2020 is almost here, so we’ve asked GameSpot’s staff to share which games they’re looking forward to most in the new year. New consoles are going to dominate the headlines, but at the end of the day it’s all about the games, and there are a ton of exciting ones to look forward to. When you’re done reading this entry, follow along with all of our other end-of-the-year coverage collected in our Best of 2019 hub and our Most Anticipated of 2020 hub.
Nintendo may have only given us a brief glimpse into its 2020 lineup, but we’ve already seen some exciting titles in store for Switch next year, including the long-awaited new entry of Animal Crossing. The game I’m most excited for, however, is unquestionably Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, a remake/remaster of Wii’s best RPG. Nintendo unveiled the title at the end of its September Direct broadcast, and while it didn’t reveal much beyond a brief trailer, it was more than enough to get me hyped.
That Nintendo would choose to cap off its most recent Direct with the announcement of a Xenoblade remake illustrates just how far the series has come in the company’s eyes. The original Xenoblade Chronicles may have been greeted with critical acclaim when it first released, but the game is perhaps most famous for almost not releasing in the US at all.
Xenoblade Chronicles originally launched in Japan in 2010 and made its way to Europe the following year, but it wouldn’t arrive stateside until 2012, after much fan outcry. By that point, however, the Wii wasn’t so much showing its age as it was a shambling corpse, and Xenoblade Chronicles already looked hopelessly dated compared to contemporary releases on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. And yet despite this, it turned out to be one of the most absorbing games of that entire generation thanks to its breathtaking environments and expansive story, which more than masked its visual shortcomings.
From what little we’ve seen of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, it appears the visuals have received the most significant changes, but that’s the only area that really needed any touching up to begin with. Despite being nearly a decade old now, the game holds up remarkably well thanks to some forward-thinking ideas it had for its time–some of which its own follow-ups, Wii U’s Xenoblade Chronicles X and Switch’s Xenoblade Chronicles 2, would curiously discard.
In particular, Xenoblade trimmed some archaic design conventions that turned me off of so many other JRPGs. For one, the game didn’t require you to return to quest givers to collect your rewards after completing many of its side-quests, which meant it never felt like I was wasting my time while playing. You could also quick-travel to any landmark you had previously visited effectively from the outset of your journey–a radical idea when other contemporary JRPGs, such as Ni No Kuni, forced you to wait dozens of hours before you could unlock a quick-travel option.
These smart refinements are a big reason why Xenoblade felt so fresh when it first launched, but what gripped me most was the game’s sense of scale. Xenoblade presented a vast and varied world to explore, and it constantly rewarded your curiosity, doling out XP for discovering a new landmark and tucking away rare items in hard-to-reach areas. What a world it was, too; each new locale the game presented felt more stunning and imaginative than the last, enlivened by an absolutely gorgeous soundtrack that I still listen to regularly. In my mind, Xenoblade Chronicles’ setting rivals any open world in gaming today, and I can’t wait to explore it again after its HD facelift.
Even if Nintendo and developer Monolith Soft were strictly updating the game’s visuals and nothing more, I would eagerly take any chance to revisit Xenoblade Chronicles on Switch, but it appears the companies are going beyond that. The teaser trailer ended with a look at a location that never appeared in the original game, which suggests Monolith will be introducing some new content to the title as well–as if I needed any more convincing to pick it up. Nintendo hasn’t announced a release date for Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition yet, but it can’t come soon enough.