Tetsuya Takahashi’s games keep getting so good that even their expansions now come out as full-fledged games. Torna: The Golden Country is both a standalone game and an extension of Xenoblade Chronicles 2. What’s shocking is how polished it is. After Xenosaga, everyone counted Takahashi out, but now his company, Monolith Soft, is one of the best game developers in the world. They’ve even surpassed Square Enix in terms of quality when comparing Xenoblade and Final FantasyXeno has become the premiere RPG franchise in gaming. When they first announced that Xenoblade 2 was getting a story expansion, I presumed it would be a nice side story. I never imagined we’d get Nintendo’s best game of the year.

Torna: The Golden Country tells the story of the events that transpired 500 years before the beginning of Xenoblade Chronicles 2. There are both and new characters introduced and while Addam and Mythra have a large part to play in the narrative, this story is about Jin and Lora. Jin may be the best character in Xenoblade 2 and Lora is his motivating factor in everything he does, so exploring their relationship more and seeing why Jin became the (excellent) villain he does is the highlight of the game. And I call this a “game” because, with roughly 40-60 hours worth of content, this cannot be called an expansion anymore.

Everything Xenoblade Chronicles 2 does in relation to the original is accentuated. The gameplay is more refined, allowing players to control both Blades and Drivers as well as utilize a brand new combo and chain attack system, which makes the game a lot more fun. The story is much darker and as we know the outcome is tragic from the outset, it makes that much a better narrative. The music retains the old but brings in some wonderful new pieces.

That being said, anyone can jump into Torna: The Golden Country without playing Xenoblade Chronicles 2; it’s extremely accessible. The cast of characters is diverse and play off each other nicely. If there’s one complaint about Torna it’s that it may be too short, but it’s still a full-fledged RPG in its own right, which is an incredible accomplishment. Monolith Soft outdid themselves. The level of polish found in The Golden Country is not even found in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (or any other Switch game).

The combat in Xenoblade has always been one of its strong points, and in Torna, the system from Xenoblade 2 is perfected. The orb/combo/burst/(now full burst) system is completely changed and now doesn’t simply rely on getting high-level combos. It simplifies things a little bit, but the combat is still just as difficult as it could be in its predecessor. It’s also a lot more enjoyable. There were times where the combat became annoying in the former, but in Torna, it never grew old.

Although we know the ultimate destination of the story, the characters are incredibly well crafted and there are some amazing character-driven moments throughout the narrative; it’s a natural evolution from Torna: The Golden Country to Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Most of our aching questions are answered, though there are still a few mysteries. The game retains its humor but is much more foreboding than its predecessor, giving it less of a shounen anime tone than its predecessor. The fact that Torna stands on its own makes it all the better, considering it could appeal to a mature audience that was turned off by some of the shounen-like aspects of the original.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was the best Switch game of 2017 (a very strong year for the system), as well as one of the best RPGs of all time. By that token, how can its expansion, which is a full game unto itself, not be considered one of the best Nintendo games of 2018, which is a rather weak year for the Switch?

This wasn’t a horrible year for the Switch, but it hasn’t been great either. Nintendo has simply done what they’ve had to, no more, no less. In any other year, there’s no way The Golden Country could be considered the system’s best game.  Most of the games that have come out are ports from the Wii U era though (as well as a DS game remake). They’re great experiences, but none of them match the polish of Torna: The Golden Country or take advantage of the system’s hardware adequately. There’s only one Nintendo in-house game that can compete with it, and that’s Super Smash Bros. UltimateSmash Bros. will be amazing, but as an experience, I would still go with Xenoblade 2‘s “expansion” every time, as games that tell stories are almost always superior.

Monolith Soft continues to impress with every subsequent piece of software they get their hands on; they are the future of both Nintendo and RPGs. If someone said this 12 years ago they would have been a laughingstock.

Now if only Tetsuya Takahashi could write the story for the next Zelda game…

About The Author

Founder/Editor-in-Chief

Morgan Lewis is a Video Game Journalist and is the Founder, Owner, and Editor-in-Chief of VGCultureHQ. He has been writing about games for over five years and has written over 1,500 articles during that timespan. He first fell in love with gaming when he received A Link to the Past for Christmas when he was six and is the guywazeldatatt. He also loves anime and anything that has to do with gaming culture and Tetsuya Takahashi games. He is also a huge anime and Star Wars fan.

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