It is unexpected for any Wii game to take nearly 100 hours to complete. After all, Nintendo is supposed to be the well-marketed system for the casual crowd. The focus should be on the Just Dance and Mario Party games, not an intense and sprawling action RPG that has taken some obvious cues from MMORPGs. But earlier this year, thanks in part to Operation Rainfall, Nintendo released Xenoblade Chronicles in America. I have been playing the game on and off since its release in April, and I am happy to report that I finally finished it.
There isn’t much to say about the game that gaming blogs haven’t said already. The setting is original compared to everything else, what with life on this world have grown from one of two giant beings who fought to a standstill. The story evolves in an unexpected way. The integration of MMORPG mechanics into real-time battles was inspired. Heck, even the different ways you need to use each character, should you choose to switch from the lead, brought on more excitement than expected. This game has it all.
But it takes too long to play.
Being the owner of a Wii generally means that I have no right to complain about the length of a game. After all, Wii discs don’t hold as much data as other games, and publishers definitely know the audience of the Wii does not want that. This game isn’t Skyrim. That’s precisely why I chose to buy the game. It’s a modern RPG that isn’t Skyrim, so I shouldn’t have to sacrifice much to the Lords of Time to finish it. Games like that, no matter how supposedly mature the content, aren’t made for adult game players. No, adults should have better things to do than live a virtual life inside of their television screens. But here we are.
To some degree, Xenoblade could not have been realized any other way. Like mentioned previously, everything that is living in the game literally came from one of two giant beings. Your party begins the game near the foot of one being as you journey up to the top and over to the other giant. Just to remind you of how big it is, there are occasions when you can see, in the distance, more of the creature you are ascending. If the game were cut short, it would result in the world feeling smaller.
On the other hand, there are story elements that are there just for padding. During those moments the game feels like a chore, which made it so easy to walk away from and leave behind. In fact, I went and played the original Silent Hill during one of my breaks from the game. Why? Because I wanted a little bit of excitement that was missing from Xenoblade as I became more familiar with it. But then I came crawling back, and of course the game welcomed me with open arms.
Xenoblade Chronicles is ultimately worth the effort you put into the game. The trite story of a young man who comes to possess the only weapon that can defeat evil – this time mechanical beings – develops into a science fiction story about a man who wanted to become a god and ended up a spiteful, wrathful one. (Trust me, I didn’t spoil anything.) The game play is also phenomenal. Exploration is pretty standard, but during battle you can move your character around as he or she auto attacks creatures, but moving can put you in position to dish more critical hits. You also command your partners and take control of them during Chain Attacks, which are improved by party affinity. Party affinity is improved by fighting together, accomplishing sidequests together, and even having some party members give gifts to others. There is a lot going on to help you maximize the effectiveness of your team. You could spend half of your time alone just doing that, but why bother when there’s New Game Plus after you finish it?
I clearly had a pleasant experience with Xenoblade and recommend it to people who life RPGs, especially non-standard ones. However, for me it resulted in questions about where I am as a player. A game like this definitely makes up its $50 price tag in hours spent playing it, but I don’t judge games that way. I judge games by replayability, and I am uncertain of when, if ever, I will pick this game up again. I finished the game in just under 100 hours, which is essentially four days’ worth of time spent in this virtual world. That’s a lot for me. That’s a commitment. Some people tell me that this is the direction in which games have been growing and should be growing. I can’t get behind that. Some people say that this is what makes games true art. If games need to be long-winded, Tolkien-esque epics in order to be true out, count me out. I always preferred poetry and short stories.