Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is Endless Epic Annoying Anime

first_imgStay on target First off, how impressive is it that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 even came out this year? Revealed in January, the epic Japanese role-playing game closes off a fantastic debut year for Nintendo Switch that also included an epic Zelda game and an epic Mario game. Plus, this came only two years after Monolith Soft’s Xenoblade Chronicles X, which released five years after the first Xenoblade Chronicles. That’s quite the turnaround for a game this huge.And make no mistake, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is huge. Sheer scale is the biggest, best thing the game has going for it, and it comes in a variety of forms. The game is full of massive worlds to explore. There are lots of things to encounter in those worlds. And there is an overwhelming amount of mechanics for interacting with those things.This is all very good, great even. But despite playing for dozens and dozens of hours, I could never fully enjoy Xenoblade Chronicles 2 without reservations. It’s an aesthetic preference, but for me the game is constantly brought down by its insistence on being an obnoxious anime.Let’s start with what works. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has a legitimately intriguing premise. In the world of Alrest living beings are forced to reside on continent-sized creatures called Titans (who sometimes sound like Winnie the Pooh). The countries on each Titan have their own culture and political squabbles with other nations. The Titans travel through a sea of clouds, with working-class salvagers diving beneath them to retrieve relics from the old world. It’s a bit like Xenoblade Chronicles 1 crossed with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. And with Titans dying, the shrinking amount of livable space has some dreaming of returning to the paradise Elysium. Oh, and there’s a month called “Amathatober,” which is just great.Embark on a journey to these Titans and explore the vast, open, and varied environments on their backs. Traveling lush, natural, alien worlds is something of a hallmark for the Xenoblade series. Like Final Fantasy, the plots are all self-contained and the Moogle-like Nopon are the only recurring characters. But the wanderlust, set to heavenly music, helps the series feel consistent. I miss the freedom of Xenoblade Chronicles X’s giant robots, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild spoiled every game where you can’t climb every surface, but I think Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has them both beat in terms of just how gorgeous these multilayered vistas are.Titans aren’t just for gawking at, though. Within the twisted treetops and weird stomach caverns are tons and tons of deep systems for players to engage with steadily introduced throughout the opening hours. Manage a guild of mercenaries and send them on missions you obtain. Develop various towns you visit to gain access to new items. Sleep at an inn to level up faster with bonus XP for a delayed, satisfying power boost. Cook meals for temporary stat bonuses. Pay attention to the tide patterns of the freaking clouds to reach new areas of the map.And then there’s the combat, the activity you’ll probably do the most in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. This game’s justification for keeping “blade” in the title comes from the fact that in this world special people called “Drivers” fight using powers granted to them by humanoid partner weapons called “Blades.” Blades come in different shapes like swords, hammers, or guns, and they offer an array of elemental attacks called “Arts.”Each Driver in your party can swap between several blades during a fight, and you can improve them through equipped items or by just spending more time with them. Blades can even unlock new paths on the map. Gather and awaken new Blades rare and common by playing the story and through random loot drops. It’s a fiddly but cool system that makes your party feel dynamic, adaptable, and bigger than it actually is.The fights themselves use the single-player MMO-type gameplay Xenoblade has always featured. Characters attack automatically if they stand still so it’s up to players to control the complex crowd chaos by managing aggro and cooldowns of various Arts. Moving to, say, pick up a health vial halts the attack, so you need to be strategic. You also may want to opt for the accented English voice-over, even though Japanese is available as well, just to easily understand helpful repeated audio cues like incoming ally attacks.Against lower-level enemies, the game basically plays itself. But against tougher challenges like bosses or unique monsters like “Sniping Brent” you need to wrap your head around ideas like elemental chains, toppling and launching opponents, big team attacks, sealing off enemy spells, and other various deeper combat options. If you can understand and purposefully trigger it, you’ll rack up a ton of damage following a level four “Smash Volcano.” The game easily lasts over 70 hours, and it may take you that much time to fully master the combat. I liked it!In fact, I liked a lot about the experience of playing Xenoblade Chronicles 2. It’s only when I had to look at the characters or pay attention to their stories did the game begin to fall apart. In theory the art style is actually an improvement from previous games. Colors are livelier, faces are expressive instead of dead-eyed and doll-like, there’s an almost cel-shaded sheen I really dug, and as I mentioned earlier the environments have never looked better.Too bad that’s all wasted on characters that seemed like they were designed on a dare to prove Hayao Miyazaki’s famous truth “anime was a mistake.” In terms of insufferability, they really run the gamut. You have the stupid diving parachute pants of main character Rex. You have “so dumb it’s kind of cool” like Morag’s super serious train conductor army lady outfit. You have the flat-out gross designs of all the hyper-sexualized (but not in a good Bayonetta way), hyper young-looking female Blades, including main legendary blade Pyra and her massive glowing metallic chest. And then you have the villainous group Torna designed by popular Japanese Rob Liefeld Tetsuya Nomura, who the game specially credits as if that were a good thing.It’s not just the designs though. Too often Xenoblade Chronicles 2 pulls me out out the endless epic fantasy to become just another annoying anime. Cutscenes are frequent and drag. They all last like three times as long as necessary and sometimes feature action that would’ve been way better if I could play through it. Their length also makes it sometimes awkward to play the game portability on Nintendo Switch, unlike the open-world gameplay itself which is perfect for the handheld device.And the scenes themselves are just full of the most grating writing and lazy tropes. After vowing to defeat my foes with the “power of friendship” I then ogled my harem of female party members (including a cat girl of course) dipping into a hot spring or discussing the value of being a maid. Previous Xenoblade games were never afraid to put the “J” in “JRPG,” but their tones were never this bad.I dunk on anime a lot, and sometimes even I think I’m just exaggerated my opinions for comedy. But Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s sabotaging of its own cool ideas with just some of the most generic and gross anime filler “fan service” honestly hurt the game for me. While trekking across Alrest’s sprawling, beautiful Titans, skillfully defeating hordes of monsters through carefully planned Arts and loadouts, I felt like I could play and marvel at this game forever. But whenever I had to watch one of these many cutscenes, or even worse rewatch them after losing due to difficulty spikes and repeated grinding, I just wanted to shut it all down faster than I could hit the skip button.Xenoblade Chronicles 2 should satisfy its niche, and then some. And if you’ve already played through all of the other excellent games the Nintendo Switch has offered this year, this will certainly give you plenty to chew through this holiday.But as for my take? Wikipedia describes “Tsundere” as “a Japanese term for a character development process that describes a person who is initially cold and even hostile towards another person before gradually showing a warmer side over time.” So what’s the opposite of that?Buy it now!Super Mario OdysseyThe Legend of Zelda: Breath of the WildNintendo SwitchProtect Your Nintendo Switch With These Awesome CasesLet us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. ‘Star Wars Pinball’ Has Your Favorite Brand in Ball FormSNES Games Officially Come to Nintendo Switch last_img

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