Tetsuya Takahashi reflects on the art of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 - Nintendo Everything

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Tetsuya Takahashi reflects on the art of Xenoblade Chronicles 2

Posted on December 10, 2017 by (@NE_Brian) in News, Switch

Included in the limited editions for Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a sizable art book. Open it up and one of the first things you’ll see is a lengthy message from Tetsuya Takahashi, the game’s director.

The message is rather interesting. At one point for example, Takahashi reveals that for the first Xenoblade Chronicles, the art for character designs “simply didn’t exist”. The team only had “costume designs for the clothing the characters wore.” For Xenoblade Chronicles 2, this was addressed and dedicated artists were brought on board.

We’ve posted Takahashi’s message in full below.

Two hundred and twenty… That sounded like a daunting number of pages to fill when I first heard it. But when I saw just how much artwork had been created in total, I came to realize that maybe, probably – no, without a doubt – there was no way we’d be able to include it all.

So I should begin by thanking all the artists for accomplishing this feat. The games we build require lots of design and concept sketching, but this time, those efforts reached new heights. This in itself isn’t hard to believe, given that these days, it’s rarely possible to complete a game simply with the staff you have on hand. The contributions we receive from our many external partners elevate the quality of our creations to something we’re proud to show the world.

In development environments such as this, the power of art can’t be overstated. A single piece of art can convey the look, feel, and nature of the object that designers then set out to craft in-game. Trying to communicate the same qualities with words alone… Let’s say it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get the same point across.

While it’s true that concept art exists primarily as a basis upon which to design in-game models and assets, it fulfills other important roles as well. This time around, the artwork breathed life into the characters we were designing from an early stage, right down to their facial expressions. As a result, the in-game versions of those characters are all the more refined, and their emotional range comes through in the final product.

For the original Xenoblade Chronicles game, this character design artwork simply didn’t exist; all we had were costume designs for the clothing the characters wore. This meant we were forced to create the CG character models to fit those costume designs. And what’s more, the only artwork released of those characters were retouched versions of their CG models – there was no concept art to speak of, not like this at any rate. This exposes one of our shortcomings at Monolith, but for this project, Saito-san (Masatsugu Saito – Main Character Design) and Tek-kun (Tetsuya Nomura – Torna Character Design) covered for and supported us on the character design front, and I’m truly thankful to them for their efforts.

On the other hand, at Monolith we pride ourselves on our design of backgrounds and technological gadgets. When I’m setting out to make a game, nothing stokes my creative fires more than all the detailed, high-quality assets our artists turn out, and I’m incredibly grateful to them. As I wrote this on an evening in August, just before our game masters up, I’m still not quite sure how many pieces of art will be included in this book you’re holding. But if the selections included here help to convey the craft and care we pour into our creations, I’ll feel we’ve done our job well.

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  • Vertragsarbeiter

    I hope Xenoblade Chronicles 3 will have a semi-realistic art style like the first one. I prefer it over the anime art style.

  • Vertragsarbeiter

    I hope Xenoblade Chronicles 3 will have a semi-realistic art style like the first one. I prefer it over Xenoblade 2’s anime art style.

    • Kenshin0011

      I think the two series Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles X will continue in parallel.

      XCX 2 would have the more realistic art style with mechs, and Xenoblade Chronicles 3 will be fantasy, more cartoon/anime.

      • TDude73

        I agree with you and do hope one day Takahashi work on an X sequel. And keep character designer Tanaka as well the Gundam Wing designer for creating new Skells/dolls.

    • Justin McQuillen

      No way, the new style is so much better.


        I 100% agree. I hope they stick with this artstyle and its something that sells as well. Best selling Xenoblade game to date actually, sold like 97k in Japan in just 5 days.

      • Vertragsarbeiter

        Better than X? Sure. But better than Xenoblade 1? No. Melia’s, Fiora’s and Sharla’s design > every female in design in Xenoblade 2 (except for Morag).

    • Tlink7

      I agree, XCX and XC2’s artstyle is so immature. Generic animoo visuals with all its many horrible clichés

      • Constantinos Lapiotis

        XC2’s artstyle is not immature. (!!!) On the contrary, it is way too mature.

  • ThunderGod_Cid

    Well, I for one appreciate all the well-endowed female characters in this game.

    For everyone I run into, I can just imagine some SJW hate-posting to their tumblr account. Brings a smile to my face every time.

    • Bart
    • Justin McQuillen

      I power my Switch using SJW tears and a salvaged ether furnace

    • Tlink7

      God forbid we have decent character designs, right? The amount of lazy anime fan [email protected] material in this game is ridiculous… now excuse me whilst I go make an angry post about it in my tumblr echo chamber

      • It cracks me up because they think people are so steamed over the game, but people are honestly just making fun of the designs and stuff? And when they’re offended, it’s more that the models are bad or that it’s a travesty to basic and good design, lol.

        I think people get more riled up over supposed SJWs, than the imaginary SJWs are torn up over the game. Some of the responses and defensiveness I’ve seen over criticism of Dahlia speaks for itself though, lol.

        • Tlink7

          I don’t know how anybody could defend Dahlia lol

          And yeah, it is always amusing when people who love such designs immediately get super defensive and start laughing and pointing at made-up SJW who want to ruin their perfect game and usher in the hour of Satan’s return

          • The defenses are hilarious. They had people cracking up even more.

            Right? Like, the irony and hypocrisy are already so golden, but it’s also funny how people just aren’t hurt by it the way they want, so I guess they must be projecting?

    • Roto Prime

      I’m just happy censorship era has died for now!!!

  • FrostedFireFly

    My only problem with the art in this game simply comes from consistency. While I may be the only one who finds this a problem, I get awfully taken out from the experience when one character who looks like they belong in Kingdom Hearts is interacting with another who looks as if they’re about to start the scene of an erotic doujin.

    Whether all characters are drawn to look like hentai protagonists or all of them look like Disney friends, I honestly don’t care as long as the designs are cohesive. It loses visual identity and makes things very distracting when your brain can’t help but pick out the differences.

  • Kenshin0011

    This passage is what’s written in the beginning of the special edition art book 🙂

  • Stick with the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 style.

  • Force

    Do whatever you think suits the aesthetic of your game, Takahashi.

    • R.Z.

      Given the result and how clashing the artstyles of everything are, I’d rather advise him to get a competent art director to do something that holds up as a whole.

  • Paddy Alfan

    DLC costume when?


    Stick with the Xenoblade 2 artstyle please!

  • NeptuniasBeard

    Hopefully they get their boob game in check next time. If your characters arms are clipping through their OWN breasts, then they are too big my friend.

    • Justin McQuillen


    • Tlink7

      These sweaty nerds will never give in
      Might as well hope for Americans to give up their guns lol

    • Paddy Alfan
    • I mean, that’s the biggest issue most people have had with the fanservice besides how bad/awkward some of it is. Dahlia has a broken model (yikes that spine), and then you have clipping issues. Like, fanservice is not an excuse to go cheap. Ya’ll better deliver if you tryin to play that game.

      • NeptuniasBeard

        I don’t mind the fan service or big boobs in general personally, but it really bugs me that they give those designs to characters that it doesn’t fit with. Newt(the rare blade with the huge arms) is far more exposed than Pyra, but everything else about her makes it work, or at least not jarring. Pyra is supposed to be this strong yet kind girl, but she’s dangerously close to looking like a… you know. And it’s a shame, because I really think she’s a good character despite that… I think something along the lines of Brighid’s design would be fine.

        Funny you mention Dahlia, because I just pulled her earlier today. And I thought I was gonna bench her right away, but they went and gave her a country girl personality. I mean, I’m by no means excusing the design, she’s still essentially half polar bear, half G-Cup, but that accent is too darn endearing lol.

        Curse you NoE! >_<

        Which Rare Blades have you or the hubby gotten? Out of curiosity?

        • Yeah, I’m mixed. I do like sexy stuff, but it depends on the character and context. Newt/Neutz is so fascinating to me. I saw her design and was ready for my eyes to roll to the back of my head, but her intro vid is so good, lol. And yeah, like, it somehow just works for her.

          I do feel bad for Pyra. It’s not even just that her outfit doesn’t make sense for her personality/character; it looks uncomfortable. The thong that has her skin plumped out over it? That mess is uncomfortable as all get out. Everything about her outfit looks uncomfortable, really.

          Lol, the accent is confusing and endearing people. I think Dahlia was done so wrong, lol. The artwork itself had me like. . . “eughh,” but it wasn’t as bad as what the 3D did. But yeah, her personality and all isn’t bad. It’s just. . . I don’t know what they were thinking. (And how do they have Mamoru Miyano, and not take that opportunity to give us a hyper sexy dude!?)

          We have Boreas and Gorg. I’m so torn. I want to sit down and play just for the seiyuu I love voicing the Blades, but I also have seiyuu that are random and I don’t want to play will I/won’t I, because I have actual mobage and gacha for that, lol.

          • NeptuniasBeard

            Yeah, what is up with that thong lol. I figured it might be uncomfortable, but I wasn’t quite sure.

            I just noticed what you meant when you said Dahlia’s 3D model was messed up. Good God that poor girl’s spine ;_;

          • Right? Like, that stuff is cute (if not distracting) in pin-up art, but for a character design? Nahhh, lol.

            I know! My jaw dropped when I first saw it.

  • GoldenTriforce

    I like the overall artstyle, but next time (if they do blades which they likely won’t, it feels like each game has its own mechanic and I’d rather they experiment with something different) if you do blades, just get a single freaking artists to do them. I love (and hate) some of the blade designs, but the inconsistency feels odd. I’d would have rather had Saito-san make all of the art over having guest artists. Most of the main character art is good though. I don’t necessarily care about the issues of Pyra and other character’s designs to the point where it ruins the game, but I would also prefer if the designs were a bit more… realistic or tasteful. People are distracted by the designs and are not looking at the characters themselves. And in game the design can be genuinely distracting. Also in battle you wouldn’t have your butt showing. Thats just illogical. I obviously want unique designs, of course, but not to the degree that they don’t make sense or are distracting.

    Monolithsoft seems to be very good at listening to feedback, though, so, with all the “feedback” for this game so far, I doubt that will be a problem next time.

    • GoldenTriforce

      Though we do already have key art for their next project, and it seems to be more inline with OG Xenoblade so far, which I guess fixes the problem. As long as its story based (*eh em X eh em*) I’ll be happy.

  • Tlink7

    Because the vast majority of anime characters visually are their hair/clothing. If you removed those two, most characters would be unrecognisable

    • Morian

      Like asians *runs away*

      • Wow, that’s a horrible comment to make, even as a joke. Asians are demeaned seriously all the time by those kind of comments.

    • I mean. If you pick a generic, af hentai artist. . . that’s what you get. It’s why I don’t like Tony Taka, either. The art is so bland and meh. And I don’t find anything special in their designs.

      With Saito and XC2, Pyra’s other half looks like a lead design for something else he made. There has to be a limit, lol.

      I love my ero artists too, but get someone that a) can do actual proportions and anatomy (the dudes are so ugly except Nomura’s, lawl), and b) can be more creative. I have plenty of artists, mainstream and indie/doujin-level, that I would have picked instead.

      • Tlink7

        What disturbs me is how many people seem to cheer on this design policy or are just apathetic about it… it really makes me fear for the future of the Xenoblade franchise (and other similar series). I mean, I accept anime comes with some fanservice, but this amount is crazy. The characters are no longer a person with big boobs, they’re just vehicles to shove enormous mammaries and barely-covered vagina’s in your face <.<

        The dudes being ugly so so hilariously stereotypical as well… they're of course ugly, because the focus is on the ''women''. I would welcome creativity and equality in the next game. If we're gonna have walking boobs, I want walking six-packs 😛

        • I am so confused about the design policy, because nothing in it seemed to dictate for so many female Blades or fanservice by default? But people are like. . . praising it anyway? (And it really shows the flaw in the “creative/artistic freedom” argument because obviously, the artist wasn’t given complete freedom!)

          I am very worried for Xenoblade too. I have plenty of anime styles I love that don’t have fanservice, or artists that know how to do fanservice well. Obviously, they didn’t want that here. But what does it say that not only the art is like this, but the writing quality dwindled so much. I feel so disappointed by the designs. It would be fine if this was a Compile Heart game or a series that championed itself on selling fanservice. But that isn’t what the series sold itself on, so it feels so awkward. (And yeah, how they’re delivering it is terribad.)

          I just. . . I can’t believe they were okay with how the guys came out, lawl. Vandham is one thing, but Zeke’s artwork is so. . . I feel bad for how unloved he clearly was, lol. And it just makes no sense, because we have Nomura’s art and how those 3D models came out, which are perfectly fine. Like, what?? Thank you~! Equal opportunity fanservice, or none at all!

          • I haven’t been hearing anything about the writing being bad.

          • It’s not bad-bad. But it has sunk a little. They went out of their way for X, so it’s a different standard and comparing 1 and 2 is way more fair.

            In general, 1 had plenty of tropes and shonen moments, but the writing overall was pretty natural and had a good sense of consistent tone and pacing. 2 lacks consistency and is kind of all over the place in tone and what it tries to do. It’s just super basic in theme and plot, and is more straightforward trope heavy. Which isn’t bad, but just way weaker.

            But of course, Takakashi himself did most of the outlining and writing, and they cleaned it up for him. He’s not really a writer, so I wasn’t expecting much when I found that out.

          • Calvacade

            Wow it’s like you don’t have the game and don’t know what you’re talking about.

        • Santa won’t come this year…

          As someone who likes fanservice…there is nothing sexy or titillating in any of the previews, trailers, or screenshots I’ve seen for this game. A lot of the blades are scantily clad and Pyra’s outfit is a bit revealing, but I’m hardly even seeing it as fanservice. Everything they showed off was just boring, and you can’t even change the costumes.

          So what we have here is too much for you and too little for me, and now we’re both disappointed. I’m not sure what they were trying to hit. I mean geez. They went out of their way to expose extra skin on Rex’s arms and thighs on what’s supposed to be like a diving suit(which usually covers everything, because it has to keep water out) and that’s apparently not doing anything for anyone who wanted to see guys either so what is the point.

          • Tlink7

            Yeah Rex is like a generic kid so I’m not surprised people weren’t thrilled to see some of his skin 😛
            I think the problem is the devs wanted to go full-on fanservice but Nintedo wouldn’t let them get quite that far, so now we’re sorta stuck in between no fanservice and fanservice

      • TDude73

        Fake comment again.

        • Every comment is as fake or real as the other.

          If you mean fake because you don’t want to see criticism of the game though, well, I don’t know what to say. Every game has flaws. Some of us just have more complaints this time around.

          I still can’t get over the fact that people will trash X completely though. I hope you call those comments fake too when they come back around. (Because they always do.)

  • dataminor

    They should really reflect on that map and compass system.

  • mma

    God forbid that a couple of characters got big boobies.
    Me and my christian mom disaprove it

  • Toni

    Don’t care about anime girls and the design can stay, but those generic AF no nose, giant eyes, small mouth, baby face anime character designs need to go, it doesn’t need to be like this in order to convey emotion, what kind of logic even is that…

    • Tlink7

      Sex sells

      • Toni

        Yeah, but sadly it’s a horrible way to get their point across, like: hey look, our game is great… because it has half-naked anime girls!
        Also takahashi said that he wants to compete with western open world RPGs… but it’s not gonna work like this…

        • Tlink7

          I know it is awful, but it is the naked truth.
          And yeah, the game will never take off anywhere with these visuals, but most of those dev interviews are just a bunch of waffling as to advertise the dev’s games

    • TDude73

      Fake comment.

  • Amethyst Gaze

    I’d say the choice was underrated given how loud some of the critics were. It’s funny that people thought Nomura should’ve done all the character art when his in-game characters teetered on looking like some randoms straight out of New LA. I’m not entirely sure Saito shouldn’t have done Torna, as well, but they really went wild with the guest artists for this one.

  • Locky Mavo

    I’m just sad I don’t have my copy of XC2 yet.

  • R.Z.

    I’m fine with guest artists for crossover games, spin offs and such, but it completely ruins a game that wants to be taken seriously.
    XC2 is just a mess, it’s like there was no art director to supervise everything.
    There are anime characters drawn in several different styles clashing with each other, running through realistic fantasy environments that suffer from being hardly readable due to poor image treatment and an overabundance of unecessarily detailed elements.

    I am quite baffled by how a studio that reportedly helped Nintendo with visual aspects of some of their games (Skyward Sword I am pretty sure and I assume the other times they were cited was for the same kind of stuff) could end up making this.

    I hope they hire one good character designer next time, make him work so that his designs blend well with the environments, which are definitely Monolith Soft strong point, and leave it to that.
    If they want to do another Guest-art Patchwork bonanza, I hope they just do another spinoff series.

  • Re4gNarsil

    I have no idea why people complain about Xenoblade X’s art style. It was quite fine, minus the lack of expression in some cutscenes. If they could just improve that I’d have no complaints.

    • Robert Hastings

      Granted the XC1 and X had same lack of expression in cut scenes. I’d argue they had more.

  • MagcargoMan

    I was hoping that he’d be reflecting on how much of a mistake it was.

Related Game Info

Platform: SWITCH
Genre: RPG
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Monolith Soft
Release date: December 1, 2017
OWN IT: 8 [I own this game]
BEAT IT: 1 [I beat this game]
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