Jun 062012
 

Platform: Nintendo Wii

ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

Nutshell: Xenoblade Chronicles is a very long game featuring relatively restrained depictions of violence with minimal sexual and drug content. The story has many emotionally intense moments, and some parents may find its thematic content troubling.

ESRB Descriptors: Blood, Mild Language, Partial Nudity, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence

Time Commitment: Very high – Just going on the critical path might take over 30 hours. With all the sidequests, this game can easily go over 100 hours, especially for players not using guides or FAQs. A save-anywhere feature means that play sessions can be as short as desired, but sessions shorter than an hour may not generate enough progress to feel rewarding. While this makes Xenoblade Chronicles a good investment in terms of value per dollar, children with poor time management skills may find it frustratingly slow going.

Violence: Moderate – The game centers around fighting and killing various monsters and, rarely, people. While frequent, deaths are not generally gory. In a few scripted sequences, major characters are killed (one is impaled with a spear), and the weapons used for this appear to have blood on them. Many minor and nameless characters are killed onscreen, often with the implication that their bodies have been “eaten” by the game’s mechanical enemies.

Emotional Intensity: High – Xenoblade Chronicles has a significant number of character deaths, betrayals, and general destruction, without very much comic relief. The events of the game clearly cause the characters significant emotional pain, and many parts of the story feature a rage-fueled quest for revenge. In several instances, characters are forced to fight loved ones against their will.

Sexuality: Low – The game features a few light romantic moments between teenage characters. Player-controlled characters can be made to remove all their armor, leaving them in shorts or bikini-style underwear. A few minor female characters have significantly exposed breasts. Additionally, some suits of armor available in the game are actually just swimsuits (again, shorts for men and bikinis for women).

Equality: Moderate – Women constitute some of the most powerful characters in the game, and some supporting characters (but no main party characters) appear to be non-white. One party member is of mixed race (in the context of the game world). As mentioned above, some armor is objectifying, and female versions of some pieces of armor are more revealing or dress-like than the male equivalents. Many members of the game’s “High Entia” race espouse racist views, and these are generally presented as antagonists. No LGBT characters appear to be present.

Drug and Alcohol Usage: Low – Playable characters do not use or abuse drugs or alcohol. One minor character regularly smokes a cigar. One ongoing sequence of sidequests involves a conspiracy trafficking in illicit substances (the main characters unwittingly participate, then help stop it). Some sidequests involve collecting or making beverages that are implied to be alcoholic.

Online: None – Xenoblade Chronicles has no online component.

Attentional Demand: Moderate – Xenoblade Chronicles has a relatively complex plot with many characters, and plot events are spaced out rather widely, which may make the story confusing to follow. Some quests require the player to defeat specific monsters at specific places or times. However, most of the game can be successfully played by simply grinding through its zones and skipping cutscenes.

Frustration Factor: Moderate – In Xenoblade Chronicles, the player controls one character who is fighting, with limited ability to control the other two. Most battles will not be difficult, but when they are, the inability to completely control what is going on may tax some players’ patience, even though the penalty for losing a battle is minimal. Several sidequests involve getting hard-to-obtain loot and other collectables, or finding particular characters in large and confusing areas, within a time limit. The story involves many indecisive confrontations with a major antagonist.

Educational Potential: Low – Managing character development and inventory may exercise your child’s math skills, and keeping track of NPCs for sidequests may stimulate memory skills. Overall, though, there’s not a lot of fodder for intellectual development here.

Major Thematic Elements:

Friendship

A significant part of the game involves developing relationships, both with playable party members and with non-player characters in the game’s towns and villages. Relationships between main characters are improved by helping each other in battle, starting sidequests together, saying the right things in conversations, and giving presents. Relationships with townspeople are improved by helping them out by performing sidequests that generally involve relaying messages, gathering items, or slaying threatening monsters. Good relationships within the party are rewarded by more effective cooperation during battle, including better and more frequent joint attacks. Improved relationships with a town results in better trading opportunities, and more advanced sidequests that unlock new skills or equipment.

Talk – What have you done / could you do to improve your reputation in your own town / school / church? How is this system like your own friendships? Do you know anybody well enough that you can anticipate what they’ll do or say before they do it?

Act – Plan and perform a charity “sidequest” to help a neighbor or a local cause.

Religion and Destiny

The world of Xenoblade Chronicles consists of two enormous, petrified titans (the Bionis and Mechonis) that were the personification of gods named Zanza and Meyneth. Each of these gods also possesses a Monado, a weapon that allows them to alter destiny. The main character, Shulk, gains possession of Zanza’s Monado, which also allows him to alter destiny. In gameplay terms, the player is often given hints about upcoming sidequests and warnings about imminent attacks, with enough time to prevent them. Zanza desires to destroy and regenerate the world, without regard for the lives of its people, because he does not believe that they have the right to control their destinies. Meyneth, who believes in forgiveness and free will, is destroyed in a fruitless attempt to stop him. Ultimately, the main characters must kill the god Zanza. When they do, Shulk is given the ability to choose how the world will be (including the possibility of becoming its god), and opts to have a world without gods.

Talk – A world with a god like Zanza would be very bad, but would it be bad to have a god like Meyneth? If God wanted to end the world, would people be right to try and stop him? Why did Shulk choose not to become a god himself? Would you make the same choice?

Act – Learn about myths in which the world or the creatures in it are made from the body of a deity (start with Gaia, Phan Ku / Pangu, and the Nez Perce creation myth). Learn about Liebniz’s monadology.

Revenge

After an early introductory section, the main impetus for the first part of the game is Shulk’s quest to avenge the death of his girlfriend Fiora. The party grows to also include Sharla, who hopes to avenge the death of her boyfriend Gadolt and the destruction of her home town. In order to make themselves strong enough to get the revenge they desire, they unleash a dangerous and evil force (Zanza) that seeks to destroy the world. Later, they learn that a major antagonist, Egil, attacked their homes at the beginning of the story because of his own desire for revenge against the Bionis. Ultimately, the events of the game lead to Egil’s death and the destruction of the Mechonis.

Talk – Is there any difference between Shulk’s desire for vengeance and Egil’s? Did Shulk and Egil make bad decisions because they wanted revenge? What else could they have done? Have you ever wanted to “get back” at somebody? Did that turn out well?

Act – Read or watch other stories of revenge and think about common themes.

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