Shulk is a young scientist who hails from Colony 9, a settlement situated on the lower leg of the Bionis, one of the two long-dormant titans that make up the world of Xenoblade Chronicles. He lives in a time when the people of Bionis are under siege from the Mechon, mechanical soldiers sent from Mechonis, the other titan. As a child, he was the only survivor of the expedition that discovered the Monado, the only weapon known to be able to damage Mechon; in the present day, at age 18, he works for the Colony 9 Defence Force and studies the Monado, in the hope of determining its secrets and finding a way for people other than the injured Dunban to be able to wield it. He also works to salvage fallen Mechon parts and develop weapons for the Defence Force, including a unique "Gunlance" that he designed for his best friend Reyn, a soldier. He is also close friends with Fiora, Dunban's younger sister, who is his love interest.
The story begins with a surprise attack on Colony 9 by a horde of Mechon, led by a powerful new model who is immune to the Monado, who Shulk and company would later come to know as Metal Face. Dunban's inability to continue using the Monado forces Shulk to take it up, and to everyone's surprise, not only can he control it even better than Dunban ever did, but it spontaneously shows him visions of the future, a power that nobody had previously known about. With Shulk's help, Colony 9 withstands the Mechon assault, but Fiora is killed by Metal Face.
After the battle, Shulk and Reyn set out on a journey across Bionis to pursue Metal Face and get revenge for the loss of Fiora and the others. The two follow both Shulk's visions and rumors of Mechon movements. Along the way, they become involved in various struggles by the people of Bionis against both the Mechon and various forces native to Bionis itself, and are joined by new and old allies including Dunban and Riki. Shulk also slowly begins to discover new powers of the Monado, and is mentored by the enigmatic seer Alvis, both in person and in his dreams, on the nature of the sword and what both its power and similar powers in the world philosophically represent.
Shulk and his party later travel to Mechonis as part of a unified push by all the peoples of Bionis to stop the Mechon once and for all, but soon begin to pursue a different path from the allied forces as they are introduced to the true nature of the ancient conflict between the Bionis and Mechonis. They come into conflict with Egil, the self-appointed leader of Mechonis and creator of the Mechon, and his desire for vengeance against the Bionis for what it did to his people. Shulk becomes determined to break the cycle of vengeance between Bionis and Mechonis, and to ensure that all the peoples of the world can live self-determined lives free of the dictates of such higher powers.
Shulk is clever and level-headed, but is also socially clumsy, sheltered, and lacking in life experience. He is easily absorbed in his work, especially his studies of the Monado, to the point of neglecting his own health and his surroundings. Coming from a scientific background, he usually approaches situations rationally and methodically, sometimes to the point of a social faux pas: once, where the Monado accidentally went off in Reyn's hands, his knowledge that it was incapable of harming Bionis life-forms like Fiora angered her when he seemed to care more about a lab machine it destroyed than the (in his mind, non-existent) possibility of it killing her. Despite Shulk's desire for revenge on the Mechon, he wants to understand their origins and motivations before he does anything rash against their leaders, and respects the wishes of others even when it appears they might hinder his quest. However, he has a habit of trying to assume the burdens that come with his mission all by himself, and is initially reluctant to reveal his visions to others to the point that he inadvertently endangers the party. Additionally, when Fiora is involved, threatened, or even mocked, he is easily provoked and tends to let his emotions get the better of him.
In combat, Shulk's main role is to slip beneath enemy notice and deal large amounts of physical damage. His Back Slash and Slit Edge Battle Art (XC1) are most effective when the enemy's attention is elsewhere, and he can also contribute break and daze around an ally's topple to momentarily incapacitate foes. The Monado gives Shulk an extra set of Arts, which allow him to deal extreme damage to Mechon, disable an enemy's powerful auras, or protect party members from powerful attacks he has foreseen - Shulk doesn't have to be present for the party to get visions of imminent attacks, but he is the best-equipped for dealing with them. Shulk's main weakness is that his high damage output can easily draw attention and he doesn't have much health to survive being the target of enemies, making him a glass cannon. He also lacks ether attacks, which is problematic against enemies good at dodging his physical arts, and his complex character design renders the game's AI rather poor at controlling him when the player is someone else.
Shulk returns in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 as a downloadable Blade who can be equipped to any of the game's playable Drivers. Rex, Pyra, and the rest of the party first meet him and Fiora in the "Land of Challenge", where they team up and take on challenging battles given to them by the Nopon Archsage. After clearing them, Shulk and Fiora are given the "Alrest Linkring" item that lets them travel with Rex across Alrest in spirit form. While the Land of Challenge scenario is not explicitly canon, Shulk also makes a voiced cameo at the end of the game, demonstrating that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and the original Xenoblade Chronicles take place simultaneously in parallel universes. When equipping Shulk, Drivers can wield the Monado as their own and use its various Arts, and also gain access to Shulk's Vision ability from his own game.
As a playable character
Main article: Shulk (SSB4)
Shulk was leaked as a playable character three weeks before the release of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS on YouTube videos from a video used to rate the game by ESRB, before being officially confirmed on August 29th, 2014. On May 19th, 2014, before the leaks and his official reveal, Shulk's English voice actor, Adam Howden, had posted on his Twitter that he had done recording for a game he was not allowed to talk about.
Shulk uses the Monado as his weapon, which grants him the longest overall reach in the game, even outclassing other swordsmen like Ike and Cloud, and uses an ability from his original game, Monado Arts, to adapt quickly in combat by tweaking his abilities. While active, they grant him multiple perks such as a greatly improved edgeguarding game (with Jump) or an extremely damaging moveset (with Buster), at the cost of giving him disadvantages as well. He also has one of the more effective counters in Vision, which grants an especially long counter window when fresh along with high range and power.
Shulk is currently ranked 35th on the Smash 4 tier list, placing him within the D tier. While he has a good amount of strengths, such as a very effective moveset for spacing, versatility in his multiple Monado Arts, and outstanding through polarized stats while any Art is active, he is held back by a very high learning curve due to his multiple Arts changing his attributes, one of the slowest movesets in the game, and the inability to autocancel any of his aerial moves without the use of frame-perfect Monado Art Landing Lag Canceling. This forces him to be heavily reliant on spacing due to his sluggish moves and vulnerability of being juggled up close. Throughout the game's lifespan, Shulk's tournament results have been below-average, with his best results coming from dedicated mains such as Nicko and Kome, who bring noticeable success to him at nationals.
As a playable character
Main article: Shulk (SSBU)
Shulk returns as a playable fighter in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. He is now an unlockable character as opposed to being a starter in Smash 4. His moveset is mostly the same, with minor additions including the ability to select Monado Arts directly without cycling through them and Fiora taking part in his Chain Attack Final Smash. Additionally, his Monado Arts last less time, but make more dramatic and polarizing changes to Shulk when used. Along with this, his frame data has been sped up (although it is still rather slow) and he benefits immensely from the universal reduction to landing lag on aerials. He also retains his long range and large hitboxes that he possessed in the previous game. This has led to much higher representation and better results than before. It's unclear where he ranks among the cast, but it is widely agreed that he is significantly stronger than he was in Smash 4.
Names in other languages