Editorials

Something about this planet… — Why Xenoblade Chronicles X Needs a Switch Port

With the release of Pikmin 3 Deluxe, the list of potential Wii U ports grows smaller. There are only 9 first-party titles not yet on Switch, 10 if you count Super Mario 3D World which is coming next year.

  1. These are Fatal Frame: Maiden of Blackwater, which is unlikely due to its bad reception (though hopefully, the series can get another shot);
  2. Nintendo Land, possible but again unlikely with its focus on asymmetrical multiplayer;
  3. Game & Wario, same reason as Nintendo Land;
  4. Wind Waker and Twilight Princess HD, which are only a matter of time;
  5. Wii Fit U, which will never happen;
  6. Art Academy, who knows if that’s likely to happen;
  7. Star Fox Zero, which really deserves to be fixed up for Switch because it is genuinely great but overlooked because of awkward controls;
  8. and finally the subject of this article: Xenoblade Chronicles X.
  9. Edit: Thanks to Reddit user xX_MarsBars69_Xx for pointing out that Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is also still stuck on Wii U.

Out of all these games, I believe Xenoblade X deserves a port to the Switch the most, as much as an inanimate object/work of art can deserve anything anyway. Not only would it add to the ever-expanding catalog of JRPGs on the console, but the structure and pacing is also already a perfect fit for a portable console.

For those not in the know, Xenoblade Chronicles X is the second game in the Xenoblade franchise. Released in 2015, it follows the crew of the White Whale settling on planet Mira after Earth was destroyed in a war between two alien species. You play as a customizable avatar (referred to as the fan name Cross from now on) who has lost their memory and joins the organization BLADE to help explore this new world, gather resources, help civilians, and find other pieces of the White Whale that were lost in the crash. The ultimate goal of the main story is to find the Lifehold, a part of the ship containing the rest of the earthlings before its power reserves run dry and those inside perish. It’s an interesting setup that, while the story is phenomenal, suffers from a very big cliffhanger. This doesn’t make the plot any less enjoyable, but it has certainly been frustrating to deal with in the five years since its release with no word of a sequel or any follow-up whatsoever. A Deluxe port could expand on the ending a bit, while still leaving room for a true successor, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

The story progresses in missions, with each subsequent mission unlocked by meeting certain requirements, like surveying 10% of Oblivia. In my initial playthrough, I was focused on progressing and tried to save side quests for the end of the game — this was a mistake. I stand by my statement that the story presented in X is good, but alone it’s not on the level of the other two entries. What brings it up to said level are the huge amount of side quests and missions focusing on one of your 17 party members. The spotlight on side content is a double-edged sword in X. On one hand it’s what sets the game apart, gets you invested in the characters and world, and the sheer volume will keep you entertained for hundreds of hours. On the other hand, the game doesn’t do a good job of pushing you towards this content. This is in part because of the lackluster tutorials (which the series is notorious for, especially Xenoblade 2). They say a lot but don’t convey necessary information like defeating unique monsters, discovering locations, and completing side quests all contribute to your survey of areas. It doesn’t help that the font was far too small and scrunched together, making menus difficult to read on top of being poorly designed in general.

While Xenoblade 1 and 2 have a setting that is a mix of sci-fi and fantasy, X leans more towards the former since it clearly takes place in our universe. Exploration is certainly a big part of the other two games, but it takes center stage in X. Mira has five massive continents to explore, each with their own biomes, flora, and fauna. While you begin your exploration solely on foot you’ll soon gain access to transforming mechs called Skells to move faster, jump higher, and even fly eventually. With no fall damage, an already blazing fast run speed, and no loading screens, Mira is a joy to explore. It’s very layered, with tons of caves, cliffs, and beautiful vistas to discover. This brings us to the visuals, and while the environment looks nice the same can’t be said for the characters who have an uncanny, anime-character-brought-to-life-as-a-robot look to them. This was when Monolith Soft was still figuring out their art style for the series (since the first game didn’t have a character designer) and the criticism was what led them to the more standard anime look of 2.

The combat in X follows what was set up by the original game, but cranked up to 11. You and your party of up to 3 AI-controlled allies move around the battlefield in real-time, using abilities called arts at opportune times in MMO fashion. Now, however, everyone comes equipped with both a melee and ranged weapon to swap between at will. Arts are tied to these weapons; using a ranged weapon will speed up the cooldown of ranged arts, for example. In addition, arts have secondary cooldowns only progressed by using the proper weapon which adds special effects or allows them to be used quickly in succession. After completing chapter 5 in the story, each character will be able to use a skill called Overdrive which gives them access to a tertiary cooldown among many other things.

While characters like Elma and Doug are locked to a specific class and weapon types, Cross has access to every class and can swap when not in combat. Once a class is mastered, they can bring certain parts of it into other classes, such as weapons, armor, and passive skills. Even without Cross, your party is extremely customizable using things like augments to equipment, equipped arts and skills, and Soul Voices to give the party buffs and healing. This depth leads to there being no best strategy and lets players experiment with builds they enjoy or just try something new. One of my favorite builds for Cross is called Infinite Overdrive in the fandom, and does exactly what’s on the tin: lets you stay in Overdrive indefinitely. Pair Overdrive’s enhanced Soul Voices and ability to make buffs like evasion last longer and you’re essentially invincible and more powerful on foot than in a Skell. If I do have a complaint about the combat system — other than the poor tutorialization — it’s that Skells feel pretty underwhelming. They’re great for exploring but very sluggish and reliant on auto-attacks in a fight.

While I do have a wishlist of sorts for a port/remaster, I’d also like to be somewhat realistic. The general (gaming) trend of deluxe editions is to be mostly a straight port with a bit of added content to entice double dippers. Pikmin 3 added a prologue and epilogue with Olimar, Mario Kart 8 included the DLC and a reworked battle mode, and Donkey Kong got Funky. Let’s go over pie in the sky ideas, then how probable it is that these things will actually happen.

First off, I’d like to see some sort of epilogue or some sort of small expansion on the ending and how the characters are dealing with the final twist. Just something to make for Xenoblade X2 or Y more bearable, if that does ever come. I think this is among the more likely things to be part of a Deluxe version, but considering the already massive size of the game, I wouldn’t expect it to match the scale of Future Connected in Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition. If anything, I’d say it would be the length of the average story mission along with maybe a side quest or two.

The tutorials and multiplayer could also use a bit of a rework. Along with making the font bigger and more easily readable, there could be a few side missions to get new players up to speed on how everything works while letting veterans skip it. I don’t know about other people’s opinions, but I found multiplayer very disappointing since it was focused on the endgame and you could only do certain missions exclusive to the mode. As much as I would love to have drop-in-drop-out co-op for the main game, that’s not a realistic expectation for a port. I think the font will definitely see an improvement, and possibly the overall UI and UX, I don’t think we would see any new tutorials or multiplayer improvements in a Deluxe edition. However, I do think a deluxe edition would make party management easier, like having them level when not in the party and having a menu to add them to your active party instead of having to find them in New Los Angeles. In-depth information is already available on the internet from YouTubers like Luxin, Chuggaconroy, KayJulers, and Enel but having it in-game would be nice.

Something that definitely won’t happen (but I can dream, darn it) is some crossover with the other two games or some callbacks to Xenosaga or even Xenogears. Xenoblade 2 had KOS-MOS as a Blade with Shion in her quest and Future Connected even brought back the Hilbert Effect, so some additional nods wouldn’t be out of place. However, the trend of deluxe editions so far has been to add minimal content, therefore any new content outside of a possible epilogue is very unlikely.

A rework of the art style is simultaneously the most and least likely change. Monolith has said they would prefer to do a reimagining of X instead of a straight port, and a reworked visual style, especially with character models and animations, to bring it more in line with the current artwork of Definitive Edition and 2 would do wonders to getting more people interested in the game. Conversely, the game is absolutely massive, and redoing all the visuals would be a big undertaking. I do think we will see some sort of change in the character models at the very least, but the extent of which is unpredictable. If I were in charge, I would opt for the treatment we saw in Definitive Edition, but who knows what kind of budget this hypothetical remaster would have.

A port would only have to change one thing to work on a single screen – Frontier Nav. It’s essentially a map of Mira that allows you to quickly travel around and adjust the functions of probes you’ve placed to gather money or other materials. Pikmin 3 Deluxe has already shown us that a map function like this can easily be brought up in a menu, and playing in gamepad only mode on the Wii U already had a workaround for this.

Now let’s get to the juicy bit: how likely is some sort of Deluxe or Definitive edition? I hold on to the belief that it will definitely happen at some point, but Monolith has stated that it would be an expensive project. With Nintendo insisting on selling these games at a full $60 and the massive increase in the franchise’s popularity recently, it’s certainly possible they could make a profit with a port, guaranteed if there are minimal changes. Xenoblade DE sold around 1.3 million in its first month alone, so the question isn’t whether a port will happen or if it will make money, but when it will happen and how much will change.

Xenoblade X is a perfect fit for a portable console. Its structure lends itself to short bursts of play; you can just pop in, explore a bit, do a quest, then put the console in sleep mode to continue when you get home. The killer soundtrack (fight me) would also be perfect for listening while the console is in a bag ala Super Mario 3D All-Stars. It’s the perfect time to reintroduce this modern masterpiece to Xenoblade’s growing audience.

Do you have any ideas for a Xenoblade Chronicles X Deluxe edition? Let us know on our discord! We can chat about all kinds of games, but I’m always down to talk Xenoblade with some friendly folks.

David is the kind of person to wear his heart on his sleeve. He can find positives in anything, like this is a person who loved Star Fox Zero to death. You’ll see him playing all kinds of games: AAAs, Indies, game jam games, games of all genres, and writing about them! Here. On this website. When not writing or playing games, you can find David making music, games, or enjoying a good book. David’s favorite games include NieR: Automata, Mother 3, and Gravity Rush.
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