Xenoblade Chronicles was a gigantic game on Wii and Monster Games, the studio that brought Donkey Kong Country Returns to 3DS, ported the game to New Nintendo 3DS. The vast landscapes crawling with beasts to the Heart-to-Heart scenes scattered throughout the story are intact in Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. If you played Xenoblade Chronicles on Wii the control scheme should feel familiar too. The New Nintendo 3DS has ZL and ZR shoulder buttons so you can control the camera with ZL and give party members commands by holding ZR down.
If you haven’t played Xenoblade Chronicles before, you’re in for a treat. Ages ago, two battling titans were locked in battle until a killing blow sealed both of them. Fast forward a couple of eons and now two warring races, the humanlike Homs who reside on Bionis and robotic Mechon rose on Mechonis, live on the backs of these fallen titans. Shulk, a teenage Hom, has been studying the legendary Monado, a sword with the power to turn the tide in favor of the Homs. When the Mechon attack Colony 9, Shulk’s hometown, he manages to control the Monado’s power, but loses his friend Fiora when a Mechon with a face kills her. Joined by his impulsive friend Reyn, the two set out to avenge Fiora and put a stop to the Mechon invasion.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D’s battle system is a bit different from other JRPGs. It shares more in common with an offline MMORPG or perhaps Final Fantasy XII. You directly control one character’s Arts, skills that have cooldown times, while two other party members automatically attack monsters. Where your characters strike a beast is important and Monolith Soft shows this to players with one of Shulk’s earliest arts, a strike that deals more damage if you hit an enemy from behind. The most interesting addition in the battle system are the Visions of the future Shulk has. These warn players when an enemy is about to do a lethal strike and if you act quickly you can cancel that attack. It’s a brilliant system that has players focus more on tactics than mashing the A button to hit fight again.
While Xenoblade Chronicles wasn’t designed for a handheld, many of the features already built in the game that make it portable friendly. Players can save almost anywhere and handy Story Memos remind players where they are in the game. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D has a day/night system, but you don’t have to waste time waiting for the sun to rise to complete a quest. You can speed up the in-game clock using the game’s menus. Warp points spread out throughout the world make travel a breeze and if you happen to die you respawn at the last landmark you passed.
There’s a lot we love about Xenoblade Chronicles, so what’s new in Xenoblade Chronicles 3D? Not much and one feature, Japanese voice acting, is missing. The portable version uses stereoscopic 3D to add more depth to the world and the environment stands out more since there is less clutter on the top screen. Most of the menus like the character status bars and the mini-map have been moved to the bottom screen. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D has amiibo support, but it isn’t essential.
The Shulk amiibo gives players three tokens once per day for Collection Mode, a library with character models and music tracks. If you don’t have the rare amiibo you can earn tokens through StreetPass or exchanging Play Coins (5 Play Coins convert to one token). While the port doesn’t add much, Xenoblade Chronicles is still a fantastic experience either on a console or on the go with the New Nintendo 3DS.