7 Ways Xenoblade Chronicles is Better than Xenoblade Chronicles 2
When Nintendo and Monolith Soft first announced Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition at the end of the September 2019 Nintendo Direct, our hearts collectively skipped a beat. Originally released on the Nintendo Wii in 2010, Xenoblade Chronicles is remembered as more of a cult classic than a blockbuster success. Despite selling less than 1 million units, Xenoblade Chronicles laid the groundwork for the success of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and its DLC: Torna – The Golden Country. Although Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has nearly double the lifetime sales of the original, we believe there are seven (7) ways the OG Xenoblade is better than its successor.
1. Character Development
The essence of character development revolves around how a cast of characters change after overcoming adversities or personal flaws. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 takes an interesting approach by focusing on the development of Pyra/Mythra/Pneuma at the expense of the main character Rex. While Rex certainly has his flaws, he remains largely unchanged throughout the journey. For example, he never abandons the quirky salvager’s code nor does he let hardships affect his positive outlook on life. Rex’s consistency inspires Pyra and even Nia to dramatically alter their course from inevitable despair to believable hope. The climax of Pyra’s evolution is so enthralling in comparison to Rex’s minor personal flaws that his development is largely overshadowed as a result.
Xenoblade Chronicles adheres to a traditional approach. Instead of a consistent protagonist, the collective cast of XC1 grow together during each stage of the journey. What begins as a journey of revenge and borderline hatred evolves into a unified quest to save an entire world. Upon learning the truth, Shulk, Fiora, Reyn and company each react and grow in their own unique way. Shulk’s hatred for a singular foe turns into a determination to save both friend and foe. Fiora changes from a helpless victim into an independent warrior. Reyn realizes his strength is better served in a supporting role as opposed to a primary. The culmination of these character changes is a unified party able to save not just humanity but the entire world from a veiled antagonist.
2. English Voice Acting
English dubs continue to be a challenge for Japanese developers. While Nintendo has found recent success with Fire Emblem Three Houses, Monolith Soft continues to struggle in this arena. Although Pyra’s english dub is one of the best in the series, the voice acting for Morag, Brighid, Dromarch, and Azurda often comes across as monotone and lifeless. At times, Tora and Poppi’s voices are borderline childish. Even the emotion in Rex’s voice does not always match the tone of the current situation. Overall, the English dub in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 felt rushed and incohesive.
By no means is Xenoblade Chronicles’s voice acting perfect, but its English dub is more polished than that of Xenoblade Chronicles 2. For example, Shulk’s voice actor is able to convey both anger and remorse at the appropriate times. Reyn’s voice ranges from one of confidence to embarrassment. Sharla’s voice demonstrates not only motherly concern but also a warrior’s determination. For the most part, the voice actors are able to convey emotions that match the game’s story arcs and settings. The only forgettable voice actor is Fiora, who remains largely unseen (and heard) until the latter part of the game. It will be interesting to see what changes (if any) Monolith Soft makes to the voice acting in the Definitive Edition.
3. Overworld Music
Make no mistake. Both XC1 and XC2 have masterful soundtracks. While XC2’s battle themes depart from the traditional, its overworld compositions struggle to differentiate themselves with those of XC1. Instead of conveying an original theme and tone, the XC2 soundtrack tries too hard to mimic Xenoblade Chronicles. The Gormott theme tries too hard to be the new Gaur Plain. The Uraya track feels like a knock-off of the Satorl Marsh song. The list goes on and on.
The XC2 soundtrack is also unable to convey the same cohesive, emotional tone throughout the various overworld sections when compared to Xenoblade Chronicles. For example the Uraya daytime theme portrays a feeling of quiet solitude despite Rex and Company being traumatized by the titan. The Spirit Crucible track is slow, quiet and sad despite being this section being filled with monsters, mystery and impending doom. Xenoblade Chronicles overworld music provides a much more cohesive experience. From the homely theme of the Frontier Village to the cold, slow, and melancholy tones of the Valak Mountains at night, the over-world music of the original Xenoblade Chronicles game is not only original but also sets a precise emotional tone. If only Monolith Soft could fix the XC1 battle theme…
4. Maps & Submenus
Never has a map or a submenu been the primary driver of video game sales. But poor execution in this arena has frustrated many a player. The Xenoblade Chronicles 2 submenu was so infamously dysfunctional at launch that Monolith Soft issued an apology and a patch just two weeks after release. While the first patch streamlined the fast travel system, XC2’s menu still suffers from unnecessary complexity. Reddit and Gamefaqs forums continue to be littered with questions on menu and submenu navigation, which is disappointing considering the superb gameplay, story, music, etc…
The menu options in Xenoblade Chronicles are by no means groundbreaking, but they are simpler. The fast travel system is easy to use, the menus are well-defined, and the sub-menus are kept to a minimum. Will players purchase Xenoblade Chronicles for its menus? No. But at least they will not be as frustrated as early adopters of Xenoblade Chronicles 2.
5. Equipment Customization
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 should be applauded for bucking traditional JRPG trends with its upgrade systems. The primary issue is that the upgrade system is jumbled and borderline incomplete. Instead of the conventional approach of customizable armor upgrades, XC2 relies on a core and weapon chip system. As new chips and auxiliary cores are added to Blades, offensive and defensive stats are increased. The primary issue with this system is two-fold:
The system does not offer the same level of customization as an armor upgrade system. Blades can only carry one weapon chip at a time and at the most three auxiliary cores. Takahashi, recognizing that the Blade system was incomplete, added a temporary stat boost mechanic with the Pouch system. Pouch items afford temporary stat boosts for characters; however, the items are consumable and expire after a certain amount of time. Overall, the pouch mechanic feels obtuse and ancillary as opposed to core.
Many JRPGs utilize equipment upgrades as a means of changing a character’s appearance, which helps break up the monotony of the JRPG grind. Not only does XC2 not have an equipment upgrade system but it also does not offer a separate mechanic to change the appearance of the main cast.
Xenoblade Chronicles’ equipment upgrade system is the perfect blend of traditional and revolutionary. The traditional elements include upgrading weapons and feet, trousers, chest, arms, and helmet armor pieces, which change not only the base statistics but also the outward appearance of Shulk & Co. The gem crafting system is XC1’s revolutionary element. Collectable ether elements afford players the opportunity to craft gems that provide stat buffs. Armor and weapon sets have varying numbers of gem slots, and crafted gems can supplement equipment deficiencies. Overall, this system is more cohesive than that of XC2 while adding a bit of charm with customizable character appearances.
6. Cohesive World
Monolift Soft designed the world of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 with segregation in mind. As the titans continue to die, humanity’s land masses disintegrate along with life-sustaining resources. The result is war, isolation, and nationalism. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 creates a dynamic and unique group of kingdoms; however, the game’s segregation reaches the point of the unbelievable. Instead of forcing players to use an airship or other transportation device to travel between titans, XC2 relies on the fast-travel mechanic. On the surface this system appears adequate; however, a sole reliance on fast traveling creates unbelievable situations. For example, Rex & Co can still fast travel back to Gormott after becoming swallowed by the Uraya titan. The same is true when the party is cast into the land of Morytha. The game and its story would be much more believable had Monolith Soft added to the fast travel system.
While Xenoblade Chronicles relies heavily on the fast travel system, the game world is also a cohesive experience. Players can literally backtrack on foot from Sword Valley to Colony 9 without using fast travel. Although this path would literally take hours to complete, the option is still available. This development choice adds credibility to the world of the Mechonis and Bionis and result is a believable and united world.
7. Method of Storytelling
A traditional method of storytelling in movies is to reveal the intentions of the antagonist to the audience while keeping the protagonist in a state of ignorance. This method encourages an audience to cheer for the protagonist and even offer advice; however, the audience is still simply an innocent bystander. The agency element of video games forces players to be intrinsically involved in the protagonists outcome; therefore, revealing the true nature of a protagonist spoils the plot. The story in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 suffers from this storytelling method. While Rex & Co are often unaware of negative conspiracies, XC2 reveals the true intentions of Malos, Jin, Praetor Amalthus, and Bana before Rex confronts his adversaries. While Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has one of the more memorable stories in recent history, its method of storytelling in a video game left little room for plot twists and surprises.
The storytelling method of Xenoblade Chronicles is a hybrid approach. Instead of revealing the true intentions of various nemeses, Xenoblade Chronicles subtly hints at an adversary’s desires and then reveals the overall story once Shulk & Co encounter their foes. This method keeps players intrigued while allowing room for plot twists, which is why fans of the Xenoblade series typically love the story of XC1 more than the story of XC2.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 continues to be a JRPG staple on the Nintendo Switch. For fans who loved XC2 but never played the original game, the Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition remaster will surely be a must-play title. But we want to hear from you. Have you played both games? Which one is your favorite? What changes do you hope Monolith Soft makes with the XC1 remaster? Let us know in the comments section below or the social media links on the right.
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