On January 23, 2013, Nintendo closed out a now-infamous Nintendo Direct presentation with the first reveal trailer for Monolith Soft’s upcoming RPG, tentatively titled X. Showcasing a massive and sprawling world with impressive draw distance, X particularly impressed users with its use of piloted, transforming mechs called \”Dolls.\” The reveal is commonly considered the high point of the event and the game remains among the most anticipated titles of the Wii U.
Seen by many as a potential successor to Monolith Soft’s last console RPG, X both maintains and builds its anticipation upon its predecessor’s shoulders. Xenoblade Chronicles was critically lauded and beloved by fans, despite its controversial North American release. Fans, as well as those simply impressed by the attention that was stirred up, have had their eye on X since it existed as a piece of concept art and a few reports of a new HD game engine from the developer.
X has a plethora of interesting talent among its development staff. In order to prepare for the game, we have decided to take a closer look at some of the key figures involved in the title, as well as several prominent figures who may or may not be directly involved in the title’s pedigree.
Tetsuya Takahashi is a co-founder of Monolith Soft and creator of the Xeno series, which include Xenogears, Xenosaga, Xenoblade Chronicles, and most assuredly, X. He began his career as an artist for Square Enix where he also met his future wife. Among his notable works, he was the graphics director of Final Fantasy VI — sometimes known as Final Fantasy III outside of Japan — and Chrono Trigger. He developed a close working relationship with Final Fantasy creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi, and even created one of the early concept works for Final Fantasy VII. It was declined, but was eventually realized as Xenogears, the title that went on to define his signature themes and serve as his directorial debut.
Xenogears was a highly controversial and divisive RPG that became a cult classic with many, including myself, counting it as one of the best RPGs ever made. It is most notable for its use of and perspective on biblical lore as stepping stones for a truly massive and comple story. Diving deep into psychological trauma and existentialism, Xenogears\’ critical views of religion and extensive length almost caused it to miss a North American release. As Squaresoft’s focus shifted to the franchise expansion of Final Fantasy, Takahashi realized that, if he ever wanted to expand upon what he began with Xenogears, he would have to go elsewhere.
Monolith Soft was founded in 1999 by Takahashi and fellow game designer, Hirohide Sugiura, and owned by Namco. In 2007, Nintendo purchased a majority stake in the company, transforming Monolith Soft into a first-party studio. They then quietly released a trailer for Monado: Beginning of the World at E3 2009 and it was soon announced that it was to be developed by Monolith Soft and Takahashi. The game was later renamed Xenoblade Chronicles. Word started to spread in 2011 about the latest and most ambitious title from Monolith Soft for Nintendo’s — at the time — upcoming Wii U console. The game was revealed to be X.
Takahashi is best recognized for his use of technology as an entryway to existentialism. His works are often critical of religion and call into question what it means to be a god and the mortality associated with such power. He frequently deals with duality of character directly, with protagonists often housing a greater and often corrupt sentient power within them. He uses mechanical suits and lifeforms as ancient technology within societies too primitive to have created such tech.
Hiroyuki Sawano is a young composer who has mostly worked in anime. At the time he was announced as the composer for X, he was an up-and-coming among Japanese composers. Shortly after, however, he took on two massive projects that propelled him to the top of his craft. In April of 2013, a new anime series debuted — Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin). Sawano’s work on Titan was breathtaking and, along with the phenomenal animation and meme-worthy plot, skyrocketed the series into cultural significance.
Soon after the first season of Titan ended, Sawano became attached to another high-profile anime, Kill La Kill, a comedic and pulpy, almost Tarantino-esque, approach to an action series. It succeeded largely because the show could switch between a dramatically epic presentation and hilariously over-the-top comedy. Sawano’s score drove the plot while the eccentric characters had us laughing. Sawano is still a young composer, but he has exploded onto the scene like few others before him and is now hotly in demand. X‘s music is in exceptionally good hands.
Yasunori Mitsuda has not yet been announced to have an involvement with X; however, we at Nintendo Enthusiast have good reason to suspect that he will have some presence. Mitsuda first met Takahashi at Squaresoft, where he was granted his first chance as a composer with Chrono Trigger. He quickly became a reckoned force among Japanese game composers, alongside Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy) and Koji Kondo (Mario, The Legend of Zelda).
Mitsuda has been involved in the Xeno series from the very beginning and went on to provide the music for the three Xenosaga games as well. He did not have involvement with Chronicles while it was still titled Monado, but was persuaded by Takahashi to provide a closing credits song to a nearly completed game. If X is indeed part of the Xeno series, Mitsuda will almost assuredly be involved.
His style is diverse and often utilizes samples and other electronic sounds in place of traditional orchestration. He is also fond of centering our attention on a single instrument; for example, one of the most iconic tracks from Xenogears was a nostalgic song from a music box. Mitsuda has become perhaps the most influential modern composer in gaming.
Kunihiko Tanaka’s possible involvement is perhaps most notable to fans of Takahashi’s earliest Xeno games. He provided the character designs for Xenogears and X marks his first time working with Takahashi since Xenosaga Episode I. That being said, he recently worked with several other creative forces on the Sega-published Nintendo DS RPG, Sands of Destruction (World Destruction in Japan).
Tanaka also dabbles in manga and anime; most notably, he provided character designs for Key the Metal Idol. With a slightly abstract design and sensibility, Tanaka’s style is usually warm and soft with bright pastels in high contrast and an overlay of sharp detail. He favors realistic proportions with a slightly serious edge to features.
Soraya Saga (Kaori Tanaka)
Soraya Saga — real name Kaori Tanaka — is probably not directly involved in the development of X. She is, however, a significant person of interest when discussing anything headed by Takahashi; she is married to him, after all. Takahashi and Saga met while working at Squaresoft where she worked as a field designer and writer for Final Fantasy VI. She also was a scenario writer on Xenogears and is credited as being involved in the story of Xenosaga, but to what extent is unknown.
She worked at Monolith Soft as a scenario writer for Nintendo DS\’ Soma Bringer, one of several highly regarded Nintendo-published games that never was released stateside. Saga has recently accepted the position as hype builder and morale booster for anything and everything Tetsuya Takahashi. While no official involvement with X has been announced, she is unquestionably an important figure to watch. Who knows? Kunihiko Tanaka returned as character designer, after all; it is not outside the realm of possibility that Saga is involved with X.
X from Monolith Soft is scheduled for release this year and it holds its place as a cornerstone of great exclusives for Nintendo’s Wii U console.