I was initially apprehensive about this game. Despite the hype I really didn't like Final Fantasy XII and Xenoblade was described as being quite close to FFXII. The battle system really bored me since once you set up the gambits the AI carried out everything with very little player input making the long dungeons and stretches between locations a monotonous chore. The small amount of MP (magic points) was also a problem. You either had to set up a osmose gambit to drag battles out longer or run around in circles as your MP slowly regenerated after every fight. Even the boss fights were a case of watching your MP and casting esuna on any status effects. For all the games innovation it was really boring.
Thankfully Xenoblade is a different story. The battle system requires far more strategy. The characters auto-attack but it's up to the player to input special attacks. Most special attacks inflict status effects and rely on the positioning of the character. Also the aggro system means that you can't just spam special attacks otherwise the enemy will face you and start doing damage to your character and make it impossible to position yourself to the back or sides of enemies to get the positional attack bonuses. Most attacks will also inflict status effects. The result is a battle system that requires a lot more strategy and has so far been a joy rather than the borefest of FFXII. The MP problems are also alleviated. Instead of an MP system attacks have a cool down period during which the attack can't be used. Health points are also fully restored after battle.
It's not just the battle system that makes xenoblade great. It's one of the best looking games of the year despite being on the Wii. The story is so far interesting. Characters are likeable, well written and believable; avoiding the annoying anime tropes of most RPGs. Even the optional quests, which I'm usually not a fan of, have been fun and have taken up an awful lot of my time. I'm hitting the 20 hour mark and a close look at gamefaqs shows that I'm only just starting the game. So far this has been the most enjoyable RPG I've played since Mother 3 and Persona 4 and that's saying a lot and I just can't wait to explore the world of xenoblade chronicles some more.