A Look Into The World Design Of Xenoblade Chronicles

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Back when Monolith Soft were working on Disaster: Day of Crisis, Nintendo intended to release it as a launch game for the Wii. Unfortunately, since Monolith Soft were much more used to developing role-playing games, production of Disaster — which was being created to be a cinematic action game — took much longer than expected.


While the rest Monolith worked in earnest on Disaster, Monolith Soft president, Tetsuya Takahashi, began throwing together plans for Xenoblade Chronicles. He wanted to create a world where people lived on the bodies of a pair of giant gods, and so, he had Baten Kaitos director, Yasuyuki Honne, design models of the two gods, Bionis and Mechonis, as revealed in a new Iwata Asks interview with Nintendo’s president.


The models were created in July of 2006, and while creating them, Honne had other Monolith Soft staff members pose for him so he could experiment with poses to see what kinds of play-fields each pose could offer. Here are a few examples with brief quotes on each from  Takahashi:


Bionis’ leg:

“If the god’s leg was stuck out, the upper leg could be used as a plain”


Makna Forest:

“The section of the back which the sun shines on could be a jungle”


Valak Mountain:

“The section shaded from the sun could be an arctic area”


Xenoblade Chronicles’ story begins on the calf of Bionis, and gradually climbs higher up his body. Bionis and Mechonis are connected by bridges formed by their swords, which you have to cross to get over to the Mechonis side of the world. Here’s a look at these areas:


Colony 9 (on Bionis’ calf):


Sword Valley:


The Mechonis side:


Since Xenoblade Chronicles is a story-intensive game, Nintendo and Monolith Soft’s differences in working practises caused difficulties during development early on. Nintendo have a habit of starting out by getting game system fundamentals functioning by creating prototypes, whereas Monolith Soft usually begin their projects by working on the worldview.


Due to this difference, Nintendo had a hard time judging just what Xenoblade Chronicles’ goals were, and asked for a vertical slice prototype of the game to be created, even if it was only a single chapter. The completion of this one area gave the two teams an idea of approximately how long it would take to produce a single section of the game.

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Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.