosaga game, and due to Takahashi's long working relationship with him. Takahashi himself personally wrote the original Japanese lyrics for the track, which were translated into English by Lisa Gomamoto.[44][55] When Mitsuda was contacted, the project was nearing completion, with very little development and composition work left. Despite this, before creating the main theme, Mitsuda asked if he could read the script, which was much larger than he anticipated.[44][53][54] 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.[44]

An official soundtrack album for the game, Xenoblade Original Soundtrack, was released by Dog Ear Records on 23 June 2010.[58] It entered the Oricon charts at #80, and remained in the charts for five weeks.[59] Upon release, the album received praise from critics: while multiple critics were surprised that Shimomura and Mitsuda's contributions were less substantial than originally thought, they found the majority of the music composed by Kiyota and ACE+ to be enjoyable. "Beyond the Sky" also received unanimous praise.[58][60][61]

Release

Xenoblade Chronicles was announced during E3 2009.[62] Its official title and release window were not announced until the beginning of 2010, alongside the announcement of The Last Story.[63] The game released in Japan on 10 June 2010.[2] Over a year after its Japanese release, it was confirmed for release in European territories under the title Xenoblade Chronicles.[64] This version included both the English and Japanese voice tracks.[65] According to Adam Howden, Shulk's voice actor, he was not given much information prior to his audition, and was never given the full script during recording. According to him, the translated script needed to be altered as some lines came out as longer or shorter than the Japanese originals, and he was told to give Shulk a neutral British-accented voice.[66] 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.[48] Initially planned for release on 2 September 2011, it was released two weeks early on 19 August. In addition to the standard edition, a special edition with a Red Wii Controller Pro was also released.[1] It was later re-released in Europe on the Wii U's Nintendo eShop on 5 August 2015.[67]

Despite being confirmed for a European release, Xenoblade Chronicles did not have a official confirmation of a North American release. Additionally, although the project was announced at E3 2009, the finished game was absent altogether from E3 2011. 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.[68] In response to this, a dedicated fan campaign was launched called Operation Rainfall. Its goal was to raise fan awareness of the situations felt by three Wii RPGs: Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story and Pandora's Tower.[69] Among the campaign tactics used by Operation Rainfall were emails, organized campaigns, online petitions, phone calls, and messages on Nintendo's Facebook and Twitter accounts.[70] One of the most notable efforts was a call to pre-order the game via the original "Monado: Beginning of the World" placeholder on Amazon.com. Their efforts resulted in Xenoblade Chronicles becoming #1 in the site's pre-order gaming charts, beating The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and the PlayStation 3 bundle for Call of Duty: Black Ops. The campaign also received support from Mistwalker, the developers of The Last Story, and Xenogears and Xenosaga writer Soraya Saga.[71] Takahashi later stated that Monolith Soft developed the game assuming that it would be released overseas.[72]

In the months following these activities, Nintendo of America officially stated that there were no current plans to release the three asked-for games in North America, despite acknowledging the great demand for the titles.[73] Rumors eventually emerged that the title would see a North American release when it was listed on the website of gaming retailer GameStop. Soon after this, Nintendo officially announced that the game would be released in the region.[74] In a 2013 interview, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé revealed that Nintendo were considering an American release for Xenoblade Chronicles while Operation Rainfall was active, and that while the campaign did not factor into their decision, they were aware of it and took it into account while deciding whether the release would make a profitable release.[75] Xenoblade Chronicles eventually released in North America on 6 April 2012.[4] It was released in North America as an exclusive to Nintendo's American store, and GameStop's website and stores.[74] The eShop version released for North America from 28 April 2016.[76]

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D

A port for the New Nintendo 3DS, called Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, was released worldwide in April 2015.[6][5][7] It features StreetPass functionality, as well as compatibility with the Shulk Amiibo.[7] The port was originally announced in August 2014 alongside the New Nintendo 3DS.[77] The port was developed by Monster Games, a frequent collaborator with Nintendo on well-received ports. They were requested for the job by Nintendo as the staff at Monolith Soft were already working on the next Xenoblade title.[41][72] Development on the port started between Autumn and Winter 2013 initially for the original Nintendo 3DS, but initial testing showed that the original platform lacked the memory and power to effectively run the game, since the Wii's processing capabilities were greater than the regular 3DS. Hearing about the New 3DS, it was decided to use its increased processing power to realize the game's ambition.[72] Its increased power made the port possible, and its button layout, with the inclusion of the ZL and ZR shoulder buttons and the C-Stick, meant that the original Wii Classic Controller button layout could be used without adjustment. As part of the alterations made to the title, much of the on-screen information was moved down to the bottom Touch screen so as to de-clutter the top screen, while the layout was carefully arranged so as to maintain the feel of the original as much as possible.[78]

To maintain frame rate and the seamless transitions between environments, unspecified "technical tricks" were used. They also worked hard to include 3D capacity despite the resultant technical difficulties.[78] The most difficult part of the development was getting the game's scale to work within the new hardware. This entailed the creation of a new graphics engine with a custom visibility culling and complex level of detail systems. All of the environments were rebuilt and optimized for the new system while keeping the original aesthetic intact.[50] The reason given for porting the game to the New 3DS rather than the Wii U home console was that the length of the game could be intimidating for the modern gamer, who was becoming more used to on-the-go, quick gaming sessions.

Reception

Reception
Aggregate score
Aggregator Score
Metacritic Wii: 92/100[79]
New 3DS: 86/100[80]
Review scores
Publication Score
Edge 9/10[81]
Eurogamer 9/10 (Wii)[82]
Famitsu 36/40[83]
Game Informer 9.5/10 (Wii)[84]
9/10 (New 3DS)[85]
GamePro 5/5 stars[86]
GameSpot 9/10 (Wii)[87]
8/10 (New 3DS)[88]
GamesRadar+ 4/5 stars (Wii)[89]
4.5/5 stars (New 3DS)[90]
GamesTM 9/10[91]
GameTrailers 9.3/10[92]
IGN 9/10 (Wii)[93]
8.7/10 (New 3DS)[94]
Joystiq 5/5 stars[95]
NGamer 93%[96]
ONM 92%[97]
PALGN 9.5/10[98]

Since its release, Xenoblade Chronicles has received critical acclaim, earning perfect scores from Digital Spy, Joystiq, GamePro and RPGamer,[86][95][99][100] and near-perfect scores from most other video gaming websites and magazines.[d] The game received "universal acclaim", according to review aggregator Metacritic.[79][102]

The story was cited by many as being innovative and enjoyable despite a fairly standard premise, while its open nature was seen as a welcome change for the genre: IGN critic Keza MacDonald said that she had been shocked out of expecting Japanese RPGs to be similar to the linear and story-driven Final Fantasy XIII. Its battle system and handling of quests also received praise, with the latter being seen as a great improvement for the genre due to its user-friendly workings. The one point that generally drew criticism were the graphics, with multiple critics disappointed that they lacked the polish of other contemporary consoles.[e] IGN, Eurogamer and Edge Magazine cited the game as a triumphant comeback for the JRPG, and a prime example of the genre.[82][93][96] The battle system, and to a degree its general gameplay, was favorably compared by multiple critics to that used in Final Fantasy XII.[81][82][89][93]

The New 3DS port also received "generally positive" reviews, according to Metacritic.[80] The port was generally received similar praise to the original Xenoblade Chronicles: many points of praise regarding its gameplay and story were shared with its original release, while new praise was given to the fact that an RPG of its scale had been successfully ported to the platform at all. Despite this, critics cited the graphical downgrade and lackluster implementation of 3D effects as detrimental factors, generally resulting in lower scores for the port when compared to the original game.[f][105]

Awards

At the 2011 Japan Game Awards, Xenoblade Chronicles received the "Excellence" award.[106] In IGN's Best of 2012 awards, the game was named "Best Wii/Wii U Game" and awarded with "Best Wii/Wii U Story".[107][108] It was also nominated in the "Best Overall Role-playing Game" and "Best Overall Story" categories.[109][110] In RPGFan's "Game of the Year" awards that same year, it was named "Best Traditional RPG",[111] and was a runner-up for "Best Combat" and "Best RPG", losing both to Mass Effect 3.[112][113] It was also awarded the site's "Reader's Choice Best RPG" award, with 24% of readers' votes going to Xenoblade Chronicles, beating Persona 4 Golden to the award.[114] In RPGamer's "Best of 2012" awards, it was named as the year's best RPG, along with earning awards for "Best Story" and "Best Music".[115][116][117] At the 2012 Golden Joystick Awards, the game was nominated in the "Best RPG" category, although it lost to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.[118] Slant Magazine named it as "Game of the Year" in 2012.[119]

Sales

During its opening week, Xenoblade Chronicles reached the top of Japan's gaming charts, selling 80,000 units.[120] By the end of 2010, the game had sold over 161,000 copies, making it the eighth best-selling Wii game of the year, and eventually reached almost 200,000 units by the end of 2013.[121][122] In the UK charts, Xenoblade Chronicles debuted at #7, and reached #2 in the dedicated Wii charts despite stock shortages.[123][124] According to Gamasutra, it was the fourth best-selling game in the UK during its first week.[125] In the US gaming charts, the game was excluded from the NPD Group's monthly assessment due to it being a retailer exclusive.[126] 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.[127] In a later interview, it was stated that the game sold better in the West than in Japan.[41]

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D fared below par, selling merely 56,932 copies in its first week in Japan.[122] Roughly 78,000 Japanese copies had been sold by the end of June 2015.[128] In the UK charts, the game debuted at #27, becoming the third best-selling Nintendo product of that week.[129] According to NPD Group figures, the game sold under 75,000, failing to enter the top ten. However, Nintendo stated that the game was the fifth best-selling platform exclusive that week.[130][131]

Legacy

Shulk has been featured as a playable character in the Super Smash Bros. crossover fighting game series, appearing in its Nintendo 3DS and Wii U and Ultimate installments. Gaur Plain, a location in the games, appears as a stage, and Dunban and Riki accompany Shulk during his ultimate move. Additionally, Riki is also an assist trophy, which is a non-playable character who assists players during fights.[132] Fiora was later featured as a playable character in the crossover game Project X Zone 2, representing the Xeno series alongside Xenosaga character KOS-MOS, opposite Metal Face as an enemy character.[133] By using experience gained during development of Xenoblade Chronicles and listening to feedback on the game, Takahashi and the team began work on a spiritual successor for the Wii U. Titled Xenoblade Chronicles X, it released worldwide in 2015.[134][135][136] A sequel for the Nintendo Switch, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, was released worldwide in December 2017.[137][138]