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'Xenoblade Chronicles' also has a 'Heart-to-Heart' system

April 18, 2012
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'Xenoblade Chronicles' is the kind of thing that can make you wonder what the hell you're doing with your life. 'Am I really literally systematically checking fetch quests off of this list right now?' you might ask yourself. 'Xenoblade Chronicles,' played at a state of near-unemployment at age 24 with an electric bass guitar plugged into a switched-off amp in the corner of the room, is the kind of game that maybe gets you to realize that you don't have to do this anymore, which is about as much praise as I can give anything that doesn't taste like gourmet root beer.

Not being a jerk: Man, these skies really are blue. That's nice. And man, these characters really do sound crazy and British. That's alright, too! Entering one of these overworld areas is maybe an actual fantastic feeling. It's crazy how far you can see and how you can just walk through all of it. I don't want to just write the same sentence over and over, but, man, the scope of this game is really something.

Being a jerk: Unfortunately, there's this arrow, which literally grins straight at you through the screen, and literally drools, and literally yells at you through your Wii Remote to go kill three more goblins and get three more goblin hearts to get one more pair of shoes that increases your defense by one but lowers your speed by one so that you'll have a pair for every member of your party, and it literally gets bigger, pixel by pixel, if you stray from the path that whatever sidequest you select is leading you along, until eventually it gets big enough to cover up your avatar, and then big enough to fill up your whole screen, and then you have to turn your Wii off if you want to see around it. Luckily, once you reach this point, the whole thing might not even be a metaphor anymore, and you can play 'Dark Souls' instead.

The battle system is a horrifying, immovable lump in the corner of the room. The words that you've been ignoring your whole life - 'Break,' 'Stagger,' 'Back Attack,' 'Auto-Attack,' 'Affinity,' et cetera - seem to have all pooled together right here. You collect all kinds of different experience points and things; one kind of numeral allows you to upgrade the levels of the skills of individual characters, which does things like lower the cooldown time of your back attack from 8.5 seconds to 8 seconds.

What the hell is that? What kind of jerk do these jerks think I am that I'm susceptible to the pleasures of decreasing cooldown times by half-seconds? And hey, it's not like I don't like numbers; I find the numbers attached to every little piece of equipment in 'Dragon Quest' totally adorable. When I realized that hitting an enemy with a spell they were weak to in 'Persona 4' would knock them out of their next turn, I almost giggled. None of 'Xenoblade's' mechanics are adorable, and none of them tickles my brain at all. I don't want a menu called 'Collectopedia' and I certainly don't want another one called 'Achievements.' I have books to read. You are very inconsiderate, videogame developers!

All this stuff is nonsense, but at least it feels like it's there because these guys think we want it; it never feels as condescending as, say, 'Skyrim.' You start getting items that you realize you can take to a special shop, synthesize into gems which you can attach to the multiple slots in any of the half-dozen pieces of equipment that any of your three characters can equip, and you sigh; it's like you're a character in a sitcom who has to smile while he eats the disgusting birthday cake that his kid made for him. Only, you're not on a sitcom, and you have a PS2, so you might as well just play 'Dragon Quest VIII.'

1 star out of 4

Ben Hornsby will come to your house and watch you play 'Dragon Quest VIII' and he will try not to cry.

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