Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is developer Monolith Soft bringing the game that propelled them into video game stardom to the Nintendo Switch in all its remastered glory. Read on to find out how it fares in 2020 and if the magic is still there.
Before getting down to the nitty-gritty I have to admit that Xenoblade Chronicles is a very special game to me personally. Ever since I got into gaming around the PS1 days I’ve always loved playing JPRGs, however as time went on the genre kind of lost its charm as many Japanese developers struggled with the PS3, Wii, and Xbox 360 console generation. Final Fantasy XIII, a game that many were hoping would bring back the genre, was ultimately a disappointment. Things weren’t looking good but in June of 2010 a certain game released in Japan that would change things altogether.
Xenoblade Chronicles released to critically acclaimed reviews in Japan and debuted at #1 on the sales charts selling around 83,000 copies. This was a surprising development as developers Monolith Soft had long struggled to match a comprehensive game with their ambitions. It happened before with Xenogears at Square Enix and with the Xenosaga games when they were owned by Bandai Namco. Now at Nintendo, winning their trust along the way, Xenoblade Chronicles had solidified Monolith Soft’s potential as a premier developer. The game went on to release a year later in Europe and Australia with the North American release following in 2012. There was the whole ‘Operation Rainfall’ effort too to get the game localized alongside Sakaguchi’s The Last Story and Ganbarion’s Pandora’s Tower but that’s a story for another time.
Now on to the review which I’m really excited to get into since as you can tell Xenoblade Chronicles is one of my favorite games of all time.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is advertised as a remaster but in reality it’s more comparable to a full-on remake. Monolith Soft put in considerable effort in modernizing the game for the Nintendo Switch by upgrading the game’s graphical assets to HD-quality as well as redesigning characters to uniformizing so they fit in better with the game’s sequel – Xenoblade Chronicles 2 which released back in 2017 for the Switch. There’s also a lot of quality of life improvements like a new and improved user interface and game design. The excellent soundtrack has also been remastered and sounds great.
There’s also an epilogue story called Xenoblade Chronicles: Future Connected that comes along free with the game which is quite a substantial experience that took me around 15 hours to finish, but could easily be stretched 5-10 hours more if you decide to complete all the sidequests.
There are many tweaks made to the combat and visuals in Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. The graphics have been significantly updated and the jump from the old lower resolution visuals of the Nintendo Wii version, or even the downgraded Nintendo 3DS XL version, is quite massive. Despite all of its technical limitations when it comes to the resolution of the game, it still offers a good experience overall. This is all thanks to the art style that manages to help hide the blemishes of low resolution assets, a limitation of the Nintendo Switch’ hardware.
The resolution itself is rather low compared to other first-party games on the Nintendo Switch. The game runs at a dynamic resolution of 720p on the Nintendo Switch when played in the docked mode, which is rather poor at first glance but it seems to replicate the same visual experience as Xenoblade Chronicles 2. The resolution drops even further when you play the game in portable mode, where the effect is far less visible thanks to the smaller screen. Nonetheless, this is still a massive improvement over the blurry visuals of Xenoblade Chronicles 2.
This won’t be the definitive edition if the visuals weren’t updated. The new character models are a mixed bag, to say the least. They look good if we compare them directly to their older counterparts but some of the drastic changes in the art style also make the game loses its charm. The new anime aesthetics might not sit well with some of the folks who enjoyed the original game. The soundtrack has also been remastered in addition to the visuals, however, it feels less critical compared to the quality of the art style.
The frame rate of the game appears to hold well when it comes to closed areas or towns but in the massive open world, there are slight hitches and stutters that can appear mildly infuriating especially during exploration. The dynamic resolution does help curb some of these issues but it doesn’t completely mitigate the problems. The overall level-of-detail and draw distance is also rather poor which means it is possible to see objects popping up right in front of the player when exploring the open world.
Combat has received slight but important tweaks that greatly improve the flow of battles. Shortcuts are now easier to manage that can lead to the easy execution of various attacks. The combat system of Xenoblade has inspirations from MMORPGs which is why it feels odd at first. There are also hints of Final Fantasy XII’s combat system with strategic depth applied to various combat features. Quality-of-life changes have been made to improve the experience of completing the sidequests in the game, and there are numerous of them to attempt in the massive world of Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition.
Overall playing through Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition was a wonderful experience and playing through the story I fell in love with almost a decade back has me all excited for a new game in the series. Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is a definite must buy if you weren’t able to get around playing it when it released previously on the Wii and the New Nintendo 3DS. It also includes enough additions for a replay if you’ve played the game before, so in short its a must buy recommendation from us.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: New and improved features bring Xenoblade Chronicles to life on the Nintendo Switch system Get immersed in the emotional story with updated graphics, listen to over 90 remixed or remastered music tracks, and track quests more easily with the additions and improvements in this definitive edition.
Final Score - 9.5/109.5/10
Despite not being a new JRPG, this is still a worthy game to experience that easily ranks among one of the best games released this year.