Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition review: Switch it up

Monolith Soft
Monolith Soft /

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition brings the sprawling RPG to the Switch.

Title: Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition
Developer: Monolith Soft
Publisher: Nintendo
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: May 29, 2020

If this pandemic has taught me anything about myself, it’s that I miss the days of my youth when I could get lost in a good RPG. As I got older, 60+ hour games, especially JRPGs, became overwhelming. I didn’t have the time to devote to it like I used to. But over the last few months, I tackled multiple RPGs, including Final Fantasy VII Remake. Suddenly, my RPG itch needed to be scratched. It was at that time a friend recommended I play Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition.

I probably could’ve dove right into Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and not cared. I never played the original when it released on the Nintendo Wii in 2012, or in 2015 when it came to the Nintendo 3DS. Therefore, I don’t have much to compare the Definitive Edition to. Without a basis of how the game was on the Wii, I have to solely consider how it is on the Nintendo Switch — and that’s pretty damn good.

The grandiose story of Xenoblade Chronicles starts around two giant titans — Bionis and Mechonis — locked in a battle destined to last until the end of time. That is until they froze. Their frozen, titanic bodies serve as the environment in Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. On these two new continents, life spawned — organic life on Bionis and Machina on Mechnois, which are a machine/human hybrid. They’re also the Mechon army that drives the story forward.

Like many JRPG stories, there’s a lot going on and it’s over the top at times. But at no time is it ever difficult to understand, unlike other JRPGs. What helps bring the story to life is one of the best soundtracks of any RPG I’ve played. But not to be outdone, the visuals are equally as impressive. The textures and character models are both worthy of this gaming generation. If you would’ve told me that Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition was not a remaster, but simply a first-time release on the Switch, I would have believed you.

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition
Monolith Soft /

The sprawling landscapes are breathtaking. My friend that recommended this game told me before I started playing, “I’m telling ya, Gaur Plains… just remember that feeling when you enter for the first time.” And he was right. The scale and beauty of the Gaur Plains (and varying landscapes from icy regions to thick, dense forests) is indeed something special. Exploring these areas, defeating enemies and completing quests never felt like a chore, and if I wanted to save some time on my gameplay, fast travelling was available.

The combat system is definitely not what I expected.. Though it comes across as simple, there’s a lot of depth and nuance to it. You can switch between the characters in your party, whom each have a different combat style (like the holy trinity… damage, tank, healer). They attack automatically when you start combat, including the character you’re controlling. Between auto attacks, you use abilities called Arts. There are different types of arts; some are usable after cooldowns, some require a certain number of auto attacks before using. It’s not just limited to attacks, though. Arts can provide healing, buffs, debuffs, and warn party members of an attack. Even though all characters auto-attack, there’s a lot of strategy that goes into positioning (some Arts do more damage from the side or behind an enemy), and when to use an Art.

I came into playing Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition not long after beating Final Fantasy VII Remake, which also used a combination of timed abilities, switching party members and auto-attacks. It helped me dive right into this combat system and feel comfortable without even playing the game previously, even with differences in there. I’d assume that if you played Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition on the Wii, that not much has changed here outside of some UI elements. I’m not really into min-maxing characters in games I play, but if that’s your thing, there’s an expert mode you can switch to that makes battles more difficult and gives you control over leveling and de-leveling your heroes. Likewise, there’s a casual mode you can turn on and off that makes battles easier.

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition
Monolith Soft /

With everything there is to love about Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, there are still mechanics in there that feel heavy and outdated. One of those systems is the Affinity System, that tracks the relationships between characters, which you can raise by completing quests. Now, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve played a Persona game, with the last being Persona 4 Golden on the Vita, but social links weren’t my thing then, and they definitely aren’t now.

There’s also an added epilogue called Future Connected that comes in the Definitive Edition that continues Shulk’s story. That said, after dumping hours and hours into the game (and coming off of other long RPGs), I did not play Future Connected. However, I appreciate even more story, so it’s nice to know that when I’m ready to revisit Xenoblade Chronicles, there will be something new waiting for me.

9.5. It’s hard to believe this is a game that released in 2012 and not more recently. Though there are some dated and heavy systems, the atmosphere and a combat system that gives freedom and depth make Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition an RPG for the ages.. Monolith Soft. . Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.