Does the mClassic Fix Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition’s Resolution Problems?
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is a JRPG classic, make no mistake. I said as much in my recent review, and nothing changes that fact. The game looks better than ever, and no matter what comparison you try to make with the original Wii game, this Definitive Edition looks much better, whether that's in terms of resolution, or overall image quality. But not everything is perfect. Dataminers spent some time looking at the resolutions you could expect the game to run at, and it caps out at 720p when docked on a TV. The game has decent image sharpening and anti-aliasing in place, but that doesn't stop the game from looking fairly soft, and when on a large 4K screen, the cracks begin to show.
But this actually makes Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition the perfect test scenario for the mClassic, Marseille's gaming upscaler which promises low-latency and improved picture quality. We have already performed a robust test and review of the mClassic, but this is one of the more pressing tests yet. Parts of the gaming community have been affronted at XCDE's low resolution, and if the mClassic can significantly clean-up and improve the image quality of the game, it could become an essential purchase for Switch fans. So, let's have a look at what various parts of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition look like with and without the mClassic upscaling - and make sure to watch the video at the bottom of the article for more footage and comparisons. Oh, and be aware that there may be some spoilers in the images and video footage, so be cautious if you haven't already finished the main story of Xenoblade Chronicles.
What the mClassic does
As covered in our extensive review, the mClassic smooths harsh edges and upscales 60hz images to 1080p. If your console can output at 30hz, then the mClassic can even upscale to 4K. For 30FPS locked games this can be a good option, but since the Nintendo Switch is locked to a 60hz output, we'll have to make do with a simple 1080p image. We already know that Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition outputs a maximum native resolution of 720p, so we'll set the Nintendo Switch output to 720p, to ensure the mClassic is working with an as-close-to-native picture as possible. The mClassic upscales and smooths low-res feeds more aggressively, so this is an ideal scenario.
When looking at an image upscaled by the mClassic it's hard to immediately identify differences, but look close enough for aliased edges on characters and contrasting colors and you'll see the small differences. Hard, aliased jaggies are softened and smoothed, and when looking at the picture as a whole, it's clear you're looking at a smooth, more defined 1080p picture, as opposed to the unscaled 720p output we're looking at otherwise. Obviously the mClassic can't upscale and treat low-res textures - those are just as likely to look as blurry as when they started - but if you're comparing these images on a large 4K screen, the advantages of the mClassic are clear to see.
Look hard enough at any screenshot of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition in this article, and zoom in to spot a harsh, aliased line on the edges of characters or environments, and then compare it to the version which has the mClassic's post-processing engaged, and you will see a clear difference. It's hard to explain what kind of difference it makes to the overall image quality when playing a game in motion, but I guarantee you this: I would not turn it off during general gameplay.
Comparing the world
In order to see if the mClassic can solve Xenoblade Chronicles' resolution woes I went through the game and picked some of the prettiest areas I could and took screenshots with the mClassic enabled, and disabled, and you'll be able to find those comparisons throughout this article. If you want to see what the mClassic does to the game in motion, which is arguably more important, make sure to take a look at our video comparisons embedded below, where we've used the game's Event Mode to record cutscenes with identical character outfits and the same time of day for a more accurate comparison.
Let's start with the title screen. This title screen is unlocked once you finish the game once - spoiler alert - and in the background, you can see a massive mountainous spike structure. Zoom in on the outline of this structure and in the un-scaled 720p image, the edges look rough. Zoom in on the same section in the mClassic enhanced image, and that edge looks visibly much smoother.
In this comparison on Valak Mountain at night, a fan-favorite area, you can see beams of light shoot into the sky. The beams look a bit jagged and aliased no matter which image you look at here, but the mClassic enhanced version definitely gives those beams, and everything else in the image, a bit more definition.
Now, this is a little more mixed. In this comparison at the top of the Frontier Village, the image looks a bit dark and soft no matter which way you look at it - but we also see the mClassic working aggressively. Perhaps too aggressively. Look at the wall illuminated by the sun on the left side of the image - in the 720p image, you can see the wall is supposed to have a rough texture. In the mClassic enhanced image, this texture has been aggressively smoothed, and instead of improving the image here, it has arguably made it much softer and blurrier. This can be seen fairly regularly when using the mClassic, it'll interpret certain deliberately rough textures as something to be smoothed over and adjusted, instead of sharpened.
This comparison has the beautiful trees of Satorl Marsh in the background, while we get a good look at the character models. The rough edges in Shulk's hair are clear to see, and the harsh grass on the ground doesn't fare much better. The mClassic undeniably does a great job of cleaning up the image here - sure, some details are softer as expected, but overall this looks like a massive improvement.
In this shot of Gaur Plain on the Bionis' Knee, we see the amazing rock structures looming in the background and the remnants of the Mechonis in the distance. It looks amazing, but if you try to look at our characters on the screen, they are a blurry mess. Some of those distant textures look softer with the mClassic, but it's also a much cleaner, more pleasing image to the eye. Though, that doesn't help the distant characters - Reyn here has practically gone invisible…
Here in Makna Forest, we can see much more detail on Reyn's armor in the mClassic enhanced screenshot, but again, things in the distance that are supposed to be rough have been smoothed over aggressively. Spot those trees on the mountain in the distance? In the mClassic screenshot, the branches and leaves almost look perfectly rounded, while the more aliased, untouched image actually reveals they are supposed to look somewhat rough at a distance. The mClassic can't interpret the entire image perfectly, and it seems to shows its flaws in distant textures. Interesting for a game like Xenoblade Chronicles, which is all about a sense of scale.
Conclusion: Does the mClassic fix Xenoblade Chronicles?
Let's be clear: Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is, on the whole, a great looking game, it's just that low resolution can blur and distort some of those visuals. This is why the mClassic could be such a game-changer for games like this, which have a gorgeous art style, hidden beneath a layer of low-res jaggies.
Having said that, the mClassic is clearly not the perfect solution. In my experience using the mClassic with Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition - which was most of my time while reviewing the game - I noticed blurrier textures and softer presentations, but overall, it was a large improvement. The fact is that there is no perfect solution to upscaling and improving low-res video feeds like this, though we can pray NVIDIA's DLSS 2.0 technology becomes that perfect solution in a future Nintendo Switch Pro revision.
For the time being, the mClassic is a great way to improve the picture quality of older games or those which don't quite deliver the image clarity you desire, like Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. It's not perfect, but on a large 4K screen you will be able to tell the difference, and you'll be looking at a more pleasing presentation with the benefit of the mClassic.