4th Xenoblade Chronicles
Developer: Monolith Soft
Release Date: April 6th, 2012
If the entire library of the Nintendo Wii were to be filed into categories related to the scope of the games, there would have to be one category devoted exclusively to Xenoblade Chronicles and, relatively, another for everything else. Calling Xenoblade huge simply does not do it justice. The game takes place in a world that came to be in the lifeless bodies of two giants, one mechanical and the other organic, that fought a fierce battle to death long ago, and its locations feature incredible geographic cohesion in terms of the way they connect to each other and how they are placed in the giants' bodies. There is no other Wii game out there that features scenarios as wide and mesmerizing as this one, where players can literally spend over one hour simply going from one edge of the scenario to another. Even though it came in a generation where games have expanded into unmeasurable sizes, Xenoblade is invariably impressive.
What is surprising, though, is that the freedom and scale comes attached to a JRPG presentation and gameplay, and what could have turned out to be an odd characteristic for the genre, ends up coming off as a delightful breath of fresh air. The game wisely combines the traditional elements of JRPGs, such stats, levels, parties, endless amounts of customizable equipment, with gameplay values only found in ambitious adventure games. The game finds a precise balance between tough turn-based battles that require a lot of strategy and absolutely immersive and engaging exploration of your surroundings, which will often lead to fantastic hidden locations, super powerful monsters, special items or even deeper character development. As it turns out, Xenoblade is not big for the sake of padding the adventure to annoying lengths, it is big because its gameplay required it to be so, and the developers were incredibly smart to fill up its wide open spaces with enough content and surprises to keep the side-exploration very alluring.
On top of that unique combination, Xenoblade packs a story with enough twists and turns to keep players' heads spinning for hours. Sure, the game does take a few cheesy stumbles that are common on the writing of a JRPG, but despite that, the game's story is truly emotional and carries quite a powerful message on its shoulders. Xenoblade Chronicles is a positive and slightly familiar detour for long-time fans of the genre that were watching its structure fall apart on recent years due to the underwhelming quality of some of its key franchises. Meanwhile, for those who have been little receptive towards the genre, the game presents a nice entry point for a possible rebuilding of that relationship. All in all, it is a game that certainly deserves the "best RPG of the generation" title that many members of the press were so eager to hand it when the game came out.