Though Xenoblade Chronicles is not the biggest-selling franchise to consistently grace Nintendo's hardware, it's clear that Nintendo is happy to recognise that some brands and genres deserve support for the loyalty they earn among fans. MonolithSoft, a company majority-owned by Nintendo that often pops up as a contributing studio to major titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Animal Crossing: New Horizons, has enjoyed the freedom to pursue the growth of this JRPG brand — and now we await the latest entry, Xenoblade Chronicles 3, which will be arriving unexpectedly early on 29th July 2022 after being previously announced for September.
Xenoblade's blend of styles, enormous world and sheer depth of mechanics, lore and concept helped it to earn a devoted fanbase
Whether it's to plug a gap due to something else in the schedule moving (Splatoon 3 perhaps?) or a calculated move to get the game in fans' hands over the quieter summer months while avoiding the more crowded Fall and Winter release period is unclear at present, but one thing's for certain: with Breath of the Wild 2 having slipped into 2023, we're glad that we'll be diving into this huge first-party Switch adventure a little earlier than expected.
For those unaware, the co-founder of MonolithSoft is Tetsuya Takahashi, a hugely experienced developer with a background that includes work on some of the most iconic JRPGs ever made, including as an artist on Chrono Trigger. After going his own way with a talented team in 1999, however, the struggles of the Xenosaga series and creative differences with the majority-shareholding Bandai Namco meant there were some challenging years. Nintendo saw potential, however, and having acquired 80% of MonolithSoft in 2007 it shifted the company towards its current role — as lead on major independent projects and also contributor to other Nintendo titles.
Xenoblade Chronicles was the first full game of the partnership, of course, and enjoyed a positive launch with its 2010 Japanese release before making its way to the West in 2011/2012. If you cast your mind back, that was a period where it wasn't a given that Nintendo would localise all of its releases for the West, but fan demand for the Wii JRPG meant it eventually happened — even if Nintendo of America was particularly slow to embrace it. The blend of styles, enormous world and sheer depth of mechanics, lore and concept helped it to earn a devoted fanbase.
While Xenoblade Chronicles X gave us a very different vibe and style on Wii U — one which too few players got to enjoy, unfortunately — but it felt like a key moment when Xenoblade Chronicles 2 came to the Switch, giving us a numbered sequel on a system that was rapidly becoming a smash hit. As of around 18 months ago, that sequel had passed 2 million sales, too, showing an appetite among players for the growing IP. On the sales front, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition hit around 1.3 million sales in about a month after release, so the combination of the IP and the Switch audience has worked to make the series sustainable at the very least, and a valuable part of Nintendo's broader catalogue.
As a long term fan that's enjoyed all the releases to date — including the impressive but undeniably niche New 3DS-exclusive version of the original — I'm particularly intrigued by this new entry. I'm no super fan, I don't play them to 100% or complete multiple playthroughs; I simply don't have the time! But I've reached the credits in them, and am hugely appreciative of how the first two numbered games have been both standalone and smartly linked. There's a fascinating overarching narrative going on that only really becomes clear when you reach the endings, and even then an 'endings explained' video is perhaps still necessary.
There's one such video below with big spoilers, but we'll be avoiding specifics in this article. If you've played both games already and are interested in the theories and extended lore, though, it's worth a watch.
Even before some eye-opening links very late in the respective games, the world MonolithSoft created is excellent at putting in small references to imply that something bigger is happening. It may just be the name of a weapon wielded by a particular character, or shared themes and implications at shared histories, but it does this with enough subtlety that while fans see it, newcomers to either game won't be aware they're missing anything. It's clever storytelling.
What makes Xenoblade Chronicles 3 so fascinating, to me, is that Nintendo's official page for the game isn't even pretending that these links won't be a factor.
Bringing together the futures of Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles 2, this title will take players to the world of Aionios, home to two hostile nations
That official page is worth a look, as it outlines some key characters and teases a plot in which there are two main protagonists, on opposite sides of a war. When the first trailer dropped (below) fans were freeze-framing it and listening to voice lines for familiar actors; yes, the game once again has plenty of British accents, and we seem to have picked up another Australian character in a clip as well. Takahashi-san is actively encouraging this, too, highlighting hidden details to be found in the trailer.
The music in this game maintains the unique Xenoblade Chronicles touch while also taking on a new challenge, namely that of integrating as its motif – a flute-based melody. The flute is actually one of the key themes in this game. A variety of other elements and themes are hidden in the trailer. We’ll be revealing the details bit by bit going forward.
The new trailer at the top of this article, meanwhile, sets the scene further and there's little doubt that lore enthusiasts will be sifting through it as we type these words. There are some shots that hint even further at the worlds of the first two games colliding, and characters with different coloured eyes (one red) also potentially plays into a key revelation from the end of Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Even if you don't want to go that deep into references, it's another trailer that sets the scene for a tale of drama, conflict and emotive moments.
Also notable in the new trailer are looks at some new gameplay ideas, particularly within the real time battles. We see some extra mobility (potentially for dodging attacks?), seemingly more active characters on the field at once, a 'Tactics' button, a transformation mechanic, and a suggestion that all of the above could further shake up how we utilise Chain Attacks. The official website has been updated — the transformation aspect is when a tag-team pair can transform into a 'giant form called Ouroboros'. You'll be able to change character classes, too, another wrinkle to the extensive customisation and ability management in previous entries.
Like its predecessors, then, it looks like we'll get clever evolutions within the core gameplay. That's as exciting as all of the lore and dozens of hours of adventuring.
With all of this in mind Nintendo has, very smartly, ensured that with the first two games already on Switch, there's the possibility for newcomers to catch up ahead of the third entry. In fact, if you're a series newcomer, have the funds and want some meaty games to tackle in the next few months, it's well worth playing both of them (in order) to get immersed in the extended lore.
Nintendo has smartly ensured that the first two games are already on Switch. In fact, if you're a series newcomer, it's well worth playing both of them (in order) to get immersed in the extended lore
They're actually quite different in tone, with the third looking like another shift to a more serious piece of storytelling. The first game happily went from loud drama to lighthearted banter at the drop of a hat, while the second was definitely more cartoonish and fantastical (though it got pretty dark at times as well). As mentioned before though, there are threads between the two that are interesting to discover in playthroughs.
Beyond that, I'm also optimistic that this could be the most impressive entry yet in terms of production values. Especially at launch, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 felt like it wasn't quite optimised for Switch, but the Torna - The Golden Country DLC expansion seemed smoother and sharper. When you compare the trailers for 3 compared to equivalents for its predecessor, too, we see generally better performance and visuals. As a sucker for instrument-led storytelling and soundtracks, I'm also fascinated to see the role of flutes and music in the new game.
As for the prospects for the third game's success, they seem positive at present. Nintendo will no doubt have a marketing campaign to flesh out and tease the game's world and cast, and let's not forget that awareness of the IP will be boosted by its predecessors on Switch and its characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. There could certainly be some new fans that take the plunge as the Xenoblade name becomes more familiar and prestigious.
All told, I'm pretty sure I'll spend a significant part of the Summer (and probably also Autumn / Fall) immersed in MonolithSoft's latest; it's shaping up to be a game that could be equally alluring to new fans, too.
I guess it's about time for a Xenogears remake!
As much as I am excited for Xenoblade Chronicles 3, I still hope we get Wind Waker HD or Twilight Princess HD on Switch for a Zelda to tide us over this year!!
It could still get delayed for all we know. I wouldn’t get too excited
The general recycling of content makes me wary. That's ignoring other obvious issues at play.
But whens splatoon 3 releasing now
Yeah, with BotW2 and Advance Wars' delays, it doesn't surprise me that the release schedule got changed around. There will surely be a few more unannounced titles at the end of year too.
But yeah, fantastic news indeed.
Great news, can't wait for Xeno 3.
Maybe they can release Metroid Prime Trilogy HD now since they freed up some space or am I just being too optimistic.
I just hope they don't wait months before adding basic QoL like they did with XC2. Spending hours opening cores was annoying as hell.
Yes. Xenoblade 2 did not get the recognition it deserved because everyone was freaking out about BotW. After the freakout was over I read many a review of XC2 where the writers said, if they had played it earlier they would have voted it game of the year over BotW. Not only that but, the world design was one of the worst because they people that developed that were mostly taken off to work on... BotW. Hopefully XC3 coming out early and BotW2 being delayed means that XC3 will get the recognition it deserves, and they had the full team working on it.
Looks like the year could be making moves for an unannounced E3 release.
As it stands the September -December window now lies open with only Pokemon, Sonic, Bayonet 3.
Will Nintendo plug the gap with some unannounced titles?
Unreleased new IP?
Diddy Kong racing sequel?
@anoyonmus Doubt it, why would they at first say it releases in September, then say it launches at July 29 just to delay it again?
Too many rpg's not enough racers just saying.
I'm thrilled! I have no idea about Nintendo's release calendar but I'm not complaining about pushing up a release date. I'm sure Xenoblade 3 was ready to go and thus it got the green light to launch earlier, Monolith Soft is definitely values quality and complete games. This makes me even more excited for Nintendo's late 2022 and early 2023 as there are sure to be more heavy hitters! Now only if we could get a new Switch Pro/2 model announced, I really don't want my current one to be fried by the 300+ hours I'm gonna sink into Xenoblade 3.
I mean, people who want BOTW2 want to play an open world action/adventure game, I'm not sure how well served they will be with a slow paced strategic RPG. Unless we're implying that people will buy and play any Nintendo game because Nintendo.
My biggest concern with this announcement is that XC3 releases a month after Sunbreak.
I really hope that this decision won't negatively affect the sales of this game.
One day we will get the Xenosaga remasters that we've been waiting for.
Removed - trolling; user is banned
Sigh. Basically every game we knew about since last year has been pushed to the Fall or later.
@BloodyMurder "general recycling of content"? Back in my day, we just called it "sequels".😏😆
I could definitely see Nintendo pushing XB3 for July to release another Fire Emblem game or Zelda game in September.
im hoping that the game wont have the issues XC2 had in handheld mode, it was still fun but considering a big draw of the Xenoblade games is the environments it did take away from some of the magic when there were massive resolution drops and the game was chugging in some of the town areas.
@UltimateOtaku91 This is what I want to know. I hope Splatoon 3 isn't moved back now.
@PBNightmare My guess is that it's gonna be an August game since there's nothing slated for August right now IIRC
Now if Nintendo would just announce a firm, final, and preferably imminent release date for the Advance Wars title they unwisely "delayed indefinitely" over the war in Ukraine. If videogames got delayed every time some war or act of violence happened many of them would probably never see release, and there are PLENTY of titles and IPs whose themes and graphic violence are far more deserving than a cartoony, bloodless strategy game like AW.
Of course I won't be holding my breath for it to happen. Knowing Nintendo, they may simply never release AW while hoping we all simply forget about it over time.
I’m so hype for this. Xenoblade is the most underrated JRPG series in my opinion. Both 1 and 2 are in my top 5 games of all time. Now the third one will combine the worlds of both games into one, and you can fight with 7 party members at once, and it’s going to have an epic story, AND it has mechs?! Instant GOTY for me
Donkey Kong country in the fall
It's a little wild remembering how hesitant Nintendo was to release the first Xenoblade state-side at all. Now look how much it has grown, and, frankly, how much Nintendo has doubled-down on its commitment to support high-quality JRPGs on its consoles.
Monolith was a wonderful addition to Nintendo's suite of first-party developers.
As a XC fan, I'm just happy it's coming out sooner than expected. I loved XC, XCX and XC2.
Mario Strikers for June. Xenoblade 3 for July and Splatoon 3 likely coming August. That's a fantastic Summer line up.
I played Chronicles back on Wii, enjoyed it but never finished it. 3 looks like a major level up, and the transformations (mechs) are giving me… Xenogears vibes… Are these games in any way still connected to Xenogears, or have they loved past that?
They're not related but both franchises share the same creator: Tetsuya Takahashi. So in a way you could say Xenoblade is a spiritual successor even though the games are completely different.
Shouldn’t they take their time?
@Greatluigi Nintendo don't release everything as soon as it's finished. They have a release schedule because they are so prolific. Some things look like they may have slipped (BotW2 being the obvious one but it could be Splatoon 3 gets delayed) for whatever reason and this has been brought forward. Rumour has it that the Metroid Prime remake is already finished and waiting for a launch date.
@mariomaster96 you never know.
I was never into the Xeno games so no…this doesn’t take away the sting of BotW being pushed back.
I've never understood Xeno's ridiculous battle system. It always amazes me that anyone can play a game where you have to control so many characters at once. FF 15 was the same for me, just too much going on to be enjoyable. I'd rather have a turn based option or something. But, kudos if you like it. I'll just wait for BOTW 2 lol.
@anoyonmus 100% yes! They're more than likely delaying a game they just stated was launching in 3 months after bumping it up from September to July. Hype responsibly.
@NintendoByNature being sarcastic?
Nintendo is not going to delay a game after bumping its release date forward. The game development is very likely finished, and probably had been for quite some time.
im keeping my eye on the nintendo store for the special edition xenoblade chronicles 3 want to get it into my cart before the scalpers try to ruin everyone chances to get one.
@Ellie02 I don't think Xenoblade has been underrated for a while considering 2 was considered to be a record sale breaker and the definitive edition of 1 sold so well its become almost impossible to find. Also we had Shulk put in Smash so the game already was on the map and was popular enough since many of those smash characters for dlc were determined based on japan popularity.
@Shredderlovespizza FF15 has you controlling only 1 character ever, you don't need to tell the other party members to do anything as they can handle things themselves. Your turn based strategy games have more going on than a game like FF15 since you have to control everyones actions yourself.
@Mgalens Torna and XC1: DE were both in the same engine, and both had significant portable mode improvements over XC2. I'd wager we'll see even further improvements with the release of 3. I don't think it'll look fantastic (we're not getting 720p60 by any means) but it should be a much more legitimate way to play.
That’s pretty awesome for Xenoblade fans! I don’t remember the last time I saw a game get an earlier release date!
@Shredderlovespizza As someone who generally just plays turn-based stuff, Neo TWEWY's my favorite take on action RPG with way too many characters, because it takes it down to one button (of your choice, based on which move you equipped) to switch characters and use their move ... and then eventually you get up to 6 buttons to press and it's ridiculous but somehow just manageable, and it feels great when it works.
Zelda games are notoriously always much later than originally predicted. Not even sure if that's not on purpose to build hype.
@Shredderlovespizza You control one while the others are controlled by the AI.
Gotta admit, I'm getting more hyped for this. The trailer really sells it. I don't think the early release date works best for me, but whatever. I'll still buy it.
@BloodyMurder Zelda games have recycled content before. Plus Aonuma said that there would be a variety of features.
@Joker1234 They're already pushing Fire Emblem Wariors 3 hopes.
Nope, definitely not for me. Happy for everyone else though. Hopefully it signals a free gap for something that will take my fancy in the September window.
Happy for the fans, good for them. I am not a fan though.
Im partially happy (because i totally am going to play XC3), but also part unhappy, because there are like 3 big games coming out on the same day now (XC3, MH:S and AI:2).
Ah i forgot about torna though wasnt certain about what engine DE was running on.
that is definitely reassuring.
Monolithsoft generally have a good track record of getting great results out of the hardware, with the original being amazing on wii and Xenoblade X being some kind of sorcery which was why XC2 handheld was an oddity (though it did end up launching really early on switch)
definitely looking forward to this one (its also nice that the launch doesn't clash with Trails from Zero now)
I don't mind a flute so long as we can skip the terrible guitar rock from XCX.
I have never played a Xenoblade game, and wondering if it’s time for me to try X1, just don’t know whether I would like it…
@HeeHo Right, but I am always worried about the other characters and if they will make it or not lol.
This is NOT fantastic news because I've been planning for months to (1) finish Shining Force (Genesis Collection), (2) do a culling of demos, free-to-play games, and screenshots on my SD card, (3) finally get around to playing Breath of the Wild, which I bought (plus the DLC) what... 3 years ago?? Come on, Nintendo, I need more time, damn it!
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