The Switch release of Xenoblade Chronicles came out recently, but as usual I'm way behind and have only this past year really dived into the second game in the series, Xenoblade Chronicles X. I'd enjoyed but not been bowled over by the original Xenoblade Chronicles on Wii, but I actually found myself playing Xenoblade Chronicles X much more obsessively and in the end enjoying it much more. X has less story overall, and part of this is due to the fact that you create your character and you have a much wider array of characters that you can choose from to recruit and use. I preferred the sci-fi setting and the story setup (human colony interacting with alien races) and the electronic music (which is excellent by the way), but both games have simliar battle mechanics and comparable numbers of things to do in terms of sidequests and NPCs and locales (although X is a significantly longer game, which is not usually a plus in my book).

But even aside from the similarities, I preferred the way X is structured. X has the map on the GamePad, and unlocking all the parts of the map gets to be an obsession, which to me felt a lot like my experience with Breath of the Wild. X ups the obsessiveness even more by dividing the map into a grid where each cell has some special mission to complete before a little green tick mark gets put on it. Some of the missions are to defeat a difficult enemy, some are related to specific sidequests, etc. but that extra bit of motivation to fill in the map is extremely compelling (a similar mechanic is what also drove me to pour hours into Hyrule Warriors' Adventure Mode).

Like its predecessor, Xenoblade Chronicles X is a huge game, and 50+ hours into it I'm amazed at how much more there is to do. The character design is still a little off, in the same way that it was in the previous game, although I appreciated the heart-to-heart conversations which make a return here as much as I did before. I didn't dip into the online co-op mission-based mode and there was definitely some frustration in trying to complete some sidequests, such as trying to track down rare drops or particular NPCs who only show up at certain times of day and in the end having to resort to online guides, and a few other relatively minor complaints here and there, but overall this was a truly impressive game and one that I'm looking forward to going back to at some point to finish off. I felt like the first game was fun but not super memorable, but I found the alien world of Mira to be much more immersive and Xenoblade Chronicles X to be a much more lasting experience overall, so I am going to have to give it the edge and include it in my list of greatest games. It's a little sad that the Wii U never found mainstream success, but that amazing games like this one were created for it is some consolation at least.

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