Xenoblade Chronicles is not your average RPG.
You don't pick attacks from a menu and then sit back to watch the animations play out. Instead, the game's battles are intense and they work in real time (with the odd moment of rest when chaining attacks).
But don't be fooled into thinking its a shallow action game - these tussles can also be staggeringly complex.
You need to juggle enemy targeting, issue team commands, keep on top of everyone's health, and unleash your many special moves (called 'Arts') - while also babysitting their cooldowns.
Plus, you have to topple enemies, react to other team members for combos, think about the placement of your attacks, and consider the aggravation of your enemies. Even your ability bar is a complex multi-layered menu to untangle.Now it's Reyn time!!
I wanted to start with this point for two reasons. One, to warn that Xenoblade is a tricky proposition - only suited to those who possess both the dexterity of an action gamer, and the tactical know-how of an RPG fan.
But also to suggest that perhaps this epic and expansive RPG is not the best fit for a handheld system. Because, man, when the battles start heating up the tiny 3DS screen becomes a cluttered mess of icons and numbers and messy polygonal blurs.
It might fare better on the XL, but on my regular New Nintendo 3DS I found myself regularly squinting at the screen as I tried to parse out friend from foe. Or just figure out where Shulk - the game's hero - was.Leave it to Heropon!
And, similarly, the game's incredibly expansive scope makes it feel better suited to its roots on the Wii.
You can't knock the game's ridiculous scale - this is a huge, open world, filled with NPCs that have their own schedules and personalities. Or its length either - it will take somewhere around 70 to 80 hours just to reach the end credits.
Or the sheer amount of stuff there is to do. Outside of the main story you'll find sub-plots, hundreds of quests (many are rote collection chores, mind you), a complex economy of items, and a bonkers web of relationships to micromanage.
It feels like an MMO, if you were the only player on the server.
But it all adds up to something that requires you to devote hours to in order to make any meaningful progress. Good for long commutes and flights, then, but if you're playing this on 30 minute bus trips you won't finish it in your lifetime.We can definitely do this!
The 3DS port also suffers in some other areas. I haven't played the Wii version, but comparing screenshots it's obvious that textures and environments have been simplified - resulting in blurry-faced characters and spartan landscapes.
Ultimately, it's hard to knock Xenoblade Chronicles if this is your thing. It's a seminal JRPG with a twisty and memorable storyline (only knocked by some kooky voice acting), more content than you'll ever get to see, and a battle system that's as engaging as it is bloody complicated.
Also, it wouldn't be a terrific recommendation to say "just go buy the Wii version" seeing as that ridiculously rare game fetches about 50 quid on eBay.
But at the same time, it's hard to see this as a natural fit for handheld, and that makes Chronicles 3D a tough recommendation to those with the home console version, or those uhm-ing and ah-ing over whether to upgrade to the New 3DS.