Xenoblade Chronicles: Could this be the best RPG on Wii?

Hands-on with the highly sought-after JRPG...

America, avert your eyes. This is the game that's got everyone all up in arms on the internet, basically because we're getting it in the UK and they're, erm, not.

They've even gone so far as to launch a righteous campaign for its US release - Operation Rainfa ll, they call it - and that's without even knowing if Xenoblade is actually going to be any good. We Brits didn't make this much fuss when we found out we weren't getting Excitebots, did we?

Any way, when Nintendo UK - bless their game-releasing hearts - called us up and invited us round to play the English language version, we jumped at the chance to see what the fuss was all about.
We'd already played the Japanese version, noting its potential before slamming headfirst into the language barrier and awarding it a baffled
77% in NGamer (add at least 10% if you're fluent in Japanese, was our sage advice).


Now that we can actually understand the game, it seems we may have underestimated just how fantastic Xenoblade really is. Not only is it one of the best-looking things on Wii, it also has layer upon layer of customisation, and a battle engine that offers countless possibilities while remaining wholly accessible.

The high-quality mechanics are wrapped up in a story that would make a rather excellent anime. It begins in the dawn of time, with two vast titans called Bionis and Mechonis locked in cataclysmic combat, ankle-deep in an endless ocean. They expire simultaneously, leaving their hulking corpses to fossilise over the aeons, each poised to strike a finishing blow that never came. There they will remain for eternity.

Their bodies become the host for new life - two opposing nations destined to play out this unfinished conflict from prehistory. Bionis is the home of the unfortunately named Homs, a peaceful race that has become militarised to defend against the peril of the Mechons, flesh-eating robots from the dark, forbidden land of Mechonis.

A brief, playable prologue relates the story of the Hom heroes who routed the Mechons in a decisive battle thanks to the Monado - the only weapon effective against the robots - and Dunban, the only man capable of wielding it.

Fast forward a year, and Bionis is a tranquil place. We meet Shulk, Fiora and Reyn, friends since childhood, who've grown up under the shadow of the Mechon threat. We see a bored army, growing listless through inactivity. Dunban hasn't recovered from the injuries he sustained in battle - a side-effect of the Monado being that it saps the life force of the person who uses it.


After a little exploration in the area surrounding the hometown of Colony 9, the peace is shattered by the return of the Mechons, their strength bolstered by a new type of Metal Face robot that seems impervious even to the Monado.

Colony 9 is ravaged; the scientifically minded Shulk discovers he, not Dunban, is the Monado's chosen one; together with Reyn, he sets out to track down the robot scourge and destroy them once and for all. But how can he hope to tackle the indestructible Metal Face?

There's an epic journey ahead, and Bionis is a suitably awe-inspiring backdrop for the adventure. After leaving Colony 9 and arriving at the titan's knee, we were struck by the monumental scale of the game world. Gaur Plain stretches off into the distance, rocky causeways twisting overhead, composed of calcified ligaments. Streams gather into rivers and plunge into the void, tumbling for miles to the sea below.

The architecture is huge, elaborate and extraordinary, yet somehow the Wii runs it perfectly smoothly. There are creatures here, too - far bigger than anything in Colony 9. We had no idea how to even begin taking down monsters large enough to have trees growing on their backs, but fortunately the majority will leave explorers alone unless provoked.

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