Xenoblade Chronicles is one of the best JRPGs of the decade, and it succeeded by breaking the mold. The great characters and strong storylines we love from the genre were innovatively merged with the massive open worlds and exploration we typically associate with western RPGs and MMOs, creating a game that was enormous as it was deeply compelling. In effect, it reinvented and reinvigorated a genre that many, albeit incorrectly, feel is stagnating.
Xenoblade Chronicles X seems set to do the same. Only on a much grander scale. With mechs. And multiplayer!
Monolith Soft's upcoming Wii U exclusive has been on our radar ever since its first teasers, but Nintendo have now launched a slew of new details by way of one of an utterly stunning Japanese Nintendo Direct presentation. You can watch the video above, but for your convenience, here's what we now know about Xenoblade Chronicles X... and why we feel that it's one of the most exciting releases of 2015.
We find ourselves on the planet Mira after a devastating crash landing: a vast and dangerous world consisting of numerous different biomes teeming with enormous monsters and neutral animals. Much of it is mysterious and unexplored, from the verdant Grassland Continent to the Night Light Forest, rocky forgotten canyon and menacing volcanic Black Steel continent. Each individual area appears to be utterly enormous, boasting varied topography that you can navigate with new powerful jumps and enhanced mobility, but made newly accessible by way of a fast-travel option via a detailed GamePad map. It's good to see Xenoblade Chronicles X pushing the sprawling open world of the original, but adding new tweaks to make exploration both more dynamic but more convenient.
Our safe haven in the wilds is New Los Angeles (NLA), a colony city that acts as both home base and military headquarters. It seems to be designed like a real city with various relateable buildings and structures from cafes to churches, NPCs thronging the streets at least in the bustling commercial area. However, there's also a military complex that hosts The Blades: NLA's defence and police force rolled into one. Half military police and half reconnaissance operatives, they're a force to be reckoned with.
We'll have to head out into the wilds of Mira sooner or later though, both to explore uncharted territory, find treasure and locate other survivors whose life pods fell further afield. Like Xenoblade Chronicles, we'll be able to control any member of our party on the field maps and in combat, once again choosing whether to engage or avoid the wild animals we encounter. Since many of these colossal creatures will be able to annihilate a low-level or poorly-equipped party, we'll have to pick our battles. The scale of the open world has been expanded yet further, since every continent is apparently stuffed full of secrets to uncover, lofty viewpoints to discover and indigenous natives to meet.
Exploration has been further enhanced with the addition of Data Probes: beacons that can be used to detect nearby treasures, expand NLA's reach of influence and act as fast travel locations. Once we find a 'Frontier Spot,' we can deploy a data probe to reveal points of interest and information about the surrounding area, which factors back into the quests and dialogue we'll encounter from the NPCs back in NLA. The more we scout, the more subquests and dialogue options will open up to us, whether dished out by the inhabitants of New Los Angeles or via Blade bounties. In keeping with the original Xenoblade Chronicles, our relationships with NPCs will also improve as we perform quests for them, factoring into an expanding web of social entanglements, new friends and potential allies. We met a few, including what appears to be Riki's comedy relief replacement.
There's another form of fast travel in Xenoblade Chronicles X, though, and it's high time we talked about the mechs in the room. Or, as we now have to call them, 'Dolls.' Lame name aside, these hulking battle machines can only be piloted by high-ranking Blade members, and are capable of transforming into land-based or aerial vehicles to allow us to cover more ground. I daresay that we'll also be able to dish out some serious pain in combat, too, though we'll find out more about the battle system next time.
In yet another twist, though, we won't be alone! Xenoblade Chronicles X will support up to four players in a selection of online cooperative missions, while allowing up to 32 players to share information and items with each other. Seeing as the franchise borrows heavily from MMOs in terms of structure, this seems like a neat compromise, letting us play with friends while still making us the stars of our own adventure.
We also learned a few basic facts too. There'll be a Xenoblade Chronicles hardware bundle in Japan to coincide with the April release, though whether Nintendo Of Europe follow suit later this year remains to be seen. Some Xenoblade Chronicles 3D details have also emerged, including the fact that it will unlock extra content if you have the Shulk figurine. If you're interested, you can still get a cheap Xenoblade Chronicles 3D pre-order at £29.95.
So Xenoblade Chronicles X promises to build on the vast open world and compelling exploration of its predecessor, delivering an even wider, taller, more varied and more nuanced environment to explore, while giving us new ways to travel, battle and interact with Mira and its inhabitants. All while hopefully providing the memorable characters, detestable villains and thought-provoking storyline to keep us engaged. So long as the finished product lives up to its clear potential, Xenoblade Chronicles X seems set to reinvent the RPG on Wii U later this year.