How Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is able to Preserve and Build upon its Original
Some video games are timeless. They age perfectly well, and are able to be played for years on end. Whether that is their solid gameplay, unaging graphics, or simple novelty, there are always those games that seem to be ported to every new console that releases.
However, there are some games that require a bit more than a simple port, which comes in the form of a remake or remaster. A game that had its fair audience or cult following, but was in desperate need of a modern makeover on a newer console. That could be in the form of touched-up graphics, a refined gameplay system, new aspects of a story, or even all of those and more. Typically these are defined as either a remaster or a remake. Remasters usually only tamper with the game’s graphics and music to make them more updated for modern hardware, or streamline smaller aspects like menus or controls. On the other hand, remakes do that and more, doing things like overhauling gameplay mechanics, changing different in-game systems and mechanics, adding major additions to the game, or even changing the story.
There is one game specifically that is able to capture everything that the original presented, and bring even more to its already vast table, which is Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, released on May 29, 2020. This game was able to perfect the art of remastering, thanks to its various streamlined mechanics, retaining everything that made the original so special, while also bringing new content to returning players.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition – A Breath of Fresh Air and a Trip to the Past
Xenoblade Chronicles was originally released in 2010 in Japan on the Wii, and developed by Nintendo and Monolith Soft, it became a solid yet somewhat niche JRPG, but still had quite the fanbase and cult following. However, the game was not originally released in North America. Thankfully, due to efforts of a fan campaign by the name of Operation Rainfall, Xenoblade Chronicles (along with two other Wii JRPGs) released in North America eventually in 2012. The game even received an admittedly low-quality port in 2015 on the New Nintendo 3DS, and another port to the Wii U on its virtual console. However, in May of 2020, it received a heavy remaster (or remake, as some people prefer to put it) on the Nintendo Switch under the new name of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition.
To cover its basics, Xenoblade Chronicles is a JRPG that is set on two titans – the nature-filled Bionis and the mechanical Mechonis. After these two giants battled for countless years, they eventually both stopped. However, this peace was eventually halted when the forces of Mechonis, the terrible robots known as the Mechon, began invading Bionis. To stop the Mechon, a powerful sword known as the Monado was found, which allowed the people of Bionis to cut through the mechanical threat. Our game begins shortly before our main protagonist, Shulk, receives this blade for himself. After a tragic loss, Shulk sets off to Mechonis to stop them once and for all, meeting dozens of new faces on his journey and learns more about both the world around him, his mysterious Monado, and even himself. This game caught the hearts of many, mainly thanks to its charm.
Xenoblade Chronicles’ enchanting story was wonderfully intertwined with its vast array of great characters, and a wide world that truly makes the player feel small compared to the rest. However, despite its charming nature, it still fell flat in some areas. Due to being on the Wii, many of its models were not the most pleasing to look at. Characters showed limited emotions, and may even be seen as ugly to outsiders of the series. Its combat also felt a bit clunky, such an infamous glitch that made the player have to push the button twice to execute a certain type of attack, and other sluggish controls. Other systems like its confusing menus and side quest system lead many to become lost in the game, and not in a good way.
Importance of Streamlining
However, once the game was remastered in Definitive Edition, almost all of these problems were fixed. Thanks to the obvious boost in power that the Switch provided, the game looked absolutely stunning (to Switch standards). Its environments were perfectly preserved, from each cave to every hill, and were only enhanced. Areas like the glowing night-time trees of Satorl Marsh looked amazing in the remaster, and the massive scale of the Bionis and Mechonis felt as apparent as ever.
Even the gameplay felt smoother and simply more fun. Menus were streamlined and made much easier to digest and understand, the side quests were made simpler to find and complete its different objectives. Thanks to all of the game’s streamlining, it made the entire experience much more accessible to new and returning players. If a game is confusing in something as simple as trying to complete a side quest, then that is a major problem. However, Definitive Edition was able to fix this problem, making everything much easier to do. It also featured remastered music for the game’s areas and battle themes, and players even had the option to switch between these redone tracks and the original versions by simply going into the menu. Yet, from the moment of the game’s reveal, some people were not very keen with a certain very apparent new change made to the game.
A New Coat of Paint
One of the more controversial aspects was the updated character models and designs. They were made to have a more anime appearance compared to their original, which some were not very happy with. Nevertheless, these new models were able to emote more, showing their desperation, happiness, sadness, or any other emotion that was required for the scene that they were in.
Changing a game’s art style is always a risky thing to do. In recent times, a remake of the popular DS Pokémon games, Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, were announced under the names of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. What was something that was supposed to be praised and met with excitement by players was replaced with lackluster disappointment. The game features an art style with chibi-like characters in the game’s overworld, which was met with very mixed reception from some players.
Definitive Edition, on the other hand, is able to blend its old art style together with the more anime appearance of its remaster. These characters fit in with the different standards and tropes that are brought about by anime. It simply fits in more with Xenoblade Chronicles 2, which released after the original game but before Definitive Edition. Thankfully, there were definitely some major all-new additions that left many players satisfied and excited to revisit the world of Xenoblade Chronicles.
New Content to Bring Back Old Players
Definitive Edition also includes new content in the game that was not seen in the original. First was the rather small-sized challenge mode, which allows players to take on a series of challenge battles to win new sets of armor and other rare items that are difficult to find elsewhere in the game. More importantly, it introduced a brand new epilogue story, titled Xenoblade Chronicles: Future Connected, to wrap up the character arc of a certain party member. Although quite short, this new expansion was able to make players truly feel like they were playing a new experience, and be able to revisit some of the characters that they loved after so long.
This game truly borders between a remaster and a remake, and was something that was typically argued between fans of the community. Some say it was a remaster since it really just streamlined the gameplay and menus, and updated the graphics and music, while the side that calls it a remake brings up the fact that it introduced a heavy amount of new content in the form of the new epilogue campaign and the overall new feel of the game. In the end, it is not a major deal whether or not this game is a remake or a remaster, as it still is able to use the best elements of both sides to create an absolute masterpiece of a game. Although Definitive Edition brought many new aspects to the table, it still kept that same mood that was contained in the original.
Keeping the Sense of the Original
Despite releasing ten years after the original, Definitive Edition felt like both a trip to the past and a breath of fresh air. Obviously, nothing was cut or removed from the original game. Every character, story element, location, enemy, and item was included within Definitive Edition. Some of these even were expanded upon, such as new sets of armor, a new location in the aforementioned epilogue story, and even a subtle additional plot point concerning a certain fan-favorite character that will not be spoiled.
By keeping all of these elements intact, players still felt like they were playing the game that they once played and loved. However, it added just the right amount of new content and polish to make everything still feel modern and new, or even hook in new players or people who were not too fond of the original. By giving this sense of both new and old, it allows players to revisit what may be one of their favorite games ever, while also making them not feel like they wasted $60 on just the exact same game again. Pricing these games at a full $60 can be a slippery slope for gamers at times. For example, sometimes ports of older games are released on modern consoles with little or even no new additions or adjustments, but still be priced at $60, such as the recently announced The Legends of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD. However, this cannot be said for Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. What was already a rich and vast game 10 years ago still retains that and more. This pricing and quality of the game has been proved effective, since, as of November 2020, Definitive Edition sold a solid and respectable 1.40 million copies. Drawing in this new audience will obviously allow Nintendo and Monolith Soft to create more games of this franchise in the future, and build upon this already expansive franchise.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition takes these elements of both old and new and is able to beautifully intertwine them to make the new experience a breath of fresh air with its refined gameplay and graphics, while also preserving all of its original aspects. It can hook in players who are new to the franchise, while also bringing back old players who want to revisit its sprawling world but also have a bit more new content to explore. A blend of the classic feel and a modern touch is just what these new game remakes and remasters need to truly make their reimagined classics feel just as good as their original counterparts.
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