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Xenoblade Chronicles 3D Review

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Cuts like a knife

★★★★★

Shulk isn't having a great time. Not only does he have to suffer a bloody ridiculous name, even by J-RPG standards, but he's watched his home village be overrun by the terrifying Mechon, been captured by the enemy forces, and his best friend Fiora has been killed. On the plus side, he's inherited the Monado, a mysterious sword that only a select few can wield, and gained visions of the future as a side effect. Cue one heroic journey, gaining friends and allies along the way, while uncovering the dark truth at the heart of the world.

Originally released on the Wii in the console's twilight days, Xenoblade Chronicles never quite reached the audience it deserved to, though that could be said for the Xeno series as a whole, outside of Japan. It's a shame, as the franchise as a whole is great, and this in particular is a brilliant example of how to make J-RPGs relevant and engaging to modern audiences. Its combat blends the best of real-time and turn-based systems, with frenzied battles given greater depth by more powerful 'arts' moves unleashed tactically. A wide array of customisations, applied through 'Ether Gems' slotted into weapons – similar to Final Fantasy VII's Materia – adds another layer to gameplay and how you approach combat, while the world mythology is rich and varied, drawing you deeply into Shulk's quest.

One particularly nice feature is the side-quest focussed 'Affinity' system. As you progress, you can foster relationships with teammates and NPCs alike, and even improve the friendships NPCs have with each other. Often the reward is just an item for use in combat, but it's a wonderful approach to world building. Admittedly, its an approach seen in other similar games, but it's implemented particularly well here.

Having all this available to a wider audience is undoubtedly a minor blessing. Unfortunately, it's still going to be difficult to lay eyes on, but for a very different reason. Although Xenoblade requires the more advanced processing power of the New Nintendo 3DS – it won't play at all on the previous models – the game isn't all terribly well served by the hardware. The revised console still only has a paltry 800×240 resolution on the top screen where the action takes place, which doesn't work well for the level of detail packed into the game. Everything looks somewhere between grainy and blurry, as though vaseline is smeared on the screen. It's frustrating, as there's tonnes to take in here, including some pickups that require eagle eyes to spot lying around, but the hardware just can't display the detail the game demands.

As a game, Xenoblade Chronicles absolutely remains worthy of your time, particularly for fans of the genre, but it's truly disappointing that the experience is so impeded by the visuals.

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