Howdy hidey ho! Let’s get something out of the way first: Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has the far superior cast of anime booba waifus. But moving on, the JRPG genre has seen some serious advancements beyond waifus, namely Final Fantasy VII Remake going hyper-realistic, and Tales of Arise setting a new bar for presentation values in the core anime style of this genre. Does Xenoblade Chronicles 3 also push forward to new heights?
…the combat system rewards you for understanding it. […] it does not reward you visually…
I always give warnings where they’re needed: despite what it looks like, this isn’t an action JRPG, it’s a more standard “active time battle” one with freedom of movement (as evidenced by me battling a mecha and hitting it from a million miles away). This is not indicative of the quality of the battle systems in play and they’re a good balance between forgiving and useful. If you can handle the absolutely inane amount of tutorials the game borderline disrespects you with (thanks for spoiling me Elden Ring), you’ll find the combat system rewards you for understanding it. Hint: always finish your elites, named, and boss fights with chains for that sweet XP bonus! Unfortunately, it does not reward you visually: this has to be one of the most terrible combat UIs in modern existence. Just take a moment to look at it and tell me it doesn’t look like a mess; and no matter how far you get in the game, it doesn’t get better. This is, in part, likely because they wanted to move away from the trope of having you split your roster up between characters on and off the field, thus putting all the characters in combat all the time. Moving on from combat to character/equipment management is something of a mixed bag. There’s still a lot of “classic” JRPG clunkiness, here, despite the overall reduction of equipment, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself tinkering in these areas at the required minimum to keep moving on. And on the topic of moving on, exploration is pretty standard fare: while a little linear (especially compared to Xenoblade Chronicles X), you run around open areas with plenty of monsters to fight and sights to see. I’d also like to close this section with another warning, though: the late game area follows your usual JRPG formula and will really test your mettle.
…I clap my hands with unequivocal applause.
Just admit it, now: JRPGs still remain the pinnacle of content. In your nearly 60 hours it’ll take to get to the credits, you’ll have gone through one epic adventure. In fact, it’s rare that I give brownie points to games in the content arena, but this game definitely deserves a little boost, here. Because of the combat system, I never had to stop and grind. That means aside from smelling some waif-err roses along the way, this is a wholesome adventure. And if you love it that much, it still has plenty of side quests to do which could easily put you over 100+ hours. It even comes with a new game plus! This is the part where I clap my hands with unequivocal applause. Well done, indeed.
…quite simply deserves better hardware.
Alright, let’s just be clear on something: I’m not about to beat a dead horse. We know the Switch’s hardware is simply not up to the task, so expect heavy resolution drops and poor framerates (which sadly does hurt some cinematics, and is why some of them are pre-rendered). And yet, this is still a good-looking game. They tried their best and it is easily among the best-looking games on the Switch that quite simply deserves better hardware. The biggest improvement this game shows against its predecessor is the texture work, though there does seem to be some z-buffering issues with rock faces… and some occasional N64 textures that I think were simply missed. But you probably care more about the story, and I want to preface that with a presentational issue: you WILL be disrupted by the story’s fade cuts every several hundred meters. It’s a bit off-putting, but that doesn’t stop this story from still being delivered well. And while what I’m about to say doesn’t count against the game nor can I spoil it, the story’s centered around more positive vibes and triumph. Despite its theme of life and death cycles, true loss and tragedy remain adjacent to the characters you care about and this inevitably causes a bit of uneven character development. Yet, I still can happily say you’re in for one helluva ride.
…it delivers on what JRPG fans want…
Here’s the thing, this game doesn’t push forward to new heights. Instead, it delivers on what JRPG fans want, and it does it across an epic length adventure that I can only describe as “hold onto your butts”. Sure, its combat UI is absolutely terrible, and it doesn’t quite escape the need to modernize more old-fashioned JRPG tropes, but it still competently delivers on everything it needs to. It’s a pity, then, that while it’s one of the best-looking games on the Switch, the work they put in deserves to be rewarded with better hardware. You might not get that anime booba waifu fix like its predecessor, but this is still an unmissable game for JRPG fans.