The Xenoblade universe (ゼノブレイド, Xenoblade) refers to the Super Smash Bros. series' collection of characters and other properties hailing from Nintendo and Monolith Soft's series of action-RPGs. Xenoblade is the newest sub-series of the Xeno franchise which has spanned several systems and developers. The series is represented by the protagonist of Xenoblade Chronicles, Shulk.
While deciding potential scripts for what would eventually become Final Fantasy VII for the PlayStation, developer SquareSoft (now Square Enix) decided against a script written by employee Tetsuya Takahashi on the basis of it being "too dark and complicated" for the company's vision of Final Fantasy; however, Square allowed him to start the project as a new property instead. Takahashi, working with a subteam within Square, became the director of what was released in the Americas as Xenogears for the PlayStation in late 1998. The game, a science fiction JRPG featuring traditional combat that sometimes involves humanoid combat robots called "gears" - in accordance with various recurrent concepts in mecha genres - was both a critical and commercial success in both Japan and the Americas, and received recognition for its ambitious approach to incorporating major themes into its storytelling and characterization, examining both the principles put forth by reputed philosophers and the theological concepts and devotional practices of several real-world religions.
Though Xenogears was conceived as the fifth episode of a series of six, Square decided against devoting resources to further works related to Xenogears in favor of focusing on its flagship Final Fantasy series, which prompted Takahashi and much of the Xenogears staff to leave the company and form what would be Monolith Soft with the financial backing of Namco. Due to the legal rights of Xenogears remaining with Square, Takahashi could not create games that were direct extensions of the Xenogears continuity (despite what the end credits originally indicated), so he proceeded on a project that could more accurately be described as a reboot that shared thematic similarities: the Xenosaga trilogy (which was originally intended to be six games), published by Bandai Namco from 2002 to 2006 on the PlayStation 2. Set millennia in the future where Earth is no longer the primary home-world of a space-faring humanity, the games feature different combat systems between each installment, all of which are mechanically separate from their spiritual PlayStation predecessor. The series' reception was generally favorable, though review outlets tended to express more mixed opinions when comparing them with Xenogears, finding fault with elements such as a much more lopsided cutscene-to-gameplay ratio and the removal of some of the acclaimed philosophical elements.
In May 2007, Namco sold its stake in Monolith Soft to Nintendo, and Monolith Soft soon became a first-party developer for Nintendo. Takahashi began work on a different IP for the Wii, which over the course of four years of development was unveiled at E3 2009 under the title Monado: Beginning of the World; later, it was renamed Xenoblade Chronicles, once again following the convention of including Xeno- in the title to honor the director's previous, though otherwise unconnected, work. Involving himself in every aspect of the game's development, Takahashi worked to separate it from its forerunners in both gameplay style and theme, with the relationship between humans and machines as one of the carryovers. The game was released in Japan on June 10, 2010, and then in PAL regions on August 19, 2011; however, the game's American release would only take place on April 6, 2012, which led to an interim period where concerned gamers took part in a fan campaign called "Operation Rainfall" to persuade Nintendo of America to localize the game and two other Wii RPGs, The Last Story and Pandora's Tower.
Xenoblade Chronicles received overwhelming critical acclaim across the board. It was lauded for revitalizing and reinventing the otherwise stagnant Japanese role-playing genre, with a sense of freedom instilled by a massive open world that has been compared to the size of the real-world Japanese archipelago. The gameplay style of the combat closely resembles that of Final Fantasy XII, but with an emphasis on chained group attacks and allowing some characters to strategically divert enemy attention away from other party members. Closely tied in with the game's theme is a "Visions" system where the lead character can see glimpses of critical or even fatal enemy attacks, which can allow the player to either avoid or prevent an incoming attack. Especially praised were the characters, both for their writing and for the integration of their relationships into core aspects of the gameplay both inside and outside of battle. The game sold over 800,000 units globally and, as a first-party Nintendo property, its main character Shulk was included in the roster of Super Smash Bros. 4 in 2014.
Xenoblade Chronicles is set on a world of endless ocean, with the world's terra firma being the standing, towering corpses of Bionis and Mechonis, two colossal gods who dueled long ago and have remained locked in their positions from the battle. Eons later, new life arose out of their bodies and formed civilizations and societies, such as Homs and other organic lifeforms on the Bionis, and mechanical lifeforms like the Mechon on the Mechonis. When a Homs colony on Bionis is attacked by the Mechon, a young Homs named Shulk obtains a legendary energy sword named the Monado, which is capable of damaging the Mechon and gives its user visions of the near and distant future. Shulk and his friends initially set out for a Mechon stronghold to exact revenge, but over the course of a journey filled with twists and turns, they are provided a deeper examination of the conflict between the two sides, and eventually, of the true workings of the world itself.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, a port of the original Wii title, was developed by Monster Games and released for the New Nintendo 3DS on April 2, 2015 in Japan, Europe, and Australia, and on April 10, 2015 in the Americas. The handheld port was lauded for preserving the scale and frame rate of the original game, but skepticism was cited for the port's considerably downgraded visuals. The original Wii version was made available for download much later on the Wii U Virtual Console in Europe on August 5, 2015 and in the Americas on April 28, 2016.
Xenoblade Chronicles X, a spiritual successor to Xenoblade Chronicles, was initially teased as "X" by Monolith Soft as their next project in early 2013. The successor's title was finalized during the 2014 E3 Digital Event and released for Wii U in Japan on April 29th, 2015 and on December 4th, 2015 for the Americas, Europe and Australia. Xenoblade Chronicles X is set on the planet Mira, an alien-populated world where humans have established their home after the Earth was undesirably destroyed in a war between two opposing alien races. Players can change their main character's appearance and voice with a wide array of customization options. The game features battle mechanics similar to the original Xenoblade Chronicles, with emphasis on its Arts system and interactions with party members. Characters can use both ranged and melee attacks and can pilot humanoid mechs called Skells to fight and traverse the game's enormous world.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2, a new game in the series, was revealed during the Nintendo Switch Presentation in January 2017. The game features a heavily animated, chibi-esque art style as opposed to the more realistic styles in Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles X. Similarly to Xenoblade Chronicles, the game takes place on the backs of gargantuan beings called Titans. The story follows a boy named Rex as he sets out to take his friend Pyra home to Elysium, a paradise where humans lived with their divine father, the Architect, at the genesis of the world. The gameplay features a new party member dynamic where party members are either Drivers or Blades. Blades imbue Drivers with powers and weapons, while Drivers deploy said powers and weapons. Players can conjure new Blades by finding and touching Core Crystals. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was globally released for the Nintendo Switch on December 1, 2017.
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Main article: List of SSB4 Music (Xenoblade series)
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