Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition Review: Future Imperfect

In what should come as no surprise given its name, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is absolutely the definitive way to experience the video game. On the Nintendo Switch, Xenoblade Chronicles has never looked better, but even if the game’s graphics have seriously improved overall, the base game underneath the polish is essentially what it’s always been. For better, and for worse.

Playing the 2010 title with a fresh coat of paint in 2020 is like some kind of wild time capsule to game design of a bygone era. When it was first developed and released, imitating the popular massively multiplayer online role-playing games of the time in a single-player role-game was still all the rage, and Xenoblade Chronicles appears to be a perfect example of this sort of thinking. If you don’t mind standing around automatically attacking whatever’s in front of you while sometimes using abilities, the game’s story is as interesting as ever, but it is admittedly a big ask.

The largest addition, and maybe its biggest selling point, is an entirely new epilogue scenario called Future Connected which takes place years after the events of the base game. While there are several nice quality-of-life updates to the title, including a remastered score, new character models, and upgraded environments, this epilogue is a truly new experience for anyone that has given the previous versions a go once or twice. Helpfully, it can be played at any point, which means that folks that have played through what came before can drop into something new immediately upon starting the game.

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(Photo: Nintendo)

There are absolutely other reasons to pick up Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition other than the aforementioned epilogue, including new difficulty modes for those that either want to take things a bit easier or ramp up the challenge as well as Time Attack Battles and an Event Theatre, but these are really all just extras. They are handy, and nice, but by no means make the actual experience of playing Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition less of a chore, which, for me, it remains.

While I loved practically every moment that the gameplay paused to deliver some bit or story or develop its plot, the actual combat wore on me the longer I did so. In the end, I could only spend anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour at a time plugging away at it before I had grown a bit bored and wanted to move on -- which, honestly, might be one of the benefits of the Nintendo Switch version given the portability of the console. Picking it up and then putting it down and then picking it up again has never been easier, and I did so more times than I can easily count.

Unfortunately for Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, the Nintendo Switch isn’t exactly hurting for Japanese role-playing games, though few can match its breadth and width. If you’ve been curious about the title and managed to miss out on both the Wii and 3DS versions, picking up the Switch one is practically a no-brainer, even if it does feel like a bit of a throwback. If you’ve played it before and loved it, maybe Future Connected is plenty enough reason to return. But if you are just generally interested in games more broadly, there are probably better uses of your time. If they had seriously reworked the combat in some way, it probably wouldn’t really be Xenoblade Chronicles any longer, but I imagine I also would have had a much better time with it.


Rating: 3 out of 5

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is scheduled to release for Nintendo Switch on May 29th. A review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.