The only one of these games I’m interested in (or know anything about) is Xenoblade Chronicles 2.
A little background on the series's past sexualisation
Xenoblade Chronicles 1 includes revealing outfits including swimsuit costumes which you could choose to equip to characters (pieces are in parts: Head, Torso, Legs, Feet). Examples include the Swimming Top, and the Bottoms. They’re not overtly sexual, but they were there. The main characters were also pretty tame when it comes to proportions (for JRPG’s).
Xenoblade Chronicles X, on the other hand, took the sexualisation of characters to another level. First there was somewhat of an uproar over changes made during Western Localising. XCX includes customisable player-avatars which the Western Localisation removed the ability to change the breast size for female avatars. Furthermore, the touted age of the character Lin was changed from 13 to 15 (although I don’t remember it ever being mentioned in-game) and her available costumes were altered to be less revealing. Patrick even wrote about it for Kotaku back in 2015 (WARNING: This article pivots to talk about “censorship” in games in general and features very sexual content)
The result, however, is that the sexualised clothing of the adult characters were unchanged. While Xenoblade Chronicles X does feature similar swimsuit costumes which aren’t significantly worse than in XC1, XCX also includes outfits that are ridiculously sexualised. XCX added “Fashion Armor” which overrules the look of the stat-armor equipped. It also added armor sets which change the entire appearance and cannot be changed piece-meal. The one that I feel is the absolute worst is the bunny suit. (I never found this in the game though).
So there are some bad costumes. However, they are all optional, and Xenoblade Chronicles X’s addition of the “Fashion Armor” option means you don’t get into an issue where a revealing set (or other outfit you dislike) has specific stats that make them the best item you could wear, while also having to look at them. Even if your best piece of armor happened to disgust you, you could always override the appearance with something else. Also, while XCX has reached full-on anime designs, the proportions of characters aren’t very extreme.
Flash forward to Xenoblade Chronicles 2, though, and they have definitely passed the anime-event-horizon. There’s a clear disparity between the proportions of the two lead characters:
[Edit: I refreshed the page and the image here is no longer appearing. Tried editing twice and it didn’t fix it (unsure why). If there isn’t an image here, it’s supposed to be this one of Pyra and Rex].
I originally thought Pyra’s design (the red-haired girl) wasn’t so bad. I still think that the official art of her is fine
. But the more angles
I’ve seen of her in-game, the less
her proportions fit
. Also, they put a glowing story marker on her chest just to make it obvious where you should be looking.
Similarly, while we haven’t seen much of her in trailers, the character Hikari looks to be even worse
. It should also be noted that gear/armor customisation (like the previous games) hasn’t been outight confirmed yet
so it remains unclear what you could change about character appearance if you wanted to.
Now a little bit on Plot that ties into this. One of my favourite things about the original Xenoblade Chronicles is how it subverts the “save the girl” trope by bringing her back part-way through the game (and turning her into a killing machine). While the game isn’t the most original, and certainly falls foul of tired cliches, I appreciated the amount of agency given to the female characters. Not only do they push away from the idea of the “chosen hero” being Shulk (even though his unique power to see the future makes him so) by adding a sense of destiny to other characters (especially Melia), they also had the mechanical angle of allowing you to spend most of the game playing as other party members (including forced changes-in-perspective). I got the sense that the women were as much a part of the story as anyone else.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2, however, has a significant plot-point over “Special Blades”. Pyra (girl above) is one of these “Special Blades” and has the ability to bestow the power of her sword to another known as a “Driver”. She seems connected to the main character, Rex (boy above), who she allows to weild her blade in order to go on some quest to bring her to a magical tree (Just in case you were missing magical world-trees and space whales, this game has got you covered). While there are multiple blade-characters to customise your party with (i.e. they aren’t like Xenoblade Chonicles 1’s Monado which only Shulk can use), I can’t help getting the feeling that they are using the exaggerated-looking young women as things for the hero rather than as characters themselves.
Look at the Special Edition art for instance:
Overall, I’m still excited for this game, however I’m waiting for reviews and more information before deciding on it. I’ve loved the previous games so much that I’m hopeful (I genuinely think Xenoblade Chronicles 1 has a fantastic story with a range of interesting fleshed out characters)… but the closer we get to release, the more sceptical I’ve become.