All right…time to stall for more time while I work back towards Resident Evil. As it is, I’ve been planning on Xenoblade II, uh…Two, ever since I finished Xenoblade II One. And yeah, I know that reviewing a game that’s less than a year old on a retro blog is a bit like passing out purity rings at an orgy, but there are hundreds of youtubers getting millions of views playing through the latest and greatest games, and here I am pitching day-old bread through the medium of solid text, the form of entertainment most likely to incite nerd-beatings. Let me have this one!
Okay, so I wanted to start off this entry with “Torna: The Golden Country, wherein I get bored of taking screenshots of Mythra’s tits and instead snap shot after shot of nopon,” but looking through the folder of screenshots…nope. Mythra’s tits are still heroically perking out on center stage. I just happened to have plenty of noppon shots also.
The game begins 500 years before the first Xenoblade II, allowing the player to track the lives of Addam, Jin, Lora, Mythra, Brighid, Aegeon, and uh…Hugo (whoever that is) as they journey through a fantasy cliche of “all the important characters knew each other intimately in the past.” Ostensibly, we see the tragedy of Torna through Jin’s eyes, probably to make us understand how he came to go all angry-black-guy while still being white enough to make a Clorox commercial feel inadequate. And yeah, the game does an excellent job of showing him bond with Lora while coming to grips with the fact that he’ll never remember her and simply get passed on to the next driver like Mississippi chattel. But honestly, as soon as Mythra’s bust shows up, there isn’t room for anything else. Addam, playing more of a father-figure to the Aegis (compared to Rex’s younger-brother-with-incestuous-undertones), is desperately trying to teach her to reign in her power, harnessing it so she doesn’t end up going on tour as a Hiroshima impersonation act, while simultaneously trying to curb a serious case of Asperger’s and encourage her to interact with people on a level higher than an America’s Got Talent auditioner trying to shout down Simon Cowell. And there’s also Hugo, the boy emperor of Mor Ardain, for all those Nial fans who desperately wanted to play as a prepubescent Scottish overlord.
Likely only ever meant to be DLC, Torna does quite a lot with existing assets and a few new areas. As Addam travels about, connecting with his people, we get to see ancient Torna in all its glory…which turns out to be a few trees, two giant holes in the ground, and a single city, all on the periphery of a perilous, monster-infested desert. A little underwhelming, to be honest, if you want to make its destruction into a tragedy of the ages. I mean, yeah, it’s still a tragedy, but only like a Hindenberg tragedy or a Titanic tragedy, not like the Holocaust / Civil War / Nagasaki level tragedy.
But seriously…the game feels full. It’s a populated world except for the villages conveniently reduced to cinders to reduce the workload of the designers. I went from level 0 to 65 in a reasonable time frame, never felt monsters were too easy or too difficult, and found a reasonable variety in the world. Anne is depressed that they dropped the Pokemon aspect of blade collecting, but they’ve drastically improved the battle system from the first (er…second? I’m really not sure how I should count Xenoblade games) game. One of the big drawbacks to Rex and his literal army of blades was that if you wanted to pull off any of the fancier combos, you had to hunt down an enemy strong enough not to bleed out while you set it up. Battles in that game tended to be a mixture of buddy war movies (“Don’t die on me, man!”) and Rob Zombie films (“…so I can murder you horrifically.”). But battles here are far quicker and combos are easier to set up and more worthwhile to pull off.