Nintendo gave both Monolith Soft and Mistwalker the same basic advice with regard to Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story: to develop a game with a “romanticist approach,” featuring a story and world that would appeal to a large number of people.
In the case of Xenoblade Chronicles, the first hurdle Monolith Soft had to overcome was learning to work on the game the way Nintendo usually work on their own titles: starting by developing a fleshed-out prototype instead of a fully-established story.
Mistwalker had a different problem. While their development process started out with a prototype approach in the first place, Nintendo initially didn’t approve of The Last Story’s scenario, which was the game’s first “reset” point, as revealed in a translated Iwata Asks interview. Character designer, Kimihiko Fujisaka, reveals that the original world he’d initially come up with for The Last Story was too bleak.
Director, Hironobu Sakaguchi, says that by simplifying the game’s world and giving it a fantasy setting, Mistwalker were able to give The Last Story’s characters more depth. “It’s actually easier to bring out realistic human dimensions in a fantasy setting,” Sakaguchi believes.
This was achieved through The Last Story’s hub town, Lazulis City, which is where the entire game is set. The idea was to create a location that players would be able to familiarize themselves with, and eventually be able to pick up on subtle differences and changes as they progressed through the game.
Sakaguchi gives the following example: “Early on one of the passers-by will barge into you with their shoulder and say: ‘Hey! What are you doing?’ But then when the hero has become a little more established, they’ll say: ‘Oh, I’m terribly sorry!’ That’s a really nice feeling.”
That wasn’t the only change the game underwent. The Last Story eventually went from being a game about the drama between a man and a woman to being a story about companionship. The game’s story didn’t change, but the underlying theme did.