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Xenoblade Chronicles 2
|Xenoblade Chronicles 2|
North American artwork, featuring the protagonists Rex (left) and Pyra looking at the Titan Uraya
Xenoblade Chronicles (sub-series)
|Release||December 1, 2017|
Xenoblade Chronicles 2[a] is an open world action role-playing game developed by Monolith Soft and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch video game console. Released worldwide on December 1, 2017, it is the third instalment in the Xenoblade Chronicles series, and the seventh main entry in the Xeno meta series; although it features a different setting and characters than the first Xenoblade Chronicles, it marks a return to a story-driven game, unlike the previous game in the series, Xenoblade Chronicles X, which was oriented towards open world exploration.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 takes place in Alrest, a world covered in a sea of clouds. Humans live on top of and inside living creatures known as Titans, together with Blades, powerful beings that can be summoned by certain humans named Drivers, and to whom they are tied for the rest of the Driver's life. After he is hired for a salvaging mission, a young Driver named Rex is killed, but revived by a legendary Blade named Pyra on the promise of taking her to Elysium, a fabled paradise at the top of the World Tree. Together with other Drivers and Blades, the duo, caught in a war between countries, attempts to reach the World Tree, while being chased by Torna, an elusive faction seeking to capture Pyra.
Development of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 began shortly before the launch of Xenoblade Chronicles X. Several key people from previous Xenoblade Chronicles games returned including franchise creator, executive director and co-writer Tetsuya Takahashi and directors Koh Kojima and Genki Yokota. Using their experience from X, the team wanted to develop a story-driven game in the style of the original Xenoblade Chronicles. The soundtrack was composed and arranged by Yasunori Mitsuda, ACE, Kenji Hiramatsu, and Manami Kiyota. The main characters were drawn by Masatsugu Saito, best known for his work in Expelled from Paradise, while Tetsuya Nomura designed the characters of Torna; many guest artists were hired to design the Blades unrelated to the main story. Gameplay-wise, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is similar to previous entries, with the notable addition of the Blades, three of whom the player can switch between during a battle; most Blades in the game are optional, and must be "awakened" from a Core Crystal, resulting in a randomly selected Blade becoming tied to a specific Driver, who can use them in combat.
The game was first announced alongside the Nintendo Switch reveal presentation in 2017, with a worldwide release date planned for the same year. Similarly to the original Xenoblade Chronicles, the game's localization was handled by Nintendo of Europe. Unlike the controversy surrounding Xenoblade Chronicles X, the game does not feature any sort of censorship between different versions. Upon release the game received generally positive reviews, with most praise going to its story, combat, music, environments, and amount of content. At over 1.5 million copies sold as of September 2018, it is the best-selling title in the Xeno series, and Monolith Soft's most commercially successful game. A large story-based downloadable content (DLC) addition taking place 500 years before the main game and featuring its own game mechanics, titled Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna – The Golden Country, was released in September 2018.
Akin to previous Xenoblade games, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is an action role-playing game (ARPG) where the player controls a main character out of a party of three. The game employs an open world design, with a day-and-night time cycle that often affects in-game events, including quests, enemy strength, and item availability. Unlike the first two entries, which consisted of one giant world the player could journey through uninterrupted, the game takes place on several Titans, between whom the player travels via a Fast Travel option.
The biggest change to the gameplay comes from Blades, sentient beings summoned from "Core Crystals" who provide their summoners - called Drivers - weapons in combat and make up the player's party (separate from the character party). Each character can only have three Blades active at a time. The Blade equipped on a Driver determines their class, and Blade weapon types are divided into three main categories: Attacker, Healer, and Tank. Blades support their Driver in the form of buffs and special attacks performed by both a Driver and their Blade. Buffs and other upgrades can be unlocked through a Blade's Affinity Chart. A Blade is tied to their Driver, and cannot usually be used by another; however, a rare item called the Overdrive Protocol allows the player to change a Blade's affiliated Driver.
Each Driver has a Blade automatically assigned to them when they join the party, who are also a part of the game's story. Most of the game's Blades are not a part of the main story, and can be assigned to any Driver; among those is KOS-MOS from the Xeno sub-series Xenosaga.
The game is set on Alrest, which has no stable land, but instead is made of a sea topped with clouds, called the "Cloud Sea". Legends claim humanity once lived atop the World Tree in a paradise called Elysium with their creator, the Architect, but they were exiled for unknown reasons and given Titans, which range in size from boats to small continents, to live on. Blades are powerful beings summoned from "Core Crystals" who channel power into their weapons through a force called ether. Their masters are called Drivers; when a Driver dies, their Blade reverts to a Core Crystal and lose their memory when another Driver awakens them. At the game's start, the nation-states of Mor Ardain and Uraya are on the brink of war.
Young, orphaned salvager Rex is hired by the Argentum Trade Guild Chairman Bana to aid Jin, Malos, Nia, and their Blades in the salvage of an ancient ship. In the ship, they find Pyra, a legendary and especially powerful Blade known as an Aegis. When Rex reaches out to touch Pyra's sword, Jin fatally stabs him. Rex awakens on a field with Pyra, who reveals they are in a memory of her old home Elysium. She asks him to bring her to Elysium and in exchange gives him half of her Core Crystal to revive him. With help from his Titan companion Gramps and Nia, who has defected from Torna, Rex escapes to the Titan Gormott, but Gramps is wounded and reverts to his larval stage. Soon after, they arrive in Gormott's capital Torigoth and are joined by the Nopon Driver Tora and his artificial Blade Poppi. The group try to get to the World Tree, but are stopped by the Artifice Ophion and swallowed by the Titan Uraya.
After the group battles the experienced mercenary Driver Vandham while escaping Uraya's stomach, he joins the party and Rex begins to look to him as a mentor. The group later learns that Jin and Malos are the leaders of Torna, a terrorist group named after a Titan destroyed in the Aegis War 500 years ago. Led by Malos, who is revealed to be an Aegis, and consisting of multiple Flesh Eaters (Blades infused with human cells), they seek to destroy humanity by unleashing the Artifice Aion on the World Tree and killing the Architect. During a battle with Malos, Vandham is killed and Pyra unveils her true form Mythra. They have shared memory and consider themselves sisters, switching back and forth as needed.
The group's search for a way past Ophion leads them to join forces with Mórag, the Ardainian emperor Niall's elder sister; and Zeke, prince of Tantal on the Titan Genbu. Malos's Driver Amalthus later summons the party to Indol, which controls Core Crystal distribution. After Amalthus attempts peace talks between Uraya and Mor Ardain, the group stops Bana's attempt to kill Niall.
Later on, in Tantal, the group battles Jin, who reveals he is a Flesh Eater and forces Pyra to surrender. While Gramps leads the group to the third Aegis sword to save Pyra, Malos siphons Pyra's power to regain his full strength. After the group finds the third sword, phantoms of Addam nearly kill Rex. To save him, Nia reveals herself as a Flesh Eater, and Addam's spirit deems Rex worthy of the third sword. The group confronts Jin and Malos at the Cliffs of Morytha near the World Tree, during which Rex unlocks Pyra and Mythra's true form Pneuma, making him the Master Driver. Rex, now matched with Jin's power, forces Malos to summon Ophion, who knocks the group into the abyss beneath the World Tree.
In the Land of Morytha, under the Cloud Sea, the group is forced to work with a weakened Jin. Soon after, Amalthus attacks the World Tree by controlling various Titans. The group severs his connection to the Titans, only for him to kill all Torna members except Malos and Jin, who defeats him before dying. The group arrives in Elysium and meet the Architect, a scientist named Klaus. He explains that he discovered a device called the Conduit which sends objects into different dimensions, the use of which split his body in two and destroyed the world.[b]
Sensing that his other half is about to die, which will result in his own death, Klaus sends the group to stop Malos, who has obtained Aion. After Malos's defeat and death, Klaus dies, but not before granting Rex and the party "one final gift." Klaus's death causes the Conduit to shut off; without the Conduit, the World Tree begins to crumble, which will destroy Alrest. Pneuma helps the group escape, but sacrifices herself to detonate the World Tree. The group barely survives when Gramps, thanks to Pneuma, returns to his adult form and flies everyone down to Alrest. As part of Klaus's "last gift", the Cloud Sea fades to reveal a new world and the Titans merge to form a new landmass. Afterwards, Pyra and Mythra are revived in separate bodies and reunite with Rex.
The game is the third title in Monolith Soft's Xenoblade metaseries, following the original Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles X. Plans for the game began as early as July 2014, during the latter half of development of Xenoblade Chronicles X, out of the negative fan reaction from changes implemented in the title. While the original Xenoblade Chronicles followed the typical structure of a general story-driven JRPG, Xenoblade Chronicles X received far less emphasis on story, and was organized in more of a mission-based structure, focused primarily on exploring the game's open world. The development grew impatient upon hearing the fanbase complain about the changes, and started work on another story-driven title. Because the gameplay was more of a continuation of the first title, they decided to title it Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Initial work on the game was difficult because the technical specifications of the Nintendo Switch were not yet finalized or known yet, but once it was finalized, the game featured a shorter development period compared to the prior titles, with executive director Tetsuya Takahashi citing being able to use the technological foundation established in Xenoblade Chronicles X as a means of speeding up development time. Another motivating factor was the agreement made by the team with Nintendo specifically to deliver the game early on in the Nintendo Switch's lifecycle.
One of Monolith Soft's objectives for the game was to give the characters a wider range of facial expressions compared to past Xenoblade titles. The lead character designer was Masatsugu Saito, who for the first time was designing characters for a video game. The developers chose him to give the protagonists a more expressive anime-like art style than prior Xenoblade entries, which featured a more realistic type of modeling that they found a bit too stiff. Square Enix artist Tetsuya Nomura was responsible for the characters within the Torna organization. Takahashi had always wanted to work with Nomura, but as he was busy with other games at Square Enix, he hesitantly approached the company with the hopes of letting him work as a guest artist. To Takahashi's surprise, they accepted the negotiation. Other guest artists also contributed, such as Xeno series veterans Kunihiko Tanaka and Soraya Saga, who designed some of the game's "Blades", weapon-like life forms. Notably, Tanaka designed a blade of KOS-MOS, one of the protagonists of the Xenosaga trilogy. The game's story was conceived by Takahashi, with assistance from screenwriters Yuichiro Takeda and Kazuho Hyodo, who respectively worked on the even and odd chapters. Takeda, who also worked as a writer on the last two Xenoblade games, stated that the writing techniques and workflow for Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was similar to that of a movie. Takeda also stated that the story had the most "Tetsuya Takahashi flair to date". While it is a sequel to Xenoblade Chronicles, it features a new world and cast of characters.
The game was announced in January 2017 as part of Nintendo's detailed reveal of the Nintendo Switch, with a gameplay trailer being released on the same day. Similar to the original Xenoblade, the title was announced as Xenoblade 2 in Japan, but had Chronicles added to its name in English speaking regions. The game was also a part of Nintendo's presentation at E3 2017, where it was reconfirmed for release by the end of 2017. Like the original Xenoblade Chronicles, Nintendo's European division took up the reins for the English localization, who regularly communicated with Nintendo's Japanese and American divisions about decisions that could prove controversial, something that was previously an issue with Xenoblade Chronicles X. The game had a simultaneous worldwide launch on December 1, 2017, as the localization process took place during development rather than after it, unlike the first two games.
Torna – The Golden Country
Additional story-based downloadable content was made for the game, with the first being Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna – The Golden Country. The content was released digitally as part of the game's expansion pass on September 14, 2018, and as a standalone retail release a week later.
The game's original score was written by Yasunori Mitsuda, ACE (Tomori Kudo and Hiroyo "Chico" Yamanaka), Kenji Hiramatsu, and Manami Kiyota. Mitsuda, who was also in charge of the audio budget, musician booking, schedule management, and music sheet proofreading, was first invited to the project by Takahashi in December 2014. Throughout the following year, Mitsuda and Takahashi held numerous meetings discussing the overall direction of the music, eventually inviting musical group ACE and Kenji Hiramatsu, who had also worked on the first Xenoblade Chronicles. At the meetings, each composer's contribution to the soundtrack was decided, with ACE primarily handling the field music, and Hiramatsu handling the battle music. According to Mitsuda, it was done in a way that would satisfy the fans, as they did not want to "ruin the image" that was set by the first Xenoblade Chronicles. With contributions from over 300 total musicians and 20,000 sheets worth of music, Mitsuda considered it the largest project he had ever worked on, with files and data from Pro Tools, his music production software, surpassing one terabyte in size. Overall, there were approximately 120 tracks recorded for the game, with around 25 of them being from Mitsuda.
The soundtrack features performances from the Slovakian Bratislava Symphony Choir, as well as the Irish chamber choir Anúna. Mitsuda, who had always wanted to work with Anúna after becoming a fan of theirs in the 1990s, claimed that their performances for the game made him cry. Two tracks, including the ending theme written by Mitsuda, were sung by Jennifer Bird of the English acoustic duo Tomorrow Bird. Before recording, Mitsuda and Bird corresponded so that she could properly convey the characters' emotions through her singing. While recording, Bird was able to improvise melodic elements of her singing, something that did not usually happen with Mitsuda's arrangements. Days before the game's launch, a promotional music video featuring a vocal track from the game by Mitsuda, "Shadow of the Lowlands", was uploaded onto Nintendo's official YouTube accounts. The video features a performance by Anúna, and was filmed and directed by Michael McGlynn, leader of the group. An official soundtrack, consisting of over a hundred tracks, was released in both physical and digital formats on May 23, 2018.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was positively received upon announcement, with some critics calling its reveal "unexpected". Jeremy Parish of USGamer favorably compared it to Chrono Cross. At the Gamescom event in August 2017, the game received positive early hands-on impressions from gaming sites, being praised for its streamlined combat system and environments.
Upon release, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 received "generally favorable reviews" according to review aggregator Metacritic, which gave it an overall score of 83 out of 100 based on 93 reviews. The game's story, characters, complex combat system, soundtrack, amount of content, and the beauty and size of the environments were largely praised, although some criticized its technical issues.
John Rairdin of Nintendo World Report gave a 9.5 rating out of 10 considered the game "one of the finest JRPGs of the generation and perhaps of all time" and highly praising the music, "diverse world", "fresh and engaging combat", and "thrilling storyline", stating: "Washing over any minor issues is one of the most engaging stories I’ve ever played, a vastly improved and fun combat system, and an out-of-this-world soundtrack. It sets a precedent for JRPGs on the Switch that I doubt will be topped." IGN Japan gave a very positive review, stating that it "offers a timeless tale of adventure and an incredibly deep battle system." However, they criticized the fact that "its mechanics are not always well explained".
The game received a 35/40 review score from Famitsu. Nadia Oxford of USgamer stated that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 "captures nearly everything that made the first game great, borrows the best elements from Chronicles X, and then improves on much of it. Though Blades change up how you fight in Chronicles 2, the game spills over with the traits that make the first Chronicles game a stand-out experience. More story, more enemies to scrap with, more landscapes to tread across. Chronicles 2 is a dialogue-heavy game, but there are many points where Monolith Soft lets its environments narrate the seriousness of Alrest's plight. She highly praised the game's story, stating "The narrative explores patriotism, war, environmental decline, refugees, and examines the little people who get caught in the crush when big powers scrap with one another. There are also a number of moral and philosophical questions raised about Blades [...] Are Blades humanity's partners, or their slaves?"
Leif Johnson of IGN praised the game, awarding it a score of 8.5 out of 10. They called it a "standout RPG that manages to keep its story, combat, and exploration interesting over the course of at least 70 hours of adventure through an impressively varied and rich world", though conceded a few frustrations with the game, including a confusing minimap that sometimes led to the reviewer getting lost. Shubhankar Parijat of GamingBolt called it ""A must-play for all Nintendo Switch owners"" and "one of the best JRPGs of this generation" and calling its world "vast and beautiful", its story "complex and layered", and its combat "intricate and addictive", while also noting that the game was occasionally held back by "obtuse design choices" and "a simple lack of polish".
Conversely, Jason Schreier of Kotaku, who had also disliked the original Xenoblade Chronicles, gave a largely negative review, calling the game "dull, dreary, overly complicated, and unconcerned with wasting the player's time", and heavily criticizing the writing, technical issues, pacing, as well as the gameplay, which he considered overly extensive and complicated, and the game content he judged excessively huge. He stated: "Xenoblade 2 consistently displays a frustrating lack of respect for the player’s time. Everything takes significantly longer than it needs to, in part because the game contains such an overwhelming number of features. It can take dozens of minutes to navigate the clunky menus, sort through all of the characters’ upgrades, and manage a collection of Pokémon-like Blades." He was also critical of the story, calling it "an unsubtle script that stomps all over even the most interesting story scenes". However, he praised the "spectacular" music and "beautifully realized" environments.
The game sold nearly 98,000 copies in its first week in Japan, and 168,000 after a month. In the United Kingdom, the game positioned itself at number 19 overall in its first week, which made it debut 9 places higher over Xenoblade Chronicles X. In the United States, it charted at number 16 for the month of December. Within a month, the game had sold over a million copies worldwide, which had risen to 1.53 million by the end of September 2018. By the end of 2018, it had sold over 213, 000 units in Japan, making it the 75th best-selling game 2018 in the country.
By April 2018, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 had become the best selling game in the Xeno franchise, and the best-selling game of Monolith Soft altogether. In September 2018, Takahashi stated: "From a sales perspective, I have to say Xenoblade Chronicles 2 exceeded my expectations. We really saw more people pick the game up and experience it in the North American and European territories than we thought would do so. It's still early days for the Torna DLC, but from what we've seen in Japan, the sales of the Torna DLC are exceeding our expectations as well."
Awards and nominations
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