Why Anime Fans Will Love ‘Xenoblade Chronicles 2’

Andrew Fields
Game Reviews Games
Game Reviews Games Anime Nintendo

Anime and video games have always influenced each other like brothers in adjacent fields of study in university, especially when it comes to JRPGs. Games like Xenoblade Chronicles 2 lean more into the anime realm than most other games. The game has all the characteristics of a shōnen anime and may just suck you in if you’re already a fan of something like My Hero Academia. Not convinced? Here are five reasons why anime fans will love Xenoblade Chronicles 2.

The Art Style

A screenshot from a scene in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 which uses the in game engine.
Look at those expressions!

At a literal first glance, the similarities between Xenoblade and anime are evident. Though the game uses 3D models, it draws from the grand tradition of Japanese animation. Big eyes, overexaggerated expressions, and even a very bright shōnen-style color palette make for just a few of the connections we see on display.

Notably, the image above comes from the in-game engine, not special cutscene graphics. The game has this level and style of art throughout the whole experience of Xenoblade. So, even when simply fighting monsters in the world, the game stays easy on the eyes if you care about style just as much as you do content.

The Cutscenes

An image from one of the in-game cutscenes.
The cutscenes may not look too different, but they bring plenty to the table nonetheless.

The in-game cutscenes not only push the graphical capabilities of the Switch but also the traditional run times of video game cutscenes. With the quality of the in-game engine, the cutscenes don’t stand out too dramatically from the rest of the game in quality. They bring something else to the table though.

Take the cutscene from the end of the prologue. Between a few boss battles on a rather large airship, the game shows off what’s going on in the larger battle between said airship, another airship, and a laser-shooting dragon. Yet it keeps coming back to the player just in time.

The key to success in Xenoblade‘s cutscenes is that they last just long enough to catch players’ interest without distracting them. For anime fans, in particular, they can be a break from high-pressure gameplay while staying fully immersed in the game’s story.

The Usual Characters

The main protagonists and antagonists of Xenoblade Chronicles 2.
Here's the cast: equal parts underdog and edgelord.

Everyone knows the stereotypical anime characters. Though not the strongest or smartest, the main character, Rex, brings a lot of heart to the team. He also gorges himself on food when given the chance. Finally, in battle, he will often shout, “The power of friendship!” while beating up enemies. Sound familiar?

To anime fans, Xenoblade’s plot and characters make it well into the range of the familiar. While playing through the game, shades of all the famous anime characters through history show up. These character types work in anime, and they can work in games just as well. So, if anime-like characters make the difference for you, you might just find them in Xenoblade.

The “Filler” Sidequests

A picture of the sidequest log in Xenoblade Chronicles 2.
Pick a diversion, any diversion!

As an RPG, Xenoblade brings a huge number of sidequests with it. At any point during the game, you may stumble upon a civilian asking for you to find a lost keepsake, help them impress a girl, or even investigate the truth behind the powerful merchant guild. Plus, your party members occasionally give you sidequests called Heart-to-Hearts. These feature enlightening or amusing chats between party members so you can get to know more about them and their relationships.

Though these sidequests serve an important role from a gameplay standpoint, they also do a lot from a storytelling angle. Building up relationships like these and taking breaks from the main story of the game serve the usual functions of filler arcs in anime. Just like filler episodes, these sidequests make for a good break if you need them and usually bring a laugh or a feel-good moment with them. Better still, unlike anime filler, you can take these breaks when you want to, not just when the show gets to them.

The Shipping Potential

Pandoria, Zeke, and Morag side-by-side.
Let the shipping wars begin.

Any good anime has a good web of shipping opportunities for fans. Or, at the very least, any good community of fans will make one for every character. For example, take Zeke, a particularly flamboyant and chivalrous fighter in the group who keeps a pet turtle. His bodyguard/traveling companion, Pandoria, looks like the obvious choice. I personally prefer to pair him with Mòrag, the serious military girl who would really benefit from a pet turtle and more battle poses. With the number of supporting characters in the game, players can make headcanons of whatever couples strike their fancy.

The aforementioned Heart-to-Heart sidequests make this possible. If any pairing strikes you as promising, then you just hunt down the Heart-to-Hearts between those two characters. Not every couple has many, but every character has at least one interaction with every other. So, if anime withdrawal has left you hungry for characters to ship, look no further than Xenoblade Chronicles 2.

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Having spent most of my life relieving academic stress by diving headfirst into nerdy interests ranging from history to sci-fi ship design, I see no reason to stop doing so now. The only difference in university is that I can do just that as part of my degree. Hooray for hipster English professors!