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.

Xenoblade Chronicles painting by Restrainart.

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.

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition.
The characters of Shulk and Reyn overlooking their vast world in Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition.

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

Shulk and Reyn traveling across the Bionis Leg
The characters of Shulk and Reyn traveling across the Bionis Leg in Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition.

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.

Shows the graphical overhaul of the game and the cleaned up gameplay.
Gameplay of an early boss fight within Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition.

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

The streamlined side quest menu within Definitive Edition. Shows an example of one of the points of the previous paragraph, and the enhancement of the remake.
The streamlined side quest menu within Definitive Edition.

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

Shows the graphical comparison between the three major versions of the game.
A comparison between the versions of Shulk present within the three versions of the game. Credit: Nintendo Everything

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

Key art for the new expansion – Xenoblade Chronicle: Future Connected.

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

An opening shot of the first cutscene in Definitive Edition, which follows the exact same premise and story as 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.

Shulk's first appearance in Xenoblade Chronicles
Shulk’s first appearance in Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition.

Work Cited

Brian. “Xenoblade Comparison.” Nintendo Everything, 13 May 2020, nintendoeverything.com/video-xenoblade-chronicles-definitive-edition-switch-vs-wii-vs-new-3ds-comparison/.

“Disappointed Fans Criticize Pokémon Diamond & Pearl Remakes | LevelUp.” Ruetir, 26 Feb. 2021, www.ruetir.com/2021/02/26/disappointed-fans-criticize-pokemon-diamond-pearl-remakes-levelup/.

Gange, Ken. “Operation Rainfall: How a fan campaign brought Nintendo to its knees.” PCWorld, 4 Mar. 2013, https://www.pcworld.com/article/2028905/operation-rainfall-how-a-fan-campaign-brought-nintendo-to-its-knees.html

Hayton, Phil. “Game Remakes vs Remasters: What’s the Difference?” TechRadar, 4 Jan. 2020, www.techradar.com/news/game-remakes-vs-remasters-whats-the-difference.

Nintendo, “The Legend of Zelda™: Skyward Sword HD for Nintendo Switch.” Nintendo, https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/the-legend-of-zelda-skyward-sword-hd-switch/

Nintendo. “Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition for Nintendo Switch.” Nintendo, www.nintendo.com/games/detail/xenoblade-chronicles-definitive-edition-switch/.

Sickr. “Nintendo Confirms Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Has Sold over 2 Million Copies Worldwide.” My Nintendo News, 6 Nov. 2020, mynintendonews.com/2020/11/06/nintendo-confirms-xenoblade-chronicles-2-has-sold-over-2-million-copies-worldwide/.

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36 Comments

  1. Grant
    1

    This game is something truly special. When you think about it, there are so many parallels you can find between it and Kingdom Hearts too. And hey, the sequel is pretty darn good too!

  2. Ariel
    1

    Spoilers: The scene where Dickson dies is one of my favorite from Xenoblade 1. Despite what he says, Dickson loved Shulk. He doesn’t want to force Shulk to kill him outright, that’d be too painful for both of them. Damn. I always cry on that scene. This and XBC2 are the only pieces of media that have made me cry. Damn good series.

    • Waggon
      0

      Agreed. There were a few scenes in XBC2 that got me. Which speaks volumes about it’s masterful storyteloling. The hardest thing for a game developer to achieve is to get the player emotionally invested in the characters. Many devs never once achieve it, let alone twice now in the case of Monolith Soft.

  3. Jones
    0

    I don’t mean to write a review here, but id like to share my thoughts. To preface, xenoblade chronicles 1 is my favorite game of all time, and has been for quite a while.

    Seeing this DE revealed made me the happiest person ever, and for good reason. I have hyped this game up and been anticipating it for so long now, and after 100 percenting both it and future connected, i can conclude I feel a bit underwhelmed by it. They told of how they fixed a lot of things fans of the original requested, and tweakes some things to make it a better experience… But no. As for the main game they have changed nothing other than graphics, quest markers, and alvis’ chest.

    They said they remastered 90+ tracks on Twitter, but they really only remastered 54. This game has Also turned out to be quite buggy for me, and many others as I’ve seen online. I’ve seen enlarged models, t poses, characters mouths not moving, floating characters, going through walls, all with out even trying. It seems very rushed out for the summer, which is truly unfortunate. They may add things in a future patch, but they can not fix the story that they did not change. (Spoilers) no resonation with alvis, not changing the beanstalk or showing the zohar, not even slightly referencing xc2 in anyway. (End Spoilers) seeing the very high quality models doing the exact same animations from 10 years ago is also a bit jarring, they couldnt even bother to update that?

    In this sense, I truly feel like definitive edition has nothing over the Wii original other than accessibility. You would get the exact same experience on the Wii, where, in my opinion, it feels more natural. The characters animations being janky looks fine because they dont look great, and that meshes, which is exactly my issue with DE, nothing feels like it is able to mesh. There seemed to be a lack of focus, so they just upgraded a lot of things in a half assed way. A great example is that time attack mode. That is completely unacceptable when something like xc2 time attack exists.

    I still love the game, it is amazing, and probably the best way to play xc1, but it has to many faults to where it simply can not live up to its name. This is not definitive. I’m sure another remake will happen sometime, and I hope that does it better. I am very grateful for this game to exist, but it could have done well to sit in the oven a bit longer. Do not get me started on future connected, cause my god was that something.

  4. Mythicson
    1

    This game is absolutely amazing. Easily one of the best games on the Switch. I probably would have spent way more than that for what it’s worth.

  5. Carolyn
    1

    Probably my favourite JRPG of all time and not without reason. The story has some great twists and turns, the worlds you cross on your adventure are breathtaking and the soundtrack is the best in the business since Secret of Mana. I adore the voice cast too. The battle banter, though a little repetitive is very entertaining. Best of all is the rare 100% cast of british theatre actors rather than c-list american cartoon actors.

  6. Shawn
    1

    The storytelling in this game is amazing, and brought back my love of JRPGs as the plot itself is very very well done.

    I had this game on the Wii, and while the new HD graphics do take a bit to get used to, as well as the fact they’ve made the game a bit easier (quests now show up on the map if you’re in the area, instead of you having to discover them as you pass by, as well as having quest markers on the map) – it’s still a great game with a very complex world behind it.

  7. Aaron
    1

    Looking forward to giving it a go at some point after being scared off from the wii version given the crazy prices old copies were selling for. Are all these remake style titles killing that market?

    • Lillian
      0

      To some extent, though when the n3DS version came out it started to have that effect.

  8. Ashley
    1

    I never played Xenoblade Chronicles 1 or Xenoblade Chronicles X, But man I loved Xenoblade Chronicles 2. The characters, the world, the story and my god the music. When I beat it, I felt so sad that aside from grinding to beat the superbosses, and getting all the blades, the game was essentially done. It had been a long time that since I beat game I felt that emotional to say goodbye to the characters.

    Picked this up and played a few hours and I can honestly say, I get the feeling i’m going to have a very similar experience.

    • MseGray
      0

      Except this time you don’t have embrassingly proportioned characters, a moody teenager possessing your sword and you don’t have to backtrack to finish fetch quests.

  9. Jane
    1

    I’ve always loved the game, but I simply cannot describe how much better and less tedious it is compared to the original for people who haven’t played it.

  10. Heloo
    1

    The definitive edition of this game probably has my favourite quest system in a JRPG. The markers on enemies and items you need is such a godsend (I did a close to completionist run of the original game too, so this is amazing for me), and the fact that the generic quests complete without you having to go back and talk to the nameless NPC you got the quest from is so nice. It lets you pickup a ton of generic Monster Quests and Collection Quests when you get to a new area, and then as you just go around and explore, you’ll naturally, almost accidentally end up completing most of the generic quests. And with so many quests to do, and with them being so much more convenient to complete now, you never need to grind in this game. I find myself overlevelled, but thankfully the new expert mode allows me to keep my level down so the game isn’t piss easy! I turned on expert mode almost immediately, that’s such a good feature.

  11. Flore
    1

    I gotta hand it to them for sticking to their guns, and keeping the remaster faithful to the original.

  12. Fipa
    1

    I’ve played through XC1 3 times, WII, New 3ds, and Wii-u. I’ve bought this game 4 times, lol. This is the first time I’ve EVER wanted to be in Makna Forest. Mainly the area after frontier village. I always felt it was so cramped before, and now it feels like it stretches beyond the bounds of the map. The lighting is SO much more effective. I can’t really describe it, but I found myself stopping to kind of marvel at the other-worldliness of it.

  13. Sparkle
    0

    Xenoblade side quests still suck, but at least completing them for bonus exp is easier.

  14. UniWOK
    1

    A true masterpiece.

  15. Philosopher
    1

    The best part of this remake is seeing all these people play this game for the first time and get emotional in all the places I did. It’s as close as I can get to feeling like im playing through it my first time, and its beautiful.

  16. Clelia
    1

    Whenever I recommend this game to anyone I always tell them this:

    “You will feel emotions that you never thought existed”

  17. holly
    1

    XC:DE was my first time playing it, and I have never cried this much from a single video game. Such a masterpiece!

  18. Kyle
    0

    Modern gaming has mostly left me in the dust and that makes me quite sad. I tried to get into Xenoblade Chonicles but I haven’t the slightest clue how the battle system works. I’m used to old school Final Fantasy battle systems when it comes to RPG’s. I remember the music in this game being superb and the graphics being amazing for a Wii game.

  19. Charlie
    1

    I love all of the new qol changes in this new game. I can’t tell you how many times I got lost looking for specific person, or lost my mind grinding for a specific collectible. Now you can track people and quest collectibles are marked, I can’t thank Nintendo enough.

    • FLooorez
      0

      You mean Monolith Soft, since they’re the ones who made this game and added in the qol changes.

  20. smook
    0

    I’m about 5 hours in right now and it’s basically the same great game with much better graphics and a handful of quality of life changes that make certain things (annoying side-quests) less annoying. Hopefully the rebuilding colony 6 part will be a little easier since collecting those items was such a chore on the other versions.

    The only thing I can say I wish they put more work into is the animations. They still look kinda janky. You really notice it in cutscenes where characters walk. They look very floaty like they aren’t interacting with the ground properly. I haven’t gotten to Melia yet, but her walk cycle was always the worst in the wii and 3ds versions.

  21. Nice to learn more about this game. Nice job!

  22. Alexander
    0

    As good as I remember it on the 3DS. I think however that the combat in XC2 is much better. I find the combat of XCDE to be very one dimensional. I really appreciate the quality of life improvements they made regarding the side quests and affinity.

    • Silva
      0

      It’s simpler, no doubt, than XC2, but I prefer XC more. XC2 was a little too complicated for its own good (considering it took most people tens of hours to figure it out) and the battles were absolute chaos on screen.

  23. walt
    0

    Whenever I attack a large group of monsters, after defeating one, my other party members (primarily Riki) will stop attacking. It’s really annoying, does anyone else have this problem?

  24. Jana
    0

    This is far and above my favorite JRPG of all time. I wish i could wipe my memory and play this for the first time again.

  25. eddy
    0

    I’m playing this game for the first time right now, it’s good overall but the lack of landmarks on the map for fast travel is just really annoying. It has those gigantic maps with like two landmarks and I need to spend a couple of hours just to get across.

  26. Timothy
    1

    I played Xenoblade primarily on the 3DS since the wii version was got so pricy overtime. Very excited to see how it looks on my switch.

  27. Allen
    0

    I am currently 14 hours into Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition and loving it.

  28. monster
    0

    Give us a difficulty setting and I am sold. The original was hard!

  29. Leif
    0

    The music to the ending is just…GOD TIER, I loved playing this game.

  30. ronz
    0

    The game is the definition of a perfect history.

  31. Great article! I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Xenoblade series. I might look into it soon.

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