Xenoblade Chronicles Won’t Make Melia & Nia Evil – It Loves the Monarchy Too Much

While fans of the series are obviously excited for Xenoblade Chronicles 3’s launch in July, some are a little apprehensive about its potential handling of returning heroes Melia and Nia. It’s me, I’m a little apprehensive about its potential handling of returning heroes Melia and Nia. If we take the pre-release information at face value, the two are now the respective queens of the warring Agnus and Keves nations and everything about them so far – their ominous fashion sense, eerie masks, and apparent want to destroy the new protagonists – suggests they’ll be among the game’s main antagonists.

Bringing back beloved heroes as villains is always a risky manoeuvre and making Melia and Nia the bad guys would be one of the most boneheaded decisions Monolith Soft could make. It would completely undermine their own character arcs from the previous games. However, I’m confident this won’t be the case. Not just because I trust the writing team, but because I’ve noticed a trend across the previous two games regarding how they depict monarchies. Or more specifically, the monarchs/rulers themselves.

This article contains major spoilers for Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles 2

The first game only has the royal family of the High Entia, but they’re portrayed as benevolent, noble, and compassionate rulers. Melia being a party member gets most of the spotlight, but her father and brother have several moments to demonstrate how likeable they are: emotionally supporting Melia, welcoming her new friends, and sacrificing their own lives to save others. Melia’s stepmother is the one exception – a racist who wishes to keep the family’s bloodline pure and orchestrates an assassination attempt on Melia’s life – and she’s portrayed as an outlier, dealt with off-screen and with few tears shed over her . I don’t think her own son acknowledges her afterwards. The one thing the family’s guilty of is not getting involved with the war against the Mechon sooner but they eventually admit they’re idiots for playing neutral and offer an alliance with the other races of Bionis.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has several members of royalty across its multiple nations, and you’d expect at least one of them to be a villainous despot in need of overthrowing. Nope, they’re all pretty on the level and lack any particularly negative qualities. Once again, one of them, Zeke, is a permanent party member and is both a lovable goof and a surprisingly insightful king-in-the-making, eager to personally save his country. Child emperor Niall is kind and loved by everyone, with all the negative qualities and actions of his nation coming from others doing things behind his back; he even pulls a noble sacrifice to save the queen of the nation his is on the brink of war with. Speaking of, while said queen plays a very minor role, there’s nothing intrinsically negative about her and her few appearances portray at least a reasonable and understanding ruler.

Zeke’s dad does play a more antagonistic role briefly, attempting to kill sword waifu Pyra, and is responsible for an isolationist rule that is dooming his kingdom. But he quickly sees the error of his ways and becomes another ally to the heroes. The DLC expansion/prequel also has party members Addam and Hugo, respectively a prince and emperor, who will gladly fight on the front lines and are paragons of virtue, with the latter also dying to save his friends. Addam’s dad gets little focus, but his decision to remain in his kingdom even as it’s destroyed is framed in a noble light. As for his brother, while he's a tad slimy and constantly emanating Scar from The Lion King energy, he’s still saddened to leave the king behind and never does anything openly evil (at least on screen).

As a Brit who has only grown more disillusioned with my own monarchy as I’ve got older, with them sitting on golden thrones as the country goes through a cost-of-living crisis, it’s almost hilarious how much Xenoblade pushes its kings and emperors as well-meaning at worst and saintlike at best. I’m just saying, you’re never going to see Charles or William take up giant swords to defend small villages from roaming monsters.

It's difficult to tell whether Xenoblade’s writers do hold monarchs in such reverence or simply wish to depict idealised interpretations; to show what monarchs could and (or maybe should) be. If not actively solving problems themselves then at least be motivated by the needs of their subjects. Personally, as someone who has a low opinion of real-world monarchs, the likes of Melia and Zeke are among my favourite characters thanks to their personal arcs and personalities. The games do a good job of making them seem like regular people. They may be royalty, but they have their own foibles that make them relatable.

Considering the series has been consistent with not just its depiction of monarchs but its themes of fate, friendship, and breaking vicious cycles to reach true peace, it’s safe to assume this will continue with Xenoblade Chronicles 3. Some expectations may be slightly averted and there are bound to be plenty of surprises regardless, but enough signs point to queens Melia and Nia keeping traditions alive.

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