Xenoblade Chronicles was something of a white whale that appeared late in the Wii's lifespan. A Western release was not assured despite critical success in its native Japan, sending fervent American fans into an Operation Rainfall-shaped tizzy to show Nintendo that hey, maybe they should release some games from time to time. Then, when Nintendo did eventually come to their senses and put the game out — years after its original Japanese release — North America sat idly by, twiddling its thumbs and posting hashtags while Europe enjoyed what was one of the console's best. And then, hooray! A GameStop-exclusive release in North America! Which quickly went out of print!
We spent some hands-on time with Xenoblade Chronicles 3D and came away satisfied in the knowledge that Monster Games — the studio responsible for the port — has done right by Monolith Soft's fantastic original. Running around Gaur Plains with Shulk, Reyn, and Melia was like catching up with old friends and immediately picking up from when you last met. With the addition of the ZL/ZR buttons and C-stick, the game controls just the same as it did with a Classic Controller Pro. That is to say, splendid, although a tad floaty still. We chalk it up to the walking animations looking slightly off, as if there isn't any real friction between a character's foot and the ground.
We won't go into gameplay details too much — check out our review of the Wii release for that — but we will say that Xenoblade is a great fit for a portable. Its vast world begs for exploration, which will now be all the easier when it's available wherever you go. Transitioning to a smaller screen does bring with it some visual sacrifice, though, as some details are scrunched and lost. It's still a visually pleasing title and looks very close to the original version, but you can definitely tell that some panache is missing.
However great it was to revisit this world, we were perhaps just a little saddened to see that Monster Games doesn't appear to have done anything different with the game. Our demo didn't include any new features that weren't inherent to the hardware (think: 3D, dual screens), and even then didn't seem to take advantage of features like StreetPass. The game isn't set to release until April, so it's possible that Nintendo is holding some of this close to its chest, but we aren't holding our breath.
In fact, Xenoblade Chronicles on New Nintendo 3DS is pretty much exactly the same game as it was on Wii, although now it's portable and in stereoscopic 3D. Granted, those are pretty compelling selling points for some, but most important of all is that you will soon be able to easily buy the damn game in the North America — unless Nintendo pulls a fast one and makes it available exclusively in Best Buy airport kiosks or some such. If you missed out on Xenoblade before, this is the perfect opportunity to fill in that gap.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D lands this April, so long as Nintendo doesn't get any funny ideas.
These impressions are from attending a media event in San Francisco, travel costs were provided by Nintendo of America.