Xenoblade Chronicles X
|Xenoblade Chronicles X|
International cover art
Xenoblade Chronicles X, known in Japan as XenobladeX (Japanese: ゼノブレイドクロス? Hepburn: Zenobureido Kurosu, pronounced as "Xenoblade Cross"), is an action role-playing video game developed by Monolith Soft and published by Nintendo for the Wii U home video game console. Part of the Xeno series of video games, it serves as a spiritual successor to Xenoblade Chronicles on the Wii. The game centers on the player's customizable player character, and main characters Elma and Lin Lee efforts to survive and coexist with the indigenous creatures on a hostile alien planet while striving to protect humanity. Similar to its predecessor, the game features an open world design that strongly emphasizes exploration. It was released on April 29, 2015 in Japan and in December 2015 internationally.
In a similar fashion to the original Xenoblade Chronicles, the game plays as an open world role-playing video game, with an emphasis on exploration. Traveling can take place on foot, or in large humanoid robots, approximately four times the height of the average playable character, called "Skells" ("Dolls" in the Japanese version), that the player may opt to control. The Skells have the ability to fly, traverse water, and transform into vehicles such as motorcycles or tanks. Aerial battles also take place in the game.
The game's battle system works similarly to the battle system found in the original game, with some improvements. The "Arts palette" returns from the previous game. Each special attack, or Art, from the palette enters a "cooldown" period when used. This forces the player to wait for it to fully charge, at which point they can either use it again, or let it re-charge twice, at which point its use will deal even more damage, keep its charge, or induce extra effects. Specific targets on an enemy's body, such as body parts or external weapons, can be targeted and destroyed in the midst of battle, denying the enemy use of certain attacks or increasing the chances of certain drops occurring.
The past game's quest log also returns in an updated form. The Wii U GamePad is used as an "information terminal" for data the player gathers about native organisms, a map, a way to warp to previously-visited locations, and for Off-TV Play. In lieu of the more conventional automap system, players expand the information displayed on the GamePad map by installing data probes at designated spots and overhearing NPC comments.
Setting and characters
Xenoblade Chronicles X takes place on Mira, a planet located far away from Earth. It is divided into five continents: Primordia, Noctilum, Oblivia, Sylvalum, and Cauldros. The human settlement, New Los Angeles (NLA), is established in the heart of Primordia. NLA serves as the main hub, containing the majority of the characters, sidequests, and other important features. There are several alien races that reside on Mira beside the humans, such as the greedy Nopon race, the technologically-advanced Ma-non people, and the hostile Ganglion.
The player character, an amnesiac survivor of the crash, is joined by Elma, a BLADE colonel, and thirteen-year-old Lin Lee Koo (fifteen in the American version), a prodigy mechanic. They rescue a Nopon known as Tatsu. BLADE members who join the team during the course of the story include: Doug Barrett, Irina Akulov, Gwin Evans, Lao Huang, and L. The team first confront the Ganglion, the antagonist organization, through Goetia in Noctilum. Later on, a pair of Ganglion executives known as Ryyz and Dagahn attack New Los Angeles. The proud Wrothian warriors Prince Ga Jiarg and his servant Ga Buidhe work under Luxaar, the head of the Ganglion organization.
The game begins in the year 2054, as two alien races engage in battle near Earth, causing significant collateral damage to the planet. With governments warned of Earth's obliteration beforehand, humanity evacuates in enormous interstellar arkships, one from each major city on the planet, though only a small handful escape before the planet is destroyed. Two years later, the Los Angeles evacuee ship, the White Whale, is found and attacked by one of the alien races responsible for Earth's destruction, causing the ship to crash on the planet Mira. There, the passengers build a city named "New Los Angeles", or NLA, out of the White Whale's habitation pod.
The player character is rescued from a lifepod by Elma, a member of BLADE. The two search some more lifepod crash sites before fighting off some indigenous predators. Upon reaching the city, the player character witnesses a Skell crashing, and meets Doug, the Skell's test pilot and Lin, a Skell mechanic. Lin transports them to BLADE HQ. There the player character learns that BLADE is a government organization whose chief objectives are to defend NLA and search for crashed pieces of the Lifehold, where thousands of humans are kept in stasis. The "humans" living in NLA are actually androids known as mimeosomes, which are being controlled by their real bodies in stasis. While investigating the disappearance of a Pathfinder team, Elma's team encounters the Prone, an alien race who had murdered the Pathfinder team under orders to kill all humans. After killing the Prone, the team discovers a Nopon merchant named Tatsu among their cargo. He informs them the Prone are just one of a consortium of races who have come to Mira to wipe out humanity.
The team investigates a possible Lifehold unit only to find it has already been destroyed. An alien, Goetia, introduces herself and her crew as the Ganglion, an alien race that desires human extinction. Upon defeating Goetia and her crew, the army retreats. The team then meets Lao and helps Doug after Lao doesn't show up for a mission. While racing against the Ganglion to find the Lifehold, they persuade many of the races allied with or enslaved to the Ganglion to switch to their side. Finally, they retrieve a mysterious alien Skell the Ganglion were hunting and bring it to New Los Angeles.
The Ganglion launch an attack on New Los Angeles. While the Ganglion keep Elma's team distracted, a pair of warriors named Ga Jiarg and Buidhe break into the hangar and defeat the BLADE team stationed there in order to steal the alien Skell, which Ganglion grandmaster Luxaar refers to as "the Great One's Skell". Later, the team investigates a Lifehold piece discovered by Lao's team. They find an injured Lao, whose entire team was slaughtered. Pushing on to the coordinates, the team cannot find the Lifehold piece and are ambushed by Ga Jiarg and Buidhe. Elma challenges Ga Jiarg to an honorable duel and wins, reprimanding Ga Jiarg for being commanded by the Ganglion. While Lao's mimeosome is being repaired, Elma tells Commander Vandham and Doug that she suspects Lao is a traitor. She points out that he left the hangar right before the alien Skell was stolen and provided the fake coordinates to the Lifehold fragment. After successfully testing Lin's experimental Skell flight module, Elma tells her team that the Lifehold has been running on reserve power since the White Whale crashed, and once it runs out, the mimeosomes will all die because their real bodies are dead.
After being repaired, Lao steals data indicating the location of the Lifehold core. Elma's team pursues Lao to the Ganglion fortress. Lao explains that he hates humanity because his family couldn't get a spot on the White Whale, since the limited space was prioritized for those with the best chance of surviving on another planet. Upon defeating Lao, Elma threatens to shoot him if he doesn't hand the data back. However, Lin shields Lao, insisting they are still on the same side. Lin's gesture makes Lao realize the error of his ways, and he gives her the data terminal.
Using the data, the BLADE mainframe locates the Lifehold core, which is equipped with a Trion shield. Every member of BLADE, in a fleet of Skells, engage the Ganglion, while Elma's team heads into the core. While the BLADE fleet rout the Ganglion offensive, a desperate Luxaar takes the Great One's Skell, breaks through the Trion shield, and engages Elma's team. After defeat, Luxaar attacks the computer systems of the core, but is stabbed from behind by Lao. Luxaar and Lao fall into the protoplasmic pool on the floor. This mutates Lao, Luxaar, and the Skell into a giant chimera. In his last moments, Lao tells the team of Luxaar's reasoning: The human DNA is fatal to the Ganglion. After killing the monster, Elma deactivates her mim and reveals that she is an alien by retrieving her actual body. Elma had given humanity the tech to build the interstellar ark ships, mimeosomes, and Skells, and warned them about the inevitable destruction of Earth.
Upon examining the Lifehold core, the BLADE crew finds the database containing the consciousness and bodies of the entire human race was destroyed in the White Whale's crash. Nobody knows why their mimeosomes are still running, and can only assume that the planet Mira is somehow keeping them alive. On a beach somewhere, a black mysterious figure finds Lao laying down.
The game was first revealed in January 2013 in a Nintendo Direct video under the tentative name X. The game was further demonstrated in June 2013 at E3 2013, with Nintendo aiming for a 2014 release time frame. The game was shown again at E3 2014, revealing that the game had an official title, Xenoblade Chronicles X, but had its release timeframe delayed into some time in 2015. Despite the similarity in name, and the appearance of a character strongly resembling Shulk in the original 2013 trailer, the game is not a direct sequel to Xenoblade Chronicles, but rather a spiritual sequel. The game largely retains a similar battle system, quest log, and philosophical elements of Xenoblade Chronicles, as well as other story elements such as the presence of the Nopon race of creatures, and even contains similarities to other past games in the Xeno series. While the protagonists of Xenoblade Chronicles do not appear in the game, the game's character creation tool allows for the player to create characters that look similar to them, even allowing for the character to be voiced by Shulk's or Fiora's respective voice actors, Adam Howden and Carina Reeves.
The game was directed by Monolith Soft president, co-founder, and Xeno series director Tetsuya Takahashi, with character designs by Kunihiko Tanaka, the artist behind the character concept artwork and design on Xenogears, directed by Koh Kojima, and music by Hiroyuki Sawano. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata stated that the game was developed with the goal of creating a large-scale open world with "seamless exploration", with the development team working on expanding on the knowledge they learned in developing, Xenoblade Chronicles. Takahashi stated that his aim was to create the biggest game world possible for the Wii U; at one point, the developers considered releasing the game on two discs due to its size. In addition to the freedom to explore the game, the player is able to customize the appearance of the main playable character, including gender, shape, height, skin, color, voice, and facial tattoos. The game supports online co-op play for up to four players. In an interview with Famitsu, executive director Tetsuya Takahashi revealed that due to the game's sheer scope and volume, implementing the online functions was a challenge when they originally used “very basic technology” for the functionality, opting it over "cutting edge technology" because, according to Takahashi in the interview, he said, "HD and online were new experiences for us and rushing has no use. It’s a bit similar to boxing: if you stand till the end, you will win. We faced the development with this in mind." Nintendo had to step in and assist with the online support, with Takahashi taking in what he learned from the development process to implement in a potential next project.
In November 2014, Monolith Soft announced that they had entered the final stages of development, morale within the team was high, and they planned to release the game in the first half of 2015 in Japan, and the second half of 2015 in North America and Europe. The development team also revealed that they had decided to create their own website for the game, something they created without Nintendo's permission, but was given approval by the time it launched. The team blogs about the game's development on the website. They revealed that the game would have "online elements", but did not reveal any further details. Takahashi suggested that the game would feature a 'deep' and distinctive sci-fi story compared to its predecessor's 'basic' fantasy story, and stated that he asked Tanaka for his cooperation to bring out the "Xeno-ness" in the game's character designs. On December 4, Takahashi tweeted that after 15 years since the founding of Monolith Soft, he finally felt he had successfully created an RPG in which humans and robots could co-exist, something he stated as being a long held vision of his.
Since its release, Chronicles X received software updates via download: the first was minor adjustments to in-game text, while the second added Spanish and French subtitles.
Takahashi stated that he always believed the setting is important in RPGs so it became the game's first pillar. Takahashi said that the team was unable to connect the Bionis and Mechonis into one field in Xenoblade Chronicles; this resulted in the team wanting to step up for this game by creating a completely open world. Upon starting the project, the team discussed creating an entire planet, but in the end, they developed a field on a realistic scale by creating five continents around 400km². Kojima said that the team put in real effort to creating the setting so that players wouldn't feel disappointed when they put in the effort to go to hard-to-reach locations. Takahashi said that "when the player needs to go from point A to point B to progress the story, for example, however hard we may try to create something really worthwhile to be explored between these two points, it would be meaningless if the player could not realize that something might be there in that part of the world." They believed that adding the pioneering feature between points would naturally encourage players to explore while traveling to their destination. Takahashi suggested implementing hexagon-shaped fields called "Segments" into the maps to make it easier for players to figure out where they were going.
After establishing the game world as the foundation, Monolith Soft focused on creating the base of the story. From there, Takahashi and Kojima had several meetings about the story with the scriptwriters Yuichiro Takeda and Kazuho Hyodo as well as Genki Yokota. According to Takeda, Takahashi had already written a large amount of the plot beforehand and was even suggested as novel-like by Kojima. Takeda mentioned that he carefully picked out the stories that fit with the game's content and scale and turned them into scripts. Since Takeda was the originally the only scriptwriter assigned, he asked Hyodo to assist as the volume was too large for one person to handle. Known for his work on several anime productions, it was Hyodo's first time being fully involved in a video game production. As Hyodo wrote several quest scenarios, he was approved by the staff members to create additional characters. Despite Takeda preferring middle-aged male characters, he thought it would be a good idea to recruit Hyodo for young female characters with important roles. According to Takeda, the scenario including the main story and quests took about a year and a half to write out. Yokota said that they intended to increase the number of quests by 3,000% compared to the quests from Xenoblade Chronicles, but instead, they put 3,000% of their hearts into creating them.
In the middle of development, the team partially re-hauled the story to implement an online mode. This caused them to do a "mass construction" to change the main character into an avatar and rewrite bits of the story to match with the content. The decision to add the online functionality was because the team felt that playing in such a large open-world environment would cause the players to feel lonely. They focused on making the online mode "loosely connected" so that players can feel the presence of others. However, due to the RPG elements of the game, they also consciously made it for players to focus on playing alone without any disruption.
Takeda said it was a challenge to adjust the story from a pre-defined protagonist to avatars as the main character. He stated that it drastically changed the flow of the story. The team felt the game should continue the tradition of having characters talk during battle as it made the original game stand out. Compared to 3,000 battle lines from the original, the amount of battle dialogues increased to 11,000 lines for this game. Prior to this project, Takeda had never seen a professional voice actor to lose their voice during a recording.
According to Takahashi, the second pillar for this game was including robots. He said that it was a challenge to have human characters and robots coexist and function in this world. They designed these robots known as "Skells" as a vehicle to freely roam the large environments. The creators purposely made "Skells" expensive as they wanted the players to experience a feeling similar to buying a new car in real life. They also designed an insurance for every time the "Skell" gets destroyed in battle.
Monolith Soft put a lot of meaning into the "X" in the title of the game. Yokoto believes that it represents a lot of different aspects of the game. Yokota explained that it is a symbol for an unknown factor. It also symbolizes alien life of the unknown and exploring an unknown planet. In the Japanese version, the "X" is referred as "Cross" as in a place that can serve as a crossroad where people can come across one another unexpectedly. The Skells and humans being able to fight together is also symbolized by the "X."
|Xenoblade X Original Soundtrack|
|Soundtrack album by Hiroyuki Sawano|
|Released||20 May 2015|
|Genre||Video game soundtrack|
|Length||Disc 1: 1:16:14
Disc 2: 1:17:42
Disc 3: 1:16:22
Disc 4: 32:26
Xenoblade Chronicles X was composed by Hiroyuki Sawano, who is known for his work on Attack on Titan, Guilty Crown, Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn and Kill la Kill. Takahashi had been a long-time fan of Sawano, so he personally insisted on having Sawano compose for this game. Upon their initial meeting, Takahashi showed a concept video of the game to Sawano, which later became the source of inspiration and motivation for his music production. After producing the recording demos, Sawano started working on the scores for orchestra and band. For the orchestral score, he made the broader parts of it on his computer, then added the playing styles and other smaller details by hand to complete the total score. At the end of this, he went to a musical copyist and had them create the scores for each individual instrumental part. He stated that it is important work for him to produce the musical score so that he is able to perform his final sound checks. Sawano composed the music based on the musical selections and resources provided to him. After composing the music, he recorded in the studio with large orchestras and bands. He started by composing and recording the theme song and several other main pieces of music, then produced the rest of the music (over 90 tracks) over three different periods. Since Takahashi had listened to his music before, Sawano was given free rein to produce music using his own style as he had done in previous projects. During their discussions, they thought it would be fun to include some vocal tracks, so Sawano arranged a group of vocalists to join the recording process.
The game's soundtrack has seen very positive reviews; the main theme, "Theme X," was awarded the "Outstanding Achievement" award from Video game music site VGMO.  The same site also awarded Hiroyuki Sawano with the "Outstanding Artist - Newcomer award". 
David Whitaker, who is credited as the rapper of the battle theme called Black Tar as well as Melancholia, claimed that he wrote the song in about two hours and recorded it.
Initial reception of Xenoblade Chronicles X was largely positive. Following the trailer shown at E3 2013, Official Nintendo Magazine offered strong praise for its visuals and open world. In April 2014, Eurogamer featured Xenoblade Chronicles X in an article about their "Most Anticipated" games, stating that even non-Japanese role-playing game fans could find something to enjoy due to its "[mixing of] action, strategy and narrative into a delicious, idiosyncratic concoction with broad appeal." In January 2015, GameTrailers ranked Xenoblade Chronicles X as its ninth-most anticipated game of 2015, looking forward to piloting the mech through the skies and exploring the game's "massive" world. Prior to the game's English release, the game received positive press for having a larger game world than other open world games, such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and Fallout 4, the latter two being released on the more powerful PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles.
Sales and critical reaction
Japanese gaming publication Dengeki gave the game a positive review, referring to it as a masterpiece; they praised the gameplay, detailed world, story direction, and music, and said it has a "very high degree of perfection". Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu gave Xenoblade Chronicles X a score of 34/40, with scores of 9, 9, 8 and 8 from the four reviewers; they praised the gameplay, plot, large open world, and sense of freedom, but two of the reviewers criticized it for having an abundance of cutscenes.
Upon its Western release, Xenoblade Chronicles X earned an aggregated review score of 84/100 at Metacritic, indicating "generally favorable" reception. Nintendo Life praised the game's battle system, deep upgrade pathways, vast world size, and graphics, but criticized the occasional difficulty spike and fetch quest. IGN scored it 8.2/10, stating that, "Out in the wilderness, Xenoblade Chronicles X presents seemingly endless reasons to fight and wander the planet.", and that "Xenoblade Chronicles X is a massive RPG with enough surface area, sub quests, and customization to keep you busy". However, the game was criticized by IGN with a narrative that "makes important moments feel bland, with low production value that robs emotional scenes of any dramatic weight". Nintendo World Report scored it 9.5/10, stating that it is "required playing for anyone with the slightest inclination toward RPGs, and if you need to buy the system then do it" as it is "an essential part of the Wii U library." Hobby Consolas scored it 93%, stating that if "you value a long experience in which great satisfactions come little by little, you should consider getting a Wii U for this game."
Destructoid scored it 9/10, stating that it "feels like an MMO world I've been living in for several weeks now" though the "more grimdark theme isn't quite as charming as the original Xenoblade, but everything else makes up for it." GameSpot stated that, of "all the open-world games to come out this year, Xenoblade Chronicles X may be the most formidable" as a "truly enormous game, both in scale and scope," praising the landscapes, creature design, unlockables and quests, combat, and character progression and customization, but criticizing the inconsistent soundtrack, ambiguous systems, and disappointing story. Metro scored it 8/10, stating that it is the "best Japanese role-player of the generation and arguably the best open world environment of the year" and "deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as The Witcher 3 and Fallout 4" but criticized "a disappointing story and some arcane systems." Jim Sterling scored it 9/10, stating that, despite moments that "make me cringe," when "I consider the layered mass that is Xenoblade Chronicles X, all I can think of" is "how damn arresting it is." Eurogamer said it is "Japanese RPG-making at its most ambitious and determined." iDigitalTimes scored it 4/5 stars, referring to it as the "Best Wii U Game Of 2015" and a "candidate for game of the year". Time scored it 5 out of 5 and referred to it as the "best role-playing game of 2015 hands down".
The game was the third best-selling game during its release week in Japan, selling around 85,000 copies. During its second week and third week, it sold over 11,000 and 2,000 copies respectively. In addition to its physical copies, the game garnered nearly 23,000 digital copies during May 2015. It was the most downloaded title in Japan for the month of May, largely surpassing other titles such as Minecraft, Bravely Second: End Layer, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. As of June 2015, 110,000 physical copies had been sold. By the end of the year, a total of 114,665 were sold in Japan.
Upon its release in the United Kingdom, the game managed to secure 28th place in the charts. Despite its modest position, the game's launch sales was 73% higher than its predecessor, Xenoblade Chronicles. After two weeks, the game sold over 40,000 physical copies in France. In the United States, the game sold over 200,000 physical copies during the month of December, nearly doubling the then-lifetime sales in Japan.
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