When Final Fantasy veteran and Exotic game survivor Tetsuya Takahashi set out to work on the original Xenoblade Chronicles, the intent was to create a JRPG masterpiece. His team at Monolith Soft was tasked with making a game that would restore the balance between systems and story that had been crushed by certain genre giants throughout the ’20s, and bring JRPGs back to their ’90s roots grand occasion.
After its release in 2010, the first Xenoblade Chronicles met its brief, then some; six months after Final Fantasy 13’s high-budget flop, Takahashi’s game retelling and improvements made the JRPG at its peak Such a beloved element of period. Monolith Soft creates a seemingly endless fantasy world with impossible horizons that stretches for miles (with breathtaking landscapes like Breath of the Wild, Monolith Soft works with Nintendo as a supporting character that developers often use to help created a game). It’s a JRPG with an infectious, adventurous feel, complete with some refined systems. At the time, it was nothing short of a revelation.
Subsequent entries strive to have the same effect. Xenoblade Chronicles X is a fantastically engaging spin-off, hampered by the Wii U’s paltry user base shifting the balance to its open-world system; meanwhile, Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s appeal is hampered by some of its more questionable character designs And the over-restriction of the story, as it was sidelined during the Switch’s busy launch year. With Xenoblade Chronicles 3 launching a big new game in a relatively quiet summer, it feels like the timing might be right to bring the JRPG crown back to the beloved series.
It’s by far the most approachable entry in the series, which helps; in fact, it seems to suit audiences who’ve never played a Xenoblade game before, or maybe even JRPGs before. This number in the title seems offensive, and maybe even a little ill-advised; Xenoblade Chronicles 3 works effectively as a standalone entry, with deeper links to previous games not seen until this epic adventure (and far beyond points I was able to talk about in this review).
Know this, though; as an entry into the series – or into the wider world of JRPGs – Xenoblade Chronicles 3 does well. Set in the world of Aionos, it’s a far-future fantasy where two nations are long against each other in a war that will never end. On the one hand is Keves, with its soldiers dressed in black, and its cities with vestiges of steampunk; on the other, Agnus, dressed in angelic white, with a more ethereal aesthetic to its colonies. The lifespans of soldiers on both sides are artificially shortened by 10 years; both sides hope that this decade will be spent in combat until their life force is depleted in combat, and the cycle may start all over again.
It’s a bleak backdrop that provides Xenoblade Chronicles 3 with a melancholic foundation on every beat — a boon if you’re as fond of your JRPGs as I do with a sad side. Noah, the first of the six heroes to meet you, comes from Keves’ Colony 9 outpost, where he is trained to fight alongside his fellow healer Eunie and the hot-headed tank Lanz; however, his duties are Being a non-prophet ensures that those who fall on the battlefield can safely move on to the next realm as he plays sad melodies on his flute. It’s his duty throughout Xenoblade Chronicles 3’s 50-hour adventure. Discover a fallen soldier in the countless missions that follow, and you’ll be invited to stop and send them away with some sad notes.
On Agnus’ side, Mio performs the same task, sending away those killed in the battle with Keves. Next to her are companions and party members, tactician Tyne and the seemingly slight ogre Sena, all six briskly gathered into a solid ensemble piece. In a story filled with moving empathy, each character has their own breathing space – and is told in cutscenes that, given their extended runtimes, may cause a deep sigh – but what really counts is having The breadth of combat that comes with such a large cast.
Everyone is under your direct command, whether it’s exploring or fighting, so you can have a quick look at the party. Even better, thanks to Xenoblade Chronicles 3’s brilliantly fluid approach to class, they’re six characters that you can pretty much specify exactly how you want. Here, you’re free to mix and match, form rampaging parties of only high-DPS attackers, and see what kind of damage you can unleash in the Xenoblade series’ beat-beat MMO-style real-time RPG combat. There’s even a seventh slot for an ever-expanding list of cameo heroes, whose classes you can then unlock for your own track.
It’s a would-be tinker’s dream, though at times it feels like all of this complexity goes away in Xenoblade’s frantic combat rhythm. There’s more chaos this time around, with all six heroes threatening to collapse at times amid the cacophony of combos and chain attacks, but finding the rhythm and the right way to massage the numbers upwards and Xenoblade Chronicles 3’s fights can be a one-off. kind of charm.Or, you can easily get involved; there are many options, including Very The simple easy mode plus the ability to automatically play against all but the boss characters means you can take a break at night and push your party through the mob for a pleasant no-brainer grind.
It doesn’t matter whether you choose to delve into the mechanical depths or take a more frictionless approach, because the bottom line is that Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a delightfully lighthearted affair, held together by a world-hopping sense of adventure. It’s a property it shares with many classic JRPGs, with a fast-paced story that’s fully pulled by the rapid firepower of six threads and recurring themes of the Xenoblade series. The devious gods and the rings of fate must be broken – or, in Xenoblade Chronicles 3’s case, the literal clock face as you liberate the numerous Agnus and Keves camps along the way.
Like many other elements of Xenoblade Chronicles 3, you can interact with these colonies at will – or you can continue. Stop at the camp and you might overhear the dialogue that leads to the questline, or maybe just something to chat the next time the six of you sit down to rest. Wait a second – Xenoblade Chronicles 3, like its predecessors, has the sun rising and setting as part of its day cycle – and you can make yourself at home, complete quests and venture out into the vast wilderness. I love the depth and adaptability.
Above all, I love the wildness that ties Xenoblade Chronicles together, and it’s delivered in a fresh and rich way in the third installment. World hopping is one thing, but it’s greatly enhanced when worlds are as fantastic as Aionos, an incredibly vast collection of expansive areas with heart-rending alien vistas. That’s where Xenoblade Chronicles really appeals, utilizing a fantastical sci-fi style that makes you feel like you’re playing the cover of one of the Starlog magazines that Takahashi used to cherish growing up, or you’re playing on the ground Background for a classic 80s shmup like Darius.
Aetia has cliffs and crevices, with cliff tops overlooking lagoons and rolling fields. See that level 80 monkey over there, circling the lake in the distance? You can go and punch him in the face if you want. In Pentras, the colony under the waterfall is impressive, with a full rainbow arcing through the mist; afterward, in Cadensia, you can roam freely on board, visiting the various islands and discovering their secrets, just like You are playing the mini Wind Waker. It’s quick to find what I love about classic JRPGs – the feeling of running through endless long grass with your companions, facing impossible odds at your pace.
It incorporates an incredible sense of adventure that makes Xenoblade Chronicles 3 truly a JRPG. Perhaps more perfectly balanced system and story than any previous game in the series – and even better, it manages to weave the two into an adventure that infuses a sense of purpose with every step you take. It may not be the original’s revelation in 2010, but Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is definitely another JRPG masterpiece from Monolith Soft.