While many feel that games like Rise of the Tomb Raider were slighted last year as far as ‘Game of the Year’ goes, Xenoblade Chronicles X didn’t even have a chance at these awards. Being released on December 4, it missed many of the cutoff dates to be considered ‘Game of the Year.’ With this ‘Game of the Year’ business beside the point, Xenoblade Chronicles X was one of the best games to grace a console over the past year, at the very least. That begs the question, why was it so overlooked? Because it was a Japanese RPG? There were many Western RPGs nominated at The Game Awards, and two announced for ‘Game of the Year’ in The Witcher 3 and Fallout 4. Both were lauded because of their open-world environments, yet are easily dwarfed by Xenoblade Chronicles X. Why the disparity in coverage?
Xenoblade Chronicles X has a game world which is more than double the size of The Witcher 3, Fallout 4, and Skyrim combined; it’s humongous! While bigger does not always mean better, it is quite a feat to accomplish this on the underpowered Wii U system. Not to mention that, but the game contains at least 250 hours of gameplay, which is astonishing. It looks incredible, especially on the Wii U, and it has a perfect balance between both story and gameplay which is very rare for a Xeno game. While the story segments tell an intriguing narrative, it is really the sidequests and the affinity quests that shine.
While The Witcher 3 and Fallout 4 are wonderful games, yet they fail to innovate the same way that Xenoblade X does. X redefines the JRPG genre (and I hate splitting RPGs into ‘western’ and ‘Japanese’) by making it less linear, more character-driven, and less story-driven. The story in Xenoblade Chronicles X is fantastic, but it is not the prime focus of the game, especially if you delve into all the different quests that the game has to offer. The quests offer both character development and subtle hints with regards to the story and there is no way to get the complete Xenoblade Chronicles X experience without them.
So with all the depth and innovation Xenoblade Chronicles X brings to the table, not just to the JRPG genre but the RPG genre as a whole, why wasn’t it recognized as one of the top games of 2015? Is it because of poor marketing? An anti-Nintendo bias? A late release date? Xenoblade was already a niche title, but it was Nintendo’s 2015 holiday title. You would think that there would be more hype around it, but instead it was Super Mario Maker (albeit, let’s admit, it’s Mario) that was lauded and nominated for a number of awards, including ‘Game of the Year’ according to The Game Awards. Xenoblade was the best RPG of 2015 and spending over 150 hours with it, I can attest that it is unlike any other RPG I have ever played. It does borrow aspects of the original Xenoblade Chronicles’ combat system, but the game itself is so well balanced that I can’t really phrase it any better than I did in my review.
“Xenoblade Chronicles X is one of those games that comes around maybe once every decade or so. Its enormous scope, compelling story and characters, sheer amount of customization, incredible music, beautiful graphics and environments, and — I have to highlight — giant flying mechs make for a once in a lifetime experience”
Xenoblade Chronicles X is the only open-world RPG that I know of that actually uses flying mechs to explore the landscape of the world (called Skells in the game)! It is one of the best games of 2015 because of its storytelling, characters and supporting cast, combat, gear customization, and the sheer amount of content in the game. This isn’t a review so I won’t go over everything, but there is so much packed into this game and it deserves a lot more credit than it is currently receiving and received in 2015. Whether or not it was bias or because of its release date being so late, I honestly have no idea. But the game is superb and deserves a lot more credit than it has been given. It has a metacritic score of about 84, which is below the original Xenoblade Chronicles’ score of 92, but it blows that game out of the water. Whereas Xenoblade was very much a narrative-driven game and dragged at times with extremely long cutscenes, Xenoblade Chronicles X cuts to the chase. It has epic boss battles, much shorter cutscenes, and is a lot less linear than its predecessor.
Xenoblade Chronicles X may not carry a big name like The Witcher and Fallout, but it is a fantastic game and deserves to be right up there with those two games as being worthy for ‘Game of the Year’. It is definitely the best game I have played this year, and as I stated, is one of those games that only comes along once every decade or so. Fans of The Witcher 3 and Fallout 4 can relax, as those are great games and should be rejoiced as such. It’s just that Xenoblade Chronicles X should be a part of the conversation.