I promised myself I'd write an actual blog entry once I got to around 100 hours in Xenoblade (note that I promised myself this yesterday, as when I started playing it I didn't expect to be playing this game for over 100 hours.) Sadly the game counter stops at 99:59 hours... for some reason. With a game that has this much content, that's absurd. I'm not even near the end yet... well, I'm sort of near the end. Probably about 4/5ths of the way through. Still lots of stuff to do though!
I LOVE this game. Probably the best console RPG I've played this gen (and that's saying something for me, since I've actually enjoyed most of the console RPGs that I've played this gen... unlike a lot of people.) The battle system is... well, it's okay. It's not fabulous fun, but it gets the job done. It's not annoying in any case, which does happen on occasion. What I do love is the characters/world/exploration. There are sooooo many quests to do, it's INSANE. And a good deal of them aren't just "kill x number of monsters please" although they DO have that sort of quest. But a lot of the quests have stories that give a lot of personality to the NPCs and the world. In the game there is a "relationships" system with a map that shows all the (named) NPCs you can talk to in the world and their relationships to each other. As you talk to them and do quests their relationships change, opening up new quests. I love the amount of detail and personality they put into the NPCs... and there are a LOT of them. I haven't even gotten to them all!
The world is large and beautiful. A good deal of my time has just been spent exploring it. Though some areas are more detailed than others (obvious corner-cutting is obvious.) Though they describe it as a "seamless world", that's quite a bit of a misnomer. Sure when you're in an area there is no loading between sections, but it's not an entirely open world with no delineation between areas. It's sort of like... if FFXIII is a piece of string (with big ball somewhere near the end~) then Xenoblade is link sausage
. Huge areas that are linked together by these tiny little passage-ways in a nice neat line. There is also quite a rash of what I call "Improbable Cliffs" that keep you from being able to explore TOO much. Improbable Cliffs are straight up and down cliffs that surround any area in game that pretends you aren't being penned in when you really are (while I'm sure there are quite a few of these sorts of cliffs in real life, I've never seen them and they crop up too often in games to be a coincidence.) I see this happen so often in modern games, and I have to cringe whenever I see it. It's only a step up of the idiocy of your characters not being able to surmount a five inch high rock. Of course they mix it up a bit with impossibly sheer drop offs and dense forests, but the Improbable Cliffs still reign supreme. Still, despite that (slight) complaint, the world is large and varied. Some areas are so beautiful that I almost cry with the lack of an in-game camera (this really should be a REGULAR FEATURE of modern games and I'm starting to get pissed off with how many games do not include it.)
I'm quite enjoying the story, though I would say it isn't as engaging as Xenogears (I know I shouldn't be comparing the two, but... Takahashi...) It's pretty standard Takahashi fare though. Big robots with religious overtones. I'm in love with the concepts in the story. Two gods battling, and then a whole world and civilization developing on their corpses. That's pretty damn awesome. There are other awesome points to the plot, but that would be going too much into spoilers, which I don't want to write about yet. The writing eh... well, it's sometimes good, but sometimes down right awful. While they have a lot of big name voice actors, the voice acting is honestly pretty mediocre which makes the writing seem worse than it is. On top of that, the characters lack lip sync and look like they're just flapping their lips at random (the fact that they added boob jiggle for Carna but didn't bother with lip sync irritates the hell out of me. I also would have preferred them to ditch the armor changing feature for slightly better characters models and lip sync.)
I really love all of the characters. I thought I would be annoyed with them, but I'm actually not. This may in part be because there isn't one single character under the age of 18 (slight spoiler there I suppose...) Fiorung annoys me near the beginning (she was just so cliche anime girl who would slap a guy for accidentally seeing up her skirt) but she gets far more awesome towards the end (without going into spoilers...) I love how despite being a blonde kid, Shulk is NOT your typical brash idiotic main character. He actually THINKS THINGS THROUGH and is the smartest member of the party (wow, an actual REASON for him being leader. What a concept!) For once we have a nerd as the leader rather than young idiot or Mr. Badass. I love how Carna isn't a stereotype. She's a hard character to describe... she's not a badass with a gun and she's not a delicate healer. She's a badass chick who HEALS WITH HER GUN. Hell yeah. I love how Dunban is the 'old worldly warrior' but he's NOT ALWAYS RIGHT ALL THE TIME. And he shows EMOTIONS rather than just being stoic and badass. Rein isn't just a big idiot, he's also ROMANTIC (as you'll notice if you take him along on enough romantic quests...) I could go on and on about these characters.
While I don't find the Vision system all too useful in battle, it's quite useful in other cases. I think it's great how it sometimes will warn you if you're about to be attack by something that can kill you in one hit, so you have enough time to run away. It's also nice how it sometimes tells you when you'll need an item for a quest later in the game, so you won't sell it. I like how they've incorporated a major story-line plot point into the game system like this. Sometimes games will have systems that seem to just being randomly in place, with no connections to the story or the characters. I would like to see more of these story related systems.
The music is excellent, though sadly only a few tracks were composed by Shimomura. The rest of the soundtrack was composed by several untried composers, and they did a fabulous job. My particular favorites being this
. While I like this
one in battle, listening to it outside of the game just made me realize that it's basically visual kei that's missing one grating male vocalist (though I really like the beginning part and the horn section part, it's the part after that which is sort of... yeah...)
Despite my complaints (I criticize because I love! ... you guys should know that by now) I absolutely ADORE this game. I hope that it comes to the US and EU and that every single one of you plays it. Don't have a Wii or play games you say? I DON'T CARE >:|
Uh... not much else has been going on I guess. Going to see Twelfth Night in Ashland with my mother in a couple weeks, it's going to be awesome~ Evening outdoor theater in July is the best! Hope it doesn't rain, we've been having some funky weather this year.