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 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 their flagship Final Fantasy series, which prompted Takahashi and much of the Xenogears staff to leave the company and form what would become 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 homeworld 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 the company. 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. It would later be renamed Xenoblade Chronicles, by then-president Satoru Iwata, 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 original concept of the game came from the idea of giant godlike titans serving as the basis for the world and story, with the gameplay coming later. Once the concept was presented to the team, morale was bolstered and development kicked off. The game would eventually be 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 Japan-exclusive 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 and bringing it into the twenty-first century, 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 voice performances 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, being a mainstay of the Super Smash Bros. series ever since.
As a series of science-fiction fantasy action RPGs, the Xenoblade Chronicles games introduce a combat system reminiscent of those in modern MMOs, with party members automatically attacking enemies when in range with weak strikes. The bulk of combat is handled with character techniques called Arts, which are governed by a cooldown system that does away with the traditional magic points. Battles are not turn-based and instead take place in real-time, with enemies roaming about the overworld, able to be engaged at the player's discretion. Enemies can direct their attention, or "aggro", to certain party members, and it is actively encouraged for particular techniques. Certain creatures are also "uniquely named" and act as overworld mini-bosses; it is not uncommon to find a unique monster roaming about in an otherwise tame landscape. The series actively encourages exploration of these sprawling landscapes as the party earns experience points for discovering new locations and Landmarks, and the player can freely fast-travel to and from these Landmarks upon discovery. The time of day can also be changed at any point from the start of the game to the player's convenience, adding to the quality-of-life improvements the series brings to the genre. In terms of character progression, there are usually hundreds of side quests that can be engaged at the same time and rewards come in the form of experience, equipment, and currency. And finally, bonds can be forged in towns and between party members to boost their affinity and effectiveness in battle in the latter's case, typically in the form of personalized conversations called Heart-to-Hearts which require certain prerequisites for the necessary characters. The following synopses lay out the premises for each installment of the Xenoblade Chronicles series:
The Xenoblade franchise makes its official debut in Smash 4, with one fighter, one Assist Trophy, one stage, a handful of music tracks, a Mii Fighter costume, plenty of trophies, and a boss character representing it. All representation is strictly from the original Xenoblade Chronicles, as that was the only entry in the series to have been released by that point.
Main article: List of SSB4 Music (Xenoblade series)
The series has received a notable boost in representation, now incorporating elements from the other two Xenoblade titles in the form of Mii Fighter costumes, music tracks, and Spirits. Otherwise, all of the previous representation has been maintained in the transition. One of the Mii Fighter costumes is even featured as a bonus for purchasing the Fighters Pass.
Main article: List of SSBU Music (Xenoblade series)
There were no new Xenoblade remixes added in Ultimate.
Arrangement returning from a previous Smash game.
Tracks sourced directly from the Xenoblade games.
Main article: List of spirits (Xenoblade series)
The kanji aruji "主" denotes a Master Spirit.