Xenoblade Chronicles Executive Director Tetsuya Takahashi has opened up his thoughts on the creation of Monolith Soft’s masterpiece Xenoblade Chronicles and the inspiration behind it. Wouldn’t you know it, but the studio wanted to prove it was worthy of the big times after its original major project flopped.
In an interview with Nintendo President Satoru Iwata in his “Iwata Asks” segment, Takahashi explains the thought process behind making his team’s ideal game.
“We released three games in the Xenosaga series, but they weren’t very well received. It was really mortifying. All of the young team members felt that way, not just the leaders. So we all decided, ‘Next time we need to make a game that players will enjoy.’ So that made the atmosphere during the Xenoblade Chronicles development very different compared to other games.”
For those who don’t remember, the Xenosaga games were planned to be a Bandai Namco’s spiritual successor to Square’s cult-classic Xenogears. Monolith planned to span it across six epic chapters of anime sci-fi storytelling using the PlayStation 2’s revolutionary technology. After the first game launched to middling success, the second one brought all that crumbling down with a few controversial creative changes. The art direction overhauls and reorganization of the battle system stand out in my memory as the biggest issues.
Takahashi also blames the series’ woes on youth and inexperience as well.
“We began Monolith Soft in 1999, with funding from Namco before they became Bandai Namco. The first game we made was Xenosaga, but because we were developing it while we were building the organization, we didn’t have enough people. The programmers and the planners were all rookies. At the time, the director of Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles X, [Koh] Kojima, had just joined the company right after graduating college.
And, it’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but the graphics engine was only completed six months before the development deadline. That’s the schedule we were on. So—and this is a bit of an excuse—but at the time, I felt that because no one on the team making Xenosaga had any experience, it might be a little too difficult for us to make our ideal game yet.”
Sounds like a rough growing phase for Monolith Soft. It might be sitting on top of the world with one of the hottest “new” RPG franchises on the market, but it had to slog through the disappointment of Xenosaga and those weird Baten Kaitos games to get there.
Anybody here a fan of the Xenosaga games? I only played the first one, but I remember liking it a lot. I can’t say if those feelings would hold up anymore judging by how I like my JRPGs with lighting fast pacing these days. That one had some cutscenes that were a chore to sit through.
After the first Xenosaga game, I was one of the many who jumped ship before buying into the second game. The shift in art direction turned me off, and the critic scores confirmed my apprehensions. I never finished the three games, but I wish I had at least bought the third game. It costs an arm and a leg to pick up on the secondhand market, and fans all say it is a return to form.
Monolith’s Xenoblade Chronicles is best enjoyed on the Wii if you can get a hold of the physical disc. It was only made available in limited quantities in the States though, so if you can’t, fans are claiming that the New Nintendo 3DS is a decent substitute. The plus of taking on the move is only partially derailed by the muddy graphics and hit to the resolution.
The follow-up, Xenoblade Chronicles X, will be released in Japan for the Wii U on April 29. The American version will be hitting shores later this year, and Nintendo fans have all the time in the world to enjoy it with The Legend of Zelda being pushed back into next year!