Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition First Impressions

My first impressions of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition are largely positive, it’s a fresh RPG brimming with character.

I know I’m late to the party, but I finally convinced myself to get Monolith Soft’s remake of its titular classic, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. This Nintendo Switch title is essentially a remaster of the original Xenoblade Chronicles released for the Nintendo Wii back in 2010.

Featuring updated graphics and character models, this Definitive Edition feels right at home on Switch, and honestly, it’s hard to believe a game this epic and on a scale like this was released on the Wii so long ago. After seeing images and a few videos of the game, I was initially reticent to pick it up. I’m in an ongoing second play-through of its sequel, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and for whatever reason I think the look of the interface in the sequel looks more professional and polished compared to DE (Definitive Edition). In hindsight, I’m starting to feel as though the polish of its menus and the battle palette in the sequel, came at the expense of complexity and the confusing mess that is Xenoblade Chronicles 2. I’ll compare the two more later, for now let’s dig into the meat of the game.

Xenoblade Chronicles:DE begins with you in a flashback as Dunban, one of the series’ heroes locked in a battle with the Mechon, a race of machines bent on destroying the Homs, or humankind. The two have been locked in an eternal fight ever since the gods, the Bionis and the Mechonis perished eons ago as they were locked in battle. The two gods fell into a stalemate and both died where they stood. The gigantic beings, so large that their bodies essentially formed continents; Homs and organic life flourished on the Bionis and mechanical life spawned on the Mechonis. Eventually the two factions began to attack each other and wage war and that’s where we start.

Dunban happens to wield the Monado, an enchanted sword that is also one of very few weapons that can actually harm the Mechons. Its power takes a toll on his body paralyzing him as he is carried away from battle, still alive. Back in town, one year later, you play as Shulk, a young villager who studies technology. Shulk, who studies the Monado, eventually is offered the chance to use it and to everyone’s surprise, Shulk not only is unharmed by it, but gains visions of the future when he wields it. This results in him seeing premonitions when an ally is about to die, which he is sometimes able to change.

From a story standpoint, DE’s premise is far more digestible and organic than its sequels. Humans hate machines, they’ve been locked in eternal war, now we’re going to kill all those damned machines. Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s problem is it tries to do too many things at once. The story starts off slow and boring about a salvager who salvages treasures in a “sea of clouds” that is somehow also like an ocean which he needs a suit for. Shortly after he is killed, reborn and must save the world with the help of Blades, human and anthropomorphic animal-like beings that serve as weapons and low-key slaves to their Drivers. In comparison, it really is a convoluted mess.

The DE has some of the core elements of its sequel, but without Blades you fight enemies directly, you don’t need Blades to attack. The world is vast with large plains, mountains, streams, rivers, plateaus and more all with large swaths of creatures that roam around just like they would in an MMORPG or a modern open-world RPG game (think Borderlands or The Division without shooting). Towns are full of life with residents going about their day and many able to offer conversation, trade items with you or give an almost endless amount of quests. There’s a lot to do here and sometimes it seems overwhelming, but it’s a focused overwhelming, compared to this game’s sequel.

I find myself more easily enjoying my time with this game, even at the beginning, which I can’t say wasn’t true of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, but I spent much more time in that game feeling lost, feeling like I could never finish everything the sequel was asking me to do. I guess I will find out as I delve deeper into this role-playing gem.

Life is Strange 2 Final Impressions

Life is Strange 2 is a wild journey and welcome addition to the series, showing brotherhood trumps all.

This post will have spoilers for the game, Life is Strange 2.

At the end, I got the Blood Brothers ending, and I was pretty satisfied.

After a couple months, I have finally finished Life is Strange 2, a moving journey, tackling issues of race, nationalism, rites of passage, but most importantly family and brotherhood.

Life is Strange 2 is the episodic tale of the Diaz brothers as they make a break for Mexico in an attempt to flee from the law after a horrible accident results in the death of their father. The cause of their exodus may be slightly cliche and happens in a relative split second, but as in life, the journey can oft be more important than the destination.

Player choice is highlighted, just as was the case in the two previous games, but instead of having the power to turn back time, the consequences of your decisions not only may impact the storyline, but influence your little brother, Daniel Diaz, who you, Sean, must watch over during the journey.

I may not have felt the same sense of gravitas from LiS2 that was in the first game, but man if I was not pulling for the Diaz brothers, or treating each decision like I would’ve with my own little brother. I didn’t let Daniel cuss, and despite our Dad having raised us as mostly indifferent to religion, in an aside where you have the choice to pray with your grandparents, I told Daniel to do it, as opposed to telling our grandma essentially “Heaven nor God are real, so why bother?”

Life is Strange 2’s third episode felt the most like other games from the series to me.

I felt the same sense of awkwardness coupled with protectiveness during the most “Life is Strange” -like segment to me, the third episode, where the brothers find themselves on a pot farm working with hippies, all young adults, to earn money. This is one of the few times you feel a sense of family among friends, and experience some of the teenage motifs characteristic of the series. On the farm, you meet the punk hippie Cassidy, who’s too cool for life, but ends up falling for you as a love interest. The sexually ambiguous dread-locked guy, Finn, who claims to be your brother and takes everything with the breeze. The religiously up-brought Jacob, who seems he would always choose going to bed early over partying all night with his coworkers. The cool European couple assimilating to our culture while being oh so chill and rad.

Episode 3 hit me the hardest, aside from the ending of the game. It was one of the few parts where you really got a feel for Sean’s personality, and didn’t have to see him constantly getting beat up by the world. Sean finally seemed to be happy and feeling a sense of self, without sacrificing his values. During a campfire, you have the choice of drinking and smoking weed with your newfound friends. Your little brother Daniel is present, as well. I breathed a sigh of relief as Sean took a drink and a toke, but when the pot got passed near Daniel and he reaches for it, Sean instinctively says “no” he’s not letting his 9-year-old brother indulge. I would’ve done the same with my brother and I was relieved, because as a teen I knew people who wouldn’t care if their barely age ten sibling smoked pot. It sort of brought be back to the protectiveness that comes with being a big brother.

The sex scene between Sean & Cassidy was one of the most realistic love scenes I’ve ever seen in a video game. Awkward, filled with self-doubt, and nervousness. I think anyone who played this game vicariously experienced “their first time” through Sean all over again. It was refreshingly real and not overly dramatic like many video game sex scenes.

By the end of the game, the tension has been ratcheted almost too quickly to levels almost unreal. Actions aren’t life or death for the brothers, but they are for many others. The brothers’ escape from custody for the second time in the last episode happens so quick it’s anticlimactic. A valid criticism for the whole of the game; everything happens so fast, it almost doesn’t make sense, however the emotions and feels throughout still hit hard and tug at your heart strings.

My ending of the game was “Wolf Brothers” after escaping at the US-Mexico border, the Diaz brothers (seemingly) spend the rest of their lives in Mexico. A scene occurs with the caption “Five years later” as we see a gruff, bad-ass looking Sean running a Mexican mechanic shop. We see him suddenly with his hands up, moving into frame showing a gang of three holding Sean at gunpoint. Daniel comes around the corner using his powers to blow away two thugs and twist the last assailant’s arm backwards. As they flee, the brothers stash large amounts of money in a safe then enjoy a beer on the beach behind their shop. It’s bittersweet knowing my journey ended with them as vigilantes seemingly forever in Mexico, possibly dealing drugs and living a life bending the rules, but in the end they were still together. After losing almost everything and everyone else, the brothers still had each other.