It is, indeed, definitive.
What They Say:
Discover the origins of Shulk as he and his companions clash against a seemingly-unstoppable mechanical menace. Wield a future-seeing blade, chain together attacks, and carefully position your party members in strategic, real-time combat as you journey across a massive world, only on the Nintendo Switch™ system.
Starting with Xenoblade Chronicles 2 first, I have a somewhat different perspective on Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition as I played after its sequel. This Definitive version of the game brings the Wii classic JRPG to modern Switch graphics potential while paving the way for the future at the same time.
From the onset of starting Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, the most noticeable problem with the game that I had throughout my 50+ hour adventure was with the combat system. I tried to play this game back in the day but quickly quit due to the gameplay and, while I was able to stick around for the full ride this time, it didn’t change my feelings on it.
I’ll be open and honest that I really do not like the combat in Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, but that doesn’t mean it is a bad game by any means. However, it did damper my experience a bit as I only got “used to it” rather than start to like it. This is in large part due to the fact that the majority of the gameplay is automated.
You will naturally attack in this action-based JRPG once you start combat with you only controller positioning and the eight or so abilities that you have at your disposal. It is an odd experience that is somewhat similar to how some MMOs like Final Fantasy XIV work where you have an auto attack, but unlike that game, you aren’t using your abilities as often and sometimes they don’t even feel as meaningful.
This is something that I do think was remedied in the sequel, but the one good thing about this gameplay is that it is competent and works at the very least. So, there is no problem with the gameplay as everything is built around the combat and so it did become more tolerable and less frustrating over time.
That said, everything beyond the combat itself is mostly pretty good in Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. The plot is inventive, to say the least, as main character Shulk and his band of friends live atop a massive giant creature that was once entwined in a nonstop battle with another one.
It is an odd world, but one that feels alive and vibrant with deep lore that is at the heart of everything that happens in the story. The story is not nearly as great as I was hoping for, especially compared to how high quality the sequel gets when it gets going, but it is serviceable and the best part is that it is paced really well.
Unlike its sequel, the pace in Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is really good and nothing feels like it drags on too long before moving to the next part. That is, if you don’t do the seemingly endless number of side quests that are available. For the most part, the side quests are skippable due to a lack of interesting story content and objectives.
While I was doing all of the quests for the first 10 hours or so, I eventually got to the point where I just skipped all of them, since they usually don’t reward experience, so they aren’t too useful for grinding levels anyways. But beyond that, exploring the world of Xenoblade Chronicles is intriguing and varied.
Though most of the game takes place on the same giant creature and the various parts of its body, the environments are surprisingly varied from jungle areas to snowy mountains and everything in between. The characters that you will meet and invite along for the adventure are good enough for this game, even if the only real standouts are Fiora and Melia (the latter of which happens in the new epilogue).
What’s new to the Definitive Edition is that it mostly encompasses everything that was released in the original game plus the 3DS version. On top of that, it has updated graphics to make the characters look better. The environments look pretty good and the main cast looks great, but the side characters can sometimes look straight out of the Wii era at times.
Performance-wise, it isn’t the best but it does run mostly well most of the time. There are times in combat that the game slowed down noticeably but it is fine the rest of the time, despite some rather large and open spaces. And it helps that it does generally look better than its sequel that released on Switch first.
The other main addition to the Switch version is the new Future Connected epilogue. In some ways, it was much better than the base game and worse in other parts. What I did like about this epilogue is that it takes some cues from Xenoblade Chronicles 2, especially when it comes to the side quests.
The side quests fix most of what I disliked about them in the base game with experience given out much more liberally in them as well as having a more story-driven style. And it puts the focus on Melia, which was certainly necessary, and fixes the limited nature of her character that I felt was her and the most of the cast’s problem, like in the case of Riki and Sharla, in the main story.
Future Connected was certainly my favorite part of the entire game and that it was also due to the rather unique take on collectibles and the two new characters that join your party. But its one downside is that the story itself in this epilogue does fall flat a bit and didn’t quite live up to the hype surrounding it with a plot that doesn’t really feel too necessary.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition does its best job of taking a game that is flawed and ugly from the Wii and making it much more interesting and attractive. It certainly is the definitive version, taking the best parts of the older versions, making them much prettier, and adding some unique aspects of its own.
While I am still not a fan of the combat, it is serviceable as well as the story that is fairly standard, despite having a wonderfully crafted universe. But my favorite part of this version is the new Future Connected epilogue that fixes problems with the side quests and lack of development for Melia while crafting an interesting but not necessarily ground-breaking story. While not the best JRPG on Switch, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is a pretty good game that is worth your dozens and dozens of hours.
Developer: Monolith Soft
Age Rating: 13+
Release Date: May 29, 2020
Platform: Switch (reviewed)
This review was completed with a review code provided by the publisher.