It happens every now and again. I sit down to write about a particular game, and with the blank page in front of me, I can’t think of a single damn word to say. The problem with writing about Xenoblade Chronicles at this moment is that I written about it before, more than once. First, there was that time here a couple years back when I started XC only to realize that there was no way in hell I was ever going to finish it.
And then, earlier this year, I picked the game back up again, and it became the highlight of my year. Over the summer, I wrote about various aspects of the game in three different posts on United We Game.
Part of the problem here is that there are only so many way to say “I LOVED THIS GAME SO GODDAMN MUCH!” before sounding problematically gushy. And right after I finished XC and before I wrote a much more stable piece for UWG, I gushed all over my computer about all things Shulk and company. Line after line I praised everything possible about the game, from its music to its environments, to its characters. I went on and on about how a-m-a-z-i-n-g the battle system was (that is, after I actually learned how to use it), about how enveloping the story was, and about how hard it was for me to not go back to it to complete any one of the hundreds of sidequests I had racked up for fear of completely losing myself. (The game goes back to its rightful owner in a couple weeks, and good thing too, because ignoring it, though easier, has been difficult.)
That “post” was so ebullient and effervescent that I had to delete it. Because it was also shitty. I’ve written posts like that, and kept them, and they aren’t very good. I know that. XC deserved something more than just me over-extolling its virtues. If you know about the game, then you’ve probably already heard all the good things about it. So why pile more on the heap?
With that said, one may naturally think then that a post focusing on all the negative things about the game would be in order, because why not? I’m pretty good when it comes to writing downer posts, and sometimes it’s kind of fun to knock a few rungs off a games’ lofty pedestal. I mean, were not talking about a cure to cancer here. Xenoblade Chronicles is just a game, and no game is perfect. And yeah, not everything about XC is great. The game’s world is so massive that it takes effort to remain grounded in the story, which was not without its rough spots (especially when it came to l-o-v-e.). Because I wasn’t playing every day, I really had to focus in on Shulk’s primary goals with each session, and that was hard because nearly every NPC in the game was there to take you away from being Shulk-the-hero to Shulk-the-fetcher, Shulk-the-medic, to Shulk-the clearer-of-enemies-from-a-particular-area-so-that-it-could-be-accessed-by-the-townsfolk. Not only was everyone tugging at Shulk to do something other than what he was supposed to be doing, but each world was so seemingly endless and beautifully explorable that it was easy enough to go wandering off to reach was looked like an interesting outcrop of rocks, or a strange ledge, or a fantastical enemy. Then, a hour later, you realize you’re no closer to that rock than when you started because a distant glimmer of movement caught your attention.
Damn a game for being just too wondrous? A strange thing, that. So really getting into the negatives wasn’t going to work, because I knew that after awhile I’d just be complaining for the sake of complaining.
So that brings me to this moment where I’ve suddenly written everything and nothing about Xenoblade Chronicles. Though it’s not mine to share, I wish I could share my copy with someone else who wants to play the game (rather hard it is to obtain these days, at least in the U. S.). XC is bold and daring, and something not at all easily compartmentalized into a type or genre. Yes, it’s a JRPG at its core, but it’s gameplay is so versatile that one could play it as a hack n’slash, or a shooter, or a run and gun, or a platformer. I imagine well that, if it were to be played through by someone more than once, each playthough could be quite different depending on one’s choices. Granted, it doesn’t seem like a game with multiple endings, so all points would lead to the same place, but that journey…oh, how unusual each journey to that singular spot could be! It’s almost mind boggling.
But see, all this makes absolutely no sense if you haven’t played the game. So I guess I’m not here to talk about the game at all. I’ve already done that. Instead, I’m here to say play Xenoblade Chronicles. If you even have an inkling of interest in it, find a way to get a copy. Forget the sometimes unpleasant graphics (this is a Wii game, after all), forgo the incomprehensible number of sidequests (though, you do what you want), forge a relationship with Shulk and the Monado (more than just a special sword) through fault and fire. Maybe you’ll love it, maybe you’ll hate it, but at least you’ll know for yourself. Nothing I could type here would ever affect your own outcome. I am done with Xenoblade Chronicles in fact, but it will always remain in spirit.