Monolith Soft will be releasing (or has released in Japan) the RPG Xenoblade Chronicles X for the Wii U sometime this year. Being Monolith’s largest project, I’d like to take a glance back at their history and previous success in order to enlighten you all and hope for their newest game to live up to the quality of their past works. Some of the best world-building/atmospheric settings, character development, and complex stories.

The core team of Monolith Soft were long-time employees at Square Soft has been putting out ‘Xeno’ games since the late 90’s on the PS1. Starting with Xenogears, which was originally Tetsuya Takahashi’s proposition to SquareSoft for the story of Final Fantasy 7, which obviously did not come to pass leading to its development as an independent game. However, I consider both of these games the pinnacle of JRPGs, so it was probably a good thing.

The game was amazingly rich in its story, setting and topped off with CGI AND very 90’s anime cutscenes. The story technically takes place over 10,000 years that includes immortal characters, as well as characters who are nearly infinitely reincarnated until they fulfill their destiny. Meanwhile, there is a giant-mech war going on that can only be described as a Pyramid-scheme, where nations are being manipulated without their knowledge. It follows deep psychological themes and gets very sinister at times. The “complexity and darkness” were what made the script not fit for FF7, but that is what made the game great. Playing for the 4th time will still lead to discovering connections in the plot you never noticed before.

Nearly 20 years later Xenogears is still highly regarded, even with the game’s budget falling so short that almost the entire 2nd disc is summarized and narrated by characters in a rocking chair. Reasons were never officially given but there is a strong rumor that Square cut off funding to work on FF8 (fuck you Square FF8 was mediocre at best).

Takahashi and gang then went on to leave Square to form their own studio Monolith Soft with funding from Namco (remember Pac-Man?). The fact that most of the people in the founding company were part of the core team of Xenogears leads me to believe that the above rumor was true. It is sad that Xenogears was never fully finished, but it was probably for the best that they didn’t stay at Square only to have their creativity stifled.

Once they had their own studio, Monolith Soft then developed Xenosaga. The game was split up over a series of games that went on to become extremely popular (at least in Japan) and even spawned an anime to go with it. However, I have no experience with the games mainly for one reason, which is that seemingly the entire cast is made up of sexualized 12-year-old girls. I couldn’t get into it.

Most likely due to financial difficulties (because kids don’t remember Pac-Man) Namco sold Monolith Soft to Nintendo sometime in 2007. After being acquired, Nintendo wasted no time putting them to work as they have played a large hand in many first-party Nintendo games including Smash Bros. Brawl. Despite having a new parent, the company was still allowed to create its own projects, and so they did.

Five years ago, Monolith Soft created Xenoblade Chronicles for the Nintendo Wii. Without revealing too much, the game is loosely about two giant robots who beat each other into a comatose state. Eons pass and beings begin to live on their bodies and respectively fight each other in just the same way their robot-dads did. However, a magical sword, the Monado, gives the power of foresight to the wielder turns the tide of the war.

The game’s beautiful world and unique setting, along with a lovable cast of characters who grow together both story-wise and via an awesome in-game bonding mechanic, which made it quickly become one of my favorite games of all time. The game also has a unique combat system that feels like the perfect fusion between the new “action” style and old turn-based RPGs of yesteryear. In my opinion Xenoblade Chronicles is the best JRPG of the last decade, not there has been too many JRPGs, but it should say something.

While the game was released in the west back in 2012, over the last year or so there has been a huge spike in its popularity. There was even a shortage of games which shot the price per copy up to nearly $150 on eBay at one period of time. Also, during this time GameStop was rumoredto have been packaging unopened games as “used” to sell them at a marked up price.

Fortunately I was aware of the game’s release and had it the day it came out. Even though at the time the game had no recognition in the U.S. and the GameStop near me was not even offering pre-orders nor did the clerk know what I was talking about when I went on release day to purchase it.

The fact that Shulk became a fighter in the newest iteration of Super Smash Bros. could be testament enough to the game’s critical acclaim, even if it was a rocky road. Fans held on to hope after disappointment on “Monado Monday,” a day on which fans were expecting a long awaited Shulk character reveal only to be let down by a Marth-clone, but Shulk pulled through and made the cut. Since Smash Bros. 4, Xenoblade’s popularity has only grown, and consequently enlarging the overall fanbase of Monolith Soft.

Over the years their games have gained a devoted cult following. Although every game in the ‘Xeno’ franchise has been labeled as a “spiritual successor” to its predecessor and the developers denying any connections, fans have nitpicked many similarities between the games. This has led to die-hard fans speculating that there is one entire timeline overarching the whole series. It is possible the franchise is secretly one huge universe and they are just waiting to reveal an official timeline, much Nintendo did with Zelda, or maybe the fans are just as crazy as some of the plotlines.

All in all the Monolith Soft games, more specifically the Xeno-franchise, are laden with the sweet aroma of the golden age of JRPGs and I like them. A lot.

Mmm… keep on cookin Monolith Soft.

Note: “Lovin’ this shit” is from Aseran

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Whitemoon

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