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Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review: An RPG With the Heart and Soul of a Titan

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is big on gameplay, and big on charm.

Review by Nadia Oxford, .

If my life was a sitcom, there'd be one episode where I, the harried protagonist, stack a bunch of important objects in a neat pile across several painstaking minutes. "There," I'd say, brushing off my hands in satisfaction while admiring my work. Then my free-spirited neighbor would barge into the room and scatter my efforts like a bunch of bowling pins. I'd gawp at the camera while a slap-bass line plays.

Let's label these metaphors. The stack of objects is my 2017 Game of the Year picks, which I thought I had laid out neatly. The free-spirited neighbor who knocked those picks askew is Xenoblade Chronicles 2 for the Nintendo Switch.

There are obviously worse problems to have than "Oh no, a game came outta nowhere to RKO my Game of the Year picks." I'd just hate to see Xenoblade Chronicles 2 get lost in the holiday frenzy. It's a great game, but it takes a lot of time and effort to grok; time and effort that even dedicated RPG fans might not be able to spare during the busy holiday season. There's a danger Xenoblade Chronicles 2 might get jostled around a bit and then mentioned as a mere footnote while the dust of the Switch's frankly amazing debut year settles down.

Never overlook a game with a well-spoken tiger in it.

On the other hand, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 might be weird enough, earnest enough, and beautiful enough to shine doggedly through the end-of-the-year chaos. Like its predecessors—especially the first fantasy-based Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii, as opposed to the sci-fi focused Xenoblade Chronicles X for the Wii U—Xenoblade Chronicles 2 carries a very distinct look, sound, and atmosphere. There's nothing quite like it out there, barring its older brothers.

And, like its older brothers, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a game about humble heroes literally being elevated on the shoulders of giants. The story takes place in Alrest, a world where people live, work, and play on the backs of Titans, living land masses that travel in a circle through a sea of watery clouds. At the center of Alrest is the mysterious World Tree, an unapproachable titan itself.

The game's hero, Rex, is a plucky orphan (natch) who ekes out his living by diving for salvage at the bottom of the Cloud Sea. Rex dreams of reaching Elysium, the supposed world of plenty on top of the World Tree. Titans are dying every day, making land scarcer, and Rex hopes whatever's on top of the World Tree can stop the inevitable war between Alrest's resource-starved nations.

Even anime war is serious business.

Though Xenoblade Chronicles 2 starts off as a story about a lonesome anime kid and his hopes and dreams, it becomes more political as you get deeper in. The narrative explores patriotism, war, environmental decline, refugees, and examines the little people who get caught in the crush when big powers scrap with one another. There are also a number of moral and philosophical questions raised about Blades, the living weapons that are awakened and bonded by humans (referred to as "Drivers). Are Blades humanity's partners, or their slaves? The game's band of bad guys, code-named Torna, certainly believe the latter—though that's far from their only beef with humans. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), Torna's plans to make humans suffer go awry when Rex is brought onto one of their expeditions as hired help, but accidentally bonds with Torna's prize, an ancient and powerful Blade named Pyra.

The story for Xenoblade Chronicles 2 takes well over 60 hours to tell, and that's if you don't spend additional hours getting lost while exploring the magical landscapes you find on—and inside of—every Titan in Alrest. You'll also want to block off some time to just get used to the game's myriad menus, side-jobs, and combat system. Xenoblade veterans have an advantage over newcomers, but even series veterans might stumble while trying to find their footing.

As with previous games, Rex and his allies engage in auto-combat when it's time to mix it up with an enemy. Auto-attacks fill up meters for Arts, which unleash powerful attacks with helpful secondary effects (e.g. the potential to topple a foe and leave them wide open for attack). Rex and pals can link Arts to perform powerful elemental combos. The chain attack system from the first Xenoblade game makes a return, too. But even Xenoblade vets might need a little time getting used to having Blades as companions.

"IT'S PIKACHU!"

Your fighting style, including the elements and weapons you use, depend on the Blades you choose as your partners. Blades arise from Core Crystals, which are scattered everywhere in Alrest. Common crystals are likeliest to "hatch" a generic Blade that'll get the job done, whereas a rare crystal might net you one of the more powerful, more noteworthy Blades designed by one of the game's celebrity artists ("infamously designed" in the case of some of the more scantily-clad female Blades).

While Rex and his compadres can level up to get stronger, use points to beef up their innate abilities, and equip stat-boosting accessories, much of your fighting strength depends on the chips and cores you equip your Blades with. Blades also get stronger by building trust with their Driver and, later, by completing certain tasks. This can involve anything from hunting a notorious monster to reading a certain book, or eating a piece of cake (seriously).

Let them eat cake. Or collect a variety of insect species. Or kill a boss-monster. Or--

Figuring out how to best configure and utilize your blades is initially a big hassle. The menus in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 aren't intuitive, and the myriad tutorials fed to you in-game—usually right before a big fight, when you aren't in a listening mood—aren't accessible later. To make things stickier, one of the game's main characters, the Nopon engineer Tora, uses an "artificial Blade" whose upgrade system is completely different from flesh-and-blood Blades. There's a lot of "how" and "why" that you need to keep sorted in Xenoblade Chronicles 2.

Of course, with great complexity comes great opportunity for customization. Once I got the hang of choosing the Blades that best suited my fighting style, and once I learned what each one wanted from me, that's when I relaxed a bit and started to enjoy Xenoblade Chronicles 2 immensely. As with the first game, its cast is endearing enough to endure for 60+ hours of adventuring. There's a great deal of voice acting, all of which is delivered on the first Xenoblade game's level. Take that as you will; I adore the doofy British, Scottish, and American(?) accents, but I don't doubt some people will quickly opt for the Japanese option. The endless battle chatter, for example, is guaranteed to be divisive. I personally use it to gauge the mood of a battle without relying on the characters' HP bars, but I suppose Rex's earnest war cries would be condemned as an instrument of torture in most developed countries. You can adjust the voice volume in fights, or turn it off entirely—but then how will you know you can beat your enemies with the power of friendship? Turn down the volume at your own risk.

Even chatty heroes need to shut down for the day.

The thing I appreciate most about Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is how it captures nearly everything that made the first game great, borrows the best elements from Chronicles X, and then improves on much of it. Though Blades change up how you fight in Chronicles 2, the game spills over with the traits that make the first Chronicles game a stand-out experience. More story, more enemies to scrap with, more landscapes to tread across. Chronicles 2 is a dialogue-heavy game, but there are many points where Monolith Soft lets its environments narrate the seriousness of Alrest's plight. When you visit the barren, wind-blasted Titan Mor Ardain, you get a sense for why tensions are blossoming between Alrest's nations. Here's one of the realm's biggest land-masses, and it's clearly on the verge of dying. Once it's gone, that's one less Titan for people to live on.

But one area where Xenoblade Chronicles 2 actually regresses from Xenoblade Chronicles is its side-quests. Once again, there are countless fetch quests and hunting missions to take on, but you're not rewarded as soon as you complete them like you are in the first game. Instead, you have to trek back to the original quest-giver to collect your dosh. Boo. Hiss. Nobody wants this, Monolith Soft.

Granted, you can send your extra Blades on mercenary missions and those earn instant rewards upon completion. Alas, that doesn't lessen the tedium of having to personally thrust a carrot at some peasant whose legs seemingly aren't strong enough to carry him over to the shiny spot ten paces north.

Despite its flaccid side-quests and its sometimes-baffling systems, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 puts a very nice lid on an incredible year for the Nintendo Switch, and for RPGs in general. While it might be a smidge too late to get on some Game of the Year lists, don't overlook it. Heck, make it a priority in the coming months. You could do far worse for a winter companion.

Need to kill a dinosaur-cow? Use friendship. It's always the answer.

Graphics

As with previous Xenoblade games, Xenoblade Chronicles 2's greatest strength is its highly imaginative environments. The Titans of Alrest are beautiful, menacing, and filled with oddities. One Titan's signature weather might be indoor "rainstorms" of crystal, while another will treat you to storms of wind, ash, and ether. The trade-off is noticeable chug during some busy battle sequences and town scenes (though the game still gives you breathtaking plains filled with animal life). The character models in Chronicles 2 are far sharper and more expressive than in Chronicles, though you'll still see plenty of instances of solid-piece anime hair clipping through shoulders, etc. As with pretty much every Switch game, it's a small compromise for the convenience of playing the game in handheld mode whenever you like.

Sound

Yasunori Mitsuda is still a genius, just in case there was ever any doubt. Mitsuda isn't the only composer to work on Xenoblade Chronicles 2, though his influence is all over the game. The uplifting theme for Gormott's plains rival Gaur Plains from the first title, and the music for each area changes seamlessly with day and night, often with powerful effect. A female choir that provides background ambiance on the holy city-Titan of Indol gives way to a quieter, more sombre male choir as the lights go down. Whatever you may think of the voice acting in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, its music is unquestionably sublime.

Lasting appeal

Following the story alone should take you better than sixty hours. Add in all the side-quests and the "Catch 'em All" mechanic for the rare blades, and you see I wasn't joking when I said Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a perfect companion for winter.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 applies an energetic signature and wax seal to a wonderful year for the Nintendo Switch, and for JRPGs in general. Between the amount of time it takes to get used to the game and getting through everything it has to offer, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a worthy investment for series fans and newcomers.

4.5 /5

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review: An RPG With the Heart and Soul of a Titan Nadia Oxford Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is big on gameplay, and big on charm. 2017-11-30T13:00:00-05:00 4.5 5

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Comments 42

  • Avatar for Gamer-Law #1 Gamer-Law 16 days ago
    Thank you,@nadiaoxford. This review captures what many of us were hoping for.

    That said, I would be interested in your thoughts on playing the game docked vs. handheld. Which control set-up did you prefer? As someone who enjoyed Xenoblade more on the N3DS XL, I suspect I will be playing in handheld mode, but your perspective would be appreciated.
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  • Avatar for boatie #2 boatie 16 days ago
    Getting excited...
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #3 nadiaoxford 16 days ago
    @Gamer-Law Honestly, there's no noticeable difference between docked and handheld. The slowdown issues I mention in the review are the same across docked and handheld.

    I played 99% of the time in handheld mode with the JoyCons attached. I never used the Pro Controller, which is a nice change from the first game (which was kind of stupid to control without a Pro Controller).
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  • Avatar for Linked-to-the-Past #4 Linked-to-the-Past 16 days ago
    Thanks! What a nice review, and I can't wait. Should come in the mail tomorrow...
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  • Avatar for KeroseneBlast #5 KeroseneBlast 16 days ago
    You had me at Yasunori Mitsuda.
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  • Avatar for LunarFlame17 #6 LunarFlame17 16 days ago
    Agh! Why isn’t it tomorrow yet???
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  • Avatar for Godots17thCup #7 Godots17thCup 16 days ago
    The Xenoblade games aren't perfect and won't be everyone's cup of tea, but my goodness, I just love them to bits. Both the original and X sucked away hundreds of hours of my life, often in huge chunks at a time (which is not usual for me these days), and I expect the same will be true of 2.
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  • Avatar for admiralsnackbar #8 admiralsnackbar 16 days ago
    Pyra's design irks me real bad. I love the game but it's the first Switch game where I've felt annoyed by the content when playing in public.

    The developers can design whatever they want, I'm not saying they need to chill out with whatever floats their boat but man. Fan service can be better than this.
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  • Avatar for Luna-Moth #9 Luna-Moth 16 days ago
    Fantastic review. I love your personal style of writing too!
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  • Avatar for Humperfunk #10 Humperfunk 16 days ago
    I've genuinely found that I've played 99% of my time with the Switch in handheld mode. The idea of having an epic JRPG on a console I can play on the big screen and then take with me to the bog pretty much without pausing and back again, can't wait to get stuck in tonight!
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  • Avatar for moochan #11 moochan 16 days ago
    Can't wait for tomorrow. My Special Edition is on it's way!
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  • Avatar for Outrider #12 Outrider 16 days ago
    @admiralsnackbar Yeah, I mean... the first Xenoblade wasn't without its fan service, but this is definitely worse.
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #13 cldmstrsn 16 days ago
    So excited to get this tomorrow!! Love the character design especially Pyra/Mythra. I am also excited at the inclusion of KOS-MOS as a blade.
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  • Avatar for Manthing #14 Manthing 16 days ago
    @admiralsnackbar Stop caring about what others think. Honestly people walking by could hardly care what you're doing quietly to yourself. As far as judgment goes, trust me when I say you are already judged by the time they see what you're playing. Play it proud :)
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  • Avatar for SpoonyBardOL #15 SpoonyBardOL 16 days ago
    The change to the side quest is a bummer, why on earth remove one of the more forward-thinking systems from the original? Does the game at least mark quest NPCs with turn-ins on the map, or point you to them, or are you still intended to track them down?

    Also I haven't gotten a clear answer on this: does equipment alter your appearances like in the first game? One of the more unintentionally hilarious bits from the first game was walking into serious cutscene wearing a clownsuit, but every single image I've seen from this game has the characters all in the same getup throughout.

    Pyra's design is just kind of disappointing and tedious, honestly. Yet another 'character that looks like she was designed by a horny 14 year old' is definitely a mark against the game for me, not necessarily enough to keep me from buying it, but I'll be shaking my head every time she's onscreen. I can't even get mad at anime being anime at this point, it's just... sad.
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  • Avatar for AxiomVerge #16 AxiomVerge 16 days ago
    Pretty excited for this... I got about 1/3 through the first Xenoblade but various life things caused me to put it aside. Will this game reference events in that one, or is it more like Final Fantasy where they are only related by general concepts?
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  • Avatar for Tetragrammaton #17 Tetragrammaton 16 days ago
    @SpoonyBardOL The only quests that autocompleted in the original/X were the generics. Here those are replaced by Blade dispatch missions. Both 1 and X had you talk to and report to NPCs for 80% of all quests. Anyway yeah quests are a lot easier to carry out I heard, lot more direction.

    No, there's no changing outfits. I've heard something about accessories, but I don't know if there's even an armor menu.

    Honestly the worst thing about Pyra is the straps. Saw an edit with her in a full bodysuit and she looked fine, great even.
    @AxiomVerge Final fantasy style.Edited 2 times. Last edited 3 weeks ago by Tetragrammaton
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  • Avatar for Wellman2nd #18 Wellman2nd 16 days ago
    Can you just turn off Rex's voice in battle, also his goofy hype animation when he gives up his weapon to the blades for them to perform a special?
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  • Avatar for Fade2Gray #19 Fade2Gray 16 days ago
    Deleted 3 weeks ago by Fade2Gray
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  • Avatar for AstroDemon #20 AstroDemon 16 days ago
    @Linked-to-the-Past Mine is arriving tomorrow too. I am really looking forward to playing it!

    Thanks for the great review as always Nadia!
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  • Avatar for captainN2 #21 captainN2 16 days ago
    Odd that you didn't mention the tiring character designs.
    Pyra looks so dumb with her balloon tits and sci-fi thong. It's incredibly unappealing.
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #22 nadiaoxford 16 days ago
    @captainN2 As a 37-year-old woman who's been playing video games since '84 and JRPGs since '91, I execute my right to comment (or abstain from comment) on dumb JRPG character designs at my discretion. I didn't mention Pyra's design because 1) I honestly don't think it's that bad; standard JRPG stuff, really, and 2) I'm more concerned with how a female character *acts* rather than *looks* - and I think Pyra's a neat character who I enjoy spending time with.

    Since this topic has blown up, though, I'll be offering more thoughts in the near future.
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #23 nadiaoxford 16 days ago
    @captainN2 Also, if you're concerned about how Pyra's chest is a bad representation of the female figure (just an assumption, forgive me if it's not the case), saying she has "balloon tits" isn't the most progressive way to go about doing so. It's kind of vulgar-sounding.
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  • Avatar for Vonlenska #24 Vonlenska 15 days ago
    I'm not a fan of the character design, personally. Rex looks okay, a bit...more Tales-ish or something than I expect from this series, but serviceable. Pyra looks super creepy to me, though. She may be a well written character, but her design plus the whole...backstory of "blades" is...really offputting. And everyone else looks so bland and tropey. Character design has never been a strong suit of the series, but I'm still sort of disappointed with what I've seen.

    I have mixed feelings about all the Xenoblades. The things I like are the super imaginative/enormous worlds and the completely stellar music. This one looks like it'll deliver on both fronts there, so I'm happy with that, but extra mixed feelings about all the rest this time around. Then again, the stories and mechanics have never been my cup of tea, so that's not a huge deal. I'd love to see the imagination of the series applied to a different style of game, but mostly I'm happy a JRPG series is doing well at all.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #25 NiceGuyNeon 15 days ago
    I'm really eager to play this eventually. I'm thinking I probably can't get to it this year just because I know know long the first Xenoblade took me and I loved it to bits. This'll probably be a game for the summer where I won't have class or studying to suck my free time dry.
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  • Avatar for docexe #26 docexe 15 days ago
    The Xenoblade Chronicles games are not perfect, but I like their massive worlds, their narratives, and their particular mix of MMO RPG, Open World RPG and classic JRPG elements. This one is way more “animesque” than the prior ones in terms of aesthetic and storyline, but I’m finding it very appealing.

    I’m a bit disappointed by what seem to be some regressions in terms of the interface. The prior two games had also very complex combat systems, but you could consult the tutorials any time. From what I have read at another review, the map interface is not great either.

    I’m still getting it though. Now that I finally got my Switch, this will be the perfect game for the Winter.
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  • Avatar for captainN2 #27 captainN2 15 days ago
    @nadiaoxford So these anime/JRPG tropes are so ingrained at this point that it's not even worth mentioning anymore? It's just par for the course since it's Japanese...? I'd argue that such aesthetic choices tend to impact the storytelling and overall appeal of the game and is at least worth mentioning in a review. As for my crude anatomy description... Come now, if 40+ hours of space thongs and lingerie doesn't even register, why start being offended now?
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  • Avatar for captainN2 #28 captainN2 15 days ago
    @nadiaoxford And I honestly think that "standard JRPG stuff" is still pretty damn bad. I would think a useful tool for combating sexist character designs is to repeatedly call it out on well read sites such as these. Monolith Soft/Nintendo is very likely to keep an eye on reviews.
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  • Avatar for Neifirst #29 Neifirst 15 days ago
    We don't automatically earn rewards for completed side quests?! Noooooooooooo! That was the best innovation of the original game - why on earth would they change that?
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  • Avatar for kantaroo3 #30 kantaroo3 15 days ago
    @captainN2 I'm entirely with you here. This character design is very unappealing to me. Frankly, if my 10 year old daughter were to watch me playing this game, I would be embarrassed.
    I also think that just because it is common in these types of games, it does not make it 'OK'. Mind you, it is possible to go for an anime style without the oversexualised characters (Ni No Kuni), or even to tone it down to the point where it does not get in the way (Skies of Arcadia). With Pyra it seems dialled up to 11, gratuitously so in my opinion.
    I do think we have to call it out when we see it, otherwise we perpetuate these tropes as "this is the way things are always done". That is not to say the rest of the game is bad, but every game has positive and negative aspects and this definitely falls in the negative side for me.
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  • Avatar for Modern-Clix #31 Modern-Clix 15 days ago
    @captainN2 Or you know, you can not buy the game? I personally love the character designs, and so does my wife, but we are both big into anime.

    I respect everyone's right to care for them, of course. But who says America needs to be the moral police for the rest of the world? The Xeno series is already a niche title in itself and are very much made for a Japanese audience. While Monolith Soft is part of Nintendo, Nintendo pretty much lets them do their own thing as they have always done. If this was an in house Nintendo game, it would be a different game made from they get go to appeal to no particular part of the world.

    I also think it's okay. The Xeno series is not a big seller and I am just glad they keep making games despite that because hell, even amongst JRPGS, it is pretty niche.

    I have said it before, but you all would have a heart attack if you ever came down to South America and saw people dress on television, including children's variety shows.

    My issue with this small controversy, because it is small at the end of the day, is that while I fully accept it is not everyone's cup of tea and people may be put off by it, is the constant barrage of art shaming. It's reminding me from something out of my grandparent's time. It's okay to not like something, be put off, or offend you. It's also okay to not feel any of those things and appreciate it.

    Or should I go ahead and burn my copies of Heavy Metal magazine now? Some of those covers are some of the best artistic pieces I have ever seen, and yes, many are sexual in nature. And there is nothing wrong with that. Just how there is nothing wrong with female artists who illustrate men in a sexual manner. Yes, the disparity is much smaller, and to me THAT is what needs to change. I want to see more female artists in the mainstream making the same types of illustrations and artistic design choices in male subjects if they feel like it.

    Again, not everything will appeal to everybody. That is perfectly okay! But if we are going to regress and just shame every artist and piece of art, then you know, that worries me more than breasts and revealing clothing.

    And of course art can be criticized. But this is going beyond that. It's entering shaming and dog piling.Edited 3 weeks ago by Modern-Clix
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  • Avatar for novacav #32 novacav 15 days ago
    @kantaroo3 You're free to call out whatever you like, but....

    The game is rated T for teen, is it not? So 13 and up. Why would your 10 y/o daughter be watching? Do you let her watch raunchy PG13 movies?

    Again, it's totally OK if you're not a fan of the design and feedback is democratic so by all means let them know. But the game warns right on the tin.... and Switch of all places is a haven of glorious high-end games that are totally kid-friendly like Odyssey and Botw.

    Variety is a good thing :)
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  • Avatar for novacav #33 novacav 15 days ago
    I'm in a bit of a unique situation. Never played the original Xenoblade, loved X to pieces, and now getting this.

    Can't wait!

    I'm not kidding about adoring XCX though. In my opinion it's better than Breath of the Wild. I logged 250 hours in XCX, only around 135 in BotW. And I only stopped with XCX because new games came out I wanted to play.... I could easily have kept going.Edited 3 weeks ago by novacav
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  • Avatar for Fade2Gray #34 Fade2Gray 15 days ago
    It's been a looong time since I've dug into a non-pokemon JRPG, but my love of the switch compels me.

    @Modern-Clix I doubt everyone upset over the booty-short thongs and incredulously form fitting tops is American, but I thinks it is helpful for us American's to remember sometimes that our attitudes aren't necessarily universal truths. As if our own internal bickering didn't already make that self apparent. Now, Rex's creepy little mouth on the other hand...Edited 2 weeks ago by Fade2Gray
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  • Avatar for StonedCrows #35 StonedCrows 14 days ago
    The point about the depiction of women, for me, is how unfortunate it is that Japanese developers tend to forget that women are actually human beings, too. Perhaps this requires an uncommon level of introspection and empathy, but women are human beings, just like any guy, and they can be hurt and damaged by harmful depictions. If a younger girl is into JRPGs but she finds herself consistently exposed to women who're objectified, underdressed versus their male counterparts, submissive, ineffectual, and always depicted as secondary to all male characters? Then that's going to be harmful. Hopefully I won't have to explain why.

    The thing is? This continues to be harmful into adulthood. If a person already has dealt with a lot of this, then their self-image might have already been eroded to the point where they're neurotic. What they don't need, then, is a video game where the raunchy designs lead to certain kinds of male gamers (generally the Alt-Right, as you can likely guess) making rape jokes at the expense of that character. It's just a simple matter of empathy.

    The Alt-Right reactionary perspective here would be to accuse me of having an agenda to cover women up. Why would I do that? That's not a solution to anything, is it? There are many different kinds of people out there, and here's where the problem lies. The issue is with limited depictions of only a very tiny subset of people who're over-represented. Yes, there might be women who enjoy dressing up in skimpy outfits to be leered at and objectified by men. I cannot deny they might exist. But what about the conversation that should be had though about people who think that's dehumanising? That they're almost behaving like wilful slaves?

    What if a woman wants to be independent, what if she wans to have a positive body image, and what if she wants to dress however she pleases? What then? And what if all they tend to see are women like Pyra, Quiet, and even Lara Croft, who're obviously designed for the delectation of the hormonally-focused white, male gamer. It's not like these women are ever people of colour, either, is it? That's also a discussion worth having.

    And yet these discussions are never had by games.

    It reminds me of something in Dreamfall Chapters that hurt me, personally, as an autistic person. In that game, there was a scene where one character rather savagely strips down another for being autistic with just about every loaded, bigoted insult under the sun. The writer's defence? There are bad people in reality, so it's fine to also depict this behaviour in a video game. This is absolutely correct! However, there are also decent, ethically capable people in this reality of ours who aren't so shallow and cowardly that they wouldn't speak out against something so sordid.

    In reality, if I were to be stripped down in public by another person for being autistic? Someone would step in and say "Hey, that's not right. Whatever the problem, here, it shouldn't be focused on autism. That's sick, and you should feel bad about it! Don't be so bigoted."

    It might not be quite so eloquent, of course, but that would be the gist. Someone would be upset enough by this display of prejudice enough to act. So if a woman is dressing up in what's effectively bondage gear whilst out in public, and acting in a submissive, scared way toward a man who clearly owns her in some way? Well, that's going to be something that someone may have something to say about. Is that legal? Is that ethical? Is that moral? Is that right? Is she suffering? Is she hurt? Is she in pain? There would be a discussion to be had about it, and that discussion would be interesting.

    Video games developers, however, tend to be cowardly. They'd rather appeal to the Alt-Right mindset of treating women as though they aren't exactly human rather than ever trying to have a conversation so provocative.

    And if you can't go as far as having this conversation? Then why not simply offer both skimpy and non-skimpy outfits to all genders so that the player is able to make choices about the environment they play video games in. This might not discourage the Alt-Right from making rape jokes, but at the very least it wouldn't feel as though the game is actively encouraging that to happen. Which, I personally feel, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is. If you were to offer these options, it wouldn't feel as though the game were justifying their misogynistic outlook and perspective of women, it wouldn't validate and normalise how they feel since most people would choose to not depict women in that way. Including actual women who're playing, too.

    Plus, these options would create a discussion by making these unfortunate people feel uncomfortable by having a submissive male character who might be dressed up in bondage gear. That might actually trigger some empathy. I wish empathy was more commonplace, to be honest, but I sometimes am left feeling that our world is more focused around sociopathy than actually trying to figure out how other people feel and how they might be damaged in very real, permanent ways by misogynistic 'humour.'

    And how many of these people do you think would cry misandry despite the options for both genders being equal? That in and of itself would create a discussion and make it obvious to them that they're not in a good ethical or moral position. Since the options in the game would be then equal for both genders, but they'd only see how it affects the men.

    Would it be so hard to offer skimpy and non-skimpy outfit options for every character in the game? The Western release of Xenoblade Chronicles X did just that. X was a game I could show my partner, which made me very happy. You see, my partner is someone whose body image has been hurt by these toxic behaviours and it reminds her of how people like the Alt-Right feel about women whenever she's exposed t it. Yeah, this kind of thing tends to leave women emotionally scarred, imagine that.

    In fact, there's a video I'd like you to watch. If you would:


    This is how I often feel in regards to my partner. She doesn't see herself as beautiful because genuinely awful people are always telling her that she can't be beautiful if she's even a little overweight. I see her as beautiful. I am sometimes given to wonder if the people who struggle for vain beauty do so because it's all they have, and they attack disdainfully out of jealousy for a person who has beauty from depth, empathy, and character. I don't know why, really, though. I am just able to feel the hate, too.

    Empathy will do that.

    So, why can't games at least offer skimpy and non-skimpy options to all genders? That'd be so easy to do. And having actually talked at length with a modeller in the industry, I know it's not hard to create another outfit. If you doubt this, consider that modders do this all the time, for free. It's a really easy thing to do. The whole process would take a few hours, at most, per character. That's not a whole lot of development time, is it?

    Why do you thnk DLC outfits exist?

    And if a game developer wanted to take this a step further without being brave enough to actually include the conversation of how this can serve to emotionally damage women? Why not have character options. Xenoblade Chronicles forces you to partner up with a slave. A slave. You own her, she's submissive to you and will do whatever you desire, she's wearing sexually provocative bondage gear... She's a slave. Your slave. I feel incredibly uncomfortable just thinking about that.

    Pyra is Rex's slave. There's no two ways about that. She has no agency of her own, she has no will to do anything by herself. She's just there to enable him and help him with whatever he needs. Everything she does and is fits the definition of a slave perfectly. Do you not think that's a little problematic? I do. I'm not calling you sexist, right now. Understand that. I'm not saying you support slavery, either. What I am saying is that you've never even thought about this before I challenged you to do so, because the game normalises this concept of slavery of women. How do you feel now?

    Now what if you could have a blade who's independent, instead? She has her own will, she has her own desires, needs, and motivations. This creates a very different personality to Pyra's. In skimpy armour, she'd come across as being like Etna from Disgaea, who isn't a problematic character despite dressing provocatively because she's in control of her own sexuality, she isn't depicted as a slave. Of course, Etna is problematic because of her age, she's far too young. If you remove Etna's age from the equation, though, then she's a powerful lady who's in control of her own sexuality who'd curb-stomp anyone who tried to objectify her.

    And that's something you can absolutely do. However, you could also have a woman in full body attire like men always tend to wear. Then her depiction could be that of an independent woman who has no interest in sexuality, she's a professional and she just wants to be the most effective person on the battlefield that she can be. Not unlike any male soldier. I think that these options are actually important. By having both personality and clothing options, it goes a step further in the right direction.

    It would be nice to see games have the discussion I mentioned earlier. I'd love to see that, but I know publishers are too cowardly for that as they think of profits first, and everything else second. So if they feel they're going to lose out on a demographic, they won't do it. Thing is? I think the demographic of people with empathy is actually larger than that of the Alt-Right. If I believed otherwise, I wouldn't even be writing this. So I believe that a game which challenges objectification by having a conversation about it could be very, very popular. The game owuldn't be entirely about that, ultimately, but if one were to include it as an element I think it would appreciate that game's value.

    Even without that, though, I feel like the option of skimpy vs. non-skimpy outfits for all genders should be a basic inclusion in every game. And if you can only have one? Then make it that way for everyone! Everyone is skimpy! Or everyone is fully clothed and professional! The issue here, as you can hopefully understand, is one of inequality. If a young girl is playing a game and she asks why this woman is dressed that way, behaving like a slave, whereas the men are fully dressed, behaving professionally, and possess agency that the female characters do not? What do you tell her?

    If a grown woman (your girlfriend, your mother, your sister, or any other kind of relation) were to ask this question, even? What would you say? How can this be jsutified? The simple answer is that it can't. That's why groups like the Alt-Right use projection, smoke and mirrors, and ad hominem to attack people instead of making a logical, coherent argument.

    And here's the thing: Having come as far with me as you did (if you're still reading)? Pyra is problematic because, let's face it, she has the face and voice of an incredibly young girl. Someone in their early teens, roughly. She looks like a young teenager with breast augmentation, who's been dressed in a slave outfit, and given a submissive personality. Don't you find that at all problematic? Not even a little bit? Shouldn't you feel just a little bit ashamed for not being bothered by that? I would. Like I said, women are people, too. And it worried me how often that seems to be forgotten.

    So why isn't Xenoblade Chronicles 2 offering different clothing options at least? I think it's a valid question. There's an agenda, there, because they'd otherwise just do it. It doesn't cost much time, money, or manpower to include them. You could have a version of Pyra who's dressed profesionally, without the balloon breasts, which would make the game inclusive of women gamers rather than dismissive. Wouldn't that be a good thing? So why has that not happened? Why would anyone argue against that?

    The problem, ultimately, is sexism. It's uncomfortable, but it is a truth. The issue is, of course, that sexism can happen by proxy if people are convinced by sexists to go along with something because they're just not thinking about it, they're not engaging their empathy and challenging themselves. So they allow themselves to be tricked into a mindset where women aren't human beings, they're just objects. And if, having shone a light on that, this doesn't perturb you? That would worry me. It should perturb you.

    Women ARE human beings, after all. They feel, just as you do. And they can be hurt, just as you can. They're not robots. They're not homunculi. They're people. So why aren't they being treated like people by male gamers? It's a fair question, isn't it?

    So instead of attacking those who raise issue with the obvious problems of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, we should instead be asking Nintendo some questions that might be very uncomfortable for them.

    Why would they not include outfit options? It's a simple matter. It could be done in a matter of days with the laziest of interns (I'll point again at modders to make my point). So why didn'tt hey? Why?

    Is this game intentionally targeted at sexists? If so, then what does that say about the people who're playing and enjoying it right now? How does that make you feel? The thing is, like I said, I just think that a lot of people haven't thought about it, because they don't bother to engage their empathy much. So Pyra being Rex's sexy, submissive slave girl just flies right past their judgement as they haven't given it the time of day to consider.

    And the Alt-Right campaign against anyone who isn't bigoted in just about every way (sexist, racist, ableist, et cetera) has been a very succesful one. If I -- or anyone else -- brings up this matter, it's easy to shrug it off with 'lol SJWs,' but is that the right answer? Is that a valid answer for you? Is that how you think we should answer these questions? Is dismissal of the feelings of other, real people ever a valid option? Like I said, the Alt-Right are fantastic at tricking and conning people into normalising the most toxic forms of hatred. It's really unfortunate, and it's not right.

    I could be judgemental and say "You should know better!" but I know that a lot of people just don't bother to think about this. I think that a lot of the problem is with education. That's why, for me, the onus lies on both governments and the entertainment industry to challenge people and show the Alt-Right for the charlatans they are. Why isn't an ethics class a basic staple of every young person's curriculum in every first world country? Why do video games publishers feel they need to be too cowardly to ask uncomfortable questions of their audience?

    I'd personally feel insulted by that. I mean, I'm not an idiot. I'm okay with being challenged. If I'm wrong about something, present me with plenty of evidence and a logical point and I'll concede. I'm a reasonable, sensible, intelligent human being. Which I imagine is true for most of you. So why are video games publishers catering to stupidity? Why are they going for the incredibly lazy, easy option of just pandering to the Alt-Right, regressive mindset?

    I have this mental image that when one of the talking heads of a publisher steps up on stage and looks at their audience, they just see a gaggle of Trumps and adjust their speech accordingly. Is that true?

    I mean, it might not be true that they do that. They might not. But with how the industry is behaving right now, it feels that way. If it wasn't then, like I said, we'd at least commonly see both skimpy and non-skimpy options for all genders, right? And yet, here we are, with yet another game that's perpetuating and normalising hatreds.

    So if rape jokes of Pyra are abundant? That's very much Monolith Soft and Nintendo's fault. Yes, the blame lands squarely at their feet. Because they're offering justification for that behaviour by not providing non-skimpy options for Pyra, and skimpy options for Rex. As I said, that should be a bare minimum necessity to help deal with this problem. If they had done that, I wouldn't have an argument. In fact, I'd be happy! So would my partner. And then if they make rape jokes about Pyra, what they're doing is just showing us how sad and pathetic they are for choosing to sexualise her, instead of having that normalised by the game itself.

    I hope this has provided food for thought. I really do. I want people thinking about this more and realising what the problems are and from where they stem. If Nintendo and Monolith Soft are normalising Alt-Right misogyny, then they own responsibility for that. The onus is on them, it's their responsibility to do something about it. Ideally, they should have done something aobut it before the game was launched, of course. I just hope that they learn from this and act more responsibly in the future.

    Because right now? If I say that Nintendo is a company that supports the perspective of women as objectified, underaged, bondage-dressed, submissive slaves? I wouldn't be wrong. That's right there, in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, spelled out in bright neon letters for all to see. If I was Nintendo, I wouldn't be okay with that.

    All they had to do, as a base minimum, was offer clothing options. So why not? Why didn't they? Is there a good answer? Or is it just pandering to the worst kinds of people on the internet?

    So I hope I've gotten some thinking going on this topic, that was my only goal from the outset. I'm not here to insult, hurt, or undermine you. I genuinely think that most men in this are innocent. They just weren't thinking. They didn't think, so they just allowed it to pass them by. Now you are thinking, so what you do now that you are is up to you. If you choose to behave like the Alt-Right, then there's nothing I can say to you. But I'd rather htink that the majority will be as bothered by this as I am.

    It all comes down to this: Women are people too. How could we ever forget that? It's terrifying that we ever could have. Which is a point that women gamers have been yelling at us for decades.

    Thank you for reading.

    -- StonedCrows
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  • Avatar for kantaroo3 #36 kantaroo3 14 days ago
    @novacav I think you make a fair point regarding the ratings process, albeit I think you are addressing the preface rather than the substance of my challenge. But you are right that the ratings system is helpful in two ways: Firstly, it signals that content may simply be inappropriate for some age groups. Secondly it can be tailored to different cultural preferences, so that the West does not impose its values on other cultures.

    But the substance of my argument of course wasn’t what my 10 year old daughter might think of me for playing a game with a half-nude warrior character (I could just as easily have used my wife in that example). No, my real concern is simply that I like video games and I think that the portrayal of Pyra detracts from my enjoyment of the game, prevents me from getting into it and it does so from what I consider to be gratuitous service to a patriarchal approach to women, where they are to be portrayed for the pleasure of the male gaze. There is no need for women warriors to wear thongs. There is also no need to represent them with unnatural breasts, or to cover them up with a revealing bodice. And this has nothing to do with culture, or do women in the Japanese armed forces wear such attire?
    Of course, as others have pointed out, it’s a free country and I am not required to buy this game. The reason I commented in the first place is because I think the lack of mention of this design choice in the review was a gap. Now that there is another full article on this topic I’ll move the conversation there.
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  • Avatar for R.A.D. #37 R.A.D. 10 days ago
    @captainN2 Hey look, another Victorian prude clutching their pearls at the site of ankles.
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  • Avatar for R.A.D. #38 R.A.D. 10 days ago
    @StonedCrows Nobody's forgotten, you're just angry because people won't allow you to tell them what to do. Or think.
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  • Avatar for R.A.D. #39 R.A.D. 10 days ago
    @kantaroo3 DId you time travel from the Victorian era?
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  • Avatar for raulcibeles #40 raulcibeles 9 days ago
    Yeah it's hard to care about this port but I appreciate that Rockstar is supporting the Switch . It's just the wrong game. This is one of the best videogames of the year. Skyrim made sense because that game is timeless and the port job was so clean (unlike Doom). If Rockstar made a solid port of Red Dead Redemption on Switch it would sell like gangbusters. I am way more likely to buy a game on the Switch than any other console. I bought Sine Mora again and I'll probably end up buying Rive a second time too. L.A. Noire always seemed kind of clunky feeling in concept and execution.Edited Yesterday by raulcibeles
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  • Avatar for endrobron #41 endrobron 4 days ago
    Just did awesome works with this article man. Thanks
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  • Avatar for lastgladiatoor #43 lastgladiatoor 4 hours ago
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