Aionos is a place where the mechanically proficient Keves people and the ether-oriented Agnus nation are in constant war with each other. The wars are waged by modified soldiers with an artificially limited lifespan of ten years spent entirely on fighting and mastering battle skills. Among the two forces there are also soldiers who play a special flute and perform rituals over their friends fallen on the battlefield. One such Keves soldier is Noah, along with his childhood friends Lanz, Eunie and nopon Riku. One day, during a very unusual clash, they encounter an Agnus troop consisting of Mio – in charge of performing rituals, accompanied by Taion, Sena and nopon Manana. Guernica Vandham, who had been there, intervenes and stops the fight, claiming to know their real enemy. However, he is shot by Consul D, who is a powerful being known as Moebius and part of the organization of the same name that controls the war between Keves and Agnus. D attacks Noah and Mio’s teams and quickly gains the upper hand, however, Guernica activates the Ouroboros Stone he smuggled in, imbuing both groups with his energy. Noah and Mio then unintentionally perform an Interlink, merging their consciousnesses and thus creating an entity called Ouroboros. D explains to them that they have become the natural enemy of Moebius and is forced to retreat, while the mortally wounded Guernica with his last breath instructs Noah and Mio to go to a place called City, where they can find answers to all their questions and learn the truth about the world they live in. This turn of events forever changes their lives and is the beginning of the end of the world as they know it.
Table of content
At the very beginning I would like to point out that I always use original voices in foreign media. It’s no different in this case either – every time I mention character voices and characters, I’ll mean the original Japanese voice, not the poor English dubbing, so the first thing I did right after firing up the game was to go into options and change something that should be set by default.
The collector’s editions will not be shipped until sometime in November. Hence, a review of the contents of the collector’s edition (the original Japanese one) will appear in a separate post as the package reaches me.
Edit 11.10.2022 – collector’s edition review is available here.
In addition, I will mention that I played the game on the Yuzu emulator (with a few improvements) after ripping the contents from the purchased game media.
Among the improvements I can mention the restored original names of the characters – a patch that I also helped with, and it will soon be made available to the public on gbatemp, which I will certainly write about (unfortunately, the Western version again changed a lot of names, and on top of that the translation itself was quite…. simply poor – but it’s a tradition in the series – it wasn’t as bad as in X2, but more about that a bit later) and a patch that turns off dynamic resolution, and loads textures without compression, so the game looked a hell of a lot better than on console.
I’ll also be using the original terms from the game’s lore (fortunately, in the case of Xenoblade Chronicles 3, it was mostly unchanged – the Interlink term mentioned in the description and the City location are also called that in the original script).
I’d just like to further point out that this review was written by a passionate person ( actually, like all content on this site) for passionate people, looking for something more than killing time (which in itself is a completely foreign concept to me – I don’t need to kill time, if anything it would be useful to slow it down). Hence going into the smallest details and nuances, including language. I write my texts the way I would like to read reviews myself.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 – Audiovisual design
As I mentioned above, I played the game on an emulator with patches that significantly increase the quality of the visuals by disabling the limitations that were necessary for the developers to apply in order to get the game running on Switch. However, this basically only applies to textures, drawing distance and resolution, so what I write will also be reflected in the version running natively on the console.
As it happens in Xenoblade games – the world design simply blows you away. It’s what makes exploration really enjoyable and you just want to see what lurks around every corner. I must also applaud the character design. This time the characters were not designed by dozens of popular and respected creators as in the case of Xenoblade 2, so there is less variety, but literally every character that has any significance in the plot has its own distinguishing features and stands out with something. This is also due to the fact that Xenoblade 3 is a combination of the worlds of Xenoblade 1 and 2, but more on that later. I was also greatly charmed by the lighting effects of the attacks during the fight (about the fight itself later, because there really is a lot to write about) and how the whole thing blended together perfectly. The animation of facial expressions perfectly reflected how the voice actors played their roles. What can be seen in the screenshots probably shows what a remaster of this game might look like in the future, on a new Nintendo console. The textures stored in the game’s files are really high quality, and there’s still a lot to be squeezed out of the engine itself. I was delighted with how beautiful the whole thing looked.
The icing on the cake is the voice actors themselves. Of course – I was expecting to see work done at the highest level again, but nevertheless, with practically every dialogue I was impressed by how perfectly the emotions are expressed, which resonated with me on every possible level. In the role of the main character (Mio) we have one of my favorite seiyuu – Tsuda Minami. I can’t express in words how much she contributed to the fact that I connected so strongly with the entire team of characters. On the other hand, in the role of the main character (Noah) we have Arai Ryouhei. He doesn’t have the same track record as the aforementioned Minami, but he also proved to be in a master class – even in very emotional scenes, of which he had quite a few, he simply sounded as if he himself was experiencing what his character was experiencing. Of course, the other members of the main crew should not be forgotten. Satou Miyuki as Sena brilliantly portrayed her tomboy character, Tanabe Housuke as Lanz perfectly embodied the character of the best buddy. Kimura Ryouhei as Taion effortlessly played the role of an introvert-tsundere. And then there was Han Megumi in the role of Eunie, an ordinary teenager who likes to use more casual language from time to time and friendly teasing of her close friends. As for supporting characters, popular names such as Yuuki Aoi, Kugimiya Rie, Kobayashi Yuu, MAO, Koshimizu Ami, Kayano Ai and Chiba Shigeru also appear. There are also several returning voices from previous parts – Oowada Hitomi, Katsuta Shiori or Kuno Misaki. Overall – a stellar cast.
I have mixed feelings about the soundtrack. Mainly because I was setting myself up for something as perfect as I could hear in Xenoblade 2, where basically the theme of every region, city or battle was simply superb. In the case of Xenoblade Chronicles 3, it is unfortunately very uneven. There are motifs that pull you out of your shoes (the main battle theme from the first region, the theme of fighting consuls or special monsters, the one that plays in City, or Chain Attack) and strongly emotional ones (the main theme that runs through the entire game, especially in the full version with all the instruments, and several others). Unfortunately, that’s where it ends. Xenoblade 2 had many cities and villages, here there are no cities, there are colonies. I noticed a major difference already at this point. In Xenoblade 2, each city and village had its own theme corresponding to the atmosphere there. Large cities had solemn pieces performed with a full brass band, small villages quite calm, melancholic or idyllic themes. In Xenoblade 3, every place after the takeover had the same theme – although really good, it was a big (negative) surprise to me. It lacked the character of the places. Of course, the regions still had differentiated music – a separate version for day and night (as in previous games), but even here it sounded mostly quite bland. Even the track from the distinctive green meadows present in every Xenoblade, which literally stimulated the adventurer’s spirit in everyone, here was simply good – neither more nor less. This does not mean, of course, that that the soundtrack simply flopped. It’s just that in many places they were not able to match or even come close to the previous part, which set the bar literally in the stratosphere.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 – Translation
Unfortunately, it has remained a tradition that NOE (Nintendo of Europe) seriously damages the translations of games in the Xenoblade series in the West. Here, small luck in misfortune – there is no such tragedy as in the case of Xenoblade 2 (which you can read about in my review here). It can be seen that the translators themselves did a fairly decent job, as the dialogues generally reflect quite well what was in the original script. The whole thing was screwed up (traditionally) by the editors, inventing some dumb slang insertions for their work, which in no way existed in the original script. On top of that, they tried to make the dialogues British in every possible place (which was probably due to very low self-esteem and complexes). In many places it ruined the flow of the dialogues and serious scenes sounded comical because of it. As if I hadn’t heard the original voice actors, I probably would have perceived many important scenes totally different. There was also no lack of political correctness. Especially in dialogues without voice acting. There were trivial things – of the type – one of the nopons called someone fat and it was censored (after all, you can’t call a thing by its name in the West – a whole scene was rewritten for the sake of it). I checked in the game files the original Japanese script and I found quite a lot scenes like this. There were also things that simply seriously interfered with the characters – such as the fact that a certain girl named Yuzuriha was considered by the translators to be non-binary (which was nonsense for a myriad of reasons that, taken together, make it clear that nothing of the sort took place in the original – on top of that, the heroine’s name itself is a typically girly name) which caused the characters to address her in translation not as “she” but as “they.” It’s not hard to guess that a certain group of loud minority on Twitter immediately picked up the topic, and a lot of articles arose insulting people thinking with common sense and extolling how progressive the developers of the game are. It’s bizarre in this case to the extent that the main theme of the game is the search for humanity as a relationship between a man and a woman being the natural order of things, where in several important places in the main plot was literally so framed and emphasized (by the way, the whole idea of Interlink, described below is also based on these premises), so it’s not hard to be surprised that once again this group of people is doing everything to distort reality.
In many places very strange translations were used for single words, which quite skewed the context of the statements, or what the characters wanted to express. Colloquial and blunt words such as kuso (shit) were censored, replaced with something like snuff, and in other places curse words or offensive words were added, where in the original script – even in a far-fetched interpretation (not to mention about just simply translating the dialogues) they simply did not exist. Ultimately, this caused (including for those with English as their native language) considerable cringe and significant immersion issues.
Unfortunately, more than 200 character names were also changed in this case, which is already a thread for a separate discussion, since the Western Nintendo (specifically, the European branch) is the last company that still practices this moronism on such a scale. Interestingly, there is such a quackery in Europe about all these made-up phobias, and the name changes mostly involved Japanese or Japanese-sounding names, so I state unequivocally that this was an eminently xenophobic act.
A patch is already in the pipeline to fix some of these problems, which I myself helped with quite a bit. At the moment, after a long struggle with the format of the game files that contain the texts, the first version restoring the original names is in testing, which in itself will greatly improve the imersion and enjoyment of the game. I’ve been testing it for the last 20 hours and everything looks really promising. I will, of course, complete the review with a link when the public version decides to become available.
Unfortunately to use it you need a Switch with CFW or the use of an emulator. There is no way to apply such patches on an unmodified console.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 – Plot outline and Characters
At the outset, it is necessary to explain what Xenoblade 3 is. Namely, it is a combination of the worlds of Xenoblade 2 and Xenoblade 1. Evidently, this can be seen when we look at the characters. One of the heroines belonging to Keves (Eunie) has wings growing out of her head, just like Melia Ancient from Xenoblade 1, coming from an ancient higher folk. Another of the heroines has cat ears (Mio) just like the inhabitants of the Guura / Gula region in Xenoblade 2 (that is, Nia, for example) – representatives of the Agnus. The name of these folk, by the way, is quite a reference to what themes were aimed at and what was the foundation of Xenobalde 2 – that is, all the Christian symbolism unfortunately completely changed in the Western version – I recommend reading my review, to which I gave a link above. Interestingly, there is also a lot of symbolism in Xenoblade 3, where the world called Aionos means epoch from the Greek (synteleia tou aionos means the period of the end of an epoch). I won’t go into the details and explanation of what specifically happened that these two parallel realities became one, because this topic is covered in depth in the main plot thread of the X3, and I don’t like to spoil things unnecessarily.
However, the similarities do not end there, which is why I will repeat to boredom that the third part should be approached only after completing the two earlier titles. By doing so, we will see dozens of references and it will allow us to appreciate the efforts of the developers on a completely different level. My favorite tidbit is that even the characters’ combat styles were retained from the worlds of Xenoblade 1 (where the characters’ arts recharge in time) and Xenoblade 3 Chronicles (where the arts recharge by attacking passively). The whole Interlink system then also has a completely different overtone. But about the mechanics themselves a little later.
I wrote about the types of characters of the main characters above when I admired the voice actors, so I won’t duplicate it here. I will only mention that their characters naturally and simply beautifully supplement each other. Each main female character has a partner of the opposite sex, with whom she is connected on a mental level by strong ties. They know all of each other’s memories, and there is no denying that over time they begin to bond more. Here comes the leitmotif taken up in Xenoblade 3. The search for and discovery of humanity and the meaning of life in a world devoid of both. At least on the surface. One scene (which I won’t describe in detail, taking place somewhere around the middle of the game) touched me deeply and even shocked me that someone in today’s world had the courage to address these kinds of topics at all and show it so directly. Throughout the storyline, the value of the relationship between a man and a woman and the fruit of their love is emphasized several times, a concept that is completely foreign to the game’s protagonists because of the way the world in which they have been operating for hundreds of years…. they appeared. Until a few weeks earlier, they had no other purpose in life than to fight to the death against an artificially created enemy. The characters on both sides – Agnus and Keves – change their perception of the world almost overnight, seeing that they are fighting people who are similar to them in almost every aspect. The entire plot is basically based on our heroes’ learning about the true nature of man, their interactions and building bonds that are the foundation of the changes to come.
I could write a lot more about how perfectly Takahashi Tetsuya develops this theme, building suspense and often playing on the emotions that come from seeing the beauty of ordinary things and another human being, but I’m afraid this review will be too long anyway, so I strongly recommend experiencing this amazing story yourself, paying attention to the small details we can see at every turn. It doesn’t matter whether it’s observing the behavior of the characters when we stop anywhere on the map, or while resting in a camp in the middle of the desert where we can see in the background small, seemingly insignificant and customary things like enjoying a meal together, tying braids, exercising together, or showing warmheartedness – but you have to involve your inner sensitivity in a special way. A sensitivity that each of us possesses, but unfortunately most of us block. Only when we pay attention to all these little things, we will be able to see the beauty and uniqueness of this work (and not only this one, the same happened in Xenoblade 2). Let me say it again – this is not something that you play, this is something that you experience. Among other reasons, this is why it is so important to use the original dialogue track, where the actors come from the source culture and had direct contact with the creators and directors. A cultural matter is of great importance here in terms of sensitivity and rendering of emotions. Only in this way will we experience the whole as Takahashi Tetsuya and his team created the whole. Dubbing kills the whole thing, changing literally everything the original creators worked on.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 – Gameplay
To begin with, a few words about the difficulty level. Personally, I played on the normal level, but it was quite easy. Especially when you did side quests rewarded with a fair amount of experience points. On the other hand, the highest difficulty level took away the pleasure of the battles in many places, because it was simply unforgiving. Some sort of compromise between normal (which should be called easy) and hard is missing.
As is standard for the series, we move through large locations, where a multitude of animals and other creatures living there await us. Actually, all the elements we need for trouble-free navigation are very well marked. Pressing the “+” key takes us immediately to the point where there is a key location for completing the active task. As in previous parts – losing a battle does not end with a Game Over type screen, but we are moved to the nearest landmark we discovered near where we fell. In X3, the Field Skills mechanic present in Xenoblade 2 has been almost completely abandoned. Many people will probably be pleased by this fact, while I liked this mechanic. Here, the whole thing is limited to four skills, which we acquire after completing certain Hero Quests.
There are several types of finds throughout the game – it’s really worth collecting them as soon as you spot them. These are standard items, often unique to particular regions. We use them to cook meals, upgrade gems or eventually wear our characters. Another type of finds are crates, which contain a lot of unique ingredients and currency used by nopons. There are also fields with ether and mysterious shimmering blue-colored items, which we will be able to use only in the last chapter – nevertheless, it is worth collecting them every time we spot them.
In Xenoblade 3 Chronicles there are no as-is cities (with one exception). We have to deal with so-called colonies, similar to those in Xenoblade 1. But about that a little below. Keves colonies are called by Roman numerals, while those from Agnus are called by letters of the Greek alphabet.
There are also some hidden dungeons on the map, which usually end with simple logic puzzles. At the end of them you will always find something of value. Sometimes this also unlocks additional places where we can exchange our goods or new side missions.
Due to the fact that the two main characters (Mio and Noah) are tasked with performing rituals for fallen soldiers, thus enabling them to properly depart this world, we will also find plenty of bodies in the field at which this ritual can be performed. We get colony points for this, so performing a ritual on the grounds of the Tau Colony, for example, will get points that increase our level of familiarity with that colony.
While exploring different corners of the world, we will also hit camps. In these places we can have conversations about what we’ve observed in the surrounding world and discuss the details of individual quests, save games, clean our clothes, prepare meals (which raise our stats), use bonus experience points to raise the level of heroes, or finally have our nopon companion perform gem upgrades (which I’ll write about later). In the background we can observe interesting and sometimes even heart-grabbing situations involving resting heroes.
The last of the more important things to cover are the Hulks. Described in the game as obsolete and already abandoned devices. To conquer them, we first need to slaughter the surrounding wildlife, then power the main module with the ether collected earlier. By doing so, we gain access to a machine that produces items unique to the region in which the Hulk is located, and we can also use the place as an encampment, since nopons appear there as wandering merchants as soon as we gain control.
Colonies act as the central hubs of each region. We gain a ton of quests there, and in most cases, a captured colony means adding a new supporting hero to our team (about that in the next section). Completing tasks of people in individual colonies increases our level of familiarity and unlocks additional bonuses in the form of stats. Completing each side mission is also rewarded with valuable experience points and game world currency. To get most of the quests, you need to eavesdrop on the conversations of the locals and then discuss them at the resting point. You’ll also find a dining hall in each colony – in addition to unique dishes for each colony, it also adds recipes to the cookbook of Manana, a female nopon from Agnus who loves to cook.
The Heroes are special allies who can be recruited to fight alongside Noah and the other five as the seventh member of the team after completing the corresponding Hero Quest. While only one Hero can be on an active team, once recruited they can be replaced at any time (importantly, they collect experience points even when not active). However, there is no way to control these characters directly. The six playable characters can still reclassify as Hero classes after becoming more familiar with the character.
Hero, can also take part in Chain Attack (as mentioned in the subsection on combat), with each having a unique bonus instead of the usual bonuses based on class type.
Throughout the game, we can recruit sixteen additional heroes with unique abilities, as well as two special heroes – a fact that will be especially appreciated by those who have played both previous games.
4. The combat system and the combat itself
As in Xenoblade 2, we are dealing here with a very elaborate combat system. Although I won’t hide – the combat system in Xenoblade 2 gave a lot more strategic options and simply required developing strategies, especially in the later stages of the game, where very extensive Chain Attack mercilessly punished every, even the smallest stumble if we didn’t think our actions through. Here we are still dealing with something highly developed and giving a lot of pleasure in playing (not even a comparison with Xenoblade 1 and Xenoblade X where you simply spammed with art that loaded), in addition, all attacks have really lovely animation, making the fights simply enjoyable.
I’ll just point out that I’ll describe the combat system very superficially to just give an idea of what possibilities the developers gave us, without going into nuances, because it would unnecessarily prolong this review, and almost everything is well explained in the game anyway.
The first difference, and something I really liked, was the fact that almost at the very beginning of the game, when we are introduced to the Agnus team, it turns out that the developers decided to take advantage of the fact that the game world is a combination of the world of Xenoblade 1 (Keves) and Xenoblade 2 (Agnus), so that individual heroes coming from each world used a combat system similar to what was implemented in the respective world. Hence, people from Keves have arts that recharge over time, while people from Agnus have arts that recharge after dealing damage. Great idea.
After the aforementioned encounter with Agnus comes two, one of the most important mechanics in the combat system. Each male character has a female partner from the other world, with whom he connects on a mental level (Interlink), creating together a new powerful entity called Ouroboros. For a short time we can control it, dealing powerful damage to enemies.
Each Ouroboros can be upgraded with the points received after the battles. There are a number of options to further strengthen attacks, extend the time we can stay as Ouroboros, etc.
There is another matter related to the Interlink system – namely, Fusion Arts. That is, the ability to combine Aguns and Keves attacks after reaching the appropriate class level of another hero (about this a little further). Using Fusion Arts causes us to increase our Interlink level, which in turn unlocks new features of certain attacks, and at the maximum third level unlocks an additional option in Chain Attack (about this further on).
Each character class also has a skill appropriate to its type. For healers, these will be attacks that restore life and add buffs, etc. similarly for defenders and offensive classes. It is loaded by performing arts at the appropriate time (just like in Xenoblade 2) and symbolized by the largest icon on the right side of the lower attack menu.
The last main and most important element of the combat system mechanics in larger battles is Chain Attack. We charge it by using Arts and dealing damage (charging can also be accelerated by using the items we equip our characters with). After recharging, we initiate it with the “+” key. There are two types of Chain Attack. One basic (from which we can bring out the strongest attacks, but it requires proper forethought and strategy), and the other – Ouroboros (only when we charge Interlink to level three and initiate Chain Attack while in Ouroboros form), which lasts only two turns and consists only of Ouroboros attacks. Chain Attacks are really the icing on the cake of the whole system. Everything here is polished to perfection. From the animation of the attacks, to the sensational song playing in the background, to the battle cries themselves.
The entire attack sequence consists of several turns (depending on how we derive each skill) and can also end with a final blow from Ouroboros, if we think our strategy through well. The condition for completing a turn is to accumulate 100% or more TP points. Once a character’s attack exceeds 100%, it automatically moves to the execution phase. The characters holding the Healer class are an interesting part of the strategy, as their skills do not exceed the 100% scale. If we manage to exceed 150% reactivation of skills in the next turn will be gained in the two characters we have already used. On the other hand, exceeding 200% will make us activate the three skills we have already used before.
Each of our helpers (which I wrote about in the section on Hero) has unique skills boosting particular elements of Chain Attack. For example, increasing TP points, re-activating other heroes, etc. I recommend watching an example of Chain Attack in the video below, from one of my battles:
When discussing how combat in Xenoblade Chronicles 3 looks like, it’s worth mentioning that each Hero on our side has its own unique class (assigned to the 3 main ones, namely Healers, Defenders and Attackers). Each of our main heroes, on the other hand, has the opportunity to learn these classes and use the attacks later using the weapons of each Hero. The game’s tutorials inform us from the start that this is a key mechanic and it is best to teach our team as many classes as possible.
Summary and evaluation
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is, right after Xenoblade Chronicles 2, the best game I’ve played – at this point it has moved Nier Automata down another notch on the podium. This is probably also evident in the rather emotional tone of this review. So, at the very beginning of the summary, I give it a 10/10. I’m impressed by how Monolith Soft and, most importantly, the main screenwriter – Takahashi Tetsuya proves once again that he simply is a leader in his craft. I really had a lot of concerns about whether, after something as excellent as Xenoblade 2, the developers would be able to rise to the challenge and create something that even came close to that masterpiece. Fortunately, after just a few hours of playing (in fact, right after meeting the second team of heroes and actually starting the game’s main thread after the introduction), I already knew that I would be dealing with something that is not just to be played, but to be experienced. Such good works do not come along often, and Monolith Soft proves once again that nothing is impossible for them. Although this game hits on a completely different theme than the previous one (which you can read about in the review linked above), the atmosphere of hope and a chance for a better tomorrow remains the same. Both games have exactly what made me simply fall in love with Japanese RPGs. Excellent characterization and interactions between characters, making us simply become a member of the team, experiencing the whole story with them, instead of simply putting us in the role of an observer. This is especially important in the emotional sphere, since all such plots strongly affect a person through this, piercing to the core. Particularly contributing to this are also the voice actors and the brilliant dialogue direction, to which I have really devoted considerable attention above. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a one-of-a-kind experience, full of touching and thought-provoking themes, which can only be fully appreciated after knowing the previous parts (they seemed completely unrelated beforehand). I also had concerns about how the game’s ending would turn out, and here again Takahashi Tetsuya strongly surprised me (positively). There is a lack of over-sweetened ending here. It’s quite possible that most people will be disappointed, especially those who noticed only the most superficial layer of this masterpiece. However, I really appreciated how the aforementioned atmosphere of hope accompanied me until the very end credits (and the scene after them). Thanks to this, the title will definitely stay in my memory for a long time. Takahashi Tetsuya also shows that, as an artist, he is truly free and pursues his visions regardless of what certain people will think (and which also, of course, caused a wave of outbursts of uncontrollable aggression on my favorite forum for heavy drug addicts in an alternate reality – the resetera). And that’s how my already great respect for this creator went even higher. Spoiler for people unfamiliar with Xenoblade 2 (quite serious). You can safely open if you haven’t played Xenoblade Chronicles 3, because context is important in this scene, and this screenshot doesn’t show it.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a must-play item for any fan of the genre. It took me 91 hours to get through, I did basically all the side missions up to Chapter 6. I left the rest for later (because I wanted to finally see the ending), so I assume it would have taken me about 120 hours to max out the game. Future DLC will add some more content, so I will definitely return to this game.
Some of the screenshots below were taken before the final version of the patch to improve graphics on the Yuzu emulator was released, hence they are not as sharp and full of detail.