[Nintendad Coffeehouse] Xenoblade Reminded Me how to Love Gaming

Written by Kieran Fifield

A surplus of time, a deficit of motivation

I wrote in issue 25 of Switch Player Magazine how Xenoblade Chronicles, when it originally released on Nintendo Wii, quite literally saved my life. It kept me from falling into a dark place that I was precariously teetering on the precipice of. It’s an incredibly personal and important game to me, and so, the timing of the remaster on the Nintendo Switch couldn’t have been better. 

Two months into a national lockdown, in the midst of a global pandemic, I was starting to become desolate. While everyone else was sinking ungodly amounts of newly-found free time into Animal Crossing: New Horizons or jumping back into Super Mario Maker 2 thanks to the world building update, nothing could hold my attention.

By the time the evening rolled around and parenting duties wrapped for another day, I couldn’t bring myself to play video games, at all. Don’t get me wrong, I was catching up on years of missed Marvel movies and new Star Wars content through the recently released Disney + streaming service, but gaming was, for the most part, a vast void of nothingness.

How I learned to stop Shulking and love the Monado, again

Then, one fateful April morning, I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. By the time evening rolled around, I was ready. The kettle was boiled, tea was on tap. Pro controller charged, chocolate conveniently available, I plunged back into the titan-spanning world that Monolith Soft created over a decade ago. With it, I found a reinvigorated sense of sheer, unbridled joy that I hadn’t felt for a while. Being utterly consumed by a game, its world and its lore, is always what resonates the most with me. Graphics, audio, gameplay: they are all important. But, it’s that feeling of escape – from life, responsibilities, duties, taxes, pandemics – that impacts me the most.

By the time my playthroughs were done with, my preview and review written and published, I’d sunk over 80 hours into Xenoblade Chronicles in the space of three weeks, having not played much in the preceding months. Since rolling credits, I’ve played through the entirety of the Bioshock series. By played through, I mean devoured. I’ve ravaged every facet of a trilogy of games. All in, I’d say we’re talking 60 hours of content. Base games, DLC (some of this story-driven content is top-tier downloadable content), I’ve decimated it all. I’ve even played through one piece of the DLC again, to test a set of headphones with the game’s sublime audio direction. Between you and I, dearest reader, I was looking for an excuse to jump back in.

A renewed excitement

I’ve also started to pragmatically chip away at the backlog. While in no way as affluent as the fabled Switch Corps Illuminati, I have acquired a fair few physical releases since the Nintendo Switch launched. Games such as Celeste, Golf Story and Shovel Knight: King of Cards are finally getting the attention that their proceeding reputation deserves. Who knows, maybe I’ll finally venture further into Blight Town in Dark Souls or see if there is anything to Starlink: Battle for Atlas, past the Star Fox fan-service.

While there will always be a a review title, a Coffeehouse piece to write, or some site maintenance to see to, my rekindled love with getting swept up in video games has seen me systemically organise my collection. Nintendo might be keeping their cards close to their chest, but I’m set for games, at least until work and some semblance of normality resumes.

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition ignited something in me. While perhaps not life saving this time around, the game offered me a vessel to connect with a media that I had started to drift away from.

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