Famitsu recently had the opportunity to conduct a Q&A with Monolith Soft President Takahashi Tetsuya, and discuss topics surrounding Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. In it, they talk about what was updated, new features and details surrounding Future Connected. We've taken the time to translate the interview and have provided it in full below. Enjoy!
Famitsu: When did development on Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition begin?
Takahashi Tetsuya: I remember we launched the project near the end of 2017, immediately following the release of Xenoblade Chronicles 2. At the time, development of Torna – The Golden Country was in progress, so production of both projects was simultaneous. A planning document was created while Xenoblade Chronicles 2 DLC was being produced, and was completed around May 2018. We officially started development in August 2018, after development of Torna – The Golden Country wrapped up. I think in that sense, it could be said that both projects had been progressing alongside each other, but staff was divided three ways – staff working on a new title, staff for Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, and staff working on both.
Famitsu: Does the title “Definitive Edition” mean it’s the final version?
Takahashi: The title was decided after consulting with Nintendo. Since the game has been upgraded in several ways, it was difficult to decide; it’s not like a “Deluxe Edition", giving the impression of additional content, but instead, we decided on “Definitive Edition,” which is the final version which respects the original.
Famitsu: When remaking the game, what was the first thing you took a look at?
Takahashi: Regarding the content of the game, in our eyes, there was already a sufficient level of content, so from the beginning, we decided to focus on ease of play, clarity, and appearance.
First, if we look at playability, for example, if you have lost a number of times during a particular boss battle, or if you have died a certain number of times, the “Cannot Beat the Boss” pop-up is displayed and the strategy will be given via tutorial. When you return to gameplay, you will receive relief through effects such as completely filling the Party Gauge.
Next, for clarity, it’s mostly focused on the user interface. We thoroughly reviewed elements ranging from the item display and transitions and took every opportunity to make it clear what is displayed and how to manoeuvre.
Finally, appearance. This is mostly focused on enhancing the character graphics, which was one of our regrets in the original game. Originally, one of the trade-offs we had to make because of hardware limitations was the crispness of character graphics. In Definitive Edition, while there are still restrictions such as production cost and time, we decided to break those past limits and upgrade.
In summary, this is a topic for Producer Yamada Nariwa and Director Inaba Michihiko, but generally, we wanted to clearly define what was good and what needed improvement. We meticulously planned all specifications for this project.
Famitsu: The original game was originally released for the Wii. It had SD quality graphics. In this remastered version, are graphics, assets and other elements newly created for HD?
Takahashi: Unsurprisingly, productions costs and development time are a limitation. There was no way to recreate everything from scratch. Therefore, we first what we would create anew and not. In particular, weapons and equipment, enemies and map models, among other assets, were limited to texture updates and there were texture upgrades for shaders, the faces and hands of player and key characters, and new equipment and the Monado. We recreated cutscenes and facial animations for scripted scenes.
Although a line was drawn, staff showed their commitment to the project, and assets such as enemies and map models that had not initially been planned to be upgraded received upgrades here and there. Although these updates aren’t built from scratch, it would be nice if you could tell the difference.
Famitsu: While updating graphics to HD, the user interface was also being modified. Could you tell us the idea behind the changes and where they took place?
Takahashi: Regarding the UI, in addition to being easy to understand, there was an additional concept “UI for a seamless experience.” To this end, users would not be inhibited by the large amount of content being thrown at them. “Naviroute” shows you the way to the locations of quests. “Chance Arts” tells you the arts that meet special attack conditions with icons, to let players boost their battle experiences. We added these elements with the goal of “remastering the content to convey the charm of the original game,” including filters and favourite functions that allow players to choose and sort their equipment.
Famitsu: This time, a number of songs were re-recorded. Please tell us the reason and the criteria used to select these songs.
Takahashi: As I said previously, there were various restrictions due to this being a remaster. The same applies to music, and it simply wasn’t possible to re-record all of them with an orchestra. Therefore, we prioritized the song list first, and then recorded the highest-ranked field and battle songs as live recordings using an orchestra. We had to take the budget into consideration as well, and upgraded the quality of other songs that couldn’t be recorded live through digital means. We have improved the sound quality by relaxing the data compression, in contrast to Xenoblade Chronicles 2. For event songs, if you change the tempo or scale of the song, a huge amount of work needs to be done to edit the original scene. The original version remains the same but “Engage the Enemy” is used as-is with virtually no new changes. As it is a very popular song, it became the main theme of the new production record.
Famitsu: Aside from the graphics, UI and music, is there anything else you changed from the port from the Wii?
Takahashi: I think it’s very important not to alter game content such as the story and battles, and as such, remains unchanged from the original. That said, there were new mechanics added. Autosave, casual mode, quest and landmark stacked EXP bonuses, advanced level settings that allows players to level down at any time, time attack, event theatre, fashion equipment, and more.
Famitsu: Please tell us about the concept behind the production and development of “Future Connected.”
Takahashi: I’m half-joking here, but there was a lingering feeling of pity towards Melia, but really, there were two reasons. First, it would appeal to existing fans and would continue the story towards the future of Xenoblade, and second, so we could finally show off the shoulder of Bionis, a map that didn’t fit into the main game, but was perfectly suited for this role.
Famitsu: Can you tell us about the sense of volume in “Future Connected?”
Takahashi: It took me about 10 to 12 hours to finish, so I think it will take players a bit longer to complete the first time. I’d say there’s about 20 hours worth of content in Future Connected, when you include side quests. When you develop DLC, you can increase the volume of the game even more, but with a remaster such as this, it’s just too expensive, and if we put too many resources into developing it, it would have had an impact on developing our new game. We tried to balance the development to be compatible with these limits in mind.
Famitsu: I think there may be players who have already finished the original game and would like to play Future Connected immediately, but what kind of character level is needed to complete the scenario?
Takahashi: Future Connected can be played from the very beginning, even without playing the main story at all. That said, since it is an epilogue of sorts, we recommend first-time players to play through the original game first.
Famitsu: Coincidentally, Definitive Edition will be released ten years after the original. After this past decade, what is the impression you have when you look at the original again?
Takahashi: Xenoblade is a game that doesn’t show its age, even when compared to work as recent as this year. How could such a game have been made ten years ago? I think it was a combination of the enthusiasm and determination of that time, when I felt we couldn’t be allowed to fail. I’m convinced that such a thought produced a work that doesn’t seem to age, even after these many years. I don’t want to leave an impression that we only succeeded because of past mistakes, but from the perspective of production, it was a great driving force. The sales have been stable, and the brand has been well-established. Of course, we’re in a position to build things on a solid foundation, which leads to pride and self-confidence, but at the risk of falling into false successes or arrogance. We believe that the power to change without fear comes from failure. Xenoblade reminds us of that drive, and we are happy to be able to meet here again, ten years later.
Famitsu: Is there anything you’d like to say to older Xenoblade fans as well as to players who will be playing the game for the very first time?
Takahashi: Xenoblade was the starting point of new growth for Monolith Soft. This work is the culmination of the staff’s determination and hope at the time and those same feelings of the staff today. It shows the future of Monolith Soft. We hope old fans will feel the effort of our staff while new players will get a sense of our future.
Are you excited to play Xenoblade Chronicles once more, or will this be your first adventure through the world of the Bionis and Mechonis? Let us know in the comments!