And why you should drop the cash to pick it up on April 6.
March 16, 2012
Following the huge fan-driven uproar over Xenoblade Chronicles initially not coming to North America, Nintendo finally announced the game would be making its way stateside on April 6. It's a huge win for the system, which later this year will be stepping aside to make way for Nintendo's next generation of home consoles, Wii U. But why should you care?
It's a good question, with some good answers. Below are a handful of reasons why you should take the time (and spend the money) to play Xenoblade Chronicles when it finally hits store shelves in a few weeks.
Water in the Wii RPG Desert
During its entire five year life span, very few JRPGs have graced the Wii. It's a sad truth, especially coming from the company that was responsible for the SNES and the DS - two of the greatest refuges for quality role playing bliss in existence. While a couple of games at the end of the system's life cycle don't exactly make up for this shortage, they're at least a small drop of water in the RPG desert that was the Wii.
While Xenoblade Chronicles is a very untraditional entry in the genre in a number of ways (more on that in a bit), it should still be more than enough to satisfy any RPG-lover's need for grinding, collectibles and an expansive world to explore. Throw in a 60 plus hour campaign, plenty of side quests and a story that involves people who live on the backs of giant robots, and you have the makings of RPG gold.
It's a true shame that the Wii will never come into its own as an RPG-friendly system - but don't let the few quality examples that exist slip under your radar. Especially given the fact that Xenoblade Chronicles is Wii exclusive, it would be a mistake to let it pass you by. Besides - it's not really that hard to plug your Wii back in, even if it's been collecting dust since The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword in November.
A Whole New World
When I say the world in Xenoblade is expansive, I'm not fooling around. The game itself is huge, and the land you run around is breathtakingly vast. As far as the eye can see there are long stretches of beautiful greenery overflowing with life. From fields to caves to crazy structures, Xenoblade offers plenty of unique and gorgeous environments as the backdrop to its heavy story.
The first in the set of stunning RPGs coming soon to American shores, soon to be followed by The Last Story this summer, Xenoblade's artistic direction and great use of the Wii hardware is incredibly impressive, and should certainly not be overlooked. Given hardware limitations, very few Wii games accomplished creating a sprawling world that feels like it goes on forever - and Xenoblade is one of the shiniest examples. That alone is reason enough for any Wii owner to give this new epic a spin.
A Change of Pace
For any dedicated RPG fan, nothing quite beats a traditional role playing adventure - a genre that has been refined to perfection over the course of decades. Lucky for us, we'll likely always be able to count on franchises like Dragon Quest and Pokemon to feed our need for the tried and true RPG mechanics we've grown to love - but even still, it's always nice to see a new game try something a little different. Enter: Xenoblade.
The battle system in Xenoblade may still have teams, attacks and special abilities, but the way it all plays out on the battlefield is significantly different from what you might expect. You control just one member of your team, who you move around the field in real time, targeting whatever enemy you want to attack with the click of a button. How you go about defeating the beast is up to you. You choose from an ever-growing selection of talents, which you can use only when they're fully charged (which happens naturally over time).
If one member of a party wails too hard on a particular enemy, the monster will build up "Aggro" towards them. If the monster's Aggro reaches a certain level, it will focus all of its attacking efforts on the offending team member. This often opens up a weak point for you and other team members to attack, adding an extra layer of strategy that is quite fun to experiment with. Adding in chain attacks and the Monado blade's ability to let you see a shattering attack before it happens, and you have quite the fresh take on the genre.
Though perhaps the gameplay is not quite as refined as a standard, turn-based affair, or a straight action RPG, Xenoblade's battle system is still extremely fresh, and well worth taking the time to master. If you love role playing games, you seriously must check it out.
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Why you should care about Xenoblade Chronicles being released in the U.S. goes far beyond the game itself. The very reason games like this often aren't localized for American audiences is because they simply don't sell all that well. That's why Xenoblade, The Last Story and Pandora's Tower (which still hasn't been announced for the U.S., and is unlikely to at this point) weren't planned for a stateside release in the first place.
An investment in Xenoblade Chronicles is an investment in the future of JRPGs on Nintendo consoles. If it sells well, it will send the message to Nintendo that hardcore gamers have a vested interest in seeing content like this for their Nintendo hardware - be it 3DS, Wii U, or whatever new system the future may hold. If it doesn't… no amount of fan uproar or underground movements are going to help bring Japan's next role playing gem overseas. Don't let that happen.
Don't join the ranks of people who hypocritically complain about the lack of sweeping RPGs (or hardcore games in general) on Wii - yet don't buy those that do come. Rather, put your money where your mouth is and support both Xenoblade and The Last Story when they release in the coming months. It's good gamer karma.
Those are just a few of the reasons why gamers in the States should care about Xenoblade Chronicles, and show their support by picking it up when it hits store shelves on April 6. Sound off with your own thoughts on the game, and whether you plan on picking it up, in the comments below - and stay tuned to IGN for more Xenoblade coverage over the next few weeks.
Audrey Drake is an Associate Editor of IGN.com and a proud member of the IGN Nintendo team. She is also a lifelong gamer, a frequent banisher of evil and a wielder of various legendary blades. You can follow her zany exploits on My IGN and Twitter. Game on!