Xenoblade Chronicles 2
For Nintendo Switch
Published by Nintendo
Developed by Monolith Soft
Released December 1st, 2017
Even though I haven't beaten this game yet (though I'm quite close to doing so), I want to review this game so badly since there's so much to say about it. Also, I really liked GameXplain's review of it. So, it's time to review the latest in this awesome JRPG series.
Just a heads up, there may be spoilers, but I'll do my best to avoid them for the most part.
Anyway, just enjoy the review.
The Look: 4 out of 5
This is one massive Gogoat!
Past Xenoblade Chronicles games have had some really gorgeous environments about them, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is no exception. Every area is lush, full of life and bursting with bright, vivid colors, be it the verdant places of Gormott, the bio-luminescent plant life and majestic inside of Uraya, or the desert-like areas of Mor Ardain, every locale feels truly alive whether it be the amount of fauna to put up with in the wilds of each titan or the bustling cities full of locals. It's a true wonder to behold.
And thanks to the cel-shading, the anime style characters don't clash with these sprawling environments like they did in Xenoblade Chronicles X, resulting in a more natural synergy in the game's design. Speaking of the characters, while they may seem overly anime, and are due to the quirky expressions they put on sometimes, their wide range of emotions truly makes them expressive and believable, especially when compared to something like Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Naturally, because this game is a massive, open-world RPG, the graphics won't be up to par with games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey. However, where I am going to dock points off is when fast-traveling from titan to titan, the environments can be very low-res to the point of being something like off the N64. Sometimes, even certain areas can be missing. Thankfully, this is problem is quickly fixed to the point it doesn't become TOO distracting, and is only done to reduce load time. Still, I hope Nintendo can patch this eventually.
The Sound: 5 out of 5
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 music: Awakening (Unique Monster Battle II)
As amazing as the graphics can be, the music is still what's going to catch your attention the most when it comes to the game's aesthetics. The game features a wide range of incredible tracks, from sweeping orchestral pieces for when you're wandering each titan to the rocking themes of when you're fighting enemies. Everything feels ambient and alive, yet done in a way where listening to such music becomes addictive. And every orchestral piece for each titan matches each area perfectly. The shifts between the moods of the day time and night time themes is quite drastic as the day time themes are more energetic and upbeat while the night time themes are tranquil and soothing, just what you'd expect from the first Xenoblade Chronicles.
As far as the voice acting goes, the English dub can range from good to spotty. The voice actors for characters like Tora, Poppi, Pyra and Mythra are done quite well. Rex's voice actor, Al Weaver is not too bad, though I feel he holds too much emotion back, not seeming to have the range of Adam Howden when he did the voice for Shulk in the first game. It's not the worst, and I can tolerate him just fine. However, objectively speaking, he may not be everyone's cup of tea, so if you need to, do get the Japanese voice pack when you get the game.
Probably the most interesting thing about the voice actors is the wide range of nationalities going on. Characters like Rex, Nia and Morag seems to have Welsh accents going on while the likes of Zeke and Tora are more British-sounding. However, just about every single Blade in the game has an American VA, which really helps them to feel unique, especially with the wide-range of accents for the Common Blades, ranging from gentlemanly to gruff, and sometimes, even Southern. And all of these voices help to establish the personalities for each Blade, especially the Rare Blades.
As for sound effects, weapon hits sound meaty and powerful, and the various sounds for each element of each Blade fit perfectly, making it feel just like what it represents. And everything feels truly alive and varied. Overall, the sound design for this game is truly top notch, barring a few problems with the English voice acting when it comes to certain characters.
The Feel: 5 out of 5
Go Go, Xenoblade Rangers!
You probably already know the main story at the beginning of this game like the back of your hand. But for the sake of this review, I'll tell it again, anyway.
Taking place in the world of Alrest, a world made up entirely of the Cloud Sea, people live on the backs of massive beings called Titans, living their daily lives while the beasts encircle the World Tree at the center. However, like an epidemic, the Titans are beginning to die off, reducing the amount of living space for the people, which causes the threat of war to fight for the other territories. Of course, many hear about legends of a land existing at the top of the World Tree called Elysium, where humanity once resided before a mysterious being known as the Architect forced them out.
The game opens with the introduction of the young salvager, Rex, who currently makes his job hauling treasure and ancient technology from beneath the Cloud Sea to earn a living, all while living on his own personal Titan, Azurda, a small titan that's actually capable of speech and acts as Rex's grandpa (Rex affectionately refers to him as Gramps)
Eventually, after making their way to the Argentum Trade Guild where Rex plans to trade in what he found for a small bit of gold, Rex is soon called in by the chairman of the Guild, Bana to take up a lucrative job where Rex meets members of a shady organization called Torna, and sees two of them are Drivers. Rex agrees to the job, in spite of Azurda's warnings.
Eventually, Rex and some other salvagers recover a ship from beneath the Cloud Sea. The members of Torna prepare to investigate, but for some reason, the leader of Torna, Jin requests Rex to come with him. Eventually fighting their way to the heart of the ship, the group reaches a thing of double doors, which Jin has Rex open for them. When he gets inside, Rex sees a young woman with red hair and outfit in a glass case, and a sword on the floor in front of her. After Rex accidentally touches the crystal on the sword, Jin kills Rex without warning, and the members of Torna carry on.
Rex then wakes up in a dream where he sees the same mysterious girl near a tree. He learns the girl's name is Pyra, and that she's a Blade. Not only that, but she's a legendary Blade called the Aegis. Pyra tells Rex she will give him half of her life force to revive him, but in exchange, she wants him to bring her to Elysium. Nobly agreeing to this, the two set out on a massive adventure that Rex never prepared for.
The surprising thing about this story is that it leaves many opportunities for plot-holes and contradictions to happen, but somehow, the game manages to avoid them, resulting in a story that's just amazing to play through.
Meet Bana. You'll come to hate this guy.
If you remember the gameplay of the first Xenoblade Chronicles, you'll feel right at home with this game. However, there are many different changes to cover. One such is with the battle system.
Much like the first two games, the gameplay is in real time, and you select which Arts to use at the right time. Of course, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 does things quite different. For one thing, the combat this time is based on the flow of battle as you now have to stand still to attack. However, each weapon you use has a rhythm about it, usually being a three hit chain. Also, Arts are now assigned to buttons, being that of X, Y and B. Normal attacks will charge up your Driver Arts, which you then perform to charge up your Blade's Special Art.
Because of this flow, doing a Driver Art after the third hit of an attack chain will yield greater damage, and charge your Special even faster. However, sometimes, you have to maximize what you can and cannot do in battle, which forces you to be resourceful. Certain Arts also cause status effects, like Break, Topple and Launch, which lead you to performing Driver Combos.
As for Special Arts, they have four varying levels of intensity, the highest level being 4. Because each Special has an element, using a Specials in a particular order can lead to Blade Combos, which can cause various effects in battle that lead to greater damage, and even have an Elemental Orb surround your enemy. Teammates wait for you to give them commands for them to use their Specials, so you at least have a good bit of control over fights, as well as what Blade Combos you want to have happen.
Finally, combining the two types lead to Fusion Combos that do even more damage, depending on the situation. The Chain Attacks from the first game return, but this time, the addition of Elemental Orbs that form at the end of Blade Combos can lead Chain Attacks to being extended to cause insane amounts of damage to your enemies. And if you can surround the enemy in a good number of Elemental Orbs, the damage you can perform with a Chain Attack will be catastrophic.
Overall, the combat, while seemingly simple, is quite complex with many nuances that lead to performing some incredible feats that can be absolutely mind-blowing for any RPG. And because of that, Monolith Soft has created a battle system that pretty much trumps any in almost any other real-time JRPG. Perhaps even traditional turn-based JRPGs. It's perhaps the best battle system for an RPG ever created.
The lengths some people will go through for fresh food.
Complimenting the amazing battle system is the amount of customization this game has. And let me tell you, the customization runs very deep.
As usual in an RPG, you'll earn experience to boost your level and raise your stats up to take on tougher challenges. Other forms of customization comes from other elements, like spending skill points to learn skills on each Driver's Affinity Chart, which has become pretty much expected in most RPGs these days. However, that's only the smallest part of the customization of your characters.
Most of this customization will come from your Driver's bonding with Blades to earn new weapons and abilities. As mentioned before, Blades come in two varieties: Common and Rare. Most of the time, you'll get Common Blades from Core Crystals, though there's always the small chance of finding a Rare Blade that has a unique design, personality, weapon and skills. The best chances of obtaining Rare Blades is out of Rare and Legendary Core Crystals, though there's always the possibility it'll just be a strong Common. Common Blades are ranked 1 through 4 while all Rare Blades are rank 5. Of course, if you want to influence the chances of getting a Blade of that particular type, you can use one of four types of Boosters (up to 5) to influence this. The four types of Boosters include Bravery, Truth, Compassion and Justice. Each Booster covers two different elements with Bravery covering Fire and Water, Truth covering Ice and Wind, Compassion covering Earth and Electric and Justice covering Dark and Light. But even then, it's no full-blown guarantee. Of course, if you get a Blade you're not too crazy about, you can always dismiss it in hopes of getting a better one, and dismissing Blades can grant you Boosters to use.
Each Blade will give a Driver a different weapon, and each of these weapons for that Driver has a total of four arts, from which you choose three to take into battle. What's really amazing is how much detail was put into these arts as while every Driver can use almost any weapon type, the arts for that Driver concerning the weapon type are vastly different, not only in name, but also how the art is performed, showing each Driver has his or her own fighting style that makes them truly unique. Using these weapons will earn that Driver Weapon Points for that weapon, which can then be used to strengthen their arts. Because of this, Weapon Points are not a common pool as they mainly come from using that particular weapon. So say, you use the Greataxe a lot, you'll earn points for that weapon to strengthen your Driver's Arts with it, and so on. This helps to make things much less cluttered.
Blades also have their own customization, and it comes in three forms.
First off, Core Chips are used to alter the stats of weapons and can even change their designs. Each Blades also has an Affinity Chart much like a Driver, but where a Driver's Affinity Chart can be used to spend Skill Points to learn new skills, a Blade's Affinity Chart acts like a mini-achievement list, and by fulfilling requirements, you can strengthen their skills to higher levels. There are thee kinds of skills for each Blade to take note off, and each one designated by the colors. Red skills are Special Arts, which only covers the first three. The yellow skills are Battle Skills, which help fights to go more smoothly. And finally, the green skills are Field Skills, which your Blade uses to help out with various tasks, such as talking with people, collecting items or opening pathways, whatever. Common Blades have such requirements to build up their skills that include such things like defeat a certain number of a certain type of enemy, raise trust or collect a certain amount of a type of item. Rare Blades have those too, but some of their methods are unique to them, which makes them feel all that much more special.
Finally, the last type of customization for your Blades are the Aux Cores, which act as Blade accessories that can do various things to help out your Driver in battle. Of course, you need to refine these cores before they can be used, period.
Finally, there's Poppi, who's the artificial Blade made by Tora the Nopon inventor. Because Tora cannot actually become a Driver, he's created Poppi as a subsitute. Poppi can't equip Aux Cores like other Blades can, but her level of customization is insane as you can alter her loadout with various parts you make with Ether Crystals you earn from playing the original game, Tiger Tiger, as well as getting manuals to learn how to make other parts. You can change many things about her such as her role in battle, her Blade Arts, specialties and even her element. Of course, you'll have to play Tiger Tiger a good deal to really help Poppi reach her full potential, but thankfully, the game is pretty fun, if not a little frustrating at times.
Speaking of roles in battle, Blades come in three varieties: Attackers, Healers and Tanks. As you might imagine, Attackers focus on dealing damage, Healers keep the group alive and Tanks draw aggro to keep the attention on them. Each Driver can engage with up to three Blades, and depending on the Blades your Driver engages will determine that Driver's class, which can alter his or her stats, and determine what they do best in battle.
Heart-to-Hearts also return, which can help out flesh out characters more, and sometimes, even the Rare Blades you get. Not only that, but each Rare Blade has his or her own Blade Quest that can definitely not only help you get to know that Blade better, but also make them stronger in battle. Ignoring these many aspects will leave you much weaker for future challenges, so seek them out if you can.
The Blade pulling system will both excite you and piss you off.
When it comes to sidequests, there's much to do in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. You have your standard quests that you had in the first two games, and while they're in short supply this time, there's still a lot, PLUS the rewards from each quest are much more substantial as they reward you with items, gold, bonus experience and Skill Points.
Unique monsters make a return, but this time, after defeating one, a tombstone will be placed where that monster was, and you can go to these tombstones to fight those enemies again if you want to grind for experience or farm for some items.
Probably one of the best improvements to the game now are how you develop towns as you now do this by buying items at various shops. At lot of these items can be placed in your Driver's pouches to boost their stats for battle. And by buying enough items, you can increase town development, which will in turn lower costs. A good way to improve the development of towns is to go salvaging, where you do a button challenge to help Rex pull some nice valuables from beneath the Cloud Sea, which he can then sell to traders for gold. Some item combinations will also reward you with Boosters.
Eventually, at the beginning of Chapter 4, you will get access to a Mercenary company where you can send Blades you've collected on various missions. Since you'll probably acquire a lot of Blades, developing them all might take too long, so Merc Missions help with this immensely. What's more, some Merc Missions tie into town development as some can give shops new items to purchase, and if you purchase one of each item in certain shops, you can buy the deed to the shop, which will give you a permanent buff that help adventuring quite a bit. Merc Missions prove invaluable to helping with this.
Collecting items has also been made easier instead of individual items littering the field like in the previous two entries, now items are obtained at various collection points that give you multiple goodies, which makes it easier to get that one item you need, nixing out the need for a collectipedia.
Overall, the game just feels much easier without all the many headaches in the past games, which makes for smoother sailing. Yet, at the same time, the challenge is still just as great as it ever was, so don't go feeling like everything is now a cakewalk.
If I have to rant about anything, it would be some of the design choices of the terrain when trying to find a location you need to get to in order to progress the story or a sidequest. Sometimes, things aren't that obvious to the point you need to either consult GameFAQs or watch a video on YouTube, which is pretty shameless. If you ask me, a guide would have really helped when doing some of these quests in the game. But I can't fault the game too much for that.
Overall: 5 out of 5
If you have a Nintendo Switch, and need a good JRPG fix, you can't go wrong with this game. Just the fact we got an RPG of this caliber in the first year of the Switch is just amazing. Trust me, while the start may be slow, stick with it, and you'll be glued to this game for a long time. So what are you waiting for? Pick up this game and get ready to have some fun!