Anticipation is rife for the upcoming remaster of the epic JRPG Xenoblade Chronicles. The original is widely considered to be a masterpiece of the genre, released on the Wii at a dark and barren time for Nintendo RPGs.
Naturally, the announcement of a remaster was met with excitement by series fans and Switch owners everywhere. As someone who never even played the original, I was considering pre-ordering (something I wouldn’t usually do). The hype has been huge.
As is customary nowadays, the remaster has been shown side-by-side with previous iterations to highlight the improvements.
The original was known (at the time) for its magical visuals and sublime landscapes. The remaster looks like a vast improvement. So far, so good. It also looks better than the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 for the Switch, a game known for its muddy textures.
According to YouTuber Jansn Benchmarks’ video, the game runs mostly at 30fps. While unspectacular, this is to be expected. The Switch is unlikely to match the frame rate of other consoles, given its limited hardware.
So what’s the big deal?
The real problem is when it comes to the resolution. Switch modder @masagratordev released the stats on Monday. They’re… not great.
People aren’t happy. To be honest, I can see where they’re coming from. A baseline of 378p is pretty pathetic.
For some context, that’s a lower resolution than it had on the Wii. The Wii was released in 2006.
Does resolution matter?
Maybe not as much as people think. I’m not someone who usually obsesses over the numbers. If a game looks good, that’s fine for me.
I think it’s more important as a signal of intent. The expectation from savvy consumers these days is to have 30fps and consistent HD on Switch. AAA releases, like Xenoblade, should run at least 600p at all times, you’d think. Higher when docked.
To fall so far below this benchmark is a bit of a piss take. The game looks decent in trailers but could struggle in areas with a lot of enemies and textures. It will probably lack the smoothness and detail of other titles.
Fanboys to the rescue!
More recently, some fans have defended the unimpressive graphics specs, citing a recent interview between Famitsu and Monolith Soft President Takahashi Tetsuya. Tetsuya discusses limited “productions costs and development time” as a justification for the fact that they couldn’t build the game from scratch.
You know what, fair enough. I get that. It’s not the devs’ fault – they can only work within their means. According to Tetsuya, many devs put in extra time to work on character model assets. Good for them.
However, he also mentions that the development of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition was limited because Monolith Soft are working on another game:
“When you develop DLC, you can increase the volume of the game even more, but with a remaster such as this, it’s just too expensive, and if we put too many resources into developing it, it would have had an impact on developing our new game.”
What is that game? Apparently, just a little indie title called The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2.
Hang on a minute, this small studio is working on the remaster of Xenoblade Chronicles and BOTW 2 at the same time?
That explains the poor resolution. It also explains why they couldn’t build all the textures and models from scratch. They’re putting their time into a sequel to the Switch’s flagship game while doing this on the side.
You know what they say about a fool and his money…
All of this would be absolutely fine except Nintendo and Monolith Soft want me to pay £50 for it. £50 for a half-arsed remake of a game that came out a decade ago? Nah.
Don’t get me wrong. Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition will probably be great. It might even be brilliant. But for me, this taps into a wider issue of companies trying to get a quick buck from reusing old content.
I missed Xenoblade Chronicles the first time round and would love to play it. But I’m sure as shit not paying full price for it. I could buy one of the Switch’s excellent first party titles for that. New games with new content. I could get Cyberpunk 2077 for that (when it eventually comes out).
It’s important to note that this isn’t a Monolith Soft or even a Nintendo problem. It’s an industry problem. Lazy remasters are being peddled for AAA prices across the board. And it’s happening more and more.
We want new games
How many times has Bethesda tried to make you pay for Skyrim? Just get on with Elder Scrolls 6 for god’s sake. Nintendo themselves already rereleased Xenoblade Chronicles for the 3DS.
We want new games with new stories and new characters. Sequels are cool, new IPs are even better.
I don’t blame anyone who’s going to pick up Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition on Friday. I’m sure it’ll be a corker. I’ll probably get it when it goes on sale at some point. But I’m sick of companies pushing out the same old content and hoping people will lap it up.
If you want to remaster a game in 2020 to run at 378p, that’s fine. Just don’t expect me to pay full price for it.
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A steady hand and a Bloodborne fan.