Until a few years ago, Xenoblade Chronicles (2010) wasn’t very well-known; it wasn’t advertised too much, and it almost didn’t come to the US. In 2014, however, that began to change when Xenoblade’s main character Shulk was added to the roster of playable characters. Since then, the game has seen a New 3DS remake, a sequel (Xenoblade Chronicles X for Wii U), and another sequel (Xenoblade Chronicles 2) for the Switch later this year. So what makes this game so critically acclaimed yet almost unnoticed at the same time?
The main premise of Xenoblade Chronicles is that the Homs (basically humans) of the titan Bionis are fighting the Mechon (machines) of the titan Mechonis. Mechon armor is invulnerable to all weapons except for one, the Monado, wielded by a Homs named Dunban. He swiftly beats the Mechon back, but a year later the Mechon invade Bionis again, this time with larger units that have faces; these Face Mechon can’t be hurt by the Monado. One Face Mechon, the creatively-named Metal Face, attacks Colony 9, the home of Shulk and Dunban, and seems to have killed Dunban’s sister Fiora. Shulk (who now wields the Monado) and his friend Reyn seek vengeance against Metal Face, so their adventure begins.
Xenoblade wouldn’t be an RPG without some form of combat. You explore the world with three characters (one you control and two others that follow) even when more than three join Shulk on his quest, and those three battle enemies and bosses. To me, one of the most interesting battle mechanics is the Monado itself. Even if Shulk isn’t one of the three active characters, you’ll sometimes receive visions of what the enemy will do, and you’ll have a bit of time to do something to change the future.
The beauty of the world of Xenoblade comes from the fact that nothing you think you know is really true, and many questions emerge: Why were Bionis and Mechonis created? Where did the Monado come from? Are Mechon really the enemy? Why can Shulk see the future? And most importantly, why do Bionis and Mechonis have to keep fighting? Sure, the graphics may be a bit blocky, but Xenoblade Chronicles is one of the best RPGs I’ve played to date.
Here’s the opening of the game: