Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna: The Golden Country – Switch

Xenoblade Addam vs Malos

For all the cool, anime-esque shots of heroes and villains fighting, I’d swear this game was directed by my seventh-grade mind.

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!

Xenoblade - Jin Mask

I’ve got it! Jin is Jareth, the Goblin King from Labyrinth, re-imagined as an anime character!

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.

Mythra Tits

Yes, of course…I just wanted to…I mean, I was wondering…if you…or……I’m sorry, what? I wasn’t paying attention.

Xenoblade Nopon

Sure they’re cute now, but from 11:00 pm to 5 am when you’re just trying to sleep and they won’t stop using their damned wheel…

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.

Xenoblade Noble Hugo

Said no one ever.

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.

Xenoblade Mythra Cooking Blurred

I love that Mythra’s cooking is so bad they have to treat it like a dick in Japanese porn just to be 100% clear that no one watching wants it inside them.

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.

Xenoblade Quick Time

Press B to feel more engaged in battle

Xenoblade Mythra Portrait

I swear I haven’t had it this bad for a video game heroine since Marle. At least using Mythra doesn’t feel like charging into battle wielding a dampened sponge.

Xenoblade Mythra fighting Malos

So, yes, she does strike a chord with me, vaguely resembling the girl I was just friends with in high school, but given the choice between the two of them…sorry Katie.

Xenoblade Mythra Interest of Science

Yes. “Science.”

Xenoblade Omnom Nopon

If my cat could talk.

Xenoblade Literally Killer Tart

See, as Mythra’s cooking, the name serves on two different levels..

 

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Xenoblade Chronicles II

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First up after my triumphant return…Breath of the Wild! But honestly, I don’t remember much about that right now, so here’s Xenoblade Chronicles II.

Great literature makes us think about difficult questions, and Xenoblade II is no exception. I swear wholeheartedly it’s the first time I asked myself how sentient a sex doll has to be before the hamster overlord that created it is morally obligated to ask for consent.

I can’t quite figure out if the interspecies lust for an adolescent robot is an unfortunate trend, or the game’s subtle way of acknowledging it has a Pokemon complex when it comes to tits. The game’s core mechanic revolves around collecting “blades,” superhuman cheerleaders who are intrinsically bonded to you and cheer you on, giving you super powers in combat.

Yeah, I totally see how this plays into the male power fantasies but…god damn it, Ms. Sarkesian, just this once I don’t give a damn. I might just risk the reputation that comes from digitally collecting people if I can finally have that bond with the hot blonde girl with massive cans like the girl I was just friends with in high school.

Oh, and it’s a good, solid game that improves upon the flaws of the earlier. And all that. Now lets get to a few of the literally hundreds of photos I snapped of this baby.

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Even fucking Chewbacca can’t compare to this…even if Chewie can keep it in his pants.

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*snickers like a twelve-year-old*

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This is literally how I feel when Hollywood puts out another shitty reboot and I get three hits on my blog from someone looking for BDSM on my Shadow Hearts 2 entry.

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The game is actually breathtaking…and not just for the women.

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*snickers like a school boy*

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Wait…are they going to recap the plot of Avatar: The Last Airbender?

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Shouldn’t you be wearing a gas mask when you ask that?

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Classy dialogue.

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The scriptwriters accidentally transcribed the conversation in the writers’ room.

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Mythra, I can guarantee I have never focused on anything nearly as hard as I am now. (*snickers…hard as I am now*)

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Masterpon Tora is apparently Master Roshi in disguise.

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Xenoblade plays to a key audience of boys with Napoleon complexes who all secretly desire to wake up with hot girls in their beds…

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…while still speaking for what would happen if adolescent me had ever woken up with a hot girl in my bed.

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I have like forty shots of this capybara. Apparently I really wanted to show this to you.

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Just some roly-poly hamster women in a steam bath. I don’t see what the problem is.

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For a combination sex-battle bot, Poppi actually has a lot of personality.

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There’s a rack that holds up its own towel.

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Game says what we’re all thinking.

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Okay Jake…stop taking pictures of the hot blonde chick.

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Press X!

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Seriously….I really must have thought this capybara was the coolest thing since Mythra’s chest.

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Day of the Triffids, except not as British and stupid.

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Okay…one more tit shot.

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*Snickers like I was back in sex ed*

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By the time this article posts, this will probably be Trump’s new press secretary.

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And for the ladies….

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Help me Obi-wan Kenobi

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Seriously, the creepy-crawlies in New Zealand make me want to move back to Minnesota.

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Rocks friends.

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The Xenoblade world’s equivalent of a chain gang.

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So now its…better?….that a hamster built a sex bot?

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Don’t get excited…he’s trying to convince a human female team member to take a bath with him…thinking she’s a guy.

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These guys.

Xenogears – PS1

 

Xeno9

…one of the minor enemies, actually.

The pathology of an independent, freelance game critic such as myself is not unlike the madman who plunges head-first into human waste hoping that, unlike the last two-dozen piles of excrement, there might be something good inside. I generally prefer to think of it like the Shawshank Redemption, that someday I’ll emerge victorious and stand triumphantly cheering in the rain as I taste the sweet, longed-for joys of pure freedom; unfortunately, I’ll have to swim through a lot of shit to get there. I don’t know. Maybe making a habit of criticizing games just teaches me to look for the negative, or maybe having just a modicum of disposable income and enough tech skills to emulate just about anything I can’t afford has piled up the shitty games that look interesting at first glance. Fortunately, every so often there’s a game that, even after two decades of play, still does everything right. A game so well-conceived that it’s almost depressing how fucking awesome it is. A story so strong it empowers you, makes you feel invincible. “Yes!” you cry to the heavens. “I am important! I have made contact with the divine and thrown the yokes and shackles of an oppressive deity from the shoulders of mankind, and thanks to me the world will at long last know the true release of tension and live its days in glorious peace. Now I have to shut off the Playstation, look for my unemployment check, and then go watch the dog take a shit in the back yard so I can pick it up with my hand.”

Xeno6Xenogears is, quite frankly, the best game ever made, and there is a special place in Hell, where you’re forced to play Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde until the end of eternity, reserved for any of you who disagree with me. How’s that for being completely objective, non-judgmental and totally writing without any preconceived notions whatsoever?

Xeno8

Have you considered, maybe, joining the circus?

Most often cited as Xenogears’ biggest flaw is its story, said to be convoluted, harder to follow than a GPS unit set to the “down syndrome” voice, and denser than the impacted bowel of a neutron star. All those grievances are…well, I’ll give it this much; it’s not the way we usually tell stories in video games. Even some of the best told stories necessarily take a back seat to gameplay. That’s why the vast majority of games fall into the fantasy genre, where questing allows both plot an character to take a direct route through the vilest, stinkiest dens of monsters in order to carry out interspecies genocide in the name of personal growth and development. If you instead want to steer your heroes through populated areas to examine mundane desires and struggles of a broken society under the oppression of the powerful, you might have to reign in those violent instincts lest we start to notice your characters’ party tends to look like boys’ night out with Joseph Stalin, Genghis Kahn and Hannibal Lecter.

Xenogears attempts just that. Our main character, Fei, starts the game with nothing but his God-given amnesia trope and the personality of a gladiola. When a centuries-old war crash lands in his village (after somehow avoiding it for five hundred years), he gets into an abandoned mech (called “gears” in this world), and in trying to protect everyone accidentally inflicts collateral damage that slaughters 95% of the population. Oops. Anyway, he spontaneously decides to take a short hiatus from living in the village, and begins to travel the world, exercising more care about where and when he participates in battle. Problem is, he attracts trouble like Scooby Doo attracts asshole cosplayers, not to mention he discovers that a hidden nation of elites ruled by an oligarchy of old men with strong self-interests and an inept figurehead of executive power is manipulating world events through the use of their over-inflated military. Oh, I know what you’re thinking, though…they don’t represent the United States because their de facto leader is a brilliant physicist who specializes in life-extending nanoengineering, while our de facto leader is a clown that wants you to supersize your french fries.

Xeno5

Why does God look like someone drew a face on the Thanksgiving turkey?

Anyway, the story does weave together about a dozen plots, complete with several factions of villains who all strive for their own personal goals. In short, we see people struggling to live and find meaning in life across the world, only for the villain to resurrect a God who has literally been farming us because he was hurt 10,000 years ago and has to harvest a shit ton of organs. So the hero, who has both to discover the reason why his personality is as developed as a hydrangea and to embrace some weird, Freudian mommy issues, now has to fight that god just to restore meaning to the lives of the game’s survivors. Almost all characters affect the plot in one way or another. Villains have noble ambitions and human emotions, while heroes make mistakes and succumb to temptations. It’s a moving story, deeply human, beautifully written, and translated with as much care as a lemur with a hangover and access to Google translate. The language is more distracting than a bikini courtroom, but I don’t think this necessarily counts as a strike against the game. Rather, I think it’s strong support for a remake. The game has one of the most amazing end-credits songs I’ve ever heard, and I think Square-Enix ought to upgrade its translation from “hungover lemur” to something a little higher up on the intelligence scale, like “stoned cocker spaniel” or maybe “pig that isn’t so sure that was really a truffle anymore.”

Xeno1

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that…

Also a point in the “needs a remake” category, the game’s second disc plays like you were running out of time before the test, so Square had to rush through the Spark Notes before class started. Granted, there is something strangely Shakespearean about seeing characters act out vital scenes against a black stage and a poorly drawn backdrop, but the finer plot points about a planet in turmoil over the resurrection of an unfeeling God probably require a little more nuance and development than your average Elizabethan dick joke. And when entire dungeons are swept over in just a few lines of dialogue, the game ends like a customer service transaction from Wells Fargo—you’re more than just a little confused, but pretty sure that it owes you something it’s not planning on giving you.

Like any good RPG, the actual game is played out through hundreds upon hundreds of repetitive battles. Here, Xenogears is…eh. It’s okay. Not great. But okay. They’ve got a system where rather than enter the “fight” command a half a million times until the game ends, you mix up weak, medium, and strong attacks until your action points run out. Really, it doesn’t matter what you throw at 90% of the enemies—all you’re doing is teaching characters special deathblow combos or simply using the combos. I guess it’s better than your typical RPG. Magic in Xenogears is very much like a bedpan: it has some creative applications, but you’ll probably never want to use it unless you’re healing.

Xeno3Xenogears also employs a secondary battle system for gear fights. Rather than using up AP over a single turn, gears are fueled up and slowly deplete this fuel over the course of a dungeon. They can sacrifice a turn in battle to charge a small amount, which somehow is a feature they can’t use outside of battle. It’s like if you could only recharge your phone one percent at a time while in your car, idling in the fast lane of the freeway (functionality which I hear is coming in the next model iPhone). Gear battles take a little more thought than character battles since you can’t level-up your mechs. So just to lay this out here, your gear can only charge when its being attacked, it can fly in cut scenes but can’t reach a treasure box on the top shelf when under your control, but Squaresoft drew the line at a robot getting stronger through experience points. That somehow would have shattered suspension of disbelief? Meh. Whatever. The gear battles are difficult because you’re limited to the upgrades you can purchase in shops and three equipment slots, but once you lose to a major boss, you know what attacks to prep for and can equip your gear properly. The only downside is it requires you to either play through the game once or, you know…die…in order to have a decent shot at winning.

But quite honestly, any of the games combat flaws slide by virtually unnoticed because of how fluid and compelling the story is. So let’s get on it, Square. Time for a remake already!

Ragnarok: The Fate of Gods

Hey everyone! Special super extra bonus entry this week! I get to clue you in on one of the most amazing book offers a video game fan could ever ask for. Just kidding! Actually I just want to subject you to some shameless self-promotion. But still, if you enjoy video games–which you should, if you read this blog–you would enjoy this book.

Ragnarok: The Fate of Gods tells the story of a swordsman struggling to survive in a Post-Apocalyptic Orwellian dystopia, terrorized by monsters and ruled by a reclusive overlord. I could tell you more of the plot, but I’d just end up repeating all the information on the Amazon Page.

Why should I pitch this book here? You mean, other than the fact that I have very few meager sources of income and would appreciate the $1.97 royalty per copy sold? Well, when I wrote it, I blended a lot of common themes from video games, popular science fiction, and myth. Particularly if you enjoy RPGs–and most specifically Final Fantasy, Xenogears or Xenosaga–you should read it.

Unfortunately, no, you can’t find print copies, only the Kindle edition, BUT you can read it via a free kindle app if you don’t have your own e-Reader. Also, amazon has made the book available (in English) on many of their multinational websites; good news to all my non-American readers. Just search for “Ragnarok Fate of Gods.” Otherwise, to buy via the American site, follow this link.

Keep in mind that I have a masters degree in publishing–I didn’t just hammer this out over a weekend and slap a price tag on it. You’ll get some high quality stuff here, and it’ll only cost you three dollars.

And if you like it, please leave a review on Amazon for others to find. And then tell two friends…and have them tell two friends…

Thanks!