…But Should It Be?
JRPGs are often dismissed as power fantasies. Making the numbers go up until you can kill god, beat your dad in a fight, etc. Lord knows, MoinolithSoft’s games have certainly fallen into this particular trap a lot (see anything Rudie writes about Xenogears for evidence of this). So imagine my surprise at how Xenoblade Chronicles 3 turned out. That other stuff is mostly still there, but put in almost its proper place.
OK LOOK, I AM GONNA PROBABLY SPOIL A LOT HERE, SO FEEL FREE TO JUMP AHEAD IF YOU WANT.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 both ties the previous two games together and forges its own story centered around two rival groups, Ouroboros and Moebius. Ouroboros are our protagonists, a group of clones with 10 year life expectancies who have decided maybe that isn’t good after they learn that their whole world is just an endless life force generator for the elite, twi countries pitted in endless war to ensure that enough murder happens to charge their batteries. The same group of elite, Moebius, control both countries out of a desire to live forever; the only way they can do this is by using the life force released by everyone else dying to stay alive. The two countries are revealed, at some point in the game, to basically be the two universes of the previous games, clashing into each other after the ending of the second game, but prepetually frozen in time, never completing the crash.
By the end of the game, the Ouroboros party finally meets and fights the Moebius leader, Z, who isn’t a person as much as an emotion made living, and that emotion is the fear of death and change, the drive to stay immortal at all costs. Stasis is preferable to facing the reality of death. Make the whole universe a one sided strip, one surface stretching on for infinity. The Ouroborous, in what started as their own fight against their impending mortality, have come to see that while the artificial limits placed on them are complete bullshit, the need for death isn’t.
They see this by encountering themselves as immortals, and seeing how that just robbed their lives of having meaning. The central couple in the party meets themselves as immortals, and sees all the ways it constantly got screwed up, and how one of them always chooses to stop it, or at least let it end. And they (and their friends) chose to get off that endless depression ride.
OK BIG SPOILERS END HERE
It’s so strange that XBC3, this an*me af JRPG, is the one that ends up being about ditching the power fantasy of living forever. Somehow this game wants us to embrace death as a key part of life. Now, one could wonder a bit about if an 80+ hour long game is really the best way to tell people to enbrace living and dying, but eh. A JRPG saying immortality isn’t good feels like progress.
At the same time, there is definitely a sense of metacommentary going on in the game. Maybe MonolithSoft are tired of being stuck here? Or maybe they are realizing that no matter how good or bad their games might be, the people who made them are going to die in the end anyhow, and they should come to terms with that. Whatever it may say (and I think it leaves a lot of that open to interpretation), it sure is not what I expected from a game full of an*me characters who never shut up.
Sidenote: Xenoblade Chronicles
I don’t really know if I have written about it much here, but I’ve played through all 3 of the main XBC games over the past couplde years. They are each messes in their own ways, though 3 is easily the most coherent mess. I might be a sicko for doing that, I don’t know. They are just really fun giant games full of basically anything the people who made them wanted to put there, and I still get a sense of awe from the scale of them sometimes, so that is part of what keeps me there. I can’t really recommend that for anyone else though, ha.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 was the 2022 best game about accepting that I need to die.