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(I had originally intended to write something like this not long after I beat Xenoblade. I started and stopped a couple of times and eventually just moved on from it. The planned blog was in the furthest recesses of my mind until I read Quality Versus Quantity (How Do We Judge A Games Length) by Hannibal. It got me to thinking about the time I had invested in Xenoblade, and despite the insane amount of time I put into it, how much I enjoyed it. So I left a comment on Hanna's blog, saying that I agreed with his line of thinking that if a game is a masterpiece, the playtime shouldn't matter. I used Xenoblade as an example. What I didn't expect was the shock that quasiconundrum, Bradamantium, and Hannibal showed to the revelation that I had spent as much time as I did playing the game. It's that shock that inspired me to go back and write this blog. So, before this gets underway, I'd like to thank the three I mentioned for indirectly lighting the fire under my ass to finish something I wasn't sure I'd ever go back to. Good or bad, I hope you guys enjoy it.)

One-hundred-seventy-four hours and forty-seven minutes. A week and just about seven hours of time spent with one game. Outside of accumulated playtime for sports games and whatnot, the most of my life I've ever put into a single play through. It was my final time in a game that almost didn't make it stateside. On Saturday, August 4th, 2012, despite at times feeling as if I never would, I finally beat Xenoblade Chronicles. I sat in front of the television after the credits rolled, picked the weapons and armor I would use should I do a new game plus, and reflected for a couple minutes. Reflected and realized that I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

 I started Xenoblade at some point in late April, not too long after I finished Mass Effect 3. Can't remember how long the game had been just sitting there, but regardless I was excited to start it. Sure, there's always a concern sometimes that a game won't live up to the hype, but I'd heard too many good things about the game to worry about that fear. So, a few days after beating ME3, I dusted off the Wii that hadn't been in use since I played Skyward Sword, and sat down to play Xenoblade. I stayed at the main menu for a little while, just listening to the game's theme, then went right on in to the game. Thus began my lengthy adventure.

I'll be honest, now that I look back at the prologue, I realize that besides setting up certain story elements, it really doesn't do much. It introduces the combat quickly, and if I remember correctly (I'm probably wrong) you only do one or two battles before it shifts to a year later. Here we're introduced to the main character Shulk, and eventually his friend Reyn. After more explanation about the elements of the combat in the game, it lets you begin to do things on your own. After fighting enemies a little while longer with Reyn, you reach a point where you go into Colony 9, and Reyn leaves. Your supposed to head over to a section of the colony, but I decided against that and continued to explore what I could. It was at this early point that I realized I was in for something special. During this time I really started getting the hang of what was available of the combat system, and it drew me in immediately. Initially, it reminded of Final Fantasy XII's battle system, only faster. Several hours later, due in large part to the Arts system, it really began to stand out on it's own for me. This was still at a point where all the other aspects of battle hadn't been introduced. For ten hours (not all in one sitting, of course) all I did was grind and explore the limited portion of the world that was available, only going into Colony 9 to buy armor and sell some of the stuff I had. As you move on with the story, battle affinity, chain attacks, and the visions system are introduced to combat. Along with the freedom to customize your arts at will and level them up, these only served to enhance what was already my favorite part of the game. So, mere hours in I was already in love with the game.

Though the battle system is what hooked me in, it's hardly the only remarkable thing about the game. Even outside of battle, I was having a blast doing everything the game offered. The Collectopaedia, in which you can store collectible item you find, and get experience, gems, and weapons for completing an areas collection, promotes the exploration of Xenoblade's world. Though some collectibles can be an absolute pain in the neck to find, it's still a fun diversion. Party Affinity is another part of the game that'll ensure you sink numerous amounts of hours grinding to get it all the way up. It's pretty much the relationship between your party members and depending on how good their relationships are, you can customize bonuses in each characters skill tree. It's all very hard to explain. Affinity between characters unlock Heart-to-Hearts, which both help raise affinity between the party and gives us insight into the party members themselves in the form of conversations between two characters. Affinity also affects gem crafting (which allows you to create gems that enhance things like HP, defense, attack damage, agility, and can add elemental boosts to your attacks) by giving you the opportunity to raise the amount of turns between two characters, which is dependant on where the pair's overall affinity is at. As you can see the game presents a lot of reasons to grind. There's even affinity you can have with a given area, which is affected by the missions you do in the game. Looking and thinking about all of this now, I'm surprised by how incredibly deep and daunting Xenoblade is. Seems it didn't matter to me when I was playing. (There's more to the game, but I don't want to run this part too long.)

The world of Xenoblade Chronicles, and just the general atmosphere of the game, are another two reasons why I loved this game. To be honest, I've never really seen anything quite like the Bionis and Mechonis. The sheer enormity of both, especially the former, is something to really appreciate. Set that to what's probably one of my favorite soundtracks, and you got a real winner in Xenoblade's setting. Whether it was traversing Satorl Marsh at night, or making your way through Mechonis Field, I felt both world and sound complimented each other tremendously. Though it wasn't the prettiest game to grace a console, environments still managed to be breathtaking: I couldn't tell you how many times I stopped to admire the Bionis Leg during a storm or Eryth Sea during a meteor(?) shower. The point is, I truly think this game's world is brilliant.

Last, but not least is the story and characters. For those who haven't yet played or finished it, I won't spoil anything. I liked the story, but due to the wealth of things to do, sort of felt it took a back seat at times. Truthfully, I never really felt much when certain things happened, and better yet I was able to figure out parts of the plot myself. Regardless, I enjoyed it, and especially liked the ending. I could say much the same about the characters, but that would be willingly forgetting all the little character building moments in the Heart-to-Hearts. What also helped to improve the characters was the voice acting. I honestly, after playing through Xenoblade, could never imagine this game with American voice actors. Keeping the British cast was a good idea, and they definitely added a lot. Repetition of lines does occur during battle, but it takes relatively little away from an overall good experience.

I still feel much the same about Xenoblade a little more than a month later, as I did the morning I beat it. I wouldn't hesitate sinking the same amount of time I did in the first play through, into a second play through, and probably would feel much the same about a third. In Xenoblade Chronicles I found a game that did so much right, that my insane finish time meant very little. Over a hundred hours of item collecting, doing missions, running away from much stronger enemies I stumbled upon, and grinding. It's one-hundred-seventy-four hours and forty-seven minutes thrown away into the abyss, time I'll never get back. Truth be told though, I have absolutely no problem living with that.

Thanks for reading!

P.S. Reyn Time!!!!

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