Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is in a unique position. It’s the first exclusive for Nintendo’s new revision of the 3DS for one, but more importantly it’s a port of a beloved Wii title. One that was praised for its fantastic art direction, its engaging story, and its phenomenal soundtrack. This N3DS port has to live up to that. It was always going to be compared to it’s big brother on the Wii – especially since the only additional content present in the New 3DS version of the game is a sound test and a model viewer.
In regards to the game itself, Xenoblade Chronicles was the culmination of over 4 years of work from Nintendo’s own Monolith Soft. Originally titled Monado: Beginning of the World – as it was revealed during 2009’s E3 conference – the game eventually released under the name that we know it as today in 2011 and 2012 in the West. The game takes place on the dual titans of the Bionis and the Mechonis, the two deities that arose at the start of time, before killing each other during a battle of eons past. The story ends up delving a bit deeper into the world’s genesis, among other things, but for the purpose of spoilers I won’t go any further than to say that the game eventually takes Shulk and his party of friends across both continents in the pursuit of revenge.
The gameplay is similar to the average MMO: an auto-attack will dole out some damage while charging your character’s main skill, and you have access to a variety of skills that work on cooldown. Positioning, and setting up combos for your party is the name of the game – and although the mechanics start out simple enough, the game quickly manages to insert some depth to the combat, with stuff like spikes, various buffs and debuffs, and more. With 7 eventual party members, the game gives you the option to try out numerous party configurations, each having a distinct playstyle. The combat remains as-is in this version, with the controls mimicking the Classic Controller Pro control scheme from the Wii release.
One of the games greatest strengths is in its presentation, and this is where the major weakness with the N3DS port rears its head. Xenoblade is a very cinematic game – and when it isn’t in the process of showing a cutscene, the other large draw to the title is the exploration. As it’s already been said many times leading up to the game’s release, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D boasts some blurrier textures, and overall less graphical fidelity compared to the original Wii release. Most of the time this isn’t that much of an issue, and even comparing the two versions of the game right next to each other showed that only some sections of the 3DS game truly fell behind when it came to the grand scheme of things. Most of the time, the textures were close enough to the originals that any difference was minimal at best.
However – most of the time doesn’t account for everything. Gaur Plains sports much less grass than usual for one, but other areas in the game also showcase where the change in graphical fidelity has impacted the grandeur of the game as a whole. Part of this has to do with the screen size and resolution of the New 3DS – but another part of it simply has to do with the limitations of the system. When it comes to texture work, the larger the enemy, the more likely that the textures are going to look stretched out. Most of the smaller enemies are perfectly fine, and any difference wouldn’t be able to be seen behind the lower resolution anyway.
What is especially disconcerting is the textures that have been used for some of the character’s faces. Most of the members of the cast look decently enough with the new textures – but at least one orange furball’s gaze lost a lot of charm when migrating to the N3DS. Admittedly, this is the worst of the port’s downgrade – but it’s especially aggravating nonetheless, considering that you’ll be seeing his pixelated face in many cutscenes after he joins your party.
The soundtrack remains as wonderful as it did in the original Wii release – using my Wii U’s gamepad as a way of testing the audio for the Wii version of the title tells me that little to no difference exists between the two version’s audio quality. The new 3D functionality manages to add some depth to the larger vistas in the game, making up for some of the grandeur lost in translation. The story itself remains the same except for the downgrades in the cutscenes – but Japanese voice acting was cut in order to cull the size of the game (an interesting decision, considering that the highest capacity 3DS cartridge can hold all of the data of the Wii release!)
When it comes down to it; Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is mostly the same game as its Wii counterpart. The only major differences being the downgraded resolution, and the loss of overall graphical fidelity. It’s a good port, and just how much that the downgrade is going to impact the experience will be a topic of discussion among fans of the game for years to come. For my thoughts – you could do worse than playing this release of the game, though there are certainly better options out there. It’s still Xenoblade, and by that virtue it’s still very much a game worth playing.
Although muted, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D delivers mostly the same experience that playing the original Wii release would, with the small details suffering the most in transition. If you simply must play this version, it's a worthy port but playing the original release is the better option.