Monolith Soft’s Xeno franchise had gone under the radar of just about everyone until the Wii’s Xenoblade Chronicles. The Wii U received a sequel, Xenoblade Chronicles X, but it made many changes and was stranded on a system that already sold astronomically poorly. When Nintendo revealed Monolith would be bringing a brand new Xenoblade Chronicles, a numbered sequel no-less, to the Switch in its first year, fans were skeptical but excited. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 actually did make its release and then proceeded to fly right under the radar of Switch owners until Pyra and Mythra joined Smash. Always the bridesmaid and never the bride, I suppose.
The Alrest is a world of many legends. Gargantuan titans roam above the cloud sea as hosts to all life. These titans are quickly dying off and taking entire civilizations with them. Artificial beings, known as blades, are harnessed as weapons of war by specific humans known as drivers. A young salvager, named Rex, is hired to plunge deep below the surface and help recover a valuable ship. Rex accidentally awakens, and bonds with, the Aegis, the most powerful blade on the Alrest, and, to save all life on the Alrest, they set out to reach the golden land of Elysium atop the world tree.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 tells a really interesting story that sets up a completely new world seemingly disconnected from the first. Of course, people who know the end of Shulk’s story will come to appreciate Rex’s more, but I found the main party to be absolutely insufferable. I hated every last one of these characters, except the two they kill off, and it ruined my journey. I had my share of problems with the gameplay of Xenoblade Chronicles, but Rex, Reyn, and Dunban kept me engaged throughout the entire adventure.
The combat of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 revolves around the blades and drivers. Each driver, with our Nopon exception, can equip three blades to use in battle. You will attack automatically upon coming into range of an enemy, but your blade can perform one of four different arts at your command. When you use an art, you build toward a special meter. Your special, varying by level, could range from debuffing enemies to performing a cinematic super-attack. To power up your attacks, and arts, you’ll have to stand in proximity to your blade and build up a link.
There is only one system in gaming that I believe should be regulated and removed. Blades are acquired by the typical gacha/lootbox system commonplace in mobile games. Fortunately, Xenoblade 2 only allows you to test your luck with items bought by in-game currency, and no extra money will ever need to be spent, but I find it absolutely inexcusable. It does nobody good in the long run.
Maybe my experience was spoiled by playing the definitive edition of Xenoblade Chronicles first, but Xenoblade 2 was a horrendous step-down. Items and money won from battle can disappear before you even finish the battle to pick it up, the game gives you novel-excerpt tutorials, that withhold information and outright lie to you, up until the final hours, cloud sea tides can arbitrarily halt exploration and story progression until you just sit around and wait, and enemies feel like complete sponges that ruin the pace of battle.
After my experience with Xenoblade Chronicles: DE, and Xenoblade Chronicles X, I had very high hopes for Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and the game didn’t even hit the lowest bar. From my first hour, I felt I was bombarded with ear-grading characters, bad tutorials, and sluggish combat that produced a cocktail I’m angry I had to choke down for forty-seven hours. Every company produces a major stinker once and this is definitely Monolith’s. I can’t think of a single reason to recommend this game.
Pyra and Mythra are two of the personalities that make up the Aegis. In Xenoblade Chronicles 2, they focus on the fire and light effects respectively, but in Smash, Pyra is a slow killing machine and Mythra is a nimble attacker. Using their down-special, you can freely swap between the two in an instant. I don’t think they do a good job of representing the driver-and-blade-based combat of Xenoblade 2 at all and I still think Rex should’ve been chosen over the duo. Regardless, you couldn’t get a better representation of just the two alone.