I will preface this by saying that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has been my most anticipated game of the year.  I was one of the people who participated in the original Operation Rainfall effort to bring the first Xenoblade Chronicles to Western territories having typed two emails and sent one lengthy hand-written letter to Nintendo.  I am a longtime fan of the franchise, and my review will inevitably reflect this.  However, I did not receive a review copy in advance, so my review of the game will come a little late.  Expect my full review within two weeks. In the meantime, I wanted to post my early impressions of the game.  Here are my Xenoblade Chronicles 2 first impressions.

When I first initiated the game, I was impressed with its visual fidelity.  I can only play in handheld mode currently as I lack a TV, but the game looks great in handheld mode.  Sometimes, the resolution appears to be sub-720p, but that doesn’t detract from the beauty of this game.  The environments on the Titans look great as they always do in Xenoblade titles.  They are meticulously detailed and overwhelm the player with a wonderful sense of scale.  I do not know how the later Titans will look, but I do know that the locations will vary drastically in their design similar to the first Xenoblade.  I will say that I was not as impressed with the visuals in this as I was in Xenoblade Chronicles X, and I somehow doubt that the world itself will have the same sense of scale that game did.  However, it is not a problem as the world concept of the mainline Xenoblade games differs from the world of Chronicles X.  X was focused on having massive continents, whereas the mainline series literally builds its worlds on the backs of giants.  Both are interesting in their own rights, and neither detracts from the other.

(Please note that the pictures in this article were taken in handheld mode, so the pictures are at a 720p resolution instead of the full docked resolution.) 

 

One thing I quickly found myself disappointed with was the lack of costume variation via different equipment.  In the first title and in X, you were able to equip a host of items including helmets, grieves, armor and boots.  Each one of these would change the appearance of your characters, and you would always be looking forward to finding the next interesting piece of equipment to make them look absolutely awesome.  Chronicles 2 lacks such a feature.  The equipment system has been massively simplified to having just two accessories which can be equipped at any time.  To my knowledge, these do not change the appearance of any character in Chronicles 2.  I wish I had been aware of this going into the game as it would have saved me such disappointment.  I was looking forward to seeing what kinds of equipment I could find for my characters.  In the end, this isn’t a major detriment to the game, but I do hope the feature comes back in X2 or Chronicles 3.

The first Xenoblade began with a bang.  Its first few hours were highly emotional and drew me in like few other games have.  There was one particular scene in those first few hours that sticks with me to this day as it was so powerful and unexpected.  I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t yet played it, but if you have the game, you probably know what I am talking about.  Xenoblade Chronicles 2 lacks such impact in its first few hours, but it does grow in intensity by the end of the first dungeon.  I will reserve judgement on this front until I progress further into the story, but I have thus far not been as impressed with it as I was the first game.  The story of Chronicles 2 shows potential to be great, though.

 

If you have played the other Xenoblade games, you will know what to expect of the battle system.  In the beginning, it is rather slow and meticulous because it follows the battle design of MMO RPGS.  When you approach an enemy, you will perform an auto-attack.  If you remain in that position without moving, your character will unleash a series of three attacks growing in power with each hit.  You will learn powerful Arts attacks which can be linked into your regular auto-attack chains.  As you perform auto-attacks, you gain energy for doing the Arts, and you will be able to unleash an Arts attack after the meter attached to that Art fills.  There is another kind of attack which can be learned a little later in the game which gains energy from the Arts.  All of these attacks build upon one another, and you will have to focus on maintaining a strategic position around enemies to fully maximize the effectiveness of your attacks.

 

I am enjoying the storytelling of Chronicles 2.  Monolith Soft has put a wonderful focus onto the animations and choreography of the cut scenes.  The voice acting is also very well done.  All of the characters thus far have voices that suit their visage well.  The lip syncing can be awkward, and the facial expressions of the human characters leaves much to be desired, but this has become part of the style within the Xenoblade franchise.  If you prefer Japanese voice acting, you have the option to change it in the menu, but you have to download the free Japanese voice DLC pack from the eShop.  However, if you have or intend to buy the Japanese version of the game, be aware that you cannot download an English voice pack from the Japanese eShop.

Thus far, my first impressions of the game are generally positive.  I had to acclimate to the new systems found within Chronicles 2 and some of the changes made for this new title.  However, now that I have gotten used to it, I think I am going to have one of my favorite video game experiences of the year.  And that is in a year that has seen the release of Mario Odyssey and Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild. My final judgements will be reserved for the actual review, though.  Please come back and check that out once it has been posted!  Until next time.