The Switch version of Xenoblade Chronicles is almost here – so here’s a look at how the beloved RPG runs on the hardware.
For my money, Xenoblade Chronicles was one of the most important games on the Nintendo Wii. Sure enough, the Wii was home to some industry-changing casual games and some solid entries in classic Nintendo series’, but Xenoblade is arguably the biggest new addition to Nintendo’s stable of franchises and properties from that era.
Since its 2011 release, Xenoblade Chronicles saw a pared-back 3DS port and a couple of sequels – and now the original is finally making its way to more powerful hardware in the Switch. This is an ideal opportunity: this is a game built around large, open-ended arenas, gorgeous music, pretty vistas and speedy tactical combat – and so technical improvements are welcome indeed.
The in-game video of Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition embedded above is pretty simple, but that’s by design: we’re not at the point where we can review the game yet, and we wanted to keep it spoiler-free: so it just showcases an early-game area first visited in chapter 4 and some early-game combat. The adventure unfurls into something far grander than what’s shown here, and in addition the Definitive Edition also includes ‘Future Connected’, an all-new storyline that takes place after the events of the main game.
What the video does show you, however, is how the game looks and runs. Definitive Edition takes the world of Xenoblade and sharpens it up. Most immediately striking is how the character models are far more in line with what we saw in Xenoblade 2, which in turn takes the slightly more realistic and grounded designs of the original and turns them to something faithful but also more colorful, vibrant and – yes – a little more anime. The textures and general look of the world have received a significant tune-up. The day-night cycle is lovely to watch go by.
Performance is perfectly adequate, though in handheld mode there is pop-in and the general occasional hiccup present – but none of these issues are dealbreakers. In fact, Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition more or less looks on-par with Xenoblade 2, which was developed with the Switch in mind, but has slightly better performance.
On top of the performance and visual tweaks, the game is just generally well-improved. Tweaks to elements such as the UI and presentation of quests just make it a snappier and more immediate experience. The star of the show for me is the remastered music, however, which takes an alraedy excellent soundtrack and enhances it.
Ultimately this is probably the most subtly ‘good’ sort of video game remaster: it presents as you remember it rather than as it really was: crisp, beautiful and brimming with personality even where the original was jagged and muddy at best, albeit with a lot of heart. In this it is excellent; though it’s also unlikely to dazzle as a reimagining.
Ultimately, so long as the performance is solid enough to not be intrusive and to provide some sort of improvement over the Wii original, it doesn’t necessarily need to be perfect: Xenoblade is a great game that deserves to be experienced, a must-play recent Japanese RPG classic, and hopefully this remaster will enable a lot of people who jumped into the series with the most recent entry on Switch to experience where it all began.
We’ll be back with a full review of Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition in due course, including impressions of the new epilogue chapter Future Connected to dissect how that stands as a new chapter in the Xenoblade story. For now, hit the video above to take a look at the game in action.