A legendary game goes portable
One of the most beloved Japanese role-playing games of the last decade is back as a grand portable adventure, exclusive to New Nintendo 3DS XL. If you’re looking for a game to show off the power of your shiny new handheld console, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is definitely it.
As Jon mentioned in his article on must play role-playing games, the genre has exploded in 2015 with hit after hit releasing on game consoles. Being a huge fan of these types of games, this year is unquestionably one of the best in recent memory.
Leading the JRPG charge is Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, a stellar port of the hit 2012 game for Wii, developed by Monolith Soft and published by Nintendo. This new port is developed by Monster Games, the same top-notch studio that brought us the incredible port of Donkey Kong Country Returns and the Nintendo 3DS launch title Pilotwings Resort. If you love JRPGs and missed this game the first time around, don’t pass up your second chance to play one of the best the genre has to offer with Xenoblade Chronicles 3D.
Platform: New Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Monster Games, Monolith Soft
Genre: Action role-playing
A hero with the power to save a world
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D‘s story begins on a world from another dimension, where two massive titans―named Bionis and Mechonis―engaged in a timeless battle until one mighty, final strike destroyed them both. Eons later, a race of humans called the Homs lived in prosperity on the Bionis’ remains, until one fateful day when an unstoppable force of warrior machines from the Mechonis invaded their land.
You play as Shulk, an 18-year-old boy with the mysterious ability to wield the Monado―a legendary sword that put an end to the Mechon’s military advances in ages past. Supported by your friends, and allies you meet during the adventure, you must set forth on a mission of revenge to destroy the Mechon while also learning the true nature of the Monado.
Explore a rich, vast sci-fi land
It’s incredible how much processing power the developers were able to squeeze out of the New Nintendo 3DS, with the system able to handle the huge and detailed world of Xenoblade Chronicles 3D without any compromises. Over the adventure you’ll travel through many exotic locations, from lush grasslands, to scenic mountain ranges, to gorgeous panoramic waterfalls. There’s a massive scale to this game, not seen in many portable RPGs, making this game feel like a full console experience in the palm of your hands.
On the field there’s lots to see and do, including battling against mechanical enemies or indigenous wildlife, taking on sidequests, and collecting a wide variety of items native to each area. This is a game focused heavily on exploration, with many secret areas to be found, and rare items that can be obtained only after you’ve discovered the full list of collectibles found in the area. To bring this wonderous adventure alive even more, while progressing through the story you’ll periodically initiate cinematic cutscenes with all the main characters superbly voiced by British actors. Add in an unforgettable soundtrack by Japanese composer Yoko Shimomura and you have a JRPG that looks, sounds, and plays beautifully.
Exclusive to New Nintendo 3DS XL
The most obvious difference between this version and the original Wii game is that Xenoblade Chronicles 3D has been built from the ground up as a portable gaming experience, taking full advantage of the enhanced power of the New Nintendo 3DS XL console. While other recent Nintendo 3DS games, like The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, play and perform “better” on New Nintendo 3DS XL (but still run fine on older Nintendo 3DS models), Xenoblade Chronicles 3D can only be played on this new console. That means it won’t run on other consoles in the 3DS family, including Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo 3DS XL, and Nintendo 2DS.
More Power Means Better Gameplay
So why is Xenoblade Chronicles 3D only compatible with New Nintendo 3DS XL? Well, the original Wii game was absolutely massive, giving gamers an immense, open world to explore and a lengthy 60-hour adventure to enjoy (potentially 100+ hours if you’re a game completionist.) Fitting this vast amount of content into a portable experience, and having it all run smoothly, requires the faster CPU found in New Nintendo 3DS XL—plus the game takes advantage of the console’s extra buttons and features too.
Having a more powerful processor built-in to New Nintendo 3DS XL means that Xenoblade Chronicles 3D runs super-fast and you can jump straight into action quickly. It only takes a few seconds for the game to start up, and your save file loads equally as fast. Once in the game, huge map areas are accessible without additional loading, and in the rare case where you need to wait (e.g. when going into a dungeon), the load times are extremely fast. It’s particularly impressive given how beautiful and detailed this game world looks, from the vast rural landscapes, to the lively and vibrant cities you’ll discover.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D also takes advantage of the New Nintendo 3DS’s added buttons, including the C-Stick to effortlessly look around the game’s beautiful environments. The new ZR button is also used, letting you fast travel to locations at the tap of a button, and the ZL button can be used to zoom the camera in and out. These are subtle additions that makes an already wonderful adventure even more enjoyable to experience.
More new features
As if all the new features and enhancements mentioned above aren’t enough, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D also utilizes the New Nintendo 3DS’ dual screens to present the gorgeous visuals clutter-free on the wide upper screen, while the bottom touchscreen displays a mini-map that shows your characters’ condition, current position, immediate surroundings and all key points of interest (see image at left.) Being able to easily see your characters’ health on the bottom screen during combat is particularly useful since the action takes place in real-time and you need to react fast to changing conditions. It’s too bad though that Nintendo didn’t add any touch controls, which could have streamlined the menu system even further.
Another new feature in this version is Collection Mode, an area you can go to to view the game’s 3D character models from any angle, and listen to a range of musical pieces in the Jukebox. These bonuses are unlocked by trading in tokens you obtain while playing, by meeting other players via Nintendo 3DS’ StreetPass feature, or by tapping the Shulk amiibo to your console. Considering how gorgeous the 3D models in the game are, and how memorable the musical score is, Collection Mode is a welcome treat.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is a masterpiece JRPG that looks and runs just as smoothly on New Nintendo 3DS hardware as it did on Wii―a truly impressive feat. If you’ve yet to experience this classic game, now’s the time to jump on board and experience the breathtaking adventure before its spiritual successor, Xenoblade Chronicles X, arrives later this year for Wii U.
+ Beautiful graphics
+ Excellent 3D models and voice acting
+ A vast open world to explore
+ Good use of New Nintendo 3DS’s feature set
– Lack of touch screen controls
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4.5/5
Overall Rating 4.5/5 (90%)
By Paul Hunter, Editor Gaming
I work out of Toronto, Ontario as the Editor of Gaming here on the Plug-in Blog and as Editor-in-Chief of NextGen Player. I am thankful for having a loving and patient wife who doesn’t mind my 40 hour a week obsession with gaming. You can follow me on Twitter @NextGenPlayer