Xenoblade Chronicles 2 looks more like Xenoblade Chronicles Y
I love Xenoblade Chronicles. Not only is it by far my favorite RPG on the Wii, it is right up there with Metal Gear Solid 3 and Final Fantasy VI in the ranks of my favorite games of all time. With this in mind, I should have been overjoyed at the announcement of a sequel during last week’s Nintendo Switch event. In reality I was left perplexed more than anything else.
On the superficial level, it certainly feels like a successor to Xenoblade Chronicles. Shots of characters exploring wide-open landscapes the likes of which served as the Wii classic’s calling card are accompanied by music from at least two of the original’s whopping six composers that certainly had the signature flavor that made Xenoblade Chronicles’ OST such a standout. The art design, even in a decidedly more stylized direction, also makes its lineage clear. I was particularly struck by how reminiscent an unnamed female character’s red body-armor was to the white-and-gold suit worn by Fiora for much of Xenoblade Chronicles’ playtime. Though this was the most obvious case, there were a myriad of other occasions in which the game’s past was made crystal clear. Even the framing could have been pulled out of that Xenoblade Chronicles remaster that appears in my dreams every once in a while. There is a very specific set of precisely one things that you are evoking when close on a wide shot of a sci-fi-ish red sword planted into the grass before a seemingly endless sky.
That specific shot, designed to appeal to all of those who, like me, cherish Xenoblade Chronicles is what hammered home the reason for the disconnect between what Nintendo and, heck, even my subconscious wanted me to get from the trailer and what I was actually feeling. Honestly, I don’t see from this trailer why we have a sequel. The game that they were making must have necessitated it be connected to the original so closely as to apprehend the name and slap a number on it, but I don’t see what the tether is in this trailer. Admittedly, it’s been a while since I played the first title, but I have no recollection of the few terms and locations (“Elysium”, anyone?) shown in the Switch event’s trailer cropping up in Shulk’s adventures. The final shot, mentioned above, is certainly an allusion, but instead of the Mechonis looming over the horizon we see some sort of tree and a sky-whale (or something like that) and the red sword is most definitely not the iconic Monado.
This disconnect would be good and fine, but the game IS called Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Tetsuya Takahashi, the game’s producer and the creative man behind Xenogears, Xenosaga, Xenoblade Chronicles, and Xenoblade Chronicles X has a history of continuing ideas from previous games in new, unrelated outings that have something of a recurring prefix. In 2015’s Xenoblade Chronicles X, the gameplay systems of Xenoblade Chronicles were expanded upon with no connection to the story of the regional. Many of the Xeno- games feature motifs carried over from their predecessors, feature some sort of science fiction-fantasy hybrid setting, and deal with similar themes. So, I beg the question, what about Xenoblade Chronicles 2 makes it a true sequel to one of my favorite games rather than another game in the long lineage of spiritual successors? The only factor that has ever tied any of these games into a direct chronology was story, which occurred with the Playstation 2’s Xenosaga. Not even the combat system common between Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles X was enough to warrant the affixing of a number on that box.
I’m not going to pass judgment on this game’s status as a sequel until we have more than a two minute trailer but, as it stands, I was convinced of nothing about a game that I desperately want to love. I’m all for ambiguous reveal trailers, but, when given a direct sequel to a beloved game by a man who isn’t exactly prolific when it comes to follow-ups, forgive me my apprehensions. There is no doubt in my mind that the game will be fantastic; I just hope that the integer at the end isn’t present solely to move copies.