Xenoblade Chronicles was the title that relaunched the Japanese RPG genre when, seven years ago, it struggled to have its say in a market that was looking for innovation at all costs or perched on top of the mountain of tradition: the director of Xenogears and XenoSaga had chosen an intermediate approach and, in doing so, had succeeded in a titanic undertaking, squeezing the Wii hardware to the last drop. Two years ago he tried again with Xenoblade Chronicles X on another Nintendo console, Wii U, performing another small technical miracle while experimenting with new gaming philosophies. The extraordinarily controversial Xenoblade Chronicles X demonstrated the versatility of Japanese developer Monolith Soft, representing one of the highest points reached by the unforgettable console with the GamePad. Considering this resume, the excitement surrounding the announcement and anticipation for Xenoblade Chronicles 2 could only be stellar. We want to go straight to the point: Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a JRPG masterpiece that closes Nintendo's triumphant 2017 with a flourish. And just to be clear, if you haven't played the previous two Xenoblade Chronicles, you can easily start with this one.
The skies of Alrest
We have seen many open world titles in recent years, but sometimes we forget that there is always a "first time" for everyone and that this Xenoblade Chronicles 2, which for many players will be the third Xenoblade, for others it will be the first. The ratings we give to the games are cold numbers that desperately try to translate the sensations we felt playing, which is even more true when facing emotionally demanding titles such as some RPGs and, in particular, those written by the brilliant Tetsuya Takahashi: the director of Xeno is one who goes down hard, a screenwriter who kidnaps the player and doesn't let him go for hours. The first time we went up to the Plains of Gaur in the first Xenoblade Chronicles, looking for revenge after one of the most intense prologues we have ever played in a JRPG, we were left speechless: before our eyes was a majestic, incredible scenario. mostly because it somehow ran on a relatively powerful console like the Wii. It was then that we realized how special Xenoblade Chronicles was.
Maybe that's why, six years, two Xenoblade Chronicles, and dozens of open worlds later, Xenoblade Chronicles 2's panoramas didn't have the same shocking effect. Mind you, Monolith Soft's new JRPG is set in an inspired and structurally majestic world - just imagine the aforementioned Plains of Gaur ... but with the Bionis head moving on the horizon! - and on more than one occasion leaves you speechless for its complexity and richness of details, including atmospheric effects and day / night cycles that alter the scenery, the incredible soundtrack of a Yasunori Mitsuda in great dust and a number of creatures that roam here and there with more intentions or less hostile. Quite simply, this is the open world we have come to expect from Monolith Soft. Blessed are those who play their first Xenoblade Chronicles, in short! For them it will be easier to forgive even the technical slips: several textures in low resolution, some uncertainty in the frame rate, an annoying aliasing. It is the price to pay for a gargantuan title that runs beautifully even in the portable version, at the expense of a lower resolution that returns a significantly dirtier image. But if it is true that the new players will be the ones to be absolutely enchanted, it must be emphasized that the world of Alrest holds many surprises for everyone. After setting a game on and inside the corpses of two giants and another on a mysterious planet that looked like the intergalactic version of the island of Lost, Takahashi decided to divide the open world of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 into a series of gigantic territories. living, Titans sailing in a sea of clouds which, in turn, surrounds a gigantic tree called Elysium.
Tales of Aegis
Rex is a recuperator, a young man who lives on the back of an old and tiny titan and who earns his living by diving into the sea of clouds in search of junk and precious artifacts. His skill draws the attention of a mysterious group that offers him a great deal, but when Rex touches the strange sword kept at the bottom of an ancient wreck, he inadvertently becomes the Ductor of Pyra, a legendary Gladius that everyone wants for obscure reasons. In the world of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, in fact, there are people who can resonate with the nucleic crystals and materialize the Gladius within them, living beings with extraordinary powers. What the Gladius are, how they exist and what their connection with the world of Alrest is are just some of the many mysteries that Rex will have to unravel during his mission: to accompany Pyra to Elysium and find out if the ancestral home of humanity is still habitable now that the Titans are slowly dying out. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a tale by Takahashi, so expect plenty of twists and turns, overturned expectations, age-old secrets and a mythology that touches on religious iconography to explain once again the meaning of life and the senselessness of racism. The great meanings Xenoblade Chronicles 2 comes to us with a little short breath, passing through a whole series of misadventures that make the plot so unpredictable, but also a bit too diluted especially in the central section of the plot. When he finally picks up the thread, Takahashi gives himself over to mad joy and runs like a train to the epic conclusion of the story.
The characterization of the characters is generally sublime, albeit falling into some cliché, such as that of the masked villain or the naive and altruistic hero, however compensated by an extraordinarily varied and engaging cast of supporting actors. In recent months there has been controversy over the average boyish character design that is a bit at odds with the skimpy costumes of some characters, Pyra in the first place. We want to reassure you that the girls in question, however undressed, are anything but trivial sensual forms: Takahashi has always taken care, with the help of his wife Soraya Saga, to outline above all the heroines of his games, from Elhaim from Xenogears to Shion from XenoSaga, passing through Fiora, Melia and Elsa in the previous Xenoblades. This story is also no exception. Pyra is an extremely complex character, to whom it is impossible not to become attached, but the same can also be said for Nia or, on the male front, for the corpulent Vandham and the tender Tora, a Nopon who cannot become a Ductor and therefore an artificial Gladius of his own is built. I'm just sorry that the English dubbing struggles to do justice to the cast: the western localization has favored the British accent again this time, but the acting sometimes clashes with the context and the lip synchronization leaves a lot to be desired. In this sense, we cannot help but advise you to download the free package that implements the original Japanese audio: the expressiveness of the Japanese voice actors is, as always, incredibly exciting and embellishes the most spectacular cinematics in which Xenoblade Chronicles 2 practically becomes an anime, between special shots shouted at the top of their lungs, hilarious gags and frantic fights that take your breath away.
We are happy to say that Monolith Soft has taken advantage of the criticisms received for the structuring of the secondary missions in the two previous Xenoblade Chronicles, since those that now appear as we continue in the main "campaign", if we want to call it, seemed to us much more dynamic and articulated than in the past. For the avoidance of doubt, sooner or later you always have to eliminate some enemies or collect objects, but to support these tasks there is often a solid narrative that sometimes takes unpredictable turns, prolonging the simple tasks in a sensible and interesting way. The fast travel system allows for ample freedom of maneuver and the new menu listing the missions is clear and intuitive, even indicating the times of the day when some of them can be completed, as well as the location on the intricate map of Alrest. Between missions where you have to cook assorted dishes for a Nopon who wants to learn to sing to find her son and surprising family reunions, inscriptions to be translated to locate a treasure and traitorous mercenaries, there's something for everyone. Sometimes the side missions are intertwined with another mechanic linked directly to the Gladius, and that is that of the skills on the field. The Gladius, in fact, possess skills that allow us to interact with the environment. Some of them are activated automatically and allow us to extract a greater number of resources in the appropriate collection points, while others must be combined in order to open chests otherwise unreachable or unlock alternative routes.
The system is interesting and works, but unfortunately it is sometimes a bit cumbersome due to an unfortunate conjunction of mechanics that forces the frequent opening of the menus. The skills on the field only work if we have equipped the corresponding Gladius and the latter do not learn them in the traditional way, for example by accumulating experience points: in fact, it is necessary to perform particular and disparate actions, such as using an attack several times or consuming a certain dish, so it becomes quite complicated to keep track of all the Gladius and the corresponding abilities already unlocked or that we have yet to unlock. Most of the Gladius, moreover, are obtained in a completely random way by "opening" the nucleic crystals: the better the quality of the crystal, the greater the chances of obtaining a powerful unique Gladius, but more often generic Gladius materialize that combine in completely random weapons, elemental properties and field skills. In short, it may happen that you arrive at a certain point in the game, after many hours, without having yet unlocked a certain skill on the field that precludes us from opening some chests. Fortunately, this element of the gameplay does not affect the natural progression of the main plot in the least, linked above all to the obligatory Gladius, such as Dromarch or Pyra, which play a fundamental role in the narrative. The "gacha" system of the Gladius may therefore appear controversial, but it goes very well with the open world structure of Xenoblade Chronicles 2: apart from the fact that some secondary missions reward with unique Gladius, the search for new nucleic crystals stimulates the player to explore every corner of Alrest, while the secondary missions, as they are structured, incentivize to take alternative paths and to discover locations that the main plot might not even touch.
Life is a tutorial
What has been described up to now would not have worked properly, had it not been for an excellent combat system to support an adventure that can easily exceed a hundred hours of play if you aim to complete every single aspect. Also in this case, we cannot help but praise the work done by the Monolith Soft team and reassure, once again, the readers who, like us, watching the promotional films published in recent months, feared the slower pace and rhythm of the battles. The truth is, yes, the first few fights will feel much slower than they did in Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles X, if only because you don't have to constantly move the cursor over the various special attacks. mapped directly to the A, B, X and Y keys: three for the weapon and one for the attack of the equipped Gladius. Each weapon has four special attacks in total, but a maximum of three can be set. Do they seem few to you? Wait a few hours. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 slowly marks the progression and continues to unveil new mechanics even after thirty hours of play. We must admit that initially it seemed a questionable approach but then, once we learned every dynamics of the combat system, we completely changed our mind.
Explaining each mechanic in a nutshell is almost impossible, but that's the point: Xenoblade Chronicles 2 slowly instructs the player and waits until they have satisfactorily assimilated certain mechanisms before adding others. So in the beginning you'll end up with a Rex capable of unleashing slow automatic attacks that charge the special moves of his sword and that of Pyra. Slowly, you will learn to link the powers of the Gladius as a group, then seal the enemy's abilities and chain the effects of sapping, throwing, and knocking down. At that point, the game will teach you how to unleash devastating sequential attacks and switch weapons / Gladius on the fly, as you spend the points you earn fighting to unlock the skills of our heroes that can simply raise a stat or grant the ability to connect special attacks without having to wait for a recharge time.
Without even realizing it, you'll find yourself fighting alongside three Gladius per character - four, in Rex's peculiar case! - and to continuously switch between them to take advantage of each attack, weakness or elemental combination. The character you are controlling will chain three ax hits, switch Gladius and throw three katana, then trigger an elemental combo by activating another party member's Gladius with the bump key and switch Gladius again to sap and knock down the opponent. that the last attack that his Gladius will execute, changed again in a matter of seconds, does more damage upon completing a simple quick time event on the screen. And this is just one example of how frantic a deep and rewarding combat system can get that requires some timing and a fair amount of strategy, especially if you want to defeat the unique monsters and super bosses that haunt Alrest. We can say that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is the perfect meeting point between the complexity of the clashes in Xenoblade Chronicles X and the spectacularity of those faced in the first Xenoblade Chronicles: learning to fight is easy, but exploiting each mechanic to perfection is quite another. history.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a mammoth, spectacular and long-lived role-playing game that once again demonstrates the value of the new Nintendo console at the expense of some uncertainty on the graphic front, understandable if you look at the product as a whole and think that it can literally stand. in the palm of your hand. Monolith Soft has remedied many structural mistakes made in the two already exceptional Xenoblades for Wii and Wii U, introducing new and exciting gameplay dynamics. Those who have already played the previous productions of the Japanese developer will probably be less amazed by its majesty, but will not be able to help but be enchanted by a superlative artistic direction, an unforgettable cast and an amazing soundtrack. In short, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is another great reason to put Switch under the Christmas tree along with Mario and Zelda.
- The story and the cast
- The soundtrack and the world of Alrest
- The combat system
- Longevity and the secrets to discover
- The series begins to get a little derivative
- The English dub could have been better
- Some uncertainty on the graphics front