Well before I review this let me just sit back and revel in the fact that for once a game came out in Australia and not the USA. Just give me a minute... ahh! Ok enough of that. Believe it or not Xenoblade Chronicles actually is a good step forward in the realm of JRPGs, keep reading to find out more.
The story of Xenoblade Chronicles is deep and interesting. It starts with 2 giant titans called the Bionis and the Mechonis having a big fight and kill each other and there corpses become 2 land masses. Then we go into the main story itself. The Mechon(a machine race) has been attacking Homs(Humans with a different name) colonies for years and after the battle at Sword Valley a whole year has passes since Mechon have appeared on Bionis. Then They attack once again and attack Colony 9 and a new breed of mechon arrives that have a face and can't be killed by the mechon slaying blade the Monado. Now Shulk and his friends have to seek revenge for the death of Fiora(Shulk's would be girlfriend) and the Homs killed by the mechon, while unlocking the true power of the Monado.
I admit summarising the story is hard with this game since it's so deep but on to gameplay. The game being a JRPG means turn-based combat right? Well yes it does have it but in the same way as World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XII. You see it uses an auto attack combat system that you can use skills in, the difference is that the skills have a cooldown effect and don't rely on mana points(MP). This is the reason why you keep seeing the tag Action RPG for the game, but it's a TURN-BASED JRPG.
The combat is simple, since the monster roam the field instead of you being bogged down with random encounters you just target an enemy and spam skills that do damage... well that's one option. The skills you can use in battle is limited to 8 per character so choosing skills that are well rounded is a good way to go. Strategy for battle has the usual style of RPGs where each enemy has things it's weak against but this game also included an actual strategy set up for physical attackers. In this game you can make enemies fall to the ground by toppling them, making them unable to attack while grounded. There is also a chain attack that can be activated once the chain attack gauge is filled to bombard the enemy with attacks with bonuses for using the same coloured skills. Skills are broken up into different categories like ether based(magic) and physical and each colour represents the type of effect they have eg. yellow are buffs, blue is healing and red is heavy attack focused. While in combat you will also have a button come up on screen to push, pressing the button at the right time will allow you to boost the abilities of your party through tension. This also makes them harder for enemies to kill.
Navigating the world is pretty much filled with running around but a consolation to it is if you find a landmark you can warp to them using the map screen which will cut down travel time while questing and you'll be doing a lot of that. Also you will need to run around a lot to reveal the entire map, but be warned that some monster can target you if you are lower level then them. An Icon above their heads will help you know which ones to avoid.
A draw back in this game is it's sidequest. Why you may ask? Well unfortunately while borrowing the MMO combat system it also took their sidequest too. In every town and every cluster of people, sidequests are there and they are all fetch quest, monster killing, rare monster hunting and item farming quests, 52 hours in and I've suffered from quest exhaustion! There are 100's of sidequest and the only advantages of doing them is for rare items and exp. This game has borrowed so much from MMO's it's essentially a Single Player Offline Japanese Role Playing Game or SPOJRPG.
To also force hours of gameplay an affinity system has been added to the game. What does this mean? Well as you complete quest the people of the town start to like you and whoever is in your party at the time will also grow more affectionate to you for helping people. Building up positive affinity with teammates opens up new dialogue scenes that give you more insight to the characters. You can also boost affinity by being successful with the tension boosting in battle.
Now the big question, is it a good game? Yes, in fact it's great. The game breaths new life into the JRPG genre with it's combat system, along with a story that doesn't fall into JRPG stereotypes and guaranteed over 100 hours of gameplay thanks to sidequests. I've had a great time playing it because of the great music and story but the quest overload can be a problem. If you own a Wii the I say go and buy it especially if you've never played a JRPG before.