Xenoblade Chronicles has a real-time battle system built like Final Fantasy XII’s Active Dimension Battle system or an MMORPG. Monsters roam the field for players to lure (or avoid if you’re wandering around at night) and managing aggro is key to staying alive. Unique to Xenoblade Chronicles is how visions of the future are integrated into combat.
Shulk, the main character who wields Monado, will see attacks before they happen, which gives players a chance to alter the future by avoiding them. This was the concept around which the rest of the game’s battle system was developed, according to Tetsuya Takahashi, Executive Director of Xenoblade.
"I can’t really explain very well how I came up with that idea,” Takahashi shared with Siliconera. “I thought that it would be more interesting to incorporate the ability to see the future into the game using a real-time battle system. I did experiment with a turn-based system that included the ability to see the future, but it didn’t go very well."
Released in Japan in July 2010, Xenoblade Chronicles’ development predates the Wii launch. The game was in the works for well over four years. "I think that the story has changed so much, even in its small details, that I can’t remember all the different ways that it has changed. However, the overall plot structure remained the same all the way through," Takahashi recounted.
Something we loved about Xenoblade Chronicles is how it always has something grand to show you in its massive world, a feature Takahashi says was necessary. "The reason I created a huge environment to explore was because I believed that type of design was necessary to express the world of this game," said Takahashi.
"Of course, for the development of a game of this scale, the skills of many different staff members are required. The biggest challenge for me was directing the passionate forces of this large group of people toward a single goal." Takahashi also stressed the importance of debugging and devoted as much time as he could to polishing the final product.
While reviewers have been increasingly critical of JRPGs, Xenoblade Chronicles rose to critical acclaim. I asked Takahashi how he plans to approach the genre in the future. "I don’t think that we can single-handedly do anything for the grouping of games known as JRPGs," Takahashi answered. "On the other hand, I think the only path that we ourselves can take is to keep making games that people, regardless of which country they’re from, will find interesting regardless of genre. The support that we get from players of this game should help us in our efforts to develop games for new hardware."