Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is just around the corner, and has caused a significant stir in the community being the first exclusive title to come to the New Nintendo 3DS. Elusive in its original Wii format, this release will give many the chance to play what was arguably the biggest game on the Wii - but amazingly packed onto a portable system.
This port was clearly no easy task, so we managed to chat to the General Coordinator of the project Hiro Yamada of Nintendo Co., Ltd. to learn a bit more about the process.
At what point did this port project begin?
Development started around Autumn/Winter 2013.
How familiar was the re-release team, in general, with the original - were there many fans of the Wii title within Monster Games?
The team responsible for porting the game on Nintendo's side had huge fans and people who knew the game well, but there weren't any on MGI's side. However, once they played the Wii version, they all become fans too.
What key challenges do you face when re-releasing a Wii game on New Nintendo 3DS?
The basic specs of the Wii are higher than those of the New Nintendo 3DS, so a simple port turned out to be a huge challenge. On top of this, implementing the 3D effect, which requires double the image processing, made it even harder. However, we used a lot of tricks technically, as well as in our working methods. We achieved the 3D effect while retaining an almost equal graphical quality, except for the resolution. Along with the stable 3D effect of the New Nintendo 3DS, we hope the players will be satisfied with the outcome.
From your perspective, what are the key reasons for this being a New Nintendo 3DS exclusive - is it down to the stronger CPU, mandatory C-Stick support or a mix of factors?
Without the higher performance of the CPU on New Nintendo 3DS compared to Nintendo 3DS, we simply wouldn't have been able to port the game. The New Nintendo 3DS also comes with the C-Stick and ZL & ZR buttons, which was really helpful as we could just use the Wii Classic Controller control scheme without any changes. As stated above, simply porting the game itself was difficult. We couldn't use touch controls either, so if the C-Stick and these buttons weren't available, I'm not sure we'd even have been able to port it at all.
Can you talk us through the design decisions such as those for the user interface, specifically in relation to the use of the touch screen to de-clutter the top screen?
In the Wii version, there was a lot of information shown on a single screen (the TV screen). We found though that showing all this information on a smaller handheld screen (the 3D screen) makes it much less clear. Instead, we put a lot of this on the Touch screen (although we have not used touch controls here), making the 3D screen much clearer. However, we still wanted to maintain the same feel as with the Wii version so we put a lot of work into the layout, deciding what to put where.
This title is well-known for its sizeable world and impressive landscape draw distance, was delivering this on the New Nintendo 3DS relatively seamless or a major challenge, and do you feel that stereoscopic 3D enhances the effect of this world?
In porting the game to the New Nintendo 3DS we had to use a lot of technical tricks to get the immense landscapes to show both seamlessly and without performance drops. Dealing with the 3D effect was an incredibly difficult challenge, but something we deemed necessary to provide players with a sense of immersion in these huge landscapes. We really gave it our all to achieve this.
Do you anticipate that gallery unlocks and Shulk amiibo support will be popular with dedicated fans of the original, and were there ever plans to try and integrate the amiibo figure directly into gameplay, like with Super Smash Bros. where players tap the amiibo to the system and the character appears in the game?
The Collection Mode was a feature proposed by some of the staff from the porting team on Nintendo's side who were huge fans of the game, so I believe that other fans will also like it. As I have mentioned, simply porting the game itself was hugely difficult, so we never intended to make any changes to the main game itself.
Finally, what would you say are the key benefits to playing Xenoblade Chronicles on the go, and how does this affect the experience compared to the home console experience on Wii?
As this game takes about 100 hours to complete, there are going to be a lot of people who are too busy in their daily lives to sit down at a console for hours and wouldn't have been able to play Xenoblade Chronicles. Since with the New Nintendo 3DS you can play wherever you may be, I believe that our port will make this game much more accessible to these kinds of people.
A huge thank you to Hiro Yamada for speaking to us. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is landing on the New Nintendo 3DS on 2nd April in Europe and 10th April in North America.