Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition ~ Future Connected Review
Developer: Monolith Soft | Publisher: Nintendo | Genre: Action Role Playing | Platforms: Switch
Editor’s Note: This review does not contain spoilers for Future Connected. If you have not played the complete story of Xenoblade Chronicles then I advise you not to press forward. If you are looking for a review of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition you can read my full overview of the base game by clicking on the link right here.
In my review of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition I stated that “[the remaster] is so close to being perfect. It adds a near-phenomenal refining coat to a game that was already a masterpiece from both a storytelling and gameplay perspective. It just nearly misses the mark from being completely perfect due to a few technical issues that plague the release. These problems are not game-breaking or derail the overall enjoyment of the adventure by any means, though they are prominent to the point where they become exponentially noticeable as the journey continues to push forward hour by hour, set piece by set piece.” After diving into the world of Bionis and Mechonis for my fourth time in less then a decade, I was excited to tackle the new Future Connected epilogue that would further unfold Melia and Shulk’s story after the conclusion of the base game.
With the number of open possibilities still left for the game to explore regarding the High Entia race, I expected to find an adventure on the Bionis Shoulder and the ruins of Alcamoth that would close the door on these characters’ stories permanently as Melia would finally receive true justice. Sadly, the outcome of this epilogue is far from what many fans would have wanted in a follow up story to Xenoblade Chronicles. The new Future Connected epilogue is a side quest-filled mixed bag that provides little of what audiences would have wanted to see in a post-Zanza world as it lacks a steady narrative. It does not ruin Xenoblade Chronicles in any way, but it is a massive waste of potential.
Future Connected is sadly an afterthought plagued with issues, but there is still light within this messy epilogue.
Before we get to the lesser aspects of Future Connected, I do want to spotlight the great parts of it–and trust me, there are plenty of upsides here. For one, the new and revisited locations are as enjoyable as ever to explore. Every fan will no doubt be beyond happy to see the original release’s one missing location finally make its way into an official story. Bionis Shoulder is a bit overwhelming due to its enormous size that was clearly increased further to accommodate for Future Connected being a standalone story, but it is always entertaining to journey into whether you are spelunking into its small caverns or climbing high on the hillsides. Both Bionis Shoulder and Alcamoth are visually striking in the same ways as locations like Guar Plains and Valak Mountain. The new nopon heroes that are the children of Riki are as fun to play as the legendary heropon. Nene and Kino have the same comedic touch their father had and the humor overall never fails to give players a few laughs- the same goes for the banter here between Melia and Shulk. The brand new Quiet Moments that replace Heart to Hearts are fully voice acted and are always a pleasure to listen to. They add a deep amount of characterization to the new and returning cast of characters and overall expand a needed dynamic between the new team that should have been in the main story.
According to Monolith Soft, the new campaign takes around 10 to 15 hours to complete. Unfortunately, the majority of it is packed to the brim with side quests that will take up the bulk of your adventure. The real core story is disappointingly around four hours. The party starts out under leveled compared to the main objective so you are expected to tackle a ton of side quests to strengthen Melia, Shulk, Kino, and Nene. Surprisingly, these side quests can be far more entertaining to play through than the main story itself. They can be narratively charming, and some even continue ideas explored in the original game such as Riki’s debt to his village burdening his kids. However, not all of them are winners. Some of these quests can be a hassle to accomplish and the game does not take you from point A to B in the articulated fashion of the main game, leaving the player to have to find an order that suits their pace while venturing around. Veterans of this series are no doubt going to breeze through this campaign, but I can’t shake the feeling that some newcomers may struggle even after coming fresh off the base game. If you do not know how to use Melia, for instance, then you are going to be in a tricky situation since chain attacks and Shulk’s visions are gone.
Speaking of which, the new Ponspectors Union Strike that replaces Chain Attacks isn’t unwelcomed, but it’s also nothing special. Chain Attacks were already a divisive topic among players, but while there will definitely be fans who are satisfied with this change, it feels as if they took an entire element out of the combat. The problem with this new feature is the fact that you don’t get to use its full potential until late into the epilogue unless you really take your time to crack down on side quests before tackling the main story. Ponspectors range between three unique types, but in order to use any of them you need to recruit each individual nopon by completing a quest for them. It’s worth hunting down, yet it should feel more rewarding due to how challenging some of the quests they ask you to complete can be.
There is a tale worth telling here, but what we receive is an emotionless slog distinguishable from the original game.
The biggest problem with Future Connected is the story. Outside of the game’s final few cutscenes, there is not much else to talk about regarding the narrative here. It starts out promising with its flashbacks of a post-Colony 9 after Shulk and crew defeated Zanza and changed their destinies, but shortly after the potential begins to dwindle rather quickly. Future Connected heavily lacks a story that is focused on answering questions audiences have about the base game’s ending, but even worse than that is how cheap the entire production can feel. There are barely any cinematics to accompany what is attempting to be told here, and the majority of the dialogue has been placed in in-engine scenes that reuse animations and feature long blurbs of text. The game is littered with these at every step you take in the main objective. There are even some black and white flashback stills of the main game that feel lazy and rushed. The story comes off as completely weightless for all the wrong reasons. Alomst everything Xenoblade Chronicles did right with its characters and direction Future Connected does wrong.
Just because the story might be weightless does not mean we should dismiss it entirely, though. Future Connected does bring interesting ideas to the table; it just never explores them due to a lack of emotion and end goal. In fact, the overall story has a great premise, but it has no emotional support to withstand the high stakes that are barley highlighted. Melia is a character whose entire race of people was practically decimated due to Zanza, but we never get to hear how she really feels about the entire situation. Throughout the entire story, no one ever really says how they feel about anything–this is something that you would expect Shulk to delve into at the very least due to his open personality, but not even he gets the opportunity. We get plenty of downer moments and sighs from Melia, but she never shows true sympathy for her people who are relying on her royal bloodline until the end of the story. The High Entia are also explored to such little extent. There are undoubtedly good moments, but there is only a handful of them to cherry-pick from. Future Connected suffers similar issues that Torna ~ The Golden Country had. It’s supposed to fill in a void in the established narrative, but it fails to do so in several regards due to changes that feel unwanted. It plays out as a story that is eight years too late and should have been in the original release to begin with. Some of these changes mind-bogglingly even include characters that we have spent well over 50 plus hours with before.
Outside of the new playable heropon, the returning minor and newly created characters that fuel the main story and side quests often come off as underdeveloped. All of the new characters fit in design-wise, but we still have a face or two that don’t. These characters and monsters are not anywhere as displaced as Xenoblade Chronicle 2’s cast, but there are some characters that look downright odd from various perspectives. For the majority though, they are all welcomed additions that just needed more time to develop themselves, which is a shame because there are some new characters that are captivating. A few members of the royal High Entia family return, yet their purpose is minuscule in the overarching plot with some practically serving the purpose of being McGuffin to push the story forward.
If there was one thing I never would have expected out of Future Connected, though, it would have to be the choppy voice acting that is constantly flip-flopping between charismatic and robotic–and that goes for both new and returning voice actors. The voice acting does not help these characters express their feelings half the time, even when the dialogue is great. The opening can be extremely stiff at times, but it does at least get better as the story progresses. Adam Howden (Shulk) and Jenna Coleman (Melia) have proven that they are more than capable of providing great performances, yet sometimes it feels as if they are never giving it their all here. The difference in voice acting between Future Connected and the base game is night and day at times. In reflection of its story, sometimes characters feel as if they are continuing fresh off where they last left off, but other times it feels as if they are in a different game. It all culminates into an experience that feels like half the time is spent back in the world you love and the other half is something that will let you down as it treads a fine line between being familiar and foreign.
The newest story entry in the Xenoblade Chronicles series is just as messy as the successors of the first game.
Future Connected is a slap in the face to what Xenoblade Chronicles built when it comes to exploring a focused narrative, but at the very least it does end off on a high note that completes Melia’s story arc. It may not be the most satisfying conclusion due to its lackluster build-up, but it is pleasurable to see this character find proper closure. Future Connected is a story that only exists for the purpose of existing. After deep criticism targeted at Monolith Soft due to the poor writing and acting in the previous two Xenoblade games, I expected some form of progress to be made here, but clearly that was not the outcome. If you are looking for more time to spend with Shulk and Melia or just the world of Bionis in general there are without doubt aspects to look forward to in the new epilogue when it comes to exploration, the Quiet Moments, a newly orchestrated soundtrack, boss fights, and standard battles. For the majority of its runtime, though, it feels like a bland fetch quest that yearns for deeper meaning and purpose.
Future Connected is just tacked on to something that ended perfectly, though it is still nice to see some of these characters again. None of it is dreadful, but it certainly falls flat compared to that of the main game; in fact, at times it doesn’t even feel like part of the same story. While it’s entertaining at many points, fans should keep their expectations low for the new story content.