Best JRPG since... ever?
Okay, that's a slightly hyperbolic title to give my review but it is my honestly held opinion. It's not to take anything away from the great JRP Gs
which came before but to acknowledge that Xenoblade takes the best elements from them and evolves them in an extremely satisfying way. It marries an elegant combat system, which is superficially similar to FFXIII but does a much more satisfying job of combining turn and action based combat, to a story with interesting characters who have motivations you can relate to and which, although it contains a fair bit of Japanese style mysticism, never becomes incomprehensible and maintains it's narrative drive for its 100+ hours. Even the comic relief character (who's arguably the best tank
in the game) doesn't become irritating.
In a 400 word review it's difficult to decide what to focus on given that there's so much to this game. Perhaps the best way to start is to say that it's a technical masterpiece and you'll spend a good few hours marvelling that graphics this impressive are possible on what is, essentially, over-clocked PS 2
era hardware with more RAM. While the environments vary the best of them, Makna Forest is my personal favourite, are jaw droppingly lush and huge (that extra RAM is clearly being used to full effect). All the cut scenes are in-engine and carefully designed to play to the strengths of the Wii hardware, with lots of nice translucency effects and camera angles which minimise the impact of the SD textures.
I also thought the dub, which I know has been controversial in some sections of the internet, is very good. There's some nice inter party chatter during battles which varies depending on which combination of characters you use and their respective affinity levels (affinity being an intra party friendship meter which rises the more characters fight together, high levels open up special events).
In conclusion (and I know I haven't had chance to discuss the combat system or any of the dozen or so other things which make this game so special) imagine if, at the time Square-Enix decided to move DQ to the technically inferior but best selling DS, they had made a similar decision to take FF to the Wii and produced this game as FFXIII. It would, I think, have been far better received and perhaps regarded as the best game in the series.