Just when you start to lose hope in a genre, in this case the JRPG, a game like Xenoblade Chronicles comes along that re-invents the mold and makes you excited again. Xenoblade Chronicles is an excellent game whose only fault is the console on which it resides. The game is much more than the Wii can handle, but is still one of the best RPGs I have played in nearly a decade.
The first intriguing and compelling part of Xenoblade Chronicles is the world itself. The intro movie shows us that two unbelievable, enormous, celestial beings battled and were frozen in time. Over millennia their bodies were covered by land, mountains, lakes, and swamps, and eventually civilizations sprang into being as well. The humanoids are called Homs and under constant threat by the robotic Mechons, each race lives on a different being (a Titan). The story proper starts with a pitched battle that has Homs battling waves of Mechons with the heroic Dunban fighting back the horde with a mythical blade called the Monado.
The story picks up a few years later with Dunban still recovering from that fight and the protagonist Shulk is introduced as a researcher in the colony trying to unlock the secrets of the Monado. We are swiftly introduced to his best friend, Reyn, who is fiercely loyal to Shulk in a bro-mance kind of way. Other characters are given equal care in their introductions, like the heroic Dunban, stoic Dickson, or faithful Fiora, but the story is truly about Shulk and Reyn as they are the two constants.
That is one of the truly special parts about this game and the story, the friendship between Shulk and Reyn pervades the entire experience. Other characters join their party, but these two are the heart of the experience and they are actually interesting characters. The game also finds ways to reward the friendships you form with the other people who join your party with the affinity and Heart to Heart systems. As you progress through the game assisting your teammates or doing things they agree with you gain affinity. This plays out in enabling cross class skills and allowing you to trigger Heart to Heart events in key locations. These are little scenes that add a great deal of depth to the already compelling characters.