My most anticipated game of 2015 isn’t Zelda, Starfox, or even the new Nintendo IP, Splatoon. It’s a game from MonolithSoft: the massive JRPG title named Xenoblade Chronicles X. Last week, there happened to be another live stream titled “Battle,” highlighting the combat system in the game, amongst some other nice tidbits. You can watch the English sub below.
With every new tweet or live steam, the game looks more and more promising. What’s more, the game is going to be exclusive on the Wii U. Now, some may see that as a negative aspect, but I don’t think so at all. In fact, this title could be a huge deal for the Wii U; I believe more JRPGs needs to make their way to the latest Nintendo home console. If utilized properly, the system could really compliment the play styles in JRPG titles, and perhaps even make it more accessible to a wider audience in the West. There are quite a few ways a game like Xenoblade can help the Wii U, but most importantly, it could open the door for others in the genre so they don’t pass by the much maligned system. Why do I think the Wii U is a perfect home for JRPGs, especially since the other home consoles have dominated that market for some time now?
1.) Nintendo is focused on the Japanese market – Though they’ve made some progress to start catering to a Western audience, Nintendo is still very much focused on their home turf. Some examples can be found in this Famitsu list on the NeoGaf forums which highlights 100 of the top selling games in Japan through 2014.
In the top ten, there were six JRPGs (well, five if you don’t count Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate). The genre still sells quite well in Japan, so that’s something in Nintendo’s favor. There’s a reason Xenoblade is already getting bundled with the Wii U in Japan: they’re hoping it will be popular enough to move some more consoles off the shelves.
2.) Nintendo has had some amazing JRPGs in the past – This is a big deal. Why? Well, it shows that Nintendo can be the home of fantastic JRPGs. Titles like Baten Kaitos, Tales of Symphonia, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (if you would count it), The Last Story, Chrono Trigger, Dragon Quest V, Pokemon, Bravely Default, Earthbound, and even Xenoblade Chronicles show that Nintendo consoles do have JRPG pedigree. Why can’t the Wii U be part of this club? In fact, there is one key feature that could make the Wii U one of the better homes for JRPGs…
3.) The GamePad – The GamePad can be a very useful tool in helping to streamline a JRPG, especially an open world title like Xenoblade will be. For one, the usage of a map while exploring the world helps to keep gameplay footage. Instead of pausing the game to view the map, you simply look down at the Pad, select the correct screen, and you’ve got an active, live map. What would be even better is if you could simply draw on your map to mark places you want to go, to remind you of places to come back to, or just to make various other notes.
How about a weapon selection screen on the GamePad as well? Other Wii U titles (not necessarily JRPGs) that have used this feature – such as Wind Waker HD or Deus Ex: Human Revolution DC – have enhanced the gameplay. Wind Waker is my favorite Zelda title; after I played Wind Waker HD with the GamePad and realized its ease of use, it was immediately clear that playing off-TV (which obviously got rid of the feature) actually took away from the overall experience. But the (realistic) potential doesn’t stop there: puzzles and interactions with NPCs can be utilized through the GamePad. If the developers can get creative, the GamePad can be used to really elevate the gaming experience throughout.
Granted, this final – and most important – point is based on potential and a lot of “ifs.” However, if the potential becomes reality, then Xenoblade Chronicles X can be an incredibly memorable experience. Hopefully it does well enough, so that other future titles might follow suit. If the Wii U became a JRPG machine, you would hear no complaining from me. But, in order for any progress to be made, Nintendo has to fully back titles like this. They have to put effort into marketing this game correctly and get it into the mainstream focus.
I really like how Nintendo decided to port over Xenoblade Chronicles to the New 3DS. Many who went out and purchased the new iteration of the Nintendo handheld will become acquainted with the title before its spiritual successor is released. This has potential to create awareness and hype, while some gamers might even be introduced to JRPGs. I believe the Wii U needs more of these types of games, which can give value to the GamePad and create a more diverse library.
I hope that the title manages to do well, but more importantly, that is showcases how the Wii U can be utilized. The home console could use the genre in its library, and I think it could offer up some very unique JRPG experiences. We might have a glimpse into its potential in the West after we see how it performs in Japan this April. Here’s to hoping!