Xenoblade: Chronicles review - despite the narrative problems, it's a very fun game for the new Nintendo 3DS

New Nintendo 3DS; £34.85; Release date: 2 April (10 April in US)

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The Independent Tech

Xenoblade: Chronicles feels like it's been made for the New Nintendo 3DS, though it was originally released for the Wii in 2010. They are well paired, and surprisingly so for a handheld console and a game with fairly complex mechanics. Apart from that it's a relatively safe JRPG: it looks nice, the story is boring and the gameplay is fun.

The narrative is, as with so many games at the moment, where Xenoblade falls flat. There is an abundance of exposition, telling us that the ‘Monado’ is a magical sword, the only thing our protagonist, Shulk, and his people have that can damage the Mechon, an evil robot army that feeds on people and wants only to destroy the Homs of Bionis. It goes further. Shulk and the other Homs live on Bionis, whereas the Mechons live on Mechonis. Mechonis and Bionis were two titans that fought to the death, now all that left is their lifeless bodies, where our play takes place.

It's quite complicated. Along with all this lore, there are all the personal relationships within the story to go through, and go through them it does. This story isn't eaked out over quests, it's sat in front of you suddenly, a massive pill of exposition you need to swallow before much fun happens. Xenoblade Chronicles has a tendency to overdo the cut scenes. And that would all be fine if it was well written and fun to watch and follow, but it's not. As well as a few other JRPG tropes, it suffers from terrible and unending dialogue. A note for game developers: if you have to make your characters laugh to signal a joke, that joke is not funny.

Once you get into the gameplay itself the game comes into its own. The battle mechanics are more complex than I've seen on a Nintendo handheld, and in a way that actually works. It is a game that owes a lot to its medium, the New Nintendo’s new buttons and c-stick mean you can scan the battlefield quickly with camera panning and give orders to other members in your party easily. Other features like ‘arts’ fill out the enjoyment - discovered as you gain experience, and which can be used in conjunction with your party members’ arts to do better damage. It means you can have a complex battle mechanic like early Final Fantasy, without going into a whole separate turn-taking battle sequence. It doesn't disrupt the game’s flow and it's better than just having a single swiping sword.

The visuals are great too. It doesn't excuse the boredom of the cut-scenes but at least they don't look bad. The map is sweeping and wonderful - filled with collectibles that are worth collecting; when you fill a line in your collection you get a weapon upgrade. The aesthetic, that almost kitsch JRPG style, as lovely as it is, suffers from another trope, well endowed women. There are no flat-chested women on Bionis, an initial target for the Mechon we can only presume.

But with all its tropes and narrative problems, it's a very fun game. Running around collecting, battling, sorting out your team and upgrading weapons is enough to leave you playing for hours, even if you switch off at another cut-scene. The great use of the new technology also bodes well for the upcoming Wii U addition to the franchise.

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