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‘Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition’ Adds A Near-Phenomenal Refining Coat To A Masterpiece

Saying that the latest remaster of the original Xenoblade Chronicles from Monolithsoft and Nintendo is just a graphical enhancement with a few minor fixes would be significantly downplaying the massive upgrade that the latest edition of the 2012 Wii Masterpiece provides for veterans and newcomers of Shulk and the team’s iconic adventure…



Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition Review

Developer: Monolith Soft | Publisher: Nintendo | Genre: Action Role Playing | Platforms: Switch

Editor’s Note: This review does not include the new ‘Future Connected’ epilogue or spoilers for the base game. If you have played Xenoblade Chronicles before and are looking for a review of the new Future Connected story content, you can follow the link right here.

Saying that the latest remaster of the original Xenoblade Chronicles is just a graphical enhancement with a few minor fixes would be significantly downplaying the massive upgrade that’s been made to the 2010 Wii masterpiece. Both longtime fans and potential new adopters will not be disappointed by the latest coat of paint the world of Bionis and Mechonis have been absolutely slathered in. Monolith Soft claims that this is the definitive way to play through the legendary journey of Shulk and his pals, and they couldn’t be more right; this is the absolute best version of one of the best RPGs of the last decade.

The newest ‘Definitive Edition’ brings audiences back to Bionis and Mechonis with a glamorous upgrade.

Xenoblade Chronicles is a story focused on spirituality, openness, placement, and ill-revenge. Its a tale of the destruction and creation of life guided by an unfastened moral compass. If you haven’t played through it before, I highly recommend going in as blind as possible. That being said, without talking about the details of the game’s plot, the emotional and sophisticated narrative of the first game in the series is easily the highlight of the entire Xenoblade franchise. Besides the promise of more content after the main story, nothing has been changed within the story itself. The difference now is that getting through that story is far more convenient thanks to a more user-friendly experience and completely overhauled art direction.

Where Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition truly benefits the most is in how it has streamlined and revamped all of its menus and maps. You are no longer diving through excessively detailed menus filled with submenus and constantly flipping around for what you want to find both in-game and in a guide book. Everything has been redesigned in a clearer and more concise way to help keep players in the action as often as possible. Equipment, Party, Skill Trees, Arts, Area Maps, Affinity Charts, Quest Logs, and Collectibles can now all be checked from the same simplified main menu screen, letting players spend more time actually playing the game than ever before. Even the transitions between the two are seamless now as nearly all loading times have been exterminated for the most part. Doing away with the tedious elements of the original Xenoblade Chronicles was clearly this remaster’s priority, and it excels at that.

Xenoblade Chronicles

For instance, take how quests are handled this time around. Rather than having to look up guides to secure locations and time zones for individuals and items that are needed to complete a simple sidequest, the game presents the player with plenty of detailed profiles that can be checked with the click of a button in the quest log submenu. Having information on hand that shows what time an NPC or item is present and exactly where they will be is a satisfying game-changer. The mini-map is still incorporated in the UI, but it’s been designed to be more simplistic and easy to understand at a quick glance when tracking down who or what you may be looking for. On top of this, that map can be enlarged at any time during gameplay for convenience so you will no longer have to follow an imprecise arrow placed at the top-middle of the screen or shuffle between your area map menu and gameplay to ensure you are still on course for your destination.

Meanwhile, besides the visual cleanup, when it comes to combat the latest battle HUD redesign adds two small helpful changes that the original could have benefited from greatly. For one, the highly requested addition of a health bar has finally been fulfilled. Although it cannot tell you exactly how much health each party member has, it is without a doubt easier to estimate your health instead of trying to calculate how much damage you’ve taken on the fly. The second addition is the presence of small exclamation battle cues on arts that will notify you when an attack may be at its highest potential. When enemies are in clusters or compact areas it can be hard to tell which direction the target you are locked on to may be facing. Arts will now contain a small blue exclamation point in their right-hand corner to notify you that your attack is at its most effective point–a simple and effective change I’m sure newcomers will leverage and veterans will appreciate.

Outside of the Future Connected epilogue, the game only contains one new piece of content inside the core story that can’t be found in any other version of Xenoblade Chronicles. A new Time Trials mode has been added where the player can fight off hordes of enemy waves under a set time limit in exchange for valuable gear and gold. Each location portal the player comes across transfers them to a separate realm where they can talk to a nopon merchant with a list of optional trials that vary by level and enemy type. Just like all other nopon merchants, he or she can also be traded with for high-value items. This extra feature is inconsequential, but it’s nonetheless a substantial mode that can be helpful for harvesting useful gear towards the beginning of the game. Speaking of nonessential additions, outside of the story there is also a new theater mode where you can customize cutscenes you have seen to your liking. Just like Time Trials it’s nothing to write home about, but it’s still a welcomed feature some fans are sure to utilize.

Besides a few minor slip-ups graphically, the newest remaster is Monolith Soft’s most visually encapsulating release.

Xenoblade Chronicles looked stunning for a Wii game when it launched, but it was always indisputably rough around the edges. In the original release, there is this illusion of a massive world that’s constantly enthralling the player. However, up close it is filled with low-quality textures and muddy color palettes that really take you out of the magic. The set pieces are where the real awe factor of the game was found; gorgeous environments like Valak Mountain and Satoral Marsh–two of my personal favorite locations–are evidence of that. That’s not to say there weren’t beautiful moments to be found up-close, but the original game was definitely not always pretty on the eyes. Now though, whether you are two feet away or two-hundred, you can almost say the same for every lush and highly detailed environment you are going to come across. From Gaur Plains to Sword Valley, this remaster is a lovely repainting with a few slight hiccups.

It’s clear that Monolith Soft learned a lot about aesthetic design when working with the more colorful anime-inspired art direction they have been perusing with the Xenoblade franchise. Compared to Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Torna ~ The Golden Country, everything here feels thematically appropriate. Aside from a few odd character outlines due to the art style, no organism or area stands out like a sore thumb. However, that’s not to say issues don’t exist. There are numerous scenes where the environment and characters clip into one another and be extremely distracting, especially during those heart twisting moments that are paired with great camera direction and voice acting. It’s something you would expect during gameplay, but it happens far too often in cutscenes. On top of that, we still have low-quality textures and recurring animations sprinkled here and there throughout the landscape. None of this ever completely ruins the atmosphere, but it’s visibly unmistakable in some of the more detailed areas of the remaster. One way Monolith Soft has combated this is by giving players the ability to use different costumes while having gear equipped. Instead of having a mass of different cultures attached to each party member, players can now choose how they would like to present their characters.

One of the most exciting parts about Xenoblade Chronicles coming to the Nintendo Switch is the promise of handheld play. Previously, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was a bit of a technical mess at times when undocked, but its prologue Torna – The Golden Country provided some fixes- (albeit not enough to fully improve the playstyle for those wanting to play entirely on-the-go). How does the remaster compare to the other two entries in the franchise on Switch? Well, it’s better, but the competition was already slim. Xenoblade Chronicles is fully playable in handheld mode, but I highly recommend Switch users still play the game docked for the most part. Sadly, Monolith Soft has never been able to optimize their engine to get the most out ot their titles in portable mode, and this release is more proof of that. From questionable resolution dips to poorly loaded textures, the game generally does not look that pleasing in comparison to its stationed counterpart, although it is worth noting that I have not seen many framerate issues in either configuration. It is definitely an improvement over the Nintendo 3DS version of the game, but it undoubtedly is still in need of dire optimization. This is by far the most disappointing aspect of the game and the only part of the remaster that felt like a legitimate letdown.

Xenoblade Chronicles

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is the best way to play through one of, if not, Nintendo’s finest narrative-driven title.

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition 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. The amount of added refinements and accessibility changes overshadow any technical problems, and with the promise of new additions like different controller options and a remastered soundtrack, it’s hard to fault the game for such light issues.

Just as it was before for Wii and 3DS owners, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is a must-have for Nintendo Switch players. Not only is it the best way to experience the emotionally moving tale of the Monado, but it is also one of the finest Japanese action role-playing games you can pick up and play today. It belongs right on your shelf–or digital library–next to Breath of The Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. You’re sure to be “really feeling” this one.

Creative writer, producer, and Games Editor. I have always held a high interest in the fields of professional writing and communications. You can find me with my head deep in the espionage genre or in a kayak upstream. I’ll always be first in line for the next Hideo Kojima or Masahiro Sakurai game.

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Game Reviews

‘AVICII Invector Encore Edition’ Review: Rhythm and Melancholy

‘AVICII Invector: Encore Edition’ is a music and rhythm game perfect for newcomers and fans of the genre.



AVICII Invector Encore Edition Review

Developer: Hello There Games | Publisher: Wired Productions | Genre:  Rhythm | Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam | Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch

In terms of a pure adrenaline rush, nothing tops a well-designed rhythm game. Good rhythm games let players feel a euphoric sense of flow and even excitement. But the best the genre has to offer taps into the heart of music itself. AVICII Invector Encore Edition is a rhythm game perfect for newcomers to the genre but also works as a moving tribute.

I can’t tell where the journey will end
But I know where to start

Whether it’s tapping buttons in time with the beat, smashing feet on a dance pad, or moving an entire body in front of an IR camera, rhythm and music games have always been popular. AVICII Invector Encore Edition takes inspiration from music games that came before it but stands firmly on its own. It’s wonderfully accessible, truly a music game for anyone. From diehard fans of the rhythm game genre to people who are simply AVICII fans who also have a console, Invector checks a lot of boxes.

Levels across AVICII Invector play largely the same. The player picks a track and a difficulty level, and is off to the races. They control a slick spaceship moving forward along a track, and must tap or hold buttons as the ship passes over them. This “falling jewel” style has been popular from the Guitar Hero franchise and beyond, but Invector finds ways to make it feel unique. The art direction is breathtakingly stellar, taking players on far-out trips through cyberpunk-esque cities and crumbling pathways. There are even portions of each level where the player can steer their spaceship Star Fox-style through rings and around pillars to keep their point multiplier up.

Invector feels like it’s trying to affect as many sensory inputs as it can. Though Encore Edition is fully playable on handheld mode on Switch, Invector shines brightest on a big screen with a thumping sound system. The neighbors might get annoyed, but who would hear them complaining?

Tracks are divided up by worlds, with four to five tracks each. Worlds must be cleared sequentially, by scoring at least seventy-five percent on each level in that world. While this may sound initially restrictive, Encore Edition gives players access to two extra worlds with five tracks each right out of the gate, so players have plenty to play with at the start.

There are three difficulties available, and each mode offers a different experience. For players who just want to experience AVICII’s music in a low-stress way while enjoying amazing visuals and ambiance, Easy mode is the way to play. Anything above that amps the difficulty up significantly, with Hard mode escalating the required precision to an unbelievable degree. Building up a competitive high score can only be achieved by hitting multipliers and keeping a streak going. At higher difficulties, Invector feels challenging but exhilarating. Scoring above ninety percent on any difficulty mode above Easy feels extremely good, and the online leaderboards are the perfect place to boast about that achievement. During high level play, earning a high score feels transcendent.

Worlds and levels are strung together with brief, lightly-animated cutscenes. It’s a slim justification for a rhythm game, but they’re better than nothing and provide just enough context to keep things interesting. AVICII Invector is both visually and aurally pleasing, but even if the player isn’t a diehard fan of EDM or House music, there is plenty to love.

This world can seem cold and grey
But you and I are here today
And we won’t fade into darkness

AVICII Invector is a truly fantastic rhythm game. But it’s also more than that. It is impossible to play Invector and not feel a twinge of melancholy. The game is a tribute to a hard-working perfectionist, but the man behind the music had his demons. Though the visuals are enticing and the gameplay electric, it is difficult not to feel sad from the opening credits. It is to Invector‘s credit that all throughout, the game feels like a joyful celebration of Tim Bergling’s music. It is a worthy tribute to a man who revitalized and reinvigorated the EDM and House music scene.

At the end of the day, almost every aspect of AVICII Invector reflects a desire to connect. For players connected to the internet, global leaderboards are a great opportunity to share high scores. Invector is much more forgiving than Thumper or Rez or even anything in the Hatsune Miku catalog. Players can cruise through this game on Easy mode if they want, and they won’t be punished. The Encore Edition even includes a split-screen multiplayer, which is fantastically fun.

In his music, Bergling worked across genres to expand what pop music could look like. With Invector, music lovers and players of nearly any skill level can have a pleasing experience. In video games, that’s rare, and it should be celebrated.

According to publisher Wired Productions’ website, all music royalties from AVICII Invector Encore Edition will support suicide awareness through the Tim Bergling Foundation.

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Game Reviews

‘Tamarin’ Review: Monkey Trouble

Like Yooka-Laylee before it, Tamarin flounders in its attempts to recreate its source material for a more modern audience.



Tamarin Game Review

Developer: Chameleon Games | Publisher: Chameleon Games | Genre: 3rd Person Shooter/Platformer| Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC | Reviewed on: PlayStation 4

You have to be of a certain age to recall a game like Jet Force Gemini. One of Rare’s one-off titles of the N64 era, like Blast Corps, Jet Force Gemini never earned itself a sequel but was a fun sci-fi adventure for its time. It’s this same energy that Tamarin, from Chameleon Games, attempts to channel.

Made up of former Rare staff, the folks at Chameleon Games are almost certainly the best team to make an attempt at rekindling such a long dead franchise with their spiritual successor. However, as can be the case with retro throwbacks, sometimes it’s better to ask whether you should bring back an older style of gaming, rather than if you could.

As we’ve seen with games like Yooka Laylee and Mighty No. 9, it often seems that the idea of an older game or franchise being resurrected for modern audiences is better to imagine than to actually play. While the occasional Bloodstained does come along to buck the trend, more often than not we get a game which is too faithful to its sources to make a mark or too different to rekindle that old love and nostalgia.

All of which is to say that Tamarin, while very faithful to its inspirations, never quite hits the mark that brings it to the next level. Part of this is the natural aging process, particularly of the first era of 3D platformers and adventure games which spawned on the PlayStation and Nintendo 64. While many of the games of that generation packed in endless hours of fun, so too have many of their mechanics aged terribly.

Tamarin Game Review

This accounts for Tamarin‘s weakest point, which is undoubtedly its combat. The shooting sections of the game, while channeling another Rare franchise that balanced cuteness with cartoonish violence, are just so mechanically terse that they drag the game down egregiously each time they crop up.

Like with Jet Force Gemini, players will spend much of Tamarin battling troubling insectoid enemies that threaten the peace of all of civilization. Also like the game which was such a clear inspiration for Chameleon, Tamarin brings back the clunky 3D aiming reticle. Not only is the shooting janky here, it feels downright unwieldy when you first get your hands on a firearm.

Though players can get the hang of it with a little effort and some reworking of how they see shooters, there seems to be little point in doing so. Tamarin‘s braindead AI and sparse few enemy types make combat feel like much of an afterthought to the experience, despite how central it is to progressing through the game.

To be fair, Tamarin does also bring some of the good from its spiritual forebear. The gradually growing arsenal of laser guns and rocket launchers does feel fun to play with, and the game is peppered with plenty of upgrades for the guns along the way. Sadly, then another of the Space Invaders style mini-games will pop up and derail things all over again.

Yes, there is a strange reference to yet another long gone gaming franchise here. Unlocking certain doors requires players to start from the center and aim the analog stick around firing at hovering, shifting rows of bugs. Again, it feels very unwieldy, and by the end most players will simply settle for spinning the analog stick wildly while firing with the machine gun for maximum ease.

Fortunately, more successful are the platforming sections. Making up the other side of Tamarin‘s coin, is a game more inspired by Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong Country 64 than anything else. As players travel through the outside world, gathering collectibles and gaining new abilities as they go, Tamarin shows much more variety than its combat sections.

With clear cues marked on the terrain to denote which areas require upgrades or new abilities to traverse, Tamarin is generally able to point you in the right direction across its world, though a map or minimap would help matters considerably. Though the game is split into many separate areas, they often look so similar that it can make the game hard to navigate and harder to remember where previous markers were for exploration. Even a rudimentary map feature would make this far less of an issue.

Alas, the exploration flounders on occasion as well. Jumping sometimes feels a bit too flighty and can even break the game at times, allowing players to jump off of surfaces they shouldn’t be able to normally. Further, the need to hold down a button and press another to grab certain collectibles is totally unintuitive and is another feature that seems to be more or less pointless.

As such, for all of it’s cute mascot spiritedness and lovingly attributed influences, Tamarin ultimately falls short in bringing back some of the best franchises of yesteryear. Though the effort is a valiant one, Tamarin, hampered by the flaws of the games it attempts to emulate, is just too clunky in its execution.

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Game Reviews

‘Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered’ Review: Some Games Age Like Milk

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered fails due to problems that existed in the original title, as well as flaws in this remastered edition.



Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered

Developer: Square-Enix | Publisher: Square-Enix | Genre: Action-RPG| Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Mobile | Reviewed on: PlayStation 4

There’s a bit of a storied history between Nintendo and Square. Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered is an important part of that history. Or rather, the original version, released in 2003, was.

While it might seem to younger gamers like Square-Enix and Sony have always been close, Square had a different best friend for much of the 80s and 90s: Nintendo. Though a rift developed between them when Square opted to focus on CD-roms rather than cartridges for Final Fantasy VII, that rift only lasted for about 6 years. The game that signalled the end it? Well that was a new release exclusively for the GameCube: Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles.

Though Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles was released to relatively positive reviews 17 years ago, the game has not aged well. The quest of a caravan of crystal bearers to refill their crystal’s power and protect their homes from a deadly miasma, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered fails due to problems that existed in the original title, as well as flaws in this remastered edition.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered

The first, and most considerable, problem with the game is that the quest at the heart of Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered is tedious and repetitive. Players ostensibly go from area to area on a world map, exploring uninteresting towns and beating lackluster dungeons. If this wasn’t enough, players are also forced to replay these levels over and over again in order to gain enough upgrades for later levels.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: all RPGs ask players to level up in order to succeed. You’re not wrong, it’s simply the structure of levelling up that makes this experience so trying. The only way to level up in Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered is to beat the entire level again. Players are not rewarded experience for killing enemies but instead can choose one stat to upgrade each time they complete a level. What this means is that every tiny upgrade to your character can take 10-15 minutes at a time to get.

This wouldn’t be as trying on your patience if simple, basic flaws in the game weren’t so egregious. Hit detection is incomprehensible at times because, even when your character seems to be standing right next to an enemy or boss, they often fail to connect their attacks. Even worse, rather than mapping different attacks to the face and shoulder buttons, players must cycle through them one at a time, with the attack button standing in for defense, magic, healing or food consumption.

Of course, much of this has to do with the format of the original game. Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles was meant to be played with link cables and Game Boy Advances connected to the GameCube. Each player would have a different bonus displayed on their GBA screens and, as such, players would work together in local multiplayer, aiding each other with their unique screen information as well as their combat skills.

Naturally the GBA had only two face buttons and two shoulder buttons, hence the layout. However, it’s been 17 years, and it’s pretty egregious that Square-Enix didn’t even think of giving players an option to rework the button layout. Doing so would make combat much more dynamic and help to fix the often clunky feeling of battling the game’s monsters.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered

Adding to the tedium are unskippable cutscenes all over the game. Every single time players challenge a boss, they are forced to sit through the same cutscene introducing the boss. Further, there are random events that occur on the world map which are also unskippable, even if they’re repeats of events that the player has already seen. Haplessly tapping the confirm button to skip through dialog that we’ve already heard should not be an issue in a game released in 2020.

These flaws were mostly a part of the original release as well but what’s the point of remastering a game if you haven’t fixed anything? Even the visuals in Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered have failed to receive much polish. The game looks murky and fuzzy rather than sharp and clear. If Square-Enix could clean up Final Fantasy VIII for its gorgeous remaster, what stopped them here?

This is without even mentioning the loading times, which are frankly absurd for a game nearly two decades old. Again, it seems that getting this remaster out the door trumped quality control for Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered, which does nothing to help the game’s case.

Though the game is markedly more fun when players join you to take on a level, even the online connectivity has serious issues. To make matters worse, if a player chooses to use the multiplayer, they’ll have to carry a chalice around themselves if no one joins them, picking it up and putting it down all through the level.

Since single player has an AI character who will carry it for you, this option could be easily added to multiplayer, disappearing when (or if) someone actually joins you. This would allow the structure of the game to remain static regardless of whether someone joins your game or not, instead of making the game harder if no one decides to pop in.

While game director Araki Ryoma has promised to address the issues with Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered, the game has aged so poorly that, even without the flaws of the remaster, it’s hard to recommend it to modern audiences. Sad as it is, some games are better left in the past. Such is the case with Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles.

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