Xenoblade Chronicles 3 review – a JRPG masterpiece

When Final Fantasy veteran and survivor of the Xenosaga games Tetsuya Takahashi set out to make the original Xenoblade Chronicles, it was with the intention of creating nothing less than a JRPG masterpiece. His team at Monolith Soft were tasked with making a game that would restore the balance between systems and story that had been knocked out of whack by certain giants of the genre throughout the noughties, and one that would bring the JRPG back to its 90s pomp.

Upon its release in 2010 the first Xenoblade Chronicles met its brief and then some; coming six months after the high-budget hobble of Final Fantasy 13, Takahashi’s game restated and refined the elements that helped make JRPGs so beloved in their heyday. Monolith Soft created a seemingly boundless fantasy world whose impossible horizons stretched on for miles (featuring landscapes as breathtaking as Breath of the Wild’s, a game Monolith Soft helped create alongside Nintendo in its frequently employed role as a support developer) . Here was a JRPG infused with an infectious sense of adventure matched by some exquisite systems. At the time it was nothing short of a revelation.

Subsequent entries struggled to have the same impact. Xenoblade Chronicles X, a fantastic and fascinating spin-off, was held back by the Wii U’s paltry user base as it shifted the balance towards its open world systems; Xenoblade Chronicles 2, meanwhile, had its appeal limited by some of its more questionable character designs and the excesses of its story as it was crowded out in the Switch’s busy launch year. With Xenoblade Chronicles 3 coming during a relatively quiet summer for big new games, it feels like the timing might be right to restore the JRPG crown to a beloved series.

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