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Xenoblade 2 Interviews with Tetsuya Takahashi

Two interviews with Xenoblade 2’s executive director, Tetsuya Takahashi, were published recently. I’m posting the questions and answers I found the most interesting, but there’s much more in both of the interviews.

The first interview is from Gamespot and can be found here. The second one is a reddit translation of a Gamekult interview. The translation can be found here and the original interview can be found here.

Some highlights from the Gamespot interview:

During the Nintendo Treehouse presentation at E3, you mentioned the idea of the drama that exists in real life between people, and how that’s the key focus for what you want to deliver in Chronicles 2. I’m curious if you could speak to that a little bit more.

In terms of the drama between humans and previous games, this game has the name “Xeno.” Like I mentioned, it’s about differences or something out of the ordinary. Just take for example all of us in this room, we’re all from different places, and we are different personalities, and the way we think is different. To gather all of those people into one place, I think there is both positive and negative that can come out of that…Looking at a bigger scale, it can be survival of the fittest or things on a country-based scale, like invasion, something like that.

In this game world that we’re trying to create, there are these enormous beings called Titans that people live on and, that’s their land. But their land, the Titans, are dying. Once they die, they sink into the cloud sea, so all these people are going to lose their land. They’re not going to be able to survive, and I think when you look at it in the real world, I think something like that, something similar happens where there is a lot of competition for resources in the world we live in right now.

Relatively speaking, the United States or Japan are wealthy countries where people live comfortably, but on the other side there are countries that are very poor where people are struggling and suffering. Trying to think about what can we do for all of us to live together well and how can we do that is something that I think about when I’m trying to create games like this.

You definitely have a very distinguished career and a history of making games that mean something to a lot of people. I’m curious if you can pick one–what is the game from your past that means the most to you?

I think for me, all of them. The reason I say that is when I’m creating games, and once we complete a game, there’s always this phase of post-mortem where I think to myself, “I could have done this better, or I could have changed that.” It’s not limited to just what I think of it. I also take in some of the players’ feedback and other people’s thoughts and think about, “Maybe if I do this next, people will enjoy it more. Maybe if I do that or change this, it would turn out better.”

It’s the cycle I go through for every game that I am a part of. If we started with Xenogears, there is a post-mortem that happened there that I put to use in Xenosaga. Then we went into a different title and then to Xenoblade and to X. It’s just a reiterative cycle. To me, every single game is an opportunity to learn, and it’s also an opportunity to challenge myself.

What step in the cycle does Xenoblade Chronicles 2 represent?

I think in terms of Xenoblade 2, there’s always–like I mentioned–things that I wished I could have done or thought I should have done differently. I feel like Xenoblade 2 is my opportunity and my way to put all of that into reality. I say all of that, but I probably can’t do everything in that title, and I’m sure that when this game is done, I’ll have more post-mortem things to think about and more changes and different things that I’d like to do. That’ll be carried out to the next title, whatever it is that I work on. It’s this cycle that really keeps me going, but obviously if you’re stuck on one point, you can’t move forward, and the game will never be made, so there’s certain times where you have to kind of draw the line and say, “This is how far I’m going to go this time. Whatever is left, I’ll carry it on to the next game.” That’s kind of how I see it, but Xenoblade 2 is kind of like a culmination of all the things that I have done–and would like to have done–from my past.

Some highlights from the translation of the Gamekult interview:

Was Xenoblade 2 in developpement for Wii U before moving to Switch ? And what lessons did you learn with the developpement of XCX ?

It was a Switch exclusive from the beginning. As you know, XCX was made to be an open world game, and we mostly learned the cost of this kind of projects (laughs). By applying the acquired knowledge to a more linear experience, we had a better idea when it came to ressource management but also for optimization, and all the little details that allow us to better understand the magnitude of this world.

Did you also alter the UI, particularly bloated in the previous episode ?

Since the Switch has four face buttons on each Joy Con, we sought to made the control system more accessible and intuitive, so that you could realize actions without having to think about it. At least, that’s what we’re striving for. We also haven’t planned to include touchscreen elements.

Judging by the trailers, Xenoblade 2 comes back to a more childish visual style. Is your goal to target a wider audience, or can we assume the game will still adress mature themes ?

Targeting a wider audience was one of our goals but we also wanted to make it so that characters had more facial expressions. Masatsugu Saito’s character design is a way to make the protagonists more expressive. As for the story, we wanted to highlight the values of friendship in the first game, as well as Shulk’s revenge, which was the driving force behind the plot. In this game, it’s more about an initiatory journey and Rex’s coming-of-age story.

Speaking of Rex, what can you tell us about him ?

He’s clearly hot-blooded (nekketsu) like a character in a shônen manga but he’s also older than he looks. When the story begins, he’s been a Salvager for many years, helping the lost souls in the universe of Arst. He also lives in a world of adults, meaning he’s a lot more mature than his apparence makes you think. The objective of Rex and his party is to go to Elysium, a sort of paradise. Those who live there know it is a legendary land, where everything seems to be perfect. Of course, the discovery of this place will be the driving force behind the main quest.

Exploration was always one of the most important parts of the Xenoblade series, especially in XCX. Can we expect an even larger world on Switch ?

Exploration will be even more important in Xenoblade 2. About the amount of places you will be able to discover and explore, I think we will go far beyond what Xenoblade X proposed. As you have been able to see in the trailer, you can expect to traverse a lot of varied environnements, some natural, some artificial, created by humans.

Does that mean the game will allow us to go wherever we want, or will the exploration be more guided, like in the first game ?

In the trailer, you’ve been able to see gigantic entities : the Titans. The player will traverse entire regions, towns and dungeons on the back of those gigantic monsters. The exploration on those creatures will be seamless. We could have made it so that going from one titan to another was seamless too, but going through the sea of clouds probably wouldn’t have been fun, so we chose to make cuts for those transitions. In the game, as you’ve been able to see in the Treehouse Live, it’s also possible to associate with Blades, beings that also are living weapons, and traverse those vast lands on their backs, even if they’re not mounts in the traditionnal sense.

What can you say about the combat system ?

The main interest of the combat system is the association between Blades and Drivers, like Rex for exemple, and all the different builds that stem from all the different combinations possible. As we already mentionned, you can count on a lot of Blades, and all have their own skill tree, their own traits and even their own personality which makes them unique. As a result, it’s possible to customize your character to adapt to various situations and various playstyles, which will be motivating for players.

Is any multiplayer planned ?

No, nothing planned there.

Will we see the return of the affinity system to unlock various skills and sidequests ?

There is of course the relationship between Blades and Drivers that is the main point of gameplay, as by nourishing them you will become stronger, unlock new skills, and so on. The game obviously has numerous sidequests, some dedicaced to developping characters, some dedicaced to developping the relationships between characters and their Blades, and some that will rely on NPCs that you will meet in town. Completing those particular missions will allow you to develop the town, to unlock new gear to buy, that kind of bonuses. Quest validation should be automatic in most cases, like in previous episodes : you don’t have to go back to the quest giver to get the rewards. However, everything will depend of what kind of quest it is and the context in which you received it.

What game made the strongest impression during your career ?

It might not be the best moment, but I think the creation of the first Xenosaga was an especially difficult moment because it was done at the same time as the creation of Monolith Software. We had to handle the developpement and create a structure to handle employees, a multifaceted challenge. Xenogears is another game that comes to mind, as everyone on the team was a beginner. We all gained experience and matured together. Today, I think I can say our team is made of seniors, and everything seems easier.

Xenosaga was planned to be 6 chapters long. Would you like to come back to the series to finish it one day if the opportunity presented itself ?

If someone financed it, certainly (laughs).

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