Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii): a love story to remember?

If you’ve been reading this blog or listening to our podcasts, you will know what a stickler I am for endings and having a good, engaging story to keep you warm on those long RPG nights. However, I am a fair woman and, as much as I believe that story is important, it’s not everything. I believe that Xenoblade Chronicles is a game changer as far as the RPG genre goes, and worthy of all the critical success it has achieved. It is beautiful, majestic, pioneering, and all those good words. I am a believer. I am a huge fan. Therefore, rest assured, what lies ahead are the complaints of an ardent fangirl.

This contains storyline spoilers for late in the game, so read at own risk. And if you haven’t played Xenoblade Chronicles to completion already… what are you waiting for?! One of the best RPGs, even games, of all time awaits.

xenoblade_shulk_time

With that all said, why the fuck did Shulk have to end up with Fiora?! It’s not that I prefer the sound of Shelia over Fulk. It’s not even the fact that I like Melia much more than Fiora (though that is the case). What pisses me off the most about this is that the developers were not true to the story… more on that below.

As you play through the game, it quickly becomes obvious that Shulk and Melia like each other. And why not? They make a good couple, having similar personalities despite their different upbringings. After they meet, they battle side by side, and there are some touching moments when their relationship develops romantically. All is well. Sharla encourages Melia to be optimistic:

Except, Fiora turns out to be alive. Well, isn’t that awkward? Fiora is a good character, but only to use in battle. The speed, the agility, the power, she’s great for fighting. Besides that she’s…nice. Honestly, that’s all I can say about her personality. She’s just plain old nice.

Then she kind of turns into a bitch. One of the most unforgivable moments in the game is a cutscene towards the end of the game when Melia reaches out to Shulk, only for Fiora to grab Shulk away, right in front of Melia’s eyes. Hang on, who the fuck is Fiora, anyway? Where did she come from? Why should I care about her? Actually, I know who she is: Dunban’s less attractive sister.

Melia is a different story. I care about Melia. She’s probably the deepest character in the game, with one of the heaviest burdens to carry. The fact is, we get to know Melia. Fiora ducks out early on in the game. Though Melia is the archetypal princess character (a common RPG trope), the political intrigue in the High Entian capital of Alcamoth, and her uncertain position in relation to her stepmother and stepbrother gives new blood to an old formula. She is half-human and half-High Entian. She’s proud and somewhat stuffy, but she cares a lot. She dutifully endures the pressures of possibly ruling a nation someday, stoically and selflessly. One of the most touching moments in the game is when her facade cracks: her father dies in her arms, and my heart broke watching her cry like a normal young person would.

xenoblade fiora

I haven’t seen this level of bitchy, emotional blackmail since last season’s The Bachelor. The whole ‘I’m dying, please let us be together for a little while longer’? Puh-lease. Melia should stop enabling this kind of manipulative behavior #drphil #badtvaddict

Which begs the question as to why the game developers were so bloody keen on giving Melia a hard time! Is this High Entian prejudice? The girl loses her entire family because of a genetic mutation/disease, witnesses them transform into beasts and go crazy, ends up having to kill her own brother, and then she gets dismissed by farm boy Shulk? That is just such a lot of bullshit!

It’s so unconvincing the game developers had to add some bullshit conversations between Melia and Sharla about how Fiora and Shulk are meant to be. Says who?! Why did I not have any say on this crucial matter? If they’re meant to be together, why did you have to rope in another character to convince the player/Melia that this had to be the way forwards? What is Melia meant to do? Get her revenge by getting with Fiora’s brother Dunban only to break his heart? (Not a bad idea actually…)

If you are going to create a love triangle, you need to allow the love triangle to develop and grow in whatever direction the story demands, rather than try and force it to go the way you intended. The fact Shulk ends up with Fiora (his childhood love) and not Melia (the girl he meets along the journey) feels like a contrived “Mechons and Homs living in harmony” thing. And so the makers of the game forced the story to fit their purposes, rather than be true to the characters’ spirit and the story itself. In this way, it contradicts the values/the message of Xenoblade: making new friendships/bonds, and forging your own path beyond the power of a fixed destiny. What good is the power of the Monado to change the future if you can’t choose your romantic destiny?

It's MELIA time, asshats!

Sharla’s relationship with Reyn – which is meant to represent new love/falling in love again after hardship – but it doesn’t stand in as a satisfying foil to the Shulk/Fiora/Melia triangle.

I am going to suggest at alternative ending. The “Best” ending:

Fiora accepts that it’s okay that Shulk and Melia are together. She’s happy for them: she’s a simple girl, really, and is just pleased for her friends. Shulk feels guilty for what has happened, but knows he can’t live a lie. He discovers that drinking Melia’s blood increases his life expectancy, so he won’t be outlived by his beloved and they can die on the same day. Sharla’s matchmaking business falls flat, but she soon finds her way again by returning to a medical profession (whilst selling guns on the side). Fiora marries some nondescript guy from Colony 6. And everyone lives happily every after. The End.

xenoblade melia

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4 comments

  1. moresleepneeded

    I have not played this game, but I can understand the concern about strange coupling in games. Because players invest time and effort in games, it seems the player has more connection to the hero than in other media. As a result, the player probably expects a good story and entertaining game and probably wants the hero to follow similar choices to the ones the player would make (like in some games where the player can control the heroes choices). The character of Fiora was probably designed to begin as something to start the story and drive it along, until the character entered the story and the plot changed. Making her and Shulk become lovers probably gave her character and gave her more involvement in the plot to make her as strong a character as Melia (who seems to have her own backstory).
    I do not think there was much romance in the earlier games. I do not know if Link ever became involved with Princess Zelda. Mario and Princess Peach’s relationship only seemed to extend to hi rescuing her and she baking him a cake. Many games seemed to feature lone heroes and heroines defeating their enemies. I have always wondered if Sonic’s attempts to evade Amy Rose’s attempts to marry him were supposed to resemble the stereotype of men being reluctant to marry and wanting to spend more time having fun with their friends (or have adventures with Tails and Knuckles).

    • veryverygaming

      It’s true that romance is a very RPG thing – it’s not often featured in action games. I recommend you play it, despite this rant – it’s a beautiful game. I just felt very ill-served as a player, and a player who collected all the extra story bits. I think that Shulk ending up with Fiora was meant to convey the message of the game, about machines and people getting along…but I hate pious sermonising. I’ve just played The Last Story and it handles relationships well.

  2. cary

    While I’ll admit that I did shed a tear or two of joy at Shulk and Fiora’s mid-game reunion on the beach, I found the relationship schema of the game very confusing. Frankly, the only character who didn’t seem to be wholly in love with Shulk was Riki. (God, even Dickson had a few trite moments of praise for him.) Would it have been nice for Shulk to have ended up with anyone other than Fiora? Surely. But it seemed from the start that the story was contrived in such a way for the two to be together for all eternity. Melia just didn’t read (to me, anyway) as a strong enough love interest for anyone, let alone Shulk. Did she ever profess anything to Shulk? (As I said in my first statement, its possible that I glazed over a cutscene or seven. I also skipped nearly all the heart-to-hearts, so…my mistake there, probably.) I do like your “best” ending though, particularly the part about Sharla having an unsuccessful coupling business.

    • veryverygaming

      Cary, the heart-to-hearts contain a whole world of bad storytelling decisions. You saved yourself without even knowing it! Although you did miss the shocker that Riki is actually in love with Dunban.

      Melia never reveals her love for Shulk, but she has extended conversations about it with Sharla. She doesn’t confess because she’s more of a “suffer in silent” type :/ It’s really ill-judged in my opinion. Sharla should have told Shulk! I’m not sure if you’ve played The Last Story, but it has much better characters.

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