Xenoblade Chronicles 3D Review


Developer: MonolithSoft

Publisher: Nintendo

Platform: New Nintendo 3DS

Release Date: April 10

When Xenoblade Chronicles was first released in the States on the Wii console, it was a bit of an odd duck. The general public knew very little about the game, and knowing that, very few copies were originally available for sale. However, those copies sold out in no time flat – as part of the trio of games brought to light by Operation Rainfall, Xenoblade Chronicles was an instant cult classic. As such, it had the unusual distinction of selling out before the general public heard about it, and not after. Reviews of the game were positive, but because of this interesting situation, lots of gamers that wanted to didn’t get to play it – until the New 3DS, that is. Now that the game is available for all, let’s take a second look at the title, and see if it’s worth your hard-earned money!

The More Things Change

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is an interesting duck. For those who aren’t aware, the story is centered around a young boy named Shulk, and a mysterious sword, the Monado. He lives in a world where two titan-like beings, the Mechis and the Bionis, once fought. These two beings are more or less the god of nature and god of machines, and are where all life, both animal and machine, come from.

The story wasn’t quite the epic I expected given the high praise that the original Xenoblade Chronicles received.

At the beginning of the story, Shulk’s village is attacked by the Mechon, the mechanical life-forms. Swearing revenge against the Mechon, Shulk heads off on a grand adventure, with the mysterious Monado in hand – the only known weapon that can hurt these mechanical creatures.

The story takes its twists and turns, and while I don’t intend to spoil the game for you, the story wasn’t quite the epic I expected given the high praise that the original Xenoblade Chronicles received. Don’t get me wrong – it’s engaging enough, and you won’t be left bored. But outside of the Australian accents, which provide a nice change of pace in an otherwise Americanized dubbing world, the same standard JRPG story tropes apply. The well-rounded, intelligent hero. The slightly stupid muscle-head. The childhood friend-turned-love-interest. All the standard parts are there, and while they certainly work well, it’s still the same story you’ve come to expect from Japanese gaming narratives. If that’s okay with you, you’ll love what Xenoblade’s story has to offer, but keep in mind that if JRPG stories aren’t for you, this one probably won’t change your mind.

Shulk and Reyn make good buddies, but their relationship isn’t anything to write home about.

Really Feeling It

What could change your mind, however, is the battle system.  JRPG’s have been going through a fundamental transformation towards action-based systems for the past few years – the Final Fantasy series, along with Kingdom Hearts and others, have taken a turn towards real-time gameplay. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D has put together what might be the best balance of action and RPG elements in a combat system thus far.

More from 3DS

It pulls together elements from MMORPG’s, action RPG’s like Kingdom Hearts, and turn-based classics to create a system that made me excited to get into a battle every time I saw an enemy.

During battle, you primarily control one character. You can pick whoever you please in your party, but I found myself controlling Shulk for the majority of the game. Basic attacks are automatic – if you’re in range, you’re attacking. You also have free reign over your movement, which is important because some moves have additional effects based on position! Shulk’s Back Slash from Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS? It comes straight from Xenoblade Chronicles – when you use this move from behind it does a ton of extra damage, making positioning, and drawing enemies’ aggro away from you as Shulk, very important. There are also several status afflictions that come into play that reach much farther than the standard poison, sleep, slow and paralyze – a welcome change to what in other games has become a tiringly simple status system. The Topple, Break, and Daze system are all part of the same set of afflictions, but one leads to the next, making smart use of Character Arts important and satisfying.

Back Slash, like its Smash Bros. counterpart, has extra affects based on the angle of attack – as do many other Arts

Character progression is just as satisfying. As characters level up, they’re doing so in three ways – with EXP, AP (Art Points), and SP (Skill Points). EXP is about what you’d expect, while Art Points go towards upgrading your abilities, and SP go towards progressing down that character’s Skill Tree. While it all gets a little complicated, these Skill Trees are based off a character’s personality, and as you get deeper into the game, party members can share these arts as well – everything is about character interaction, from battles to leveling, and it shows.

A Handheld Wii Game, Perfectly Ported. Sort Of

Now, despite my indifference to the story, I really enjoyed playing this game. It felt amazing all around – battle queues are clear, the emphasis on cooperation adds an extra level of depth, and it takes the best part of action RPGs and meshes them seamlessly with an Active Time Battle style. But I would be lying if I said that this game held up on the 3DS, visually. Now, to be fair, a Wii game on the 3DS is a Herculean feat in its own right – it’s clear the developers put a lot of time and effort into keeping the game running smoothly while sacrificing as little fidelity as possible.

It doesn’t look *bad*… it just doesn’t look great, either.

But at the end of the day, there are muddy textures, and there are some very awkward looking facial expressions throughout. In my opinion, the art style of Xenoblade Chronicles on the Wii was already a step behind its time, and that has become ever-so-slightly more clear on the 3DS. There were several set pieces where I felt like I was missing the intended beauty of the moment, something I’m chalking up to muddy textures. That said, the game runs smoothly, and outside of that visual squabble, the porting of this game is nothing less than excellent. So if you’re willing to grimace through a few awkward ’emotional’ moments due to some unusual-looking cutscenes, you’ll be good to go.


While I know it sounds like I’ve given this game a hard time, this game is really where RPG’s as a whole should be heading. With a good (if not basic) story, a great action-based battle system, and numerous ways to level up your party members and equipment, there’s a lot to do, and just about all of it is enjoyable. If you look past the minor graphical issues, this game is still up there with the best RPG’s of the modern era. I’m giving Xenoblade Chronicles 3D an 8.5 out of 10, but be aware that if you’re a JRPG nut, you’ll probably enjoy it significantly more than me, so take it with a grain of salt! This is an excellent game, and any RPG fan should give it a couple of looks, at least.

A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.