I had been following Xenoblade Chronicles since it was quietly shown at E3 2009 in the form of a trailer. It was called Monado: Beginning of the World then and very little was known other than its genre and title. Even so, an RPG for Nintendo's fifth console was always a rare treat, so I awaited more information on the game, believing that an E3 showing guaranteed its North American release.
Granted, the road to getting Xenoblade over here ended up being a long and complicated one, with Nintendo of America dropping the game from its release list along the way. The game's reception in Europe and (probably) the Operation Rainfall campaign finally convinced its executives to change their minds. It may have taken longer than necessary, but it was definitely worthwhile.
Xenoblade is overall a fantastic game. Some have been calling it the Japanese RPG of the decade, and I can see why. The story is excellent, the characters are well-rounded and likeable, and the music is exquisite. The vast world is filled with places to explore, creatures to battle, items to find, and quests to complete. No other game I've played has a world as massive as Xenoblade, though that may go to show what sorts of games I have - or haven't - yet played. Truth be told, the battle system took a while for me to get the hang of and a difficult fight against a Unique monster (a sort of extra boss) caused some irritation until I finally got combat down. Once I finally familiarized myself with the system, though, I found it quite fun.
It also seems to be somewhat tailored to the way I tend to play console games. To this day I play console RPGs with my younger sister, advancing the story as we switch off who gets the controller, or even playing together on the few games that let us. Due to our busy lives, it could be weeks before either of us touches the game we’re currently playing. With Xenoblade's huge number of quests, items to collect, skills to learn, and other side materials, we could always do something in the game even when not advancing the plot. Can't play together that week? No problem; one of us could work on building character affinity, or finding high level skills for characters. It never felt tedious either. The over 200 hours we clocked in the game is a testament to that, and only the Pokémon games come close to matching a playtime like that for me. I did eventually stop doing quests as I maxed out character affinities and levels, but the sheer number still amazes me.
Xenoblade is a superb RPG and easily my favorite of 2012. It may have taken a while longer than anticipated to reach our shores, but I'm quite glad it finally did.