Nintendo is a household name, having spent decades delivering a variety of unforgettable games that have grown and evolved through each generation. Many of these games focus on delivering tightly designed gameplay and stylish visuals above all else. As a result, not much of the Nintendo catalog consists of story-heavy experiences with massive amounts of dialogue and cutscenes. Xenoblade Chronicles, however, was a massive exception to that trend. Launching on the Wii in 2010, this massive RPG from Nintendo-owned Monolith Soft didn’t just have groundbreaking gameplay, but it also had a huge and engrossing story full of unforgettable, fully voiced characters. Although, while the story and gameplay of this ambitious RPG were unparalleled, it didn’t quite stick the landing when it came to the “stylish visuals” department. Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition serves as a 10th anniversary glow-up for the iconic Wii RPG, but it adds so much more to the experience, including Future Connected, that helps make an already astounding game even more of a must-play.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is a beautified experience, mostly
Of course, visual upgrades are probably the biggest difference between the original Wii release and Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. The awkward-looking protagonist character models of the original game have been replaced entirely, as Shulk and his crew have got brand new faces that remain faithful to the intentions of the original designs while also adding a slick, consistent new art style to the character models. The results are night and day, and while the animations of every cutscene are identical to those of the original, seeing these updated character models populate them results in some jaw-droppingly gorgeous scenes that blow the original release out of the water.
That detail remains consistent in portable mode, with minor caveats. Character models look slightly blurry in your equipment menu when undocked, and characters in cutscenes can sometimes sport noticeably grainy outlines. On top of that, moving the camera quickly in the overworld or entering big battles can sometimes lead to bits of stuttering. They’re all minor technical issues that might irk the more tech-savvy portable mode players, but even with a lower resolution and slight stuttering, the brand new character models shine like diamonds.
As you pull back from the incredible detail put into each of the main characters, though, it becomes clear that the same level of ground-up renovation doesn’t apply to the entire package. Environments, for example, sport the same models and layout designs that they did on the Wii. This is hardly an issue though, as the updated lighting, sharpened textures, and increased foliage throughout the world still result in beautiful vistas and locales that you wouldn’t suspect originated from a decade-old game.
The only aspect of the updated visuals in Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition that sticks out like a sore thumb is the fact that the character models of many minor NPCs throughout Colony 9, Alcamoth, and the rest of the game have barely been touched since the original release. Their textures are sharp, but it’s still incredibly jarring to walk up to a shopkeeper or quest-giver and have a conversation with a character sporting a completely different art style and level of facial detail from your own.
The sounds of conflict
The sound design contributes to the iconic aesthetic of the Xenoblade series, especially the unforgettable English voice acting full of deeply talented European voice actors. All of those voices return in Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, and while the option to switch to Japanese audio is there for you, Xenoblade Chronicles just isn’t the same without those charming accents.
Music is just as vital, and this updated release boasts a rearranged version of the original soundtrack that serves more as an update in audio quality than a remixing or alternate version of the original score. Sticklers for the classics can choose to swap to the original field and battle BGM whenever they want, though.
At any time, you can also choose to enable two new game modes — Casual Mode and Hardcore Mode. Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition boasts a unique combat system that relies on building up to special Chain Attacks in order to link together combos of abilities that can swiftly turn the tides of battle. For RPG beginners, these systems might be tough to grasp as you encounter hordes of foes or giant bosses. Experienced veterans, meanwhile, might be so used to the combat that they can link Break and Topple skills in their sleep.
Casual Mode helps the former camp by making combat encounters slightly easier, tipping the health and damage scales in your favor while still keeping the core combat loop intact, not allowing it to just become a one-hit kill mode. Hardcore Mode, meanwhile, is a system from Xenoblade Chronicles 2 that lets you choose to bank EXP and raise/lower the levels of your party members at any time in order to craft your ideal amount of challenge for each battle. Both modes add a dynamic new difficulty to the game that helps veterans and newcomers alike get into the experience.
Fashionable additions to Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition
Another feature from Xenoblade Chronicles 2 that has been dropped into Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is Fashion Gear, and it’s probably my favorite part of the entire game. While the original game forced your party to wear whatever amalgamation of random gear you equipped on them, the Nintendo Switch release gives you extra equipment slots that you can use to equip any gear you’ve discovered as “Fashion Gear” so that Shulk and the gang can sport any costumes you want while still having their best-performing armor and weapons equipped.
For fans of the original game, the most exciting piece of new content in Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is most likely the brand new epilogue, Future Connected. This 15-20-hour chapter can be accessed from the main menu whenever you want, dropping you into a Shulk-and-Melia-focused adventure that takes place a year after the ending of the original game. While the Future Connected expansion sees you exploring the vaguely familiar environment of the Bionis Shoulder, there’s still plenty of new enemies, equipment, and music to soak in alongside the satisfying story. Melia’s voice actress, Jenna Coleman, has become a prolific television and film star in the decade since her original performance in Xenoblade Chronicles. She doesn’t miss a step in returning to the role, though, and it’s incredibly satisfying to see her and Melia get to shine so much in this new story.
Monolith Soft delivers
Ultimately, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition takes a Wii RPG that was years ahead of its time and gives it new life and the visuals it deserved a decade ago. This is a must-play JRPG full of iconic characters, immersive environments, and addictive combat. There may be some minor technical and visual issues with this re-release, but they’re outweighed by the brilliance of the new content and the inarguable timelessness of Xenoblade Chronicles.
A review code was provided by the publisher.