xenoblade

Xenoblade Chronicles

Full Review

Xenoblade Chronicles CoverNearly two years after its initial Japanese release, and eight months after finding its way to Europe and Australia, Nintendo of America finally saw fit to grace North American Wiis with the critically acclaimed Xenoblade Chronicles (though not without a lot of pestering it would seem). Debuting at E3 2009 under the title Monado: Beginning of the World, Monolith Soft's latest immediately captured the attention of RPG-starved Wii owners with its large, open environments, colourful atmosphere, and intriguing storyline.

Probably most intriguing, however, was the gameplay. Xenobladeits title a tribute to Monolith's flagship franchise, Xenosagadeviates considerably from traditional JRPGs, doing away with random encounters and turn-based combat. Instead, players do battle on the very map they explore, without a transition to a battle screen, and with the ability to see enemies long in advance, as many are simply animals going about their business in the game world. Battles themselves are much more tactical, seeing players manoeuvring about the battlefield for ideal position and using abilities at advantageous times.

Never mind that I'd been craving some decent RPG action for a while, I definitely wanted to see what Xenoblade had to offer, and was more than a little disappointed when it first looked as if I wouldn't get the chance. Better late than never, I guess. At least my Wii has something to do now besides collecting dust.

Xenoblade Chronicles

First Hour Review

Xenoblade Chronicles CoverThe Nintendo Wii is dead in North America. Like the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube before it, Nintendo of America has essentially abandoned the platform at least a year before their next console will be on sale. For any of those fans holding on to the idea that the Wii was still a targeted gaming platform for quality new releases, all their hopes were destroyed when NoA confirmed they would not be bringing Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, or Pandora’s Tower across the Pacific.

As three highly touted RPG and action titles from Japanese studios, gamers were excited at the prospect of English releases, especially late in the Wii’s lifespan with only a new Zelda on the horizon. And in reverse of what was so common in the ‘90s, Nintendo of Europe decided to localize all three titles while North America sat out.

So here we are with an actual English version of Xenoblade Chronicles, developed by Monolith Software. Monolith is known for the Xenosaga series on the PS2 and the two Baten Kaitos games on the Gamecube, but most of the team is also made up of former developers of Xenogears and Chrono Cross at Squaresoft. Nintendo has owned a majority share of Monolith since 2007 so they are considered a first party developer.

Unless Xenoblade receives an official North American release, importing or piracy are your only real options, unfortunately. While some gamers are still optimistic, I saw how Nintendo ignored fans getting behind the EarthBound sequel Mother 3 a few years ago, and have little doubt in Nintendo of America ever touching it. But for what it’s worth, here’s my first hour review of Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii.

My JRPG Localization Wishlist

Blog Post

Tales of Graces CoverFor years, Japan was the dominating force in the games industry. Ever since Nintendo blasted onto the scene in the eighties, it's always been my opinion that the developers in the land of the rising sun have had the edge on everyone else. The Atari age has long since given way to names like Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Capcom, Konami, Square, and so many others. If I made a list of my hundred favorite games, I'd be willing to bet that seventy or more of them come from Japan.

These days, however, the tide has shifted. The worldwide yearning for platformers and action games and traditional RPGs has been eclipsed by the first person shooter and sports game markets, two genres that Japanese developers are woefully unfamiliar with. Only the top games in each genre outside of Halo clones and Madden wannabes can make bank anymore, and developers are starting to play it safe with what they bring to the table. One genre affected by this trend is the JRPG, which has always had a focus in Japan, but also branched out to the world stage more often than not. These days, however, it seems Japan's favorite genre seems to be transforming more and more into Japan's shyest genre, rarely coming out to say hi to the rest of us.

In a rather shocking revelation, I've actually managed to find a hearty list of JRPGs that I pine for. I've never been the genre's biggest supporter, which doesn't surprise me in retrospect considering I never owned a SNES, Playstation, or Playstation 2 during their primes. However, I hereby pledge to buy any of the following games that come to America. I said the same thing about Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, thinking it would have no chance of arriving; I made good on my promise, bought TvC: Ultimate All Stars, and loved it. So it's on you now, localization teams. Make it happen.

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