The critically acclaimed JRPG has returned after ten years to a Nintendo home console. With enhanced visuals, a new time attack mode and a beautiful epilogue story named ‘Future Connected’, Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition for the Switch delivers excellent quality of life changes that makes for a truly polished port.
In early 2010, Satoru Iwata announced Monolith Soft’s latest game for the Nintendo Wii would be called ‘Xenoblade Chronicles’. The former president of Nintendo said it was to honour the game developer’s director, Tetsuya Takahashi, who ‘poured his soul’ into the JRPG following his work on the Xeno series. Since then, a close and whole-hearted relationship between Nintendo and Monolith Soft has unfurled. And, in Iwata’s own words, ‘Xenoblade Chronicles would not be the game it is’ without an unwavering belief in the relationship between both companies. Perhaps this is what makes the Definitive Edition for the Nintendo Switch so special; not only was it the first in a successful franchise, but it was the first game that solidified a long-lasting friendship.
In its near decade run, the Xenoblade franchise has delivered some truly defining moments. Yet for many, the first game remains as one of the best and tightly written storylines. While it arguably had its frustrations in gameplay, Xenoblade Chronicles provides a cast of heart-warming characters intent on reclaiming their land (the Bionis) from the perilous Mechon; a race of machines originating from the world of Mechonis. When the legendary Monado sword chooses Shulk – a tinkering Homs mechanic – to lead his people in a fight against the Mechon, it’s clear there is more to the war than meets the eye.
Before we talk in detail on the story and changes to gameplay in the epilogue, Future Connected, it’s worth taking a look at our Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition preview, where we discuss at length the gameplay differences between the original Wii and Switch versions of the main storyline. It’s also worth noting that Casual (where enemies become easier to defeat) and Expert (which enable you to dish out accumulated level experience) modes have been added, alongside a time attack mode (which grants players some interesting armour across the eight levels) in the main storyline. Now, let’s turn our attention to the extra story.
Taking approximately 15 hours to complete the storyline and all side quests, Future Connected follows Shulk and Melia as they make their way to Alcamoth, the home of the High Entia. But before they land, the Junks is hit by a strange ether beam coming from an unexplainable rift in Alcamoth and crash lands on the Bionis Shoulder. As Shulk and Melia disembark the ship, they soon spot two Nopons in trouble on the far shore. After a quick battle, Shulk and Melia confront Kino and Nene, the son- and daughter-pon of Riki, and soon discover that Kino snuck onboard the ship with Nene in tow. Since Shulk and Melia are in a forgiving mood, Nene and Kino join the adventure, forming a four-player party.
Soon after arriving on the Bionis shoulder, Melia discovers that Alcamoth has been overtaken by a foul beast enshrouded in fog. After a devastating battle, the High Entians were forced from their home and retreated to the Bionis Shoulder, further endangering the lives of those living on the land, the Gran Dell residents. To defeat the fog beasts and the reseal the rift, Melia and co. must reunite both kingdoms to take back Alcamoth and restore peace to the residents.
From the outset of Future Connected, there are quite a few gameplay differences between the epilogue and the main storyline. Separate from the main game entirely with its own save file, each of the four playable characters begin with all Arts abilities unlocked, with Melia and Shulk starting at level 60 and the two Nopon at level 58. With only two areas to explore, players will soon find their way around the Bionis Shoulder and its secret areas, followed by two pitstops at Alcamoth for story-driven content. While the collectopaedia remains, affinity and heart-to-hearts between characters are gone, replaced by story cutscenes known as ‘Quiet Moments’. There are roughly two Quiet Moments between each of the main characters, which aim to fill gaps in the story or initiate character development. It’s in these moments that you’ll utterly fall in love with Nene and Kino as they try (and often fail) to do the right thing for Shulk and Melia. Between their humility, naivety, and kind-hearted souls, the two Nopons are simply adorable to watch in motion. Outside of Quiet Moments, the two Nopons also take the spotlight in quests from time to time, further developing their hidden quirks.
Aside from character development, there are also changes to the battle system. Shulk’s visions of the future are no more and, although the party gauge remains, the chain attack has been replaced by a new system that strengthens over the course of Future Connected. By discovering the location of the ‘Ponspectors’, players will be able to gather 12 Nopon Adventurers to help them in the battles ahead. There are three types of Ponspector; the Yellow team causes status afflictions, Blue team focus on healing, and Red are an all-out attack type. So, once you locate the Ponspector and complete the designated request, they’ll join your party as a passive tag-along. Of course, you’ll have to collect one of each type in order to use their special attack called Union Strike.
To activate Union Strike, players must build and max out the party gauge when in battle. Once it’s full, players can choose between three different types of attack. Yellow inflicts daze and a strength debuff on all enemies, red unleashes a blazing comet on one enemy and blue heals the party. Bonus damage can also be obtained if the player hits ‘B’ at the right time, like the chain attack feature in the main storyline. While gathering all 12 Ponspectors offers great backup, it pales in comparison to the chain attack. It’s too simplistic, lacking strategic depth. There is, however, a cool reward on completion, which comes in handy for the final boss.
Changes are afoot elsewhere too. There is no gem crafting in Future Connected, instead you can now mine gems from the ether deposits scattered across the Bionis Shoulder. You’ll need an ether pick to do that, which you can obtain by doing side quests. In fact, side quests, skip travelling and running on foot all play a major role in the epilogue. Side quests are also the only way to obtain unique armour (though you can still purchase regular armour from the in-game merchant), with Future Connected removing these drops from monsters. On the flip side, unique monsters drop Arts Coins, which can now be used to purchase Master Arts Manuals. Plus, casual and expert modes remain the same in Future Connected as they do in the main storyline, so there are no qualms there.
While Future Connected weaves a beautiful epilogue for Melia, its gameplay feels strained. You can easily reach the end of the story within 10 hours, which means the final five hours are a balancing act between fulfilling the remaining side quests, discovering all the Ponspectors and grinding your level to one that’s ready to fight the end boss. By level 79, all unique monsters and fog beasts were defeated and there’s, unfortunately, nowhere else to go. Perhaps we’re just splitting hairs, though. Unlike the main storyline, Future Connected feels like a 999-piece jigsaw puzzle – it’s missing the final piece.
As part of a much larger story though, Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition delivers finesse in all the right places. A truly polished port (or remastered version if you will), despite its handheld visuals, offering RPG fans a delightful 80+ hour adventure (90+ including Future Connected) and a taste of the Monado’s true power. As always, Xenoblade Chronicles remains one of the most tight-knit storylines of the franchise – and we can’t afford to lose our heads sight of that.
A review copy of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition was provided to My Nintendo News by Nintendo UK. To view the differences between the original version and the Switch, take a look at our preview.