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Mega Man 9
This review contains spoilers
You should probably consult the internet a bit as you start your playthrough of Xenoblade 2, and sadly that means you might have a few things accidentally spoiled. I hope that doesn’t turn you off from giving this game a try if you’re interested. If you want a quick summary, yeah I think it’s worth playing but it’s got issues.
I think people are more likely to remember how something made them feel than what was actually said or done, and Xenoblade 2 really wants you to feel a whole cheese board of emotions. It’s too bad then, that a lot of people play this game and walk away feeling all the wrong things. Interestingly though, it’s hard to find people who feel anything but strongly about this game. Xenoblade 2 does itself no favors here, it is such a bizarre hodgepodge of unrestricted ideas somehow made under the umbrella of a huge corporation, and the results were often mixed. It’s no wonder the result is so polarizing. I’m not exactly balanced in my assessment either. Xenoblade 2 made me feel all sorts of things. Some good, some bad, but I’m glad I gave it a shot.
Despite being well known for getting good 20 hours in, Xenoblade 2 wastes little time just throwing you into things. I was initially thankful for this brisk introduction. In it we immediately establish the main goal and the greater scope of the conflict. Although once I started having all these terms dropped on me like drivers, blades, Aegis, Mor Adain, Fonsett, Alrest, titan etc I quickly felt overwhelmed. Rex is familiar with all of this, but I’m not. My protagonist mercifully started asking more questions in chapter 2 but chapter 1 is a lot to take in.
Most refreshingly, our main villains are set in stone right from the word go. While others will join in later, Malos and Jin are locked in here and stay that way for the whole game, so your lead antagonists continue to receive a ton of attention rather than being discarded and replaced by someone far less interesting. Malos’ cocky, brutish attitude is typically suited for a secondary rival or early game antagonist. Instead, this guy is the carrot at the end of the stick for your whole playthrough, and he only gets better with time. It makes for a much more memorable villain whose personality could have easily fit for the hero of a different story if he wasn’t also a suicidal drama queen.
After chapter 1 is finished, the game really starts to lay it on thick with the tutorials. Much has been said about these blurbs of text. I am of the opinion that, while they eventually come together to form a pretty solid combat system, it spends a lot of time stumbling when getting you there. Not only are these tutorials sometimes lacking in information, there is not a means of reviewing them within the game itself. So you’d better fire up that search engine if it’s been a while since you last played. This is a pretty egregious oversight in a game that’s desperately trying to cram in mechanics and display them on screen. Stranger still, the game allows you to rewatch any of its cutscenes through a theater mode, but not its tutorials through any other menu. They also come with no visual guide, they’re just text popping up on screen and as soon as you press continue, they’re gone. Most damning of all, all these quality of life features were in Xenoblade 1.
In combat itself, you’ll be spending a lot of time flicking the control stick to cancel your auto-attack and build up arts, and eventually string together blade combos. Understandably, Rex’s main weapon is among the best in the game at quickly building these arts up. To the point that it will often overshadow any alternatives. I’d advise against gluing yourself to this weapon though. Weapon classes I had dismissed initially ended up being far more useful than I had given them credit for. Katanas, lances, and Brighid’s whips all immediately stuck out to me as fun to use, but Roc’s scythes, bit balls, and even Poppi’s various weapons can be great in their own right depending on the arts and animations they’re tied to. Even the hammer, which I later found out is considered to be the game’s worst weapon type, had its uses for me, being tied to a pretty dependable tank blade that helped me out during harder boss fights. You might not want to rely on flicking that control stick either, because timing your arts to the stronger auto-attacks will make things go much faster.
The auto-attack, arts, and specials form the trifecta of your combat options. At first I wasn’t sure why they chose not to implement anything like item usage or being able to more directly control other party members. I also didn’t like not being able to auto-attack while moving, which was possible in Xenoblade 1. I did however come around to Xenoblade 2’s way of doing things. With nine arts, twelve specials, and a branching tree of party member specials at your disposal, you certainly have quantity on your side over Xenoblade 1. You may not notice this at first, since the game does a pretty poor job of making you comfortable with how to play effectively. Xenoblade 1 gave me the ability to topple in the prologue, Xenoblade 2 gives it to me in chapter 3 alongside the ability to juggle three blades. Eventually you’ll find that the game allows you to play in a plethora of ways within the confines of setting up blade combos that lead into chain attacks, so player’s have many means of expressing themselves across a range of arts, animations, and passive abilities. With an understanding of secondary effects that specials provide, your decision making becomes even more complex. As an example, some provide passive damage after completion and some both deal damage and heal the party.
Don’t dismiss those descriptions, they’re actually important. Read the skill trees. Every blade has passive abilities and most specials have secondary effects. You should also be opening that affinity tree regularly, because these upgraded/new abilities don’t take effect until you see them on that page. You could go the entire game wondering why a blade is shit despite your frequent use of it and not know why. You would think that someone would be checking menus pretty frequently in an RPG, but Xenoblade 2 has so many of them that I have seen several people fail to remember important information like this. These special effects are so widespread that the game passively reminds me of Pokemon, and makes me wonder how a multiplayer feature could be implemented in Xenoblade.
Unfortunately, unless you know what you’re looking for, you could stumble through the entire game not really clicking with the combat. While there are a few challenging fights, they don’t push back against the player nearly enough to force them to reevaluate how they’re playing. So if you’re playing wrong, you may never realize it. You’ll just not have fun but not realize why. You’d be well within your rights to blame the game for this. The combat is legitimately good, but you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
Boss fights are generally what’s going to keep you most engaged here. Of particular praise are the fights against multiple opponents whose abilities coordinate well with one another. The Malos and Jin fight in chapter 7 is an impressive display of the combat system’s strengths. After getting my ass kicked for what felt like hours, I managed to time an evasion skill consistently to dodge an unbelievably annoying blowdown effect that dealt massive damage on top of that.
During this first half is when you build up blade combos and attach elemental orbs and debuffs to bosses. These orbs will float around the boss, and can be destroyed during a chain attack to deal massive damage. You’ll also be fishing for driver combos but many bosses have high break resistance. Chain attacks themselves give you the ability to select from each party member’s list of blades to use special moves in sequence, with elemental attacks opposite to the orbs attached to the boss being more effective. Something I’ll definitely praise here is the status effects actually having an effect on the bosses, especially when they lock the big guy’s out of certain abilities. Dark elemental orbs are consistently the most helpful since they suppress a boss’ ability to call for help.
The second half of boss fights can hardly be considered a “half” at all. Bosses will usually enter an enraged state at some point. With it they will either break out a super powerful move or start spamming their most frustrating attacks. The game doesn’t seem to expect you to actually deal with these over just executing a chain attack and obliterating the last half of the boss’ HP. If you do end up dealing with a boss’ super move, then your best course of action is usually to just run off to the side and pick up your teammates if they fall. It’s not very intuitive and without a chain attack you’re probably just delaying the inevitable, but you do have a chance to recover. I’m unsure if my disappointment at a lack of a more definitive second phase is more a result of the game dangling something like it in front of me than its lack of existence outright. The boss is really just the first half of the HP bar, and getting them down to the second half without having the correct chain attack ready will be followed by the game informing you that you’ve failed its test. While a more robust moveset for bosses would have been appreciated, it is undeniably cathartic to decimate a health bar you had merely been chipping at until that point.
Xenoblade is more than its combat. Monolithsoft has also constructed a pretty expansive world once again. It’s impressive to see how much they’re willing to push Nintendo’s lackluster hardware to its limits. While I didn’t always feel incentivized to explore this world in depth, I still found its scope to be impressive. Xenoblade 1 offered a greater sense of progression through the Bionis, crawling up its body, onto the giant swords clashing, and finally onto the Mechonis. Xenoblade 2’s maps are more disparate by comparison. However, it trades that continuity in for crazier titan biology. There’s a lot of mind paid to how exactly traversable land would work on the titans. Gormott for example starts out very narrow since a large portion of the titan is made up of stoney giraffe neck. Or Uraya, where you spend a fair amount of time inside the titan, has natural lighting coming from a translucent exterior.
Helping a sense of discovery is a huge variety of fauna inhabiting each new area. It would not be a Xenoblade game if you didn’t run into an open area with triumphant music blaring just before the sudden interjection of an electric guitar introduces you to a level 90 monster who proceeds to one-shot your level 5 northerner bong and his friends or varying cup sizes.
Stunting some sense of exploration is the field skills. These are special abilities each blade has that enables certain means of traversal for gated areas. On top of these often making me just shrug off the idea of exploring if I had to do a bit of grinding to upgrade how adept some of the blades were, this system jarred with the gacha elements of unlocking blades. Common blades will have a random set of abilities, so I was left pretty indifferent to most of these field skill checks on the basis of it feeling a bit out of my hands. You also cannot switch equipped blades if you are climbing, which is fucking annoying.
The blades themselves are unlocked through a gacha system. You are constantly accumulating core crystals through salvaging or through murdering large sky lobsters. These crystals awaken blades (somewhat) randomly. Nondescript common blades have random weapons and passive abilities. Rare blades have these things set from the start. For those who don’t want to engage with this system much, you will have a safety net of three “pity blades” that you’re guaranteed to pull even if you have the absolute worst luck in the world. There are also a handful of blades you can obtain through sidequests and three additional ones you get through the main story, those being Wulfric, Aegeon, and Roc. The latter two are considered story-important blades but the poor guys don’t even get blade quests, whereas Wulfric does.
This system has been a point of contention for many players. Obviously they want to use the rare blades with unique designs, personalities, heart-to-hearts, and side quests. They wonder why they couldn’t just obtain all the blades through optional quests. Why make them sift through the garbage of common blades when the real content is with the rares? Well, commons can often overshadow rares in usefulness, particularly if you’re pulling them from rare or legendary core crystals. It’s much easier to fit commons into your game plan as the rares have stricter means of implementation. However, rares are always going to be easier for you to identify in the menu. Since their skills and passives are always the same, you won’t have trouble remembering what they do. While you can only have a limited number of blades on each driver, there’s probably going to be enough clutter for you to struggle remembering who’s your most useful common blade. A means of making this a little easier would be to eliminate the need for “organize by driver” in the menu, and color code common blades based on who awakened them. You can thankfully lock favorite blades, but even then, you might have quite a few favorites.
So the gacha system is a mixed bag. I never found myself wishing I had a particular rare blade, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t favor rare blades due to information retention with them just being that much easier. There’s no feeling quite like being lucky though, and pulling an ultra rare blade brings a unique kind of excitement to the experience. It’s one of those aspects of the game that shows the developers must have been thinking about all the different ways a player can have fun in the first place, and decided to just stuff as many of them as possible into Xenoblade 2, perhaps at the expense of something else. While I don’t think the game greatly suffers mechanically from the gacha system, it can still overwhelm a player to the point of causing disinterest thanks to messier implementation and presentation.
The game should be teaching you how important its content and mechanics are rather than just telling you they exist. Stacks of items that can be exchanged for something good and you’ll never know. A grindy minigame required to improve Poppi can be mitigated by converting its prizes into core crystals. Did you know that? Did you know Adenine’s ability straight up doubles damage to enemies’ elemental weaknesses for ALL forms of damage? Did you know the “strength” stat doesn’t necessarily reflect damage, as drivers and blades have distinct strength from one another? Did you know that blades increase their strength stat when you fill out their affinity chart? Did you know Brighid does increased damage after evading attacks? Did you know every weapon has an optimal attack range that gives you a 15% damage boost? Did you know stat buffs that blades give to drivers persist when that blade is inactive? Did you know you can switch blades to other drivers with overdrive? Or that you can lock blades to make sure you don’t delete them? Did you know that some of those informant NPCs actually have useful things to share? Did you know that female party members focus on blade combos while male party members will focus on driver combos? This is why you’ll probably end up spoiling a bit of the game’s surprises when you go off to do a little digging for information. There’s so much information to go through that you will inevitably see some off-hand mention of important plot details you probably didn’t want to see. In my case I still enjoyed most of the plot, but it’s disappointing the game could not convey its information with enough organization for you to not bother with consulting the internet on it. There were times I genuinely had a blast taking down a tough enemy but that’s only because I took the time to check third party sources.
Alright I can’t be fucked to talk about just the mechanics anymore. A few pages of digression later, I’m going back to blogging about how I felt playing through chapter-by-chapter. The story is a huge part of this game, seeing more of it is the main incentive for progression, and it’s what most people talk about regarding the game years down the line. Although admittedly there’s more genuine gameplay discussion persisting than what I typically see for games like this. Nearly a fifth of the mandatory game is just the cutscenes. There’s 14 hours of this shit, brother. There’s still going to be gameplay stuff as you scroll but it’s more of a mix.
Like its predecessor, Xenoblade 2 opted to go for a UK localization. This lends itself well to the different regions you will be visiting, and allows each area to feel even more culturally distinct due to the high density of accents within the UK. Australians also join in on the fun here to voice the Urayans. It was very bold of the localization team to allow Australians into the recording booth with no regard for their own safety, so credit to them there. Indol is also populated by American accents (supposedly, they’re either slipping all over the place or Amalthus is going for some kind of Mid-Atlantic thing), and since this nation handles the distribution of blades, blades also have American accents. At least that’s what I think they were going for.
Sadly, I chose not to engage with the dub for most of my playthrough. It’s a real bummer, because I love Xenoblade 1’s dub, and the same dialectal charm was readable in the subtitles while I listened to the Japanese audio. Rewatching all of the cutscenes with the dub, I still feel I made the right decision by switching around the Chapter 3 mark. There are legitimately great performances in the English version, it’s true. Simon Thorp absolutely kills it as Vandham and Sean Barret’s choice to not make his voice a nasally scratch once Gramps shrinks down is welcome. While Mitsuki Saiga’s Morag/Meleph is one of the best pitched down female performances I’ve heard, you can still tell that it’s not her natural register, and I think I prefer Kirsty Mitchell’s choice to speak normally. Skye Bennett sometimes falls victim to what I can only think was not knowing the context of some of her lines, making delivery here and there sound off, but other times she sounds pleasantly natural in many of the game’s casual conversations. There’s a stellar, hammy performance from Bana, and while Malos can sound wooden in a few lines he really lets loose by the end.
But Al Weaver’s Rex is just too inconsistent for me to stick with. I am usually pretty forgiving of dubs, some might even call me an apologist, but this is often not an acceptable performance. I can work with sub and dub, but I know people who just prefer to ride with the dub no matter what. This performance, especially the opening chapters, is sometimes so bad that it will legitimately prevent me from recommending this game to people. I don’t know if the guy was worried about waking up the neighbors when raising his voice but he cannot scream to save his life. The first fight with Malos is accompanied by utterly unconvincing shouts that will immediately turn you off to your lead character. Worse still is the climax of chapter 3, where your alternative to Hiro Shimono’s anguished cries is a set of mild exclamations reminiscent of that time you came back from the store and realized you forgot milk or something idk. I don’t care if it’s the actor or director who was to blame, the result is sub par performance. So it was Japanese audio for me, which is fine given that most important cutscenes actually align their lip synching with the original dialogue. The most egregious example in the game might be when Rex says, “Thank you” in the Japanese version, literally the English phrase, “Thank you”, but the dub felt the need to change it to “I could get used to this!” with the grace of a square peg in a round hole.
Also suffering from weaker performances in the dub are most of the optional rare blades. I don’t really have anything else to say. They’re bad. What, you think I’m gonna pull a punch for fucking Theory and Praxis? No. I’m typing this paragraph after I’ve finished literally everything else.
Like I said previously, chapter 3 is where the combat opens up for you a lot more. You’ll meet Vandham who joins your party and tells you he’s not going to awaken any core crystals because he only needs Roc and he’s definitely not going to die. This chapter ends with what might be your first genuine roadblock in the game. Malos Metsu and Akhos Sheisty link up for a battle that begs you to do so damn prep work. Thankfully both hubs you visit in this timeframe have many items that’ll help you out. This is where I found my most preferred pouch item in the game that charged my specials faster and ensured those lazy bums in my party actually had their shit together when I needed a blade combo.
Chapter 3’s scripted but exciting ending is followed by the pure silliness of chapter 4. As much as I genuinely enjoyed some of the ridiculousness of this segment, this is where the map design began to wear on me. The factory is just miserable to walk around, and you’re stuck with just Rex and Nia as party members as frantic music blasts your brain. It’s almost worth it to see Bana and Muimui front flip down a slide into a giant robot though. Chapter 4 is often maligned for frequently dipping into farce territory, especially after the dramatic chapter 3. Much of its plot is focused squarely on the comedic nopon characters, which might make the whole thing feel like a waste of time. It did however manage to elicit a few laughs from me. Scenes like the obviously evil nopon masquerading as a friend, being shown in a flashback in a shitty disguise. Our heroes are oblivious to the incoming betrayal.
The end of the chapter sees us graced with Morag as a party member. You’ll have to die if you want her to be of any use though, deflating the triumphant tone of the scene. She comes in unequipped when the rest of your party is probably hopped up on pouch items. With Brighid and a mega lance equipped, she’s probably one of the most fun party members in the game, and she was typically the one I’d choose to play as if I wasn’t on Rex.
Fan la Norne arrives at the tail end here to save the day. Although her introduction feels incredibly convenient, and most everything about her falls under plot points you wish someone would ask a few more questions about, she does make sense here when you consider what Zeke’s original intention was when bothering you throughout the story so far.
Chapter 5 takes you to the Leftherian Archipelago, which might be my favorite location in the game. This is where it started really becoming clear that the world was not simply designed to be big for no reason. For those interested, they’ll find that the map is very deliberately designed with many eye catches that invite you to test whether or not you can make it to them. Usually, if you can see it, you can get there, so long as it isn’t obviously just a piece of the titan’s body. Heart-to-Hearts, sidequests, and novelty items hide away in all corners of the map. These are strewn about in every location. Character moments most players will never see. The randomness of what characters you’ll even have in your playthrough ensures that many players who take an interest in this content are going to have very different experiences. The archipelago is also pretty forgiving with its cloud sea, letting you swim around to your heart’s content.
You’ll run into Zeke for his last boss fight here. He actually managed to kick my ass a few times. Compounding this with the Patroka and Mikhail fight, this is the point when I started feeling the pressure to slap orbs on during the first half of boss fights, because the less I have to deal with enraged attack spamming, the better.
Next you’ll finally meet Amalthus, the much anticipated man who climbed a big tree. I assure you he is definitely not a villain. Really the game makes no secret of Amalthus being up to no good. Beneath Indol’s impressive architecture is a destitute city down below. It’s like San Fran with less public defecation and probably more anal sex. Indol also controls the distribution of blades, which implies some measure of war profiteering. Fan La Norne is notably the only blade in the game who doesn’t even remember her own name, and Pyra and Mythra quickly make note of her damaged core crystal. This is something about that situation that I really enjoyed. It’s never directly stated why Fan/Haze is impaired so, but it’s obvious in retrospect. Just in case that subtlety was too much for you though, the game just hits you in the face with Amalthus and Malos being seen as interchangeable in a vision by Rex.
Oh and then Fan dies. That was a bit short lived. However that did take us to the Judicium Titan, a pretty substantial addition to the location lineup that you barely spend any mandatory time in. The place is up its ass with high level monsters but if you’re willing to scrounge around you’ll probably find some pretty great stuff. Just another interesting part of the developers’ thought process in willingly stuffing in content many players will never see.
In Chapter 6, Nia is revealed to be a huge asshole who let Vandham die, and Rex is further confirmed to be an idiot who would be getting everyone around him killed if he wasn’t continually bailed out by others. The chickens have truly come home to roost. Jin’s nihilism is put into words succinctly here. Rex is looking for answers, but Jin assures him there are none. Now, Rex has watched a couple of Jordan B. Peterson videos, but he’s just not well versed enough to lecture Jin on his unwashed penis. Between all that, you’re treated to Tantal, a kingdom with a nice amount of verticality that’s surprisingly easy to navigate given that it’s nothing but snow and blizzards. The capitol city’s accompanying music happens to be performed by an Irish choir. So even though the UK-based localization team likely tried their hardest to keep the Irish away from this game, the Japanese composer opened the backdoor for them anyway.
You’re gonna get a nice preview of Aegis-free gameplay here, and unsurprisingly it can be a rough transition when they’ve likely formed the backbone of your party setup, and Rex looks like a nonce holding big meaty scythes. You’re also hit with a pretty tough fight against Torna here, so either accept that you’re targeting Mikhail or equip some anti-taunt items to crush Patroka and her weather machine.
Chapter 7 has you needing to rely on a team entirely sans Aegis. Morag remained my preference here but Rex can still be a big help when it comes to driver combos since he has Roc’s smash art. The cave here was my first time realizing I was definitely obstructed by a field skill check, and where my aforementioned problems with them fully solidified even in this pretty minor context.
Nia and Zeke both receive a healthy amount of development in this segment. While Nia is the main focus here, I think it’s Zeke whom I appreciated more in retrospect. Such an initially goofy character ending up so closely tied to, almost grounding, one of the lead villains, could easily fall apart tonally but the transition happens so smoothly that you barely notice. Pandoria had been a nonentity up to this point, but enough of a foundation was there that her relationship with Zeke became all the sweeter. It’s also a nice way to further explore another facet of Jin’s fate. Amalthus is responsible for Jin’s current predicament, the latter having turned into a suicidal, genocidal monster carrying a piece of his lost love with him as an eternal reminder of his terrible lot in life. Meanwhile Zeke is also a product of Amalthus’ actions, and basically got to see the man at his absolute best, with Zeke proceeding to pay that kindness forward for the rest of his life, carrying a piece of his loved one as a reminder of how fortunate he is.
Nia is thankfully spared the need for her backstory to do all the heavy lifting for her big reveal. The game had done its due diligence to hint at her true nature and more or less revealed it in the previous chapter when she saved Niall. Now all that was needed was clarification. The truth was right in front of the player the whole time. Every member of Torna was a blade, Nia was part of Torna at the start of the game. Pretty simple. Dromarch is the character I feel got most shortchanged by the story, with the least amount of focus within the main cast, but this backstory provides such a strong thread for why he’d dote on Nia the way he does, being pretty much all she had and the only reminder of her surrogate family. I ended up way more endeared to this tertiary character than I had any right to be.
So Nia comes out of the blade closet, proudly displaying her smoothed-minge, and loudly declares “trans rights” before owning the robed chuds. After her confession of love to Rex, he sadly reveals to her that he is super straight. Addam is proud that his child has typed "Amen" rather than ignoring fast, and grants Rex the rank of Nitro Dubs. It’s a legitimately nice scene for Rex though. He’s a character who’s lacked some agency up until this point, and while his purpose is still kept very general, going from “Not wanting to die” as a goal to “Inspiring others to live” is a marked step up for him.
This theme is pushed further in the subsequent Malos and Jin fights. Jesus Christ, use a Wind orb as soon as possible and spam evasion with Morag because otherwise you’re gonna have a bad time. That aside though, Rex’s existentialism is now on full blast here. Like Jin and Malos, Pyra and Mythra were curious enough about their existence to want answers from God, but ultimately they just wanted death. None of these people asked to be born, and definitely not as weapons of mass destruction, or in Pyra’s case a proxy for that weapon. Pyra was never sure that Elysium would give Rex a solution, but she was pretty sure she could kys herself after her dad gave her validation that she never should’ve existed. All of these people want to know why the world is so horrible, hoping that the answer will be “no reason lol” so they can embrace oblivion. Rex is now trying to find out why the world is so incredible. He sees now that just not wanting himself or others to die wasn’t enough, it put him completely at odds with Pyra and Mythra, who wanted nothing more than to do a sick flip off the Golden Gate Bridge. He accepts responsibility for life and asks them to join him in the struggle to find meaning, with the ultimate goal of spreading that meaning to others.
I had wrestled with whether or not I was going to end up disliking Rex. His predecessor, Shulk, is pretty widely praised. A fair amount of people claim Shulk as their absolute favorite protagonist of any game ever, and I can see why. Rex by comparison seems like the exact opposite of Shulk. Shulk is mature, laser focused, analytical to a fault, deeply considerate of all his actions and responsibilities, seemingly quick to anger but deeply empathetic, and pretty pessimistic about damn near everything without being histrionic about it. Rex is immature, perhaps even petulant, lacking any clear direction, impulsive, seemingly very friendly but pretty cavalier with other’s feelings when it counts, which feeds into how he’s saccharine in his optimism to the point of not understanding why someone would see things differently.
By this point though, Rex had won me over. I still don’t think he’s quite as good as Shulk, but Rex makes a strong case for himself. Rex is just a kid, his only precocious trait is having a day job. He acts exactly how you’d expect a kid to act. He’s not a chosen vessel of God destined for greatness the way Shulk is, Rex is here entirely by coincidence and is just trying to get by. There’s a vulnerability to him that doesn’t always make him likable, but him clearly not being an ideal choice to be the lead of this story is exactly why I appreciated the willingness to take a chance on such a departure from previous outings. I can’t quite remember when the line drops, but I’d say his best one is, “You’re the one who won’t change, that’s why you hate others who try to”.
Chapter 8, 9, and 10 are quite a bit shorter, but there’s still plenty of time dedicated to important character moments. The first part of chapter 8 is begging you to use Pneuma as much as humanly possible. Contrasting with other instances of coming to grips with gameplay mechanics, this is actually pretty organic. Yes you had a mandatory victory tutorial fight before this, but the actual enemies here encourage you to not let this new power sit idle until a boss fight hits. If you just wait to use Pneuma, you’ll be swarmed by enemies that do serious damage, and Jin won’t be able to compensate despite being overpowered himself. I never felt a mechanic in the game slide into play as easily as this one. There was nothing like this for canceling attacks, driver combos, blade combos, chain attacks, weapon switching, pouch items, or understanding the nuances of secondary effects. So I actually enjoyed this learning experience a lot.
Rex also gains the ability to make use of everyone’s blade here, so you probably won’t see a reason to play as someone else for the rest of the game. I still had a pretty good time when I switched to Zeke for most of Chapter 9 though.
Your trek up the World Tree takes an appropriately long amount of time. The environment is far more uniform and claustrophobic, but I think that actually works pretty well for conveying just how high this thing can get. You go from the land beneath the clouds all the way to outer space. It’s a grueling process. The end has to be around the corner. The whole outside world is coming apart, but you have to press on. You’re almost there. You’re probably at this for over an hour. Running up this same environment.
Pit stops along the way vary in quality here. The pacing of this section is a little off-putting. You’ll find that pretty long cutscenes are spaced just a few feet apart. Which begs the question of why they were even separated. This red light green light serves to make your run up the tree all the more painful, and not in the way I was previously willing to praise. I am willing to praise some of the backstory we get on Amalthus, even if I feel it’s coming a bit late, but where and when all this is dropped on you is not to my liking.
Fairing even worse is Torna. Mikhail’s backstory is up first, with a quick explanation as to why he’s been able to resist Fan La Norne’s blade nullification abilities. He’s a blade eater like Zeke and Amalthus. He’s also about 500 years old and traveled with Jin and Addam’s original group. Then he dies. This is way too much at once. Yes I know he appears as a child in an earlier scene. Yes it’s reasonable to assume Amalthus has been conducting these experiments for a long time in preparation for performing them on himself. Even still we have to have Amalthus point blank describe Mikhail as a refugee from the Aegis War when there were no prior indications within the mandatory story that this is important information. Then you have to stack Mikhail's change of heart on top of that. Again there’s enough information here for me to feel like this is something that can logically happen, but this character has not earned this sendoff. The story has not reflected on the details leading up to these big reveals.
Akhos and Patroka get it even worse. Shoehorned in flashbacks just before their deaths that shed very little light on them other than having a relationship of any kind prior to meeting Jin. They both die unceremoniously. I can say that I liked Torna as a villain group that seemed to be genuine friends with one another, particularly with how they humanize Malos when he speaks endearingly to them. However, you could not make me feel sympathy for Patroka and definitely not for Akhos. They may not be as bad as Malos but it goes to show just how far charisma can take you.
With the detours over. You finally finish your arduous journey to the top of World Tree, and it hits like a truck. You know it’s going to be bad. You know Amalthus found nothing when he made it to the top. It’s still painful to see the characters slapped with this reality.
Both Malos McMetsu von Logos and Rex get their time to speak with God. Rex’s dream sequence was another example of the character sticking out to me in ways that I appreciate and am vexed by. His fleeing from his phantom friends and weeping in front of his harem might be seen as immature, but it’s legitimately pretty sad to see that, here at the end of the world, the greatest fear at the forefront of his mind is that he let everyone down. That after endeavoring to inspire others, he caused them to fall further into despair.
Interestingly, there’s no real right or wrong reaction for Rex to have in these visions. The Architect is just seeing what kinds of people have walked in here with his daughter. What proceeds is a pretty lengthy scene tying this game into Xenoblade 1. As someone who played that game, it’s difficult to judge this scene in the vacuum of the mostly standalone Xenoblade 2. Is this extensive explanation of the world’s backstory, with an insane sci-fi backdrop from millions of years ago, necessary in making sense of God being a depressed shut-in? It felt like my time investment was greatly rewarded as a fan of both games, but I’m not sure how a fan who only played 2 would feel.
Regardless, the conversation ends with Rex restoring some of the Architect’s faith in humanity. The game is surprisingly not that judgmental in its messaging. You would expect something as simple as bad guy nihilism vs good guy existentialism to be up its ass with platitudes, but it doesn’t spend that much time pontificating over it. Whether Rex has successfully found his own meaning in life or properly serves the Architect's original vision of a higher good and a better world isn’t really a debate here. I can’t say how intentional it is on a writer’s part, but I like how there’s both a religious and secular angle to look at it.
Outside of these cutscenes chapter 10 is pretty brief. You have a hallway of enemies that drop very powerful chips to beef up any blades you have lagging behind. At this point though, I had QT Pi so I could obliterate pretty much anything. The final boss has a notable frustration to it if you’re expecting someone other than yourself to heal. Malos will drift far away to wind up stronger attacks, and when an enemy dips out of range, your party members won’t perform specials. This includes specials that only heal the party. It’s a very odd bit of programming for the AI.
Slapping dark orbs continues to be the best plan of action for boss fights that summon support. I wish there was a bit more going on in the micromanagement of this fight. It might even be preferable to ignore the summoned enemies and just smack the artifice until it dies. As a test of your understanding of the game’s mechanics, Chapter 7 and Chapter 9 did a far better job. Not that the final boss is a total chump, I just didn’t find the strategies needed to take him on nearly as interesting. It did force me to use a shield hammer though, which is kind of impressive. Down to the very end I was reassessing my party lineup and trying to find new ways to get mileage out of the blades I had accrued.
With the ending upon us, we bid goodbye to Malos. After having lost all his friends and becoming honest with himself, showing some remorse for the path his life took, he receives the tearful, sympathetic goodbye we wish we could have given fucking Pol Pot. Following that we say “goodbye” to Pneuma. The scene where Rex pleads with Poppi to just go grab Pneuma for him leading to the little robot starting to cry was strangely raw in a way I admired. Making a kid feel terrible for doing what they promised to do, and not really understanding why the hell the kid won’t do what you want them to do instead. There are a lot of people who have been on both ends of this situation, but without the rocket boots or the exploding space station. Of course Rex doesn’t ask Roc to go save Pneuma instead, but I guess he’s already accepted that he shouldn’t bother to try by the time that might be up for consideration.
The logistics of the final scene have no explanation. Why are Pyra and Mythra alive? How’d they get off the station? Why are they separate blades now? There’s not much to draw from that helps you rationalize it. There’s nothing notable that’s preventing you from accepting it. Klaus did it. It’s magic. They’re the most powerful thing in existence. Fuck you the writers wanted a happy ending. It’s a tough call to make. Maybe something more ambiguous or bittersweet would be more memorable or poignant, but your players have invested a lot of time into this game. We’re talking 70 hours here, not 10-15. It’s more than just a canvas for a creative’s artistic vision, it’s the player’s outlet for fun and relaxation. Will they feel cheated if their favorite characters aren’t clearly alive and happy by the end? Is this ending tonally appropriate? Have we given Rex too much at this point and is there any way to go back and take something away?
I think it ties into people remembering how something made them feel much clearer than what was actually experienced. Maybe, objectively, the writing would be more sensible if Pneuma stayed on that station. But I think Takahashi and his team really had to consider what emotions Xenoblade 2 was supposed to make the player experience. Looking back, it seems like a lot of people see this as a comfort game. It’s a lengthy adventure with a lot of time spent getting to know its characters and seeing them become friends. There’s another angle to the game though, and it’s stated outright. Living life means taking the good with the bad. Have you just given the player the good with the good here? Has the game betrayed its theme? I really don’t envy the person who had to make this call. At the end of the day, the whys and hows don’t seem to outweigh the feeling this ending gives people, so I don’t resent it for going in this direction. Shit, I’ve been staring at this finished review for days wondering if I should go with the more memorable 3.5/5 or the comforting 4/5.
So what did Xenoblade 2 make me feel? Well there was some frustration and boredom in there, but also a lot of appreciation. I’m glad a game like this exists. Games where the developers are just told to play to their strengths and express themselves like a tapestry of finger paintings. A heavily story driven experience with tons of cutscenes, but also bursting at the seams with gameplay mechanics and a desire for players to express themselves in turn through the game’s combat and exploration. This is a video game on overdrive that somehow has little regard for what the market says should be successful yet painstakingly tries to ensure everyone who plays it finds something they will like. It’s a big, beautiful mess, and while I didn’t always love it, I want more like it.
idk my friend Frank doesn't think a 7/10 is good because C's get you beaten by a pot lid so here's an 8
Mega Man Zero 3
Mega Man X7
Devil May Cry 2
I can confidently, wholeheartedly, and unironically say that if you did not enjoy Azure Striker Gunvolt 2, you simply did not get it.
You missed the point.
You played it wrong.
You could have received the benefit of the doubt for the first Gunvolt game, but this game has been polished to a noticeable sheen; you have no excuse.
I’m gonna get the negatives out of the way first.
The battle system starts out as unintuitive and kind of slow. Essential mechanics aren’t introduced until later on and the game does an insanely poor job of explaining it to you.
The battle system starts out as unintuitive and kind of slow. Essential mechanics aren’t introduced until later on and the game does an insanely poor job of explaining it to you.
The tutorials throughout the game are misleading and frequent. They are annoying, boring and don’t help with anything of note.
Lots of characters in the main cast are either underdeveloped or lose a lot of “purpose” after a certain point. Dromach, Brighid, Roc and Pandoria are characters that come to mind. They have their own unique personalities and moments to shine (except for dromach), but are immediately overshadowed by other characters.
Then there’s the voice acting which honestly isn’t too shabby. It’s no where near as consistently good as XC1’s voice acting but it’s not too bad either. It suits the more lighthearted moments quite well, however Rex’s screams are kind of bad.
The story doesn’t kick in until around chapter 5. The first chapter is a good introduction (minus the tutorials), the second is pretty good, and the third is the best one yet but the plot established in the first chapter isn’t really going anywhere. And then the fourth chapter is absolutely horrendous and miserable to play through.
For a game as flawed as XC2 is I can’t help but love it. The battle system is insanely fun and nuanced once you get used to it. You’re never “overpowered” while playing through the story but you’re allowed to experiment and just go to town with the battle system. Environments are stellar, they have great ambience, music, visuals, they’re all distinct from each other and are just the perfect size. The majority of the main cast are great. Pyra/Mythra, Nia, Zeke are among my favourites but characters like Tora, Poppi, Morag and Vandham can still be appreciated. And Rex is very much a love him or hate him protagonist. The story towards the 5th chapter onwards is insane and entirely worth sitting through. The antagonists are compelling and memorable, and despite (spoilers) Amalthus being a very predictable villain, they acknowledge that by adding foreshadowing and a fantastic backstory to explain his motives. Malos and Jin are pretty enigmatic until the end of the game, Jin has an engaging backstory and connects to the other villains really well, but Malos’ motives are only truly understood by people who want to interpret and really pay attention to his dialogue, which I like.
Despite being heavily flawed, I really do love this game. It’s too overhated by people who only know it for being the “anime jrpg game with funny boob lady”. It’s just got so much going for it. If you dropped this game before chapter 5, or are skeptical about it’s “anime fanservice moments” (like I was at first) I urge you to pick it up and push through. It’ll be worth it.
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