Towards the end of the Nintendo Wii’s lifespan, support for the console really began to trickle to a halt. Fewer and fewer games were released, and the ones that were tended to be of average quality at best. At least, that’s how it seemed to me. Even before the ill-fated WiiU was announced, it was clear that something new was going to have to come soon – Nintendo’s release schedule was practically barren. There were however, three titles that managed to get a rather large amount of global attention, all three RPGs from Japan – Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower. They got an especially large amount of publicity in America, where Nintendo had stated they had no intentions of releasing the games. In a rather unusual turn of events however, those of us in Europe had no such quandary. For once, we were set to receive games that the US market wasn’t going to get.
Of the three, Xenoblade Chronicles was the one that seemed particularly interesting to me. I had the special edition pre-ordered from reading the previews of the game in the Official Nintendo Magazine, and the special edition red pro controller that it came with was just too good-looking to miss. When launch day came around I made the trip over to the local shopping centre with my family and picked up the fat box that it came in, my excitement about getting home to open it barely contained.
Starting the game up, I was immediately wowed. Some games take a while to grow on you, the sequel to this game included, but with Xenoblade, the reaction was immediate. These wide open spaces, giant hub worlds with monsters roaming freely, NPCs moving about their day as the in-game clock crawled towards nightfall. For people with Xbox 360s or PlayStation 3s, this might not have been quite as amazing, but for me, with my little Wii that could, this was eye-opening. I’d quite frankly never seen anything like it. The thing about Xenoblade though, was that the feeling of amazement never really went away. The story fully shook me, with plenty of ‘I can’t believe they just did that’ moments, and after every climactic showdown, my party would head off into a new area, each time bowling me over just as much as the first time. I remember finally getting towards the sea and just being astounded by how wide the world felt.
For me, Xenoblade took over hours of my life – long summer days in front of the television, my Laura Marling and Scissor Sisters CDs playing in the background – but I never quite managed to reach the end. Xenoblade is a gargantuan game, its story easily the longest and deepest I had played until that point. It did,however, as I mentioned previously, come very late in the Nintendo Wii’s life cycle, when I was ready to move on into new things. Xenoblade came along at the end of my GCSE year, just as I readied myself to move into college and take up A-Levels. Friendship groups changed and shifted, my hobbies changed, and unfortunately, my little Wii got left behind for a while. I never quite came back to Xenoblade, but the fact that I never finished it doesn’t take away from how much I loved my time with the game and how happy it made me to spend time in that world.
Xenoblade did of course eventually get two re-releases, one on the 3DS, which I passed on, and another on the Nintendo Switch, which I pre-ordered as soon as it was announced. I’m making pretty slow progress through the Switch version, but I’m loving the experience just as much as I did the first time. To anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of sitting down with what is clearly developer MonolithSoft’s magnum opus, I urge you to give it a go. Who knows, I might even find the time to sit down and finish it some day.