We’re Not Crazy About Xenoblade Chronicles 3D 

We’re Not Crazy About Xenoblade Chronicles 3D 

Today marks the release of Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, a smaller-sized version of the 2012 JRPG that was originally made for the Wii.

The port — which is exclusive to the New 3DS — is a bit underwhelming. The interface is very clunky, and something about Xenoblade‘s grandiose world makes it an ill fit for the 3DS’s small screens.

To sort through it all, I had a chat with Kotaku UK’s Keza MacDonald, who’s spent a whole bunch of hours with both versions of the game. Read on for our thoughts on Xenoblade 3D.

Jason Schreier: Xenoblade Chronicles! Oh, Xenoblade Chronicles. How you conflict me.

Today we’re here to talk about what some have called the best JRPG of the modern era, which just got ported to the New 3DS. Keza, you’ve been playing it, right?

Keza MacDonald: I have, although not quite as much as I’d have liked to. I finished it on Wii, and despite the fact that I literally just played all the way through Majora’s Mask again on 3DS with no complaints, I’m finding Xenoblade a bit of a tougher sell on the handheld. I’m not anti-remakes. I’m pro-remakes. But a game like this is tough to play on the 3DS. That said, I’m amazed it runs it at all.

Jason Schreier:Did you like it on Wii?

Keza MacDonald:Loved it. It was an excellent JRPG that came along at a time when we were all forgetting there could be excellent JRPGs. Did you feel the same?

Jason Schreier:hahaha


Keza MacDonald:Such a shock 🙂

Jason Schreier:I was tepid on it then, and after replaying for a few hours on 3DS I think now I hate it. The combat is boring, the characters are stale, and the world is pretty but full of sidequests that are meaningless at best, tedious at worst. Xenoblade‘s only redeeming factor is the music — which is one hell of a redeeming factor, granted.

Keza MacDonald:I will grant you that it seems slightly more adolescent this time around, but I still love the combat and the world. I love the idea of civilisations emerging on the back of titanic dead robots. The mixture of science-fictiony circuit-veined caves and wide-open nature is still striking, though the smaller screen struggles to capture that sense of openness that really impressed me on Wii.

Jason Schreier: I am not sure what there is to love about the combat. You have no control over anything. All you do is watch your party members attack while smashing the A button to occasionally activate abilities.

Keza MacDonald:But there are so many strategic options! Especially once Shulk unlocks his seeing-the-future powers mid-battle and you find yourself stringing together crazy character combos to stop a huge robot from decapitating your mates. It’s turn-based, really, but it FEELS real-time, which is cool. I mean, chaining Talents… that shit is SATISFYING. You gotta admit it’s stylish, at least, right?

Jason Schreier:I didn’t think chain attacks were interesting or satisfying enough to make combat feel any less sluggish, but it’s definitely stylish, character faces aside — I love the world and one of the reasons I was able to spend 40+ hours playing was because I dug finding and exploring all the new places.

Keza MacDonald:Problem is, you can’t physically see much of that world on 3DS. I remember looking up at the sky on the Wii version and seeing a giant robot arm jutting out into space. That… doesn’t happen so much on 3DS. It hasn’t got the field of view. I also — predictably — really like the British voice-acting. It’s characterful. Makes such a change.

Jason Schreier:Yeah, the 3DS feels a bit restrictive, although at least the low resolution actually fits the screen here — playing Xenoblade Wii on a high-def TV was pretty brutal. So blurry!

Keza MacDonald:That is true. When I played Xenoblade on Wii I just wanted it to be on PS3. Now I want it to be on Wii U!

Jason Schreier: That’s what Xenoblade Chronicles X is for! So, OK, as you (and Kotaku readers) know, I’m a huge JRPG guy. But the main reason I play JRPGs is because they generally have great stories with really interesting characters. Xenoblade has Shulk, who has the personality of a twig.

Keza MacDonald:It’s less pompous and overwritten than many other JRPGs of its era, though — I remember being really disenfranchised with the likes of The Last Remnant and Final Fantasy XIII back then. Xenoblade felt like a breath of fresh air. But now, I’d kind of rather be playing the Suikodens on my Vita.

Jason Schreier: A good comparison is The Last Story, also for Wii, which actually gives you characters you want to spend time with and a love story that feels justified. Xenoblade has… Riki.

Keza MacDonald:Haha – yeah, I prefer The Last Story for, well, story, but Xenoblade for setting.

Jason Schreier: What’d you think of the sidequests?

Keza MacDonald:BORING. Really boring. Kill this, collect that, search for this, etc etc. I found I’d just randomly end up completing them whilst out exploring. At least you don’t have to return to the quest-giver to cash them in

Jason Schreier: So how, again, is this an excellent JRPG?

Keza MacDonald: It feels like a world instead of a series of corridors. It’s got heart. It’s unusual. And I love the combat. I just can’t get used to it on a small screen, because it rather reduces the world’s feeling of majesty. The sidequests give exploration almost an MMO feel – you end up checking off little tasks whilst you’re out looking for treasure or seeing if you can take down that level 43 ogre that smooshed you the last time you looked at it funny

It has a sense of freedom. Not that many JRPGs have that, I feel. What do you think has changed since you first played it to turn you off it? Is there just better competition, now?

Jason Schreier: Well, when Xenoblade first came to the US, it had been out in Europe/Japan for a while, and I’d seen people ranting and raving about how it was The Next Great JRPG. So as I played, I kept looking for reasons to like it — I wanted to give it as fair a chance as possible.

But in retrospect, I just can’t stand so many things about it, from the voice acting (apologies to you and the rest of the UK, but even British accents can’t make Shulk and crew any less wooden) to the way everything just feels so hollow and lifeless.

Keza MacDonald: I do know exactly one other person who didn’t like Xenoblade, so you’re not entirely alone. I do feel considerably less enthusiastic about it now than I did in 2012. I won’t be grabbing anyone by the lapels and screaming “YOU MUST PLAY THIS” this time around. I think it’s a great game that doesn’t quiiiiiite work on the New 3DS – I’m far more excited about Xenoblade Chronicles X, frankly

Jason Schreier:Yeah, I expected the New 3DS version to have a way better UI, too — but somehow it’s even worse than the Wii’s was.

Keza MacDonald: You can barely SEE it now.

Jason Schreier:Why is the map not on the bottom screen???

Keza MacDonald: And the relationship map is just incomprehensible… I’d forgotten all about the relationship system. I must have just ignored it last time, but then I’ve heard people claim that it’s one of Xeno‘s most interesting features

Jason Schreier:Don’t you have to do all the menial sidequests to use it?

Keza MacDonald: That’s probably why.

Jason Schreier:So many better things one could do with 100 hours. The best way to enjoy Xenoblade is to just download the soundtrack.

Keza MacDonald: Xenoblade on 3DS isn’t a bad way to spend your time, but it’s also got Bravely Default, which works better on the system

Jason Schreier:Yeah, and Fire Emblem, and Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, and Shin Megami Tensei IV, and the Etrian Odysseys, and so many other better games.

Jason Schreier:Definitely not worth buying a New 3DS for Xenoblade, even if you LOVED it on Wii.

Keza MacDonald: I’d say not. If you’ve never played Xenoblade before… well, I’d still say get it on Wii. AND MONSTER HUNTER. ALWAYS MONSTER HUNTER.

Jason Schreier:Monster Hunter vs Xenoblade – which should people go with?

Keza MacDonald: Monster Hunter all the way. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is one of the best games you’ll play all year. Xenoblade is a slightly worse version of one of the best games you might have played in 2012.


  • I wonder if they played on a standard or an XL new3DS, I suppose it doesn’t matter they probably felt the screens were too small either way. I would have preferred a WiiU release xenoblade would be amazing in HD plus with the gamepad for the map would be great. Either way it’s amazing that xenoblade plays on a 3ds that’s a feat in itself. They didn’t comment on 3D at all which is a shame.

    • It would’ve been cool if Nintendo perhaps included a HD remake with Xenoblade X. Similar to what they did with the Bayonetta package.

    • I played it on the N3DS XL for a week before returning it. I played roughly 20 hours of it and somewhat enjoyed the game. Problem for me was a) the graphics, with or without 3D effect it strained my eyes to follow the action in places. The resolution is really low, makes MH4U look like a high end PC game. And b) the action was repetitive and not challenging unless you were fighting a boss. For the rest of it I could just wail any moves on the enemies and take them down without any trouble unless they were massively higher levels than me. The enemies either seemed to be too low or way too high (I understand these enemies were supposed to be faced later but the ones I was supposed to seek out were too weak and so boredom set in)

      I returned it reluctantly as I enjoyed the story for the most part but I gave it 20 hours to get real enjoyment but found myself going through the motions.

  • LOL wow way to dismiss the combat system! I guess you never played god mode with Melia in control. Once I found out how to use the abilities properly the game clicked for me (when I first played on the Wii). Melia turned out to be a goddess decimating everything in her path!
    I prefer Xenoblade over Monster Hunter. Sure it’s not a perfect port (which port is ever perfect!) but I’m glad to be able to play this on my New 3DS XL.

    • I do think that this is one of the areas where the game fell down a bit – it takes far too long for you to really grasp the combat. A lot of that is because the game basically teaches you to use Shulk and only Shulk and let the AI handle the rest. It also doesn’t do a good job showing you how to gear each character, and I think it just generally didn’t really click for me until I was in Bionis Leg which is a good 10+ hours in, and it wasn’t until I’d picked up all the characters around the Eryth Sea and decided to swap my party around and play with Melia that things suddenly came together completely. Melia really is amazing toward the back half of the game once you’ve leveled her up enough to speed up her ability cooldowns and everything.

  • Just amazed that in a discussion about JRPGs, when both of the people discussing the genre actually nail what makes a JRPG worthwhile (story and characters) that they somehow suggest The Last Story actually has better story and characters than Xenoblade. That weak story and characters was the main detracting feature of The Last Story, especially in comparison to Xenoblade which was released around the same time.

    You even talk about Riki as being a bad character, but least he gets development. Sure, you can see he starts off as a joke from that video you put in. By the time you get to colony on the fallen arm you start to realize there is more to him than a joke. He has true concern for the other characters, feigning his exhaustion for the benefit of letting others rest. He talks about how he knows he is a joke of a hero in many respects, but still has to do something, and still has a family he cares about. If you talk to his family, you know that most of them don’t expect anything from him either. Even for a fur ball, he’s more complex than freaking Lowell.

    Completely, baffled.

    • Agree completely. The Last Story is barely in the same league as Xenoblade in just about every possible way you can slice it and it’s always seemed odd to me that Schreier prefers it so much.

    • The combat was also infinitely more interesting in Xenoblade…

      Last Story was ok, but that’s as good as it got: ‘ok’.

  • I really dig the port because I never got to play the Wii version.
    I think a Wii U HD version would be better but is fine on the 3DS apart from the clunky way you have to select things & no touch pad options for combat or map marking.

    • Nice to hear. I’m looking at Xenoblade 3D as my next next game after I finish up Bravely Default and then Persona Q. Never played it on Wii so I’ll be in it more for the story and characters than anything else.

      • If you’re in it for that, it’s well worth it.
        Though you’ll need a NEW 3DS if you haven’t already gotten one. Since it won’t run on the older 3DS models.

  • Since they mentioned the game, Last Story, I wonder if that sleeper hit will get a 3DS or Wii U re-release?

  • The problem is not so much the size of the screen but that the 3ds has such a low res screen. I am enjoying the game again but have told anyone that has issues with how it looks on 3ds to either get it for Wii or play it via Dolphin.

  • I picked up a new 3ds xl 2 weeks with majoras mask, finding myself blown away by the gorgeous visuals I started to get excited for the first exclusive 3ds game xenoblade which was released the next day. I’m not a jrpg fan in the slightest (unless the souls series counts, which it doesn’t, gsrpg is more fitting, god status rpg) but nonetheless the exclusivity, hyped environments and world size sold me. Within 5 minutes playing I realized i should have purchased scholar of first sin (fuck every baby sook complaining about the re-release) and found the graphics terrifying, regardless of the world size the game is riddled with a static emptiness. To anyone considering buying this game based off the exclusivity and “world size”, don’t. Sorry xenoblade, you would have been better off on wii u and even then you still stink.

  • Anyone who does enjoy xenoblade is to be admired, there is a lot of content but the delivery for me and ui trashed any hope of adding another hour to the 5 i put in. I think it has its place but its certainly not for me.

  • I really can’t agree with any of this, except that the 3DS’s small screen doesn’t do the world justice. In saying that I wouldn’t say that it kills it (having never played the Wii version), I am still finding the world amazing to explore, and I think it does more than a good job considering it’s hardware limitations.

    As for the story and characters, I find the story very interesting and really like the characters. I don’t find Shulk bland at all; I don’t find him overly likeable per se, but that doesn’t make him bland and uninteresting; I still think he is a valuable character to the game and enjoy his cutscenes. I will agree that the side quests can be a little repetitive, but at least you don’t have to go all the way back to hand them in most of the time. Also, point out to me an open-world RPG with this many side quests that aren’t bland and repetitive?

    But the combat! How can Jason say the combat is boring and repetitive? I think he is just missing the whole point altogether. It makes me think of a friend who hates Dark Souls because the combat is ‘slow and clunky’ and refuses to play it, saying the game is just shit. If he would just spend some more time with it, maybe make the effort to read some guides or actually listen to my advice, then he would probably enjoy it. Instead he insists on mashing the attach button and winging that the game is broken when he doesn’t mow down all the enemies while being untouched. I feel Jason is having the same approach; unwilling to learn how to play it properly and is just palming it off as crap.

    • what you expect from this click bait scum back site. Worse than gamespot “too much water” 3/10 -IGN

  • I never got the chance to play Xenoblade on Wii and I’m really upset about it. I can tell just from playing it on the 3ds that justice is not being done to these massive and most likely beautiful landscapes. As soon as I hit the bionis leg, the gigantic map, all I could think was archylte steppe from FF13 and how awesome it was on a TV. That is the point I realized putting this game on a 5 inch screen was the worst idea EVER. Aside from the constant nagging feeling that I would much rather be playing this on the Wii U, all in all, it is a pretty amazing game that I wish I could have played on Wii. Seeing as it is now a $100 game, that won’t be happening anytime soon. Here’s to hoping for an HD remake on Wii U, I would totally buy it.

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