"If the capital is on the Bionis' shoulder, there must be people there."
|Console: Nintendo Switch|
With the remaster of Xenoblade Chronicles (XC) on the Nintendo Switch, the game´s second re-release after the New Nintendo 3DS port of 2015 not came the developers over at Monolith Soft saw an opportunity. To give the package a new feature, one that would give a glimpse into the future of the series, to finally finish and implement an area that they intended to use in the original and give the character of Melia some more time to shine. And thus, Future Connected was born. Lying somewhere in-between an epilogue and an expansion, Future Connected dives into the world of XC once more and is Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition's biggest selling point (as the developers intended). That wasn't really the case for me personally as I hadn't bought a version of XC yet but it certainly did enforce my decision to buy XC:DE over the more cheaper New 3DS port.
Future Connected takes place about a year after the events of the main game. Melia, princess of the High Entia, and Shulk, former wielder of the legendary sword the Monado and the base game's protagonist, are looking for the High Entia capital Alcamoth and its missing people. They find it floating in the sky alongside what used to be the Bionis' shoulder where the crash land after an ominous energy beam coming from Alcamoth shoots down their ship. Thus the two, alongside stowaway Nopon Kino and Nene, start their journey across the should of the Bionis to find out exactly what has happened to Alcamoth, the people and figure out a way to repair their ship.
First things first. While Future Connected can be played before starting the main game, something that people who played the original Wii version or the New 3DS port will certainly appreciate, I do not recommend it if you haven't experienced XC before. Its narrative does work on its own in that the plot is simple enough for anybody to follow but you will be confused during a lot of moments as a lot in terms of world-building, characters and nuances will go right over your head and the pay-off at the end won't feel as strong to you.
|The Shoulder of the Bionis looks just as stunning as the rest of the Bionis.|
That said, the story is very good. Not quite on the level of the base game but that was to be expected. It's a much smaller story told over around and about a 7th of the base game. It doesn't have any time to dig deep into any big ideas or all of its story which is far from a bad thing. It's very much a story about Melia trying to secure the future of her people while being uncertain of how that future will end up looking and what her role in it will be. It is this smaller scale and the focus on Melia, a more intimate and lower stakes story that sets it apart from the main story and helps establish more of its own identity.
And the voice acting is, once again, really nice. Both Jenna Coleman (yes, from Dr Who and Victoria) and Adam Howden return to reprise their roles as Melia and Shulk respectively. You can hear that their voices have changed somewhat in the 10+ years in between the recordings of the base game and Future Connected their voices changed but you get used to it pretty quickly. It's still the same voices and they still put in a good performance just like the rest of the cast. The heart-to-hearts of the original, one-on-one conversations between characters that give more inside into them and the world, are upgraded to have full voice acting under a new name; Quiet Moments. A small, but appreciated, touch that elevate these moments.
In terms of gameplay, it's the same as the base game. Once combat starts each of your three characters auto-attack the enemy and perform Arts. These are special attacks that can deal great damage, give your team buffs or debuffs to the enemy. Shulk and Melia have the exact same moves and builds as the base-game while newcomers Kino & Nene are essentially reskinned of the characters Sharla and Reyn respectively (which the game even recognizes through dialogue). The only difference here is that the visions mechanic, the ability of Shulk to look into the future allowing you to anticipate attacks has been removed and the big team chain attack has been altered.
Future Connected has around 40 sidequests with a good chunk of them focusing on the 'Ponspectors' a group of Nopon explorers. Every time you finish one of their quests one of them will join you on your journey and strengthen those team attacks. Each Nopon is a part of one of three groups and will let you choose which attack to use. A full-out attack, a healing move or one that causes a status effect alongside some damage gives these attacks a bigger utility. It still requires a meter to build up, the same used to revive a fallen ally though so be mindful of when to use it.
Lastly, some words in regards to the graphics and the performance. It's the exact same story as the base-game since it is build using that engine and assets. The environments look crisp in HD and combined with the bright colours and the well looking character modles it looks pleasant. Stunning at times, even. It also runs well. Aside from the ugly pop-in here and a some blur there that I didn’t encounter any problems whatsoever. However, I wouldn't recommend playing it in handheld mode much. The graphics and framerate all take a noticeable hit. It just not as nice looking or smooth running.
|Graphical comparison between docked and undocked play.|
Future Connected is a well-crafted and fun little addition to Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. Jumping into this world one more time on a new map with both old and new characters is a lot of fun. It has some stumbles, it's not as great or grand as the base game but really, that's not what I think anyone expects from it. If you have experienced enjoyed the base game you will no doubt enjoy Future Connected.
Is it worth buying Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition just for it? If you go in knowing it's only a short and small scale experience then yes, I think it is.