Xenoblade Chronicles has always been an interesting series, with its director Tetsuya Takahashis previous work on Xenogears, Chrono Trigger, and a few Final Fantasy titles. It has only ever carved out a small niche among western fans, mostly due to its introduction on the Wii when Nintendo was all-out with family games.
Xenoblade is a leading Nintendo series right now, with the fourth entry one of the biggest single-player games Nintendo has released this year, as well as a major console-exclusive RPG in a year without too many of them.
So, it appears to be addressing a gap for Nintendo, with both XC2 and XCDE selling over four million copies combined (Im only joking, it's the 21st best-selling Switch game)), but it's a sign of progress, especially for a game that is fairly close to traditional JRPG concepts and mechanics.
But how did we get to where we are today? Where did the Xenoblade series originate, and how has it evolved and changed? That's what I'm here to do. Ive had the chance to chat with some people who were part of Operation Rainfall, a fan group that pushed for the game to be released in the early 2010s, and asked them some questions about the series, how it has progressed, and how much they think they contributed to it in the first place.
In 2011, a group of IGN followers started posting Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, and Pandoras Tower in the United States. This grew into social media pages and eventually a blog, Oprainfall.
Richard Ross, one of the former owners of Oprainfall, joined the movement a couple of months after its inception. He says, one thing led to another; then, as he says, I was part of the staff, and then one of the three leaders. But why did this group come together in the first place?
While Xenoblade and The Last Story had a pedigree, Richard said Pandoras Tower was cool, different, and akin to one of the original founders of Operation Rainfall. He also addressed why those games were so important on a console that was deprived of role-playing games.
So, they've chosen the games, but why did they think they'd succeed? Was it pure desire? No, these games had already been translated into English for a European release, so they were much more likely to succeed in the first place. They weren't asking Nintendo to translate a 100-hour RPG from scratch.
Why Nintendo of America refused to release the game is a bit harder to grasp, with them even going so far as to bar Nintendo of Europe from showing it at E3 for the first time. All Operation Rainfall wanted to do was end the drought of role-playing games on the console (hence their name), but NoA never seemed willing to give up.
I think it boils down to where the company thought it was at the time, focusing on its family-friendly, easy-to-use videogames that everyone can enjoy. Whose grandma will be fine listening to now, its Reyn time for dozens of hours? I understand the reasoning.
Operation Rainfall, which grew slowly but surely after moving off the IGN message boards, started to gain traction online, according to Steve Baltimore, who is currently the co-owner of the Oprainfall website. The Facebook page had begun to gain some traction when the media began to publish the story in articles.
When the gaming media published articles about the Amazon pre-order page, things seemed to be improving, as they conducted a customer service call-in and letter-writing campaign for the game until it was announced (and I know that people did that). The game went on to become the number one on Amazon's charts.
Steve said the game received a large number of new supporters when it was announced, and these new members were extremely helpful in assisting us in pursuing the release of The Last Story and Pandora's Tower by XSeed Games in North America. The people that joined the movement all shared a passion for Nintendo and RPGs, leading Operation Rainfall to ensure that their methods were acceptable.
Rich said that while keeping a positive presence [and] refraining from commenting on Nintendo's social media posts about charity work helped maintain the impression that we were ultimately just Nintendo users who want to buy games from them, rather than a rabid fan base who will boycott Nintendo until they obtain what they want.
According to Rich, the process was not all that easy. Before Xenoblade was announced, we were both getting weary and ultimately weary, and none of us wanted to be doing it for as long as we did. Once Xenoblade was announced, it energized us and we continued to work. It must have been a challenging task today.
Nintendo of Europe reportedly ignored it when it was announced, so keeping things positive helped keep them on the side throughout. Rich said there was one person from Nintendo of Europe who essentially said they were being noticed, they were cheering for us, and to keep going. I may have seen them once in the IRC after Xenoblade was announced, telling us good job.
Operation Rainfall was a nice move, keeping things positive in the name of great videogames, but how much did it actually contribute to the game coming over to North America? Was Nintendo just hesitant at the time, sticking away from an untested IP until they saw the response in different regions? Or was they just plain-out not going to do it until Operation Rainfall ignited a stir? That's where things get more tense.
Depending on who you ask, my personal opinion on this changes over time but remains constant in that I dont think we were the main factor in its US release, according to Rich. [But] Nintendo made the decision to release the games financially.
The only one that would not have been released without us, though, was Pandoras Tower, which I think Xenoblade was just looking for the right method to release it due to the Wii being a hardcore gaming console.
Steve's experience was quite different. I would like to think Nintendo realized that many people were interested in seeing more RPG titles on the Wii at a time when there wasnt a lot of them on the console, and so they decided to take a risk at releasing Xenoblade Chronicles in North America.
The game was a smash hit when it was released, with many perfect scores and a Metacritic rating of 92/100. The sales were also excellent, with the game reaching number four in the UK charts in its first week (theres no clear sales data for the United States, unfortunately).
Mira and Alrest
The relative failure of the Wii U left a lot of series floundering. Sure, critical acclaim is great, but commercial success can only be fairly limited if youre stuck with a console that sold only thirteen million units in its lifetime. The next game in the series, Xenoblade Chronicles X, was quite successful. It sold 200k copies in the United States, a very good performance on a console barely anyone purchased.
It's difficult to keep a series alive if the player base is small, so it was really important that Nintendo created a successful Monolith Soft console to develop another RPG for. And they did exactly that with the Nintendo Switch, which has sold more than 100 million units.
Everyone knows that Switch games sell well. When you compare Breath of the Wilds 26.55 million copies sold to, say, The Last of Us Part IIs ten million copies sold, the difference is significant. People buy games on this console and a heck of a lot of them. (And yes, that's a fair comparison two consoles that have sold more than 100 million units).
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was released in December 2017, coincidentally with the Nintendo Switch's successful launch. It takes you to the land of Alrest, where people dwell on the backs of big beasts that sail across the cloud sea. It can be a bit of a divisive game among Xenoblade fans, but it managed to sell well in its first year.
It's not only Monolith Soft's best-selling game ever, but it's also demonstrated what the Xenoblade series is. Rather than taking us back to the beginning of the game, XC2 is a sequel in the same way as Final Fantasy games are. It's a completely different world, with completely different characters. It's a different game.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was a great hit on its own merit, according to Takahashi to USgamer in 2018. We saw more people pick it up and play it in North America and European countries than we expected. The Torna DLC is also exceeding our expectations.
Both Steve and Rich admire the way the series has changed. [I] love it still, I credit the game with] helping me grow confidence in the things I do, so they have a special place in my heart, according to Rich, while Steve believes that the Xenoblade Chronicles franchise just gets better with each entry.
The Torna: The Golden Country DLC for Xenoblade Chronicles 2 improved the combat from the first game, and I loved how all of the different blades had their own stories to tell. They've all been involved in this series for the whole journey.
Despite the sequel's drawbacks, many people criticized the game's overarching levels of complexity (I love the game but I understand this), and its sometimes unsettling narrative. These are all legitimate criticisms if you approach the game in a certain way.
So, while I believe that XC2 and Torna are the greatest series ever, a lot of people don't. A quick Google search can find lots and lots of arguments over which entry in the series is the greatest, which at least makes clear that there are still a lot of passionate fans. But another thing it does illustrate is that the series may not have reached its zenith. Not yet at least.
Now to Aionios
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is set to release on July 29, 2022. Thats a long time coming, and if our Xenoblade Chronicles 3 review is anything to go by, it seems to fulfill the series' purpose. That's just something that's difficult to define, but it's nonetheless great.
Every Nintendo sign is now a world apart from what it used to be when Operation Rainfall was still hanging out on message boards. It has dedicated whole directs to the last two games in the series, let the announcement of XC3 be the one more thing moment in a mainline direct, and put a lot of faith in the series.
The question is whether the series will expand beyond what it has become so far. Shin Megami Tensei V has sold more than other traditional RPG titles, but it hasnt sold as well as similarly niche Nintendo titles, like Fire Emblem: Three Houses. A game with this much ambition feels like it has the potential to make a far greater impact. Can it have a breath of the Wild moment and elevate the series above other Nintendo exclusives?
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a series best picture so far, taking all the things that were certainly great about the previous game's combat and exploration, and combining it with the things people missed about the original game, such as more restrained character designs and no more gacha mechanics.
But that's not my main takeaway from Nintendo's latest release. My main surprise is how far the series has come, something that reveals a lot about Nintendo's evolution over the last ten years.
I like to think that we shouldnt need another Operation Rainfall. When Nintendo first localised Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, it was unintentional (and greatly appreciated by Nintendo die-hards). It shows how Nintendo, a company that was so obsessed with family-friendly games to the extent that it chose to ignore others, has evolved into a company that recognizes the varied nature of its customers. It can sell millions of copies of 51 Clubhouse Games at the same time as a massive R
For anyone involved in Operation Rainfall's early days to be able to reach the target it is now, it must have been near-unimaginable. Theyre a significant part of the story of how Xenoblade Chronicles became a vital part of Nintendo's roster. I'm just glad the series is continuing.