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Xenoblade Chronicles Review (PART 1)xandermartin98 XENOBLADE CHRONICLES REVIEW
At this point, no one, I repeat, NO ONE that calls him/herself a true Nintendo fan has ANY excuse to not know, at the very least, who Shulk is. Thanks to Operation Rainfall and more recently Super Smash Bros 4, Xenoblade has been ingrained so irritatingly deeply into us Nintendo lovers’ collective subconscious that it is literally NEVER going away, and for good reason too, as this is easily one of the most innovative games on the system, and if not quite literally THE biggest game on the system, it’s pretty damned high up there.
(Before you ask, yes, I have played Xenogears, so I DO have something from this franchise’s past to compare this game to; more on THAT game later, as I’ve decided to cover Xenoblade, the overall more unique and inventive game of the two, first.)
Anyway, let’s start with the most important aspect of role-playing games:
STORY: Ehh...don’t get me wrong, this game is still VERY good in this department, but if you’ve played the likes of Xenogears before it, it horrendously pales in comparison, especially with regards to overall character depth. The premise, however, is genuinely brilliant and unique in basically every possible sense of the words, even if the plot itself actually IS extremely pretentious and cliched (say what you will about Mother 3 and Undertale obviously having the exact same problem, but those two undeniably had the charm to make up for it, whereas with this, it’s a bit more debatable).
SKIP THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPHS TO AVOID SPOILERS, EVEN THOUGH THIS IS A GAME WHERE THE MAIN CHARACTER’S SWORD LITERALLY ALLOWS HIM TO FORESEE THE FUTURE ITSELF:
Basically, Xenoblade Chronicles is your average JRPG plot but overblown to such outrageous levels that it’s (almost) not even funny anymore. You play as Shulk, a perfectly average, run-of-the-mill blonde-haired and blue-eyed kid with a ludicrously oversized sword (disregarding his genius intellect, Bieber hair and British accent, he’s basically FFVII’s Cloud Strife by any other name), who has been experimenting in his lab in Colony 9 (located at the foot of the Bionis, the nature-themed one of the game’s iconic twin titans) to try to figure out the secrets behind the legendary futuristic lightsaber-sword known as the Monado; meanwhile, his absurdly stupid and boisterous fiery-redhead cousin Reyn is training his fighting skills at the local military complex.
However, only basically known to Shulk as he frolics about in the flower fields with his beautiful girlfriend Fiora, his badass uncle Dunban has only just recently engaged in a wartime clash for the ages with a fearsome mechanical army of robots known as the Mechon (which, of course, originate from the Mechonis, the mechanical one of the game’s iconic twin titans that have evidently been laying dormant for quite possibly hundreds of years following their epic Godzilla-sized sword duel) with his “buddies” Dickson (Shulk’s other badass uncle who looks almost exactly like Hulk Hogan, carries a bladed magical shotgun AT LEAST as big as his entire arm and has a MAJOR sarcastic chip on his shoulder) and Mumkhar (sniveling Wolverine-clawed coward who literally could not POSSIBLY be a more obvious “betrayal villain” even if he tried) at Sword Valley, the place where the Bionis’ and Mechonis’ swords absurdly conveniently intersect with each other.
However, the important thing at that particular moment in the game’s plot isn’t so much what Dunban is fighting as it is what he’s fighting it WITH; why, of COURSE he’s using the aforementioned magic lightsaber that he later passes on to Shulk! The fundamental difference, however, is that he, despite being likely THE most skilled swordsman of the entire world that the game takes place in, is simply unable to control the Monado’s immense power the way that Shulk is. Thus, he ends up barely even being able to finish the fight and having terrible pain and injuries in his sword arm for weeks afterwards; meanwhile, Mumkhar runs off and joins the Mechon army like the pathetic cowardly wuss that he is.
Shortly after Shulk retrieves the Monado from his lab (after Reyn briefly gets his hands on it and nearly tears the entire central portion OF the lab apart with it by ACCIDENT), he immediately finds himself caught right in the middle of an intense skirmish between the local Homs (basically humans by any other name; yes, he himself is also one of them) and the Mechon in Colony 9’s downtown district, marking the beginning of yet ANOTHER insanely grueling war of literal man versus machine in the process.
During all of the commotion, the good news is that Shulk discovers that the Monado was essentially MADE for him, allowing him to easily wield it in the exact same manner as literally any other regular sword; however, the bad news is that not only does a large portion of his hometown’s population presumably get slaughtered, but his girlfriend Fiora is ALSO included amongst the casualties (or so he assumes, anyway) by Mumkhar in a Mechon suit, I mean Metal Face!
(Oh, COME ON, could his secret identity REALLY be any more obvious?)
From there, the plot pretty much just becomes a glorified series of random events. First, Shulk and Reyn join together for good at last and decide to climb straight up through a spider-infested cave located in the Bionis’ lower leg (Tethra Cave, I think it was called) until they finally reach the Bionis’ knee, from which they proceed across the beautiful Gaur Plains located on the titan’s outstretched upper leg and meet Sharla, their friendly neighborhood healer and sexy crossbow-slinging seductress extraordinaire whom Reyn almost immediately develops a massive crush on.
After saving Sharla’s little cousin Juju from some kind of giant Mechon tentacle-monster and also saving Sharla’s father (or was it uncle, or neither) Otharon from drowning to death in acidic magic essence in the local Ether mine, Shulk and Sharla and Reyn finally reunite with Dunban, who is now using a regular sword to spare himself the trouble of having to deal with the Monado, and after making an incredibly narrow escape from the exploding mine (at least, that’s how I like to imagine it happened) and annoyedly fending (more accurately boring) off Metal Face, our heroes set off into the swampy Satorl Marsh located around the Bionis’ waist (basically Undertale’s Waterfall by any other name).
Of course, said marsh leads them into a very small but still deeply unsettling portion of the Bionis’ interior (whereupon they VERY disturbingly discover that the stone titan does, in fact, actually have living, biological internal organs) which takes them straight to the lush, vibrant and densely monster-infested Makna Forest located on the Bionis’ back, where Shulk and company meet the mystic dimensional keybearer Alvis, recruit Secret Princess Melia Antiqua into their party as the obligatory mage, make their way into the game’s equivalent to the Great Deku Tree and have a long, arduous discussion with an extremely, cloyingly cutesy race of fluffy multicolored Kirbies living inside of said tree that the game refers to as Nopon, the leader of which (named Riki, of course) joins Shulk’s cause and convinces his elder to let them take the portal located WAY up in the canopy of the tree to the vast Eryth Sea located in the Bionis’ crown.
At the Eryth Sea, Shulk and his friends meet a vastly technologically advanced and immensely intelligent (albeit pampered) race of people known as the High Entia, whom they enlist Melia’s help in order to bring them to the rulers of (after all, she IS their princess), leading them into yet another incredibly long and drawn-out series of events in which they raid the local High Entia tomb Indiana-Jones-style and discover that the High Entia, as human as they may look, really DO transform into some kind of hideous alien bird-things called Telethia when they die!
Predictably enough, the High Entias’ almost completely mechanical hometown of Alcamoth is quickly located and stormed by Metal Face’s personal army of Mechon troops; while the massive city’s holographic shield and meticulously trained military forces are busy fending them off (despite the fact that Shulk’s Monado is pretty the only sword-related weapon on Earth that can even properly harm Mechon in the first place), Shulk and his friends head out to the local mysteriously floating Prison Island, where they meet some kind of weird giant naked chained-up purple man who claims that his name is Zanza (more on that later) and dumps a boatload of exposition onto them about how the Monado, in addition to being his own creation and very much the reason he was sealed away to prevent his immense power from ever breaking loose again, is, much like the iconic Dracula’s Castle from Castlevania, an eldritch anomaly that can take any form or shape that it wishes, and just so HAPPENS to be formed into the shape of a two-handed sword at the moment.
Shortly after telling this to Shulk and company, “Zanza” is promptly stabbed right through the chest and killed by Metal Face, and Shulk’s resulting fit of rage causes the Monado’s lightsaber blade to extend several feet and become quite a bit more powerful than it was before as a result; after a very long and tedious clash with Metal Face, Shulk discovers, as one of the jerk’s accomplices is flying off in “his” mechanical Robotech suit, that said accomplice is actually a mechanized Fiora, prompting him to VERY cornily scream her name at the tops of his lungs.
After going back down to Makna Forest and taking yet another ridiculously long hike across the freezing-cold Valak Mountains located on the Bionis’ sword arm (and having yet ANOTHER long and irritating fight with Mumkhar, who FINALLY steps out of his Metal Face suit and reveals his true Wolverine-clawed self to them; yeah, his identity sure was QUITE the shocker, I know), Shulk and company then set out on ANOTHER agonizingly long journey through the mazelike Sword Valley located in the insanely elaborate decorative indentations of the Bionis’ sword, at the Mechon-factory-housing hilt intersection of which they find themselves facing off against Metal Face yet AGAIN (culminating in him VERY clichedly falling to his death Disney-villain-style) and being ambushed by Egil, the TRUE Big Bad of the game, in all of his glorious golden-lion-scorpion-suited glory, all the while desperately trying to get Fiora to remember who she is.
Needless to say, Shulk and his friends lose the fight by quite a large margin and are also sent falling presumably to their deaths...luckily, however, thanks to the wonderful magic of videogame plot convenience, our heroes actually SURVIVE the fall and end up washing up at the shore of the Mechonis’ chopped-off arm from when the Bionis sliced it clean off with its sword during their battle god-knows-how-many years ago.
Long story short, Shulk meets back up with all of his friends, Reyn realizes how useless he’s become COMPARED to him and Dunban, Fiora FINALLY remembers who she is and therefore permanently leaves her Mechon suit (but naturally remains in KOS-MOS cyborg form regardless) to join Shulk’s cause, and from there, the whole bunch of them FINALLY make their way up through the Mechonis’ fascinatingly complex inner workings and parts and face off against Egil’s ginormous Yaldabaoth suit in THE most epic location possible; why, the Mechonis’ brain, of course!
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