V – Homages to Science Fiction and Pop Culture
Despite all the doom and gloom, there are some truly humorous moments for the keen eyed and cultural savvy folks among those who venture into Mira. None of them more so than the events revolving around one Professor B., full name B°&7k%±|, who claims to be part of the peak of human evolution. After coming back in time in his time machine (that happens to be a car), he ends up stuck on Mira along with the rest of us. Unable to go "Back To The Future", Professor B. ends up setting up shop as Factory 1.21 in order to repay a massive debt… wait, 1.21!? Great Scott, that is the exact same number of gigawatts needed for the Flux Capacitor inside the DeLorean to send Marty back to the future!
Science fiction author Frank Herbert also gets sizeable nods on a couple of occasions. Once you step into Oblivia it is very likely you will accidently stumble upon the Tyrant Squallo, the Sand Mirer. This gigantic worm-like creature remains buried in the sand waiting for its prey to walk above, when it will attack anything it senses in his vicinity. Sometimes you might even catch sight of it in the distance as he rises from the sand, almost as if it is coming up for air before diving again below, leaving no traces of its presence. So you're in a desert and there is a giant sand worm about... that is without a doubt a nod to the planet Arrakis, the centerpiece of the entire award winning "Dune" saga.
If there was a doubt this was merely a coincidence, the player is presented much later in Sylvalum with another Tyrant sand worm-like creature named Atreides, the Distinguished who (if not disturbed) will playfully jump above a stone bridge. House Atreides is one of the major players in the Dune universe and will certainly be familiar if you played any of the old Dune videogames that sadly stayed away from Nintendo systems (but can both be found on Mega Drive and Mega CD). Making sure this allusion is indeed no mere coincidence, if you decide to attack Atreides he will summon his female counterpart Gesserith, the Wileworm, a clear reference to the Bene Gesserith sisterhood, another big player in the Dune universe.
Last but not least we have our pizza loving, diminutive allies: the Ma-non. In their attempt to assimilate our culture, no one actually specified what was real and what was fictional. As such the end result of their Candid & Credible Arms Manufacturer armor lineup is lifted straight from classic anime, which the Ma-non assume is what humans wear in their daily life. This is why their male armors look like they're out of your favorite classic mecha anime while female armor is lifted straight out of the Sailor scouts from "Sailor Moon". These nods are welcome and enjoyable; I hope fellow gamers spotted them as well. Feel free to point out others you have found in the comments section.
VI – Lessons On Mankind
With mankind on its very last legs, one would expect that such a cataclysmic event as the Earth blowing up would finally unite us as a species, forcing us to work together towards the common goal of survival. Poetic and ideal as that may sound, the game quickly presents you to the ugly truth: even in face of extinction, mankind remains divided and prisoner to its most selfish traits. Most science fiction masks real-life issues with high technology future worlds of tomorrow, and Xenoblade Chronicles X is no exception.
Mira is home of few apparent sapient species (the Noppon being the most notable exception) but receives many, including mankind plus many other alien ones (both friends and foes). Do you think everyone huddles up next to each other and fights side by side in a way to increase the odds of survival? No, of course not, everyone wants to fight it out for what they claim is their piece of land, their turf. It's not that every human on New Los Angeles is a cave man or cave woman, but most are understandably damaged after such a traumatic event of losing their homes, their families, their day-to-day life. You will be meeting a quite lot of characters, so be prepared to live with both the best and the worst of mankind. Selfishness, greed, politics, religion, intolerance, xenophobia… the game certainly doesn't paint a pretty, poetic picture of Mankind.
You can even find many of these traits within your own team, with kindness and naiveté ever present in Hope (which comes back to bite her in the end), the irrational hate for other species in Bozé, while others are practical and life on Mira made just turned them ruthless - like Lao. It is however impossible to discuss Lao's role in the whole game without some massive spoilers so I will avoid this issue, but I am sure people who have completed the main story will find Lao's path a very common one, filled with good intentions, delusions and eventually repentance for his actions. Much in the same way Mass Effect deals with morality, your actions and choices interacting with characters will determine the eventual outcome and resolution of the many conflicts that arise within New Los Angeles itself. Although very lightly and almost covertly, it is up to you to feed the best or the worse traits of mankind, with the city reflecting those choices. In short, you can play as the human being you want to be, with both rewards and punishments dealt accordingly.
VII – L Is The Impossibility of Reason
*CAUTION: L Spoilers Ahead*
One of the most unique characters in the game is L. It is unavoidable for you to find him during Chapter Four. L presents himself as an inventor and claims to be native to Mira, offering insight into the Noppon and the local fauna. He quickly joins the humans and aids them by eventually setting up shop in New Los Angeles while also becoming a playable character in your party. His broken English due to speedy assimilation of the data he collected is one of the game's many comic relief features. In all, L will stay with you most of the game and will go mostly unnoticed and keeps to himself outside his own missions.
Yet something doesn't quite add up: L is the only one of his species on the whole planet. Alarm bells will begin to ring when you realize his full name (L'cirufe) is none other than an anagram for the fallen angel Lucifer. The producers have this hidden in plain sight from the very first moment you meet L, and it's impossible to once again not be reminded of Goeta talking about Mira being Purgatory. The Xeno series always dealt with religion in one way or another, but I do believe that the possibility of having the Devil himself as part of the team and piloting giant robots is a first. The game doesn't really offer you any explanation for the coincidence of his name or even the fact that their physical appearance is that of a demon (even if a smiling, humorous and peaceful one), leaving it once again up to player's interpretation if this alien trickster is indeed "in" on the whole mystery of Mira, if he is a guide, a nuisance or just another test the planet throws at you. So… what do YOU think about L? Comments below!
VIII – Final Thoughts And The Future
Xenoblade Chronicles X, despite what its name might induce you into believing, it is not a sequel to the delightful Xenoblade Chronicles (you can read my experience with it here). It shares some game mechanics, the Noppons, the epic scale, but nothing else. As such I often find it unfair to compare both games since I found their experience to be very different, so don't expect me to take sides when asked to join either camp. It offers those who stick with the game an incredible and huge playground to explore, while slowly helping Mankind survive and adapt to the impossible odds it faces. I am sure most people will simply be scared off by the complexity the game presents to the player, but I never found myself overwhelmed, mostly because I was patient. It has excellent tutorials and I did not expect to get everything on my first try. Perhaps this comes with age, for I am sure that nowadays most developers would not like to subject the player to such ordeals, instead opting to instantly reward the player as fast as possible in order to keep him happily glued to the game.
Because of this I am well aware that not as many people enjoyed this game as they did the original Xenoblade Chronicles on Wii and 3DS, two of the most widely successful video game systems of all time. Monolith Soft does not even wrap up the whole plot tidily in order to give players closure on the adventures in Mira, leaving them to speculate on several subjects; I presented mine in the points above. It was a bold move and it not only kept me playing all the way to the end, it keeps me wanting to play a direct sequel. Monolith is no stranger to revisiting worlds it creates (notice "Baten Kaitos" and its prequel on GameCube) and the rumour machines have been on an all time high ever since the Switch was presented. Assuming that a port is indeed heading out on Nintendo's next hardware, it will give another chance for this game to be discovered by a whole new audience.
We also know Monolith has been helping out Nintendo in crafting the vast open world of "Breath of the Wild", but what other secrets does the Japanese RPG developer have up its sleeve? We will have to be patient, a quality needed for any that play Xenoblade Chronicles X. I would certainly not pass on further adventures on Mira should they land on Switch.
Until that time comes, and since "Breath of the Wild" is still some way off, what better time than now to keep exploring this colossal video game achievement from Monolith Soft? Perhaps you will even find it to become a source of inspiration. I look forward to reading your comments below about your experience with the game.