|Operation: Complete. Oh, come on, we did a lot to get this game localized! Like, we bitched for a while...|
Remember how I said this month had a different theme?
Alright. Now, there aren't many games that garner my attention... they either need to be really- well-put-together games, or they need to be completely innovative games. Recently, I haven't been too fond of games that reinvent classic staples of games... except, you know- Skyward Sword, which pretty much reinvented Zelda.
BUT otherwise, I'm not much of a fan of same-old, same-old. I don't really like sequels that don't improve much on the core mechanics of their game- that, to me, is boring. But when a game gets pretty much everything that it's supposed to get right, right... that's a hard thing to ignore.
I remember watching the first videos for Xenoblade Chronicles, and I thought to myself, "That seems like an amazing place to explore." and that was before I found out that you could go pretty much anywhere. Xenoblade forms a massive playing space with random encounters in it as the template, and then layers on a brilliant story and diverse gameplay to make a winning JRPG.
Now, when I say "JRPG", what exactly do I mean? There's a few qualifications that factor into that label and I want to make them known. A Japanese Role Playing Game needs to have a focus on statistics of some sort that you can improve, with the right amount of chance and skill. Games that achieve this are:
1- The Final Fantasy Series, I-X
2- The Paper Mario Series, 1 and 2
3- The "Tales of" Series, pretty much everything.
4- Dragon Warrior/Quest Series
4- Pokemon, but only -ish.
Now, a JRPG must also possess an incredible story- and this can't be your normal story, folks. This is a story that takes hours to complete- this isn't your twenty-hour story, this isn't your fifty-hour story... this is your 70+-hour story. This has an established universe with enough sidequests to make you feel like you've had a nasty experience with it. This has to be a story that is emotional for all sides, and has stakes that are just as deeply rooted in base human emotion as they are rooted in fantasy. If you've played half of the games above, you know how well their story is implemented, and spurs you on to become better based on its gameplay and the challenges it throws at you to keep you guessing.
Sometimes JRPG's have a great soundtrack, too.
The last, and potentially most important part of a JRPG is the theatrical elements. I don't care if it's those movie files, heavy text-boxes, in-battle sequences, or the in-game, wordy cutscenes. If your JRPG doesn't have a solid form of delivering its story based on the flashiness it presents, then is ain't got shit.
Now, there are the finer-tuned aspects of JRPG's, as well. A collectable theme is appreciated- such as monsters to obtain, or materials for crafting. That is also a nice addition- crafting, or using materials available in your inventory to craft. The strategy of battle comes from the type of battle system that exists, though- if it's turn-based, time-based, real-time, based, or what-have-you, the battle system usually includes some planned method of defeat or strength. Sometimes you can even affect the relations you have with certain people you interact with on a gameplay level- that's always a treat.
But what the creators of Xenoblade (Or, Xenoblade Chronicles, [Or, Monado- Beginning of the World]) did was take pretty much every element of that winning formula and put enough work into it to not make it look like a piece of shit, especially on a system like the Wii. Simply put, Xenoblade is one of the titles that, if you own a Wii, you simply HAVE to own. It's not because it breaks any new ground, but because it does everything we love about our classic JRPG's and polishes it to perfection. Sure, the graphics may not be spectacular, but then again, take a second look at the game- are any of the gameplay environments not fantastic? The sense of scale and of a natural world really develops around you. The battle system is incredibly deep and can be manipulated to the player's liking. The theatrics are amazing. The soundtrack is beautiful. The story is long and deep. The side-missions are fantastic and improve the experience. It has mechanics that alter the story as you play based on the relationships you want to establish- a party system that is really affected by its player. It is a truly monstrous game for any system- which is saying something in the day of shooter sequels and one-track stories. It highlights everything that makes a good JRPG good and makes it great- so that you feel like you're in that new universe and that you're becoming the guy.
I don't normally gush about role playing games, but I felt that, in spirit of this game's confirmation, it seemed like the right thing to do.
Attention- this article also comes in spark notes version, which has everything that's really important highlighted in bold print- that's the points that I'm really trying to make throughout the article and gives you the general, less-wordy gist of things.