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Make it a (Virtual) Reality: Xenoblade Chronicles

The Bionis and Mechonis tower above you. Eons ago, these two titans were locked in a fierce battle in a world consisting of nothing but endless ocean. Years on and their corpses remain, dwarfing the land and life that has flourished below. You stand in a vast, grassy field, an ant not only to these two giants looming in the distance but also some of the beasts that roam the land before you. Your journey will take you to many sights just as impressive as this one, delving into rocky caverns and brushing the waves of golden shores. This is the world of Xenoblade Chronicles and it deserves to be marvelled at in virtual reality (VR).

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This week gives European Nintendo fans a rare chance to celebrate as it gets the release of Xenoblade Chronicles 3D on the New Nintendo 3DS a week ahead of its launch in the USA. Of course, 3D support is only a fifth of the battle; it’s certainly nice to experience developer Monolith Soft’s incredible world this way, but a lot more work would be needed to bring it to VR. As anyone that’s tried the technology will know, VR transcends 3D, bringing virtual worlds to life by surrounding them in them, allowing them to explore every nook and cranny with head and positional tracking. Xenoblade Chronicles is a world that would truly revel in this technology.

This is an enormous Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) in every sense of the word. It’s a 70-hour epic that takes players on an exhausting journey as they follow young protagonist Shulk and his party of friends as they head from the peaceful, human side of Bionis over to the machine-inhabited Mechonis, where they battle the evil Mechons. VR technology currently doesn’t allow for users to spend 70 hours inside a head-mounted display (HMD) without feeling ill, but if there would be any videogame to play once it does, it’s this unforgettable adventure.

The most obvious reasoning behind this is the world’s stunning looks. Xenoblade Chronicles might have started life on the underpowered Wii hardware, but art direction makes it far more than its technical proficiency would usually allow for. The Bionis and Mechonis exist as gigantic stone corpses, visible in almost any point in the land. Noticing them out of the corner of your eye is a constant reminder of your surroundings and purpose. Mixed with strong enemy design, from lively monsters that bounce about the area to the robotic, sleek Mechons, and there’s a world that is begging to be explored in VR here.

Another area where Xenoblade Chronicles could make for an interesting VR conversion is combat. The original release was hailed for its unique, thrilling system that players out in real-time. Players are still presented with the various menus and stats that they would expect to see in any other JRPG, but fights play out at a much faster pace. Many of the essential menu options are presented as icons that symbolise certain actions. There’s no reason that these couldn’t be placed within the world itself during combat to allow players to easily select actions without having a menu stuck to their screens. Fights are also paced just right; fast enough to keep the title flowing but slow enough to avoid any potential sickness issues.

VR technology is going to reach a point in which fans can play long form videogames. When they finally do, Xenoblade Chronicles is at the top of a list of titles that would make for an ideal adaption.