Narrative in Video Games #15: Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, Part One

Xenoblade Chronicles’ North American release was unusual to say the least. As the 2011 release date for its European version loomed, there were still no plans for a North American release. This prompted the consumer petition “Operation Rainfall” to convince Nintendo of America to release a North American version of Xenoblade, as well as two other Wii games. All three games were eventually localized, but Xenoblade was relegated to a retailer exclusive with demand greatly exceeding its limited supply. This arbitrary limitation led to another as the game was re-released in 2015 as Xenoblade Chronicles 3D exclusive to the New Nintendo 3DS, rather than the standard model. But after jumping through all those hoops to play either version, is the game worth it? In Part One we’ll run through mechanics.

Xenoblade Chronicles mixes real time combat with something akin to an active time system. Characters can freely move around the battlefield and attack enemies automatically while they’re in range, but special attacks called Arts have to be executed manually and recharge with a cooldown timer. This battle system coupled with the expansive maps and hundreds of sidequests make the game play more like a single-player MMO than a typical RPG, but a few quirks of the combat also hold narrative meaning.

The protagonist, Shulk, has the ability to see into the future and act accordingly in order to attempt to change it. In combat this manifests as visions of strong enemy attacks the player has a limited amount of time to react to by warning party members to act beforehand, disrupting the enemy’s attack, or otherwise changing the inevitable. In a meta sense, the player also changes the future every time they disrupt the auto-attack function to use an Art. Predeterminism and the concept of fate come more into play in the plot, which I’ll dissect next time.

[Part Two link coming soon.]

 

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