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The 2017 release of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 helped rekindle my love of JRPGs. The re-release of Xenoblade Chronicles for the Switch in 2020 only added fuel to that fire. So I was filled with great excitement when I heard that Xenoblade Chronicles 3 was going to come out in July, a full two months ahead of schedule.
That’s why I plan on spending the weekend cozied up with my Switch, playing the latest entry in the Xenoblade franchise. I’m curious to see the improvements Monolith Soft has made to its refined formula since last time.
Besides being able to change classes, freely switch characters in battle and have a party with up to seven members, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 also adds a new Ouroboros form. This allows two playable characters to combine into a super-powerful being, which resembles a robot and has its own special attacks and abilities.
Noah, Eunie, Lanz and the rest of the cast in Xenoblade 3 are all engineered soldiers who grew up training, knowing that most of their lives would be spent in battle. This is a big departure from Xenoblade 2’s Rex, who started out as a scavenger, and Xenoblade’s Shulk, who was a researcher before picking up the Monado.
Exploration has also been a staple of the Xenoblade series since its inception. I’m looking forward to exploring the world of Aionios to see how it compares to Alrest from Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Mira from the original Xenoblade Chronicles.
Back into the JRPG fold
Although the Switch was incredibly hard to find on store shelves when it came out in March 2017, I was able to pick up a Japanese version of the console in Korea, where I was living at the time. After making my way through Breath of the Wild, I (like many other Switch players at the time) had difficulty finding my next game.
After scrolling endlessly through the Nintendo eShop, one particular game caught my eye: Xenoblade Chronicles 2. While I hadn’t played the first one yet, I did grow up playing Final Fantasy and countless other JRPGs. However, I had stopped playing JRPGs when I switched from console to PC gaming. But with Nintendo’s portable console in hand, I was ready to dive back in.
As I had a 17-hour plane ride to visit my family in the U.S., I took a chance on Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and I’m glad I did. Xenoblade’s combat, lore and storytelling pulled me right back into the fray. I found myself playing the game with my Switch in tabletop mode for hours while waiting for my connecting flight.
Revisiting past Nintendo consoles for even more Xenoblade
After completing Xenoblade Chronicles 2, naturally I wanted more Xenoblade. As the game's DLC hadn't come out yet, I had to put down my Switch and pick up one of Nintendo’s past consoles instead.
While Xenoblade Chronicles originally launched on the Wii back in 2010, Nintendo ported the game to the New Nintendo 3DS in 2015. I bought a refurbished 2DS XL to play Xenoblade Chronicles. Little did I know that the game would be ported to the Switch just a few years later.
My journey with Xenoblade wasn’t done though. As a big sci-fi fan, I was intrigued by Xenoblade Chronicles X. This game is the spiritual successor to the original Xenoblade, and came out before Xenoblade Chronicles 2. However, it did so on the Wii U, and has yet to be ported to the Switch. I’m still holding out hope that Monolith Soft will announce a port before the Nintendo Switch 2 comes out.
I decided to pick up a refurbished Wii U to play Xenoblade Chronicles X. While I enjoyed exploring the game's huge environments — and the fact that there’s no fall damage — the narrative wasn’t as strong as other entries in the series.
An expansive world
While I’ve just scratched the surface of Xenoblade 3’s 80-100 hour story, the world of Aionios has already drawn me in. This time around, Monolith Soft has really outdone itself when it comes to making the world feel inhabited, as well as colossal in size.
Even though Xenoblade 3 shows you the shortest route to your quest objective, I rarely, if ever used that feature. Instead, I preferred to take the long route, searching for secret areas, picking up collectibles and doing my best to engage low-level enemies while avoiding the more powerful ones. It’s also worth noting that you can zoom in all the way to play the game in first person if you’re looking for even more immersion.
I’m also enjoying the addition of a star next to NPCs who have something new to say, as you don’t have to waste time talking to everyone you encounter. Likewise, icons above enemies out in the field show you whether they’re normal, elite, unique or lucky monsters.
Based on what I’ve played so far, exploration will likely be one of the main draws for me in Xenoblade 3, but the combat is just as engaging as ever. The new target lines now make it much easier to know which enemies are attacking certain party members. This helps when coming up with a strategy during more difficult fights.
A large cast of fully playable characters
Besides its unique battle system and excellent storytelling, the Xenoblade series also shines a spotlight on its characters and their big personalities. Just as in Xenoblade 2, Monolith Soft has once again picked Masatsugu Saito to design the characters for Xenoblade 3.
For this entry in the series, Saito decided to make the characters look more mature by making them taller. Their costumes aren’t too flashy, and better match the story’s tone according to an interview (opens in new tab) with Nintendo.
I haven't yet met the entire six-character party. But so far, I like the group dynamic between Noah, Eunie and Lanz in the first few hours of the game. Unlike in Xenoblade 2, this group of characters grew up together, and already know each other deeply.
Once again, you’ll be able to freely switch and play as any of the characters in your party while you're out in the field. This time around though, you'll also be able to seamlessly switch between characters during battle sequences, which should mix up the gameplay quite a bit. You can also read our detailed Xenoblade Chronicles 3 character guide to know more about the main characters.
A great entry point to the series
Despite being the third (technically, the fourth) Xenoblade game, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 does an excellent job of explaining both the story and its gameplay for newcomers. While the tutorials may get a bit annoying for seasoned players, they provide plenty of information and are easy to review later on from the system menu.
Even if you haven’t played a Xenoblade game before, Xenoblade 3 looks to be a very accommodating entry point into the series. Who knows? You may play this game first, and then go back and play others, just as I did after finishing Xenoblade 2.