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Preview: Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition (Nintendo Switch)By justin-p At 13.05.2020 13:04

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Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is a thorough remastering of the original. It's not a remake by any stretch, but it's so much more than a port. Thanks to some fine-tuning, it manages to feel fresh and modern; a faithful retelling exempt from any drastic shakeups to its tried-and-tested formula. What's on offer are some seriously beefed-up visuals, refinements to the core mechanics, streamlined menus, a remastered soundtrack and a wealth of quality-of-life improvements - not to mention a brand new epilogue chapter, 'Future Connected.' In short, Monolith Soft is doing everything it can to make the experience feel accessible to a modern generation while retaining everything that made it excellent in the first place.

What's immediately apparent from the trailers, screenshots and side-by-side graphics comparisons released thus far is that Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition has received a massive visual overhaul. The upgraded character models are quite stunning, breathing some new and much-needed life into Shulk & Co. They aren't quite perfect, though. There are some frustrating clipping issues, with some weapons passing through armour pieces that should be solid. Character heads have clearly had more work done on them than their bodies, creating some awkward continuity problems with faces looking noticeably more polished on some armour sets, but on the whole a great job has been done to modernise and further humanise the characters.

The supercharged environments are simply gorgeous. Not only have they received sizeable resolution bumps to squeeze as much as possible out of the Switch's hardware, they've also been bolstered technically with some upgraded lighting, particle effects and other visual elements. Satori Marsh is the perfect example: by day, it's a run-of-the-mill boggy environment; grey, misty and uninviting. When the dynamic time-of-day pendulums to night, however, the trees light up, illuminating the map with beautifully rendered luminescent leaves. The mist transforms from a dreary grey to delightful reds, blues and greens, affording an otherwise unimpressive area a newfound beauty. Of course, this is only one of the beginning areas in the myriad of unique environments on offer. From sprawling plains to leaky caverns, lush forests to futuristic cities, the vast world of Xenoblade Chronicles has been given a new lease of life in this faithful retelling. The trailers do not lie: this is gorgeous. So far, there have been zero hiccups in performance - despite the fact the visuals do take a very noticeable hit when playing in handheld mode as opposed to docked.

The exemplary soundtrack makes a refreshed return as well, with remastered audio to coincide with the enhancements elsewhere. It's still early days in the journey, but so far the experience feels fully realised in a way it never has before. The fantastic soundtrack's beautiful remastering is merely one aspect of the upgrade. The classic feel of the game's epic music is still present - at times light and playful, at others suitably dramatic and compelling - but dynamically, it feels bigger and better than ever.

Combat is still as fun as it ever was and has aged extremely well, feeling in many instances just as rewarding and innovative as it did ten years ago. Basic melee attacks are executed automatically when in range of an enemy, while cooldown-based skills need manual input. Timing and positioning are the keys to victory. Many skills require that the player-controlled character is in a certain position, such as behind or beside an enemy, in order to be most effective. It's a crisp blend of real-time action and strategic combat, and the wealth of unlockable combat skills (or 'Arts', as they're referred to in-game) hint at a deep but accessible sense of progression. Unfortunately, the Combat Arts bar has not been revamped to make skills easier to access. There are no quick button inputs for those, meaning players must side-scroll through the list and manually select them, which can detract from the flow of battle when trying to fire off multiple Arts in quick succession.

The menus have undergone some much-needed fine-tuning and modernisation, though. Every menu, from the equipment screen to the HUD, has been streamlined and tidied to make the experience feel more modern as a collective whole. The Affinity Chart, for example, which displays the dynamic relationships between the inhabitants of Bionis in relation to each other and your party, has been upgraded to show some more helpful information. Not only does each named townsperson have a unique time of day they'll be out and about but they now also have their trade and location displayed in their profile as well. It's little things like these that serve to boost the interconnectivity of the many mechanics at play, squeezing as much as possible out of the existing systems without making them feel unfamiliar.

There are many other changes and improvements - such as the ability to adjust only the cosmetic appearance of your party's clothing while retaining the stats of currently equipped armour - which seem to be directly addressing the (admittedly minor) niggles and issues present in the original release. It's still early days and this reviewer has only scratched the surface of what this title has to offer, but the first signs are incredibly promising. This seems at first glance to be the remaster that Xenoblade Chronicles so desperately deserves.

User Comments
#1 RudyC3 - on 13.05.2020 at 14:44

I poured a lot of time and effort in the affinity chart back in the day. I'm glad to hear about the improvements they brought to that one. Looking forward to May 29th, though I may not be able to get my hands on the game on day 1.

( Edited 13.05.2020 15:45 by RudyC3 )

#2 justin-p - on 13.05.2020 at 14:58

For sure. One of the many quality-of-life improvements they've injected into the game... I will defo unpack all of them in more detail for the final review! When you do eventually get to play it, you're in for a treat Smilie 

#3 Dragon0085 - on 15.05.2020 at 15:52

I played very breifly on the wii, combat seemed kind of slow and reminded me of WOW (not in a good way) has this changed at all?

#4 justin-p - on 16.05.2020 at 12:20

Mechanically, combat remain largely the same, but at higher levels it's quite fast - can get downright sweaty against high level enemies! The streamlining of the HUD and other menus goes a long way to make things feel snappier on the whole too, but this isn't a remake so if you weren't sold on the original you might not be this time around either. Defo worth giving another shot though if you're on the fence!

#5 Flynnie - on 17.05.2020 at 14:57

I can't buy this game yet again, but it is great that Nintendo are leaning on Xenoblade, I want the series to continue doing well and it's great that JRPGs like this make their westwards these days. 

#6 justin-p - on 17.05.2020 at 15:08

Flynnie said:
I can't buy this game yet again, but it is great that Nintendo are leaning on Xenoblade, I want the series to continue doing well and it's great that JRPGs like this make their westwards these days. 

I agree - well said!

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