Xenoblade Chronicles 3D has me in a bit of a quandary. I never played it on the Wii - by the time it had come out I had already sold off that platform and moved on - but Xenoblade remained a game I regretted not getting to play. That was five years ago, and now the JRPG is being released on the New Nintendo 3DS.
I'm roughly thirty hours in and I don't think I like the game. It either hasn't aged well or the port hasn't been handled particularly well. The big thing that brings me out of the experience is the character models and their eyes specifically. If you were to head to the local fishmonger's and look at the eyes of a dead trout you will now know what every character's eyes in the game look like - blurry and featureless and dead!
The English voiceover isn't great and for the story being told it really needed to be better. When it originally came out the voice work would have been more than acceptable, but the quality of acting within games has come so far, making Xenoblade's offering seem almost amateurish. The story itself is brilliant and is one of the sole reasons I have persevered with the game for so long.
Combat, when it works, works really well. Once you engage in a fight you auto attack an enemy you are locked on to, using the left and right D-pad you cycle through different abilities, called Arts in the game. This will provide extra attack power, inflict status effects on the enemy and buff your allies.
The problems seep in when you need an ally to perform a certain skill in order to actually damage an enemy. I was stuck for nearly an hour on a boss character because one of my allies wouldn't do as they should have done, thus leading to a stalemate - I couldn't damage them and they could not damage me enough to cause a game over to happen.
The world in which Xenoblade takes place is massive in scale and at times strikingly beautiful. Once you escape the beginning areas the world opens up and there are places as far as the eye can see that you can travel to.
The scale of the scenery is both boon and curse. On one side of the coin there is a lot to explore, on the other side is the lack of details meaning you feel as if you are running forever just to get to a quest marker. The environment design feels made for more than a single player, similar to the way some MMO's make streets wider and larger than they need to be to accommodate masses of players.
Despite blurry textures the enemy design is varied and well crafted, from small bug-like creatures to large towering giants and intricate Meckon machines of war, there is always something new to hunt down. Add to this a large cast of colourful characters that help speed the interesting story along and some, if not all of Xenoblade's problems can be forgiven.
For a lot of people this game will be a measuring stick by which to judge the upcoming Wii U exclusive, Xenoblade Chronicles X. That game seems to build off the gameplay design of its predecessor and add a much needed layer of visual polish. I, myself, have been trying to decide if I should invest in a Nintendo Wii U for just this game. After my experiences with Xenoblade Chronicles 3D I am no longer so certain in my plan to purchase another console.
If you are already a veteran and loved the original release on Wii and want to replay the game on the go then this is for you. If this is your first foray in to the franchise then I advise
caution. It may be that I am going to be the one voice in the media who doesn't sing this game's praises, be that because I'm not looking at this through nostalgia-tinted lenses or that I'm just not that impressed by blurry textures, main characters with blank expressionless faces and A.I that doesn't know how to help the player in combat.
+ Excellent story.
+ Ambitious scale on a handheld console
- Blurry textures
- Unhelpful companion A.I
- Mediocre voice over
- Those dead eyes, man!