In the current gaming industry, there are only two distinct categories of video games: those that prioritize profit over quality and those that are created with genuine passion and dedication to produce an exceptional product. Fortunately, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 falls into the latter category, as Monolith Soft and Nintendo have crafted an outstanding gaming experience. The game boasts exceptional graphics and an engaging storyline, making it a near-perfect JRPG. Even if you have never played a Xenoblade game before, I highly recommend getting your hands on XC3 when it releases for the Nintendo Switch on July 29th, 2022.
The soundtrack of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 deserves high praise, as it features beautiful orchestration that can be appreciated from the very start of the game. Even as I write this review, I am listening to the main menu music, which sets the tone for the entire game. The music is well-orchestrated throughout the game, whether it’s during action sequences or peaceful moments. This is thanks to the talented composers who have worked on the Xenoblade series, including Manami Kiyota, ACE (TOMOri Kudo, CHiCO), Kenji Hiramatsu, Mariam Abounnasr, and Yasunori Mitsuda, who has also contributed to other JRPG games like Chrono Trigger and Xenogears.
Music plays a significant role in the plot of Xenoblade Chronicles 3, as it is not just a background element. The off-seer characters are responsible for respectfully bidding farewell to the deceased by playing an emotional and ritualistic flute melody. Despite video games being undervalued as a medium for quality storytelling, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 proves otherwise. Although the game contains numerous clichés and dry humor, it adds to the game’s charm. The underlying story is profound, meaningful, and captivating, with every cutscene captivating the player’s attention, even if it’s just for the stunning visuals and special effects. The stakes are high, with life or death situations that could potentially change the player’s perspective on the world. Chapter after chapter, the player is glued to their seat and controller. The voice acting, both in Japanese and English, is impressive, and everyone involved deserves recognition. Check out the preview of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 to get a glimpse of the story, but it is intentionally vague to avoid spoiling the game for those who want to play with minimal knowledge.
Xenoblade is a Nintendo franchise that caters to a more mature audience, but it doesn’t cross the line into explicit content like Bayonetta. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 does contain violence, language, sexuality, and mature themes, but they are all integral to the plot and don’t feel excessive. The violence, in particular, is a significant aspect of the story, as it revolves around the themes of war and death. While there are some instances of suggestive content, such as cleavage and innuendos, they are relatively mild. Even in shower scenes, the visuals are obscured by a thick fog to avoid any explicit content.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 boasts an open world, but it’s also quite linear, with brief loading times between areas. Exploration mainly involves completing side quests, gathering materials, and defeating enemies to level up your party members. The main story progresses by traveling from point A to point B, with a convenient waypoint on the minimap to prevent getting lost. The game includes traditional JRPG elements executed in a satisfying manner, with new mechanics introduced frequently to keep gameplay fresh. Despite the complexity of the battle system, it’s not overwhelming to the player, and there’s a manageable learning curve.
Despite a slight decrease in framerate as you progress through the game and encounter more enemies, Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition maintains a stable 30fps for the majority of gameplay. The game’s stunning visuals are particularly impressive on the vibrant and colorful screen of the Nintendo Switch OLED Model. While some optimization techniques are used to improve performance, such as fading grass and lower quality textures, overall the game runs remarkably well on a handheld device designed for on-the-go play. The cutscenes are especially impressive, resembling a high-budget anime. Despite the common criticism of 3D animation in anime, it works exceptionally well in Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition.
Upon completing the introductory chapter of the game, which serves as a tutorial, you will acquire a total of six characters in your party. Unlike typical JRPGs, you have complete control over the movement of your party members during battles and can switch between them effortlessly. The characters you are not currently controlling will attack automatically, but you can also give them direct orders using tactical methods. Each character is assigned a specific class, such as swordfighter, zephyr, medic gunner, tactician, heavy guard, or ogre, but you can eventually unlock the ability to change and upgrade their class individually. The characters’ stats include HP, attack, healing power, dexterity, agility, critical rate, block rate, and defense, which can be improved through the use of various accessories, leveling up, or changing classes. Some characters develop strong bonds with each other, allowing them to interlink and transform into the powerful Ouroboros form for brief periods during battles. Additionally, you can perform satisfying moves like chain attacks as you progress through the game.
Auto-attacks are the primary means of dealing damage in Xenoblade. To execute them, one simply needs to stand within range of their opponent. However, the real strategic depth of the game lies in the use of Arts and Talent Arts. The type of Arts available to a character is determined by their class, with healers focusing on restoring health and attackers dealing damage. Additionally, players can equip passive abilities called Skills and Gems to their party members. Unlike many other JRPGs, there are no healing items in Xenoblade, and parties will be fully restored after each battle. If all party members fall in combat, players will respawn at the last checkpoint they visited.
Regrettably, the encounter battles lack diversity in terms of character dialogue, resulting in frequent repetition. This flaw is significant, considering that players can easily adjust the volume of the voices in settings to mitigate the issue. However, the characters’ designs are impressive and represent a significant improvement from XC2. Each character possesses a unique personality, and their interactions with one another are noticeable and engaging throughout the story. Additionally, the game handles character development exceptionally well.
Without a doubt, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a remarkable game that impresses with its gameplay and vastness. It not only surpasses its predecessors but also stands out as my favorite game of the year so far. Every moment spent in the world of Aionios is like being a child in a candy store, with no dull moments from start to finish. The game boasts an intricate and engaging battle system, expertly crafted cutscenes, and well-written characters with distinct personalities, making it a beloved JRPG. I am thrilled that the Xenoblade franchise has gained popularity in recent years, and credit goes to Monolith Soft for their exceptional development work, making it one of Nintendo’s greatest series.
A copy of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 for review purposes was provided by Nintendo UK.