Xenoblade is an RPG that Monolith Soft is set to release for the Wii in about three weeks (in Japan). It’s from the guys who made Xenosaga, from the company formed (in part) by the guy who made Xenogears, Tetsuya Takahashi. I think he must’ve been listening in to every conversation or thought I’ve ever had about video games, because Xenoblade looks to have been created specifically for ME. It’s kind of scary actually. Let’s review:
1. Xenoblade is an RPG in the vein of Final Fantasy XII.
a. Big explorable world with next to no loading, save when you cross into an entirely new region
b. Seamless battle transition, enemies on screen (no random battles…MMO style), party characters act on pre-scripted but assignable commands while you control your main character
2. Written and directed by former Square mad genius Tetsuya Takahashi (Xenogears, Xenosaga), who has had every project he’s ever conceived cut down by time or budget restraints. This won’t be an issue this time around because if you remember, Monolith Soft was purchased by Nintendo in what seems to be an attempt to have a reputable and consistent 1st-ish party RPG developer deliver for them regularly. Let’s just say Xenoblade is a priority for Nintendo and will not lack funding or support. Takahashi and the music crew for the game even recently appeared on “Iwata Asks” to answer questions from Nintendo’s president about the project. Pretty cool but also a good sign of how important the game is to them.
3. YOU CAN JUMP! In Xenoblade, you can jump. Onto stuff, over stuff…even off of cliffs.
4. Music by Yoko Shimomura (Kingdom Hearts I, II, Street Fighter II) and Yasunori Mitsuda (Chrono Cross, Xenogears, Xenosaga I, Chrono Trigger). Umm, excuse me? Yeah…not a typo. See ya.
5. Kunihiko Tanaka rounds out the development team as character designer, which completes the inspired trifecta of guys that gave us Gears and Saga. Tanaka has a wealth of experience outside of video games (anime and manga) as well. As far as the entire team (and this goes for Monolith Soft as a whole…ESPECIALLY when published and supported by Nintendo), there is a very high level of experience, pedigree and artistic value surrounding the project.
6. You can change your character’s clothes and it’s reflected in-game and IN-CUT-SCENE. WHAT? Outfits you buy actual appear on the player characters when you equip them. I’m sorry, I don’t believe you because I’ve never seen that in an RPG before, ever. (Actually I have, once. Radiata Stories. What a sweet game.)
Now you may be thinking, “If Nintendo is so invested in this game then why haven’t I heard more about it?” I suppose the answer is that you would only know as much as you cared to know. Being the crazy RPG fan that I am I have followed Takahashi’s career since Xenogears. He was one of the first in the big SquareSoft fallout that eventually included Uematsu, Sakaguchi, Mitsuda and many of their respective (and respectED) team mates. He quickly helped form a new studio and revealed that a Xeno game was to be released as a re imagining of sorts of the Xenogears story. Xenosaga eventually ended up as three games filled with development issues, budget cuts and failed sales. I nearly fucking leapt for joy when I heard that Nintendo bought the controlling interest in Takahashi’s Monolith Soft. What this meant to me (back then) was a very, very high amount of anticipation for whatever this enabled Takahashi to do. Both Xenosaga and Xenogears are games that, abundant resources and artistic freedom provided, could’ve been some of the very best RPGs out there. A fully realized Tetsuya Takahashi game doesn’t really exist but having Nintendo on his side gives him a much better chance to be able to do whatever the hell he wants, which in turn gives us a better chance of having our shit blown away.
You see, Takahashi is a man whose vision has never fully been realized. ‘Gears and the Sagas are definitely successful ventures in their own rights but they were far from completing his personal dream. I’m not saying that Xenoblade will do that either, but it does more to establish the clout Takahashi deserves after all these years. Even the fact that they are willing to title this game with the “Xeno” prefix shows that there is a high level of respect for the guy. When I think Xeno I think Takahashi. Xenoblade itself isn’t even related to the other Xeno games so just throwing that prefix on there seems like a marketing decision but really it’s more of an indication of what you might be able to expect from a Takahashi game artistically and thematically.
One of the first pieces of information I saw about this game was a quote from Takahashi saying something along the lines that it wasn’t going to be as cut-scene or dialogue heavy like his previous works. Considering Xenosaga has the longest cut-scenes this side of Metal Gear Solid 4 I don’t think it’s really an issue. Takahashi saying there are less cut-scenes is like saying there’s one less bullet in a 6 shooter. There’s still fucking 5 in there man. He’s gonna kill you with it regardless. I’m not worried. Actually, neither is Yasunori Mitsuda. When he was first called in to do his work on the game he wanted a full script before he would compose anything (a request he then almost rescinded because of the size of the damn thing). Upon reading it through he was quoted as saying, “Ah, it’s a Takahashi game.” Enough for me.
The story itself revolves around two giant gods that waged a 1v1 war against each other, Kishin and Kyoshin. In the end they struck each other dead and at once were frozen in time where they stood. As time passed, beings born of the gods arose and lived upon them. So that’s where and when the game takes place. Your game world is more or less the civilizations built on the bodies of the ancient dead gods, which is pretty awesome. Of course one of them represents organic life (where your characters are from) and the other mechanical…good and evil I would assume, or some variation on that theme. I wouldn’t put it past Takahashi to twist that cliche into something much deeper and more complicated, though.
I’m excited about this and I think everyone should be. Xenoblade seems to be the first (and probably only) game that is attempting to follow Final Fantasy XII’s lead. RPGs need to evolve in the right direction and while Final Fantasy XIII (eww) tried its damnedest, only one JRPG has done it right and that’s XII. Xenoblade using XII as conceptual inspiration is the right move and I’m not surprised that Takahashi was the first to realize it. Time will tell how well Xenoblade follows this new formula for RPGs, but as it stands currently, I will calmly set aside 50$ and wait for opening day.