Last month, fans following the development of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 spotted something strange. Tetsuya Nomura, Square Enix artist and director of Kingdom Hearts III, was being listed in the game's credits.
It turned out that the creator of some of Final Fantasy's most iconic characters was designing Xenoblade Chronicles 2's Torna organisation, a mysterious group whose role in the larger game is still unclear.
— ゼノブレイド２ (@XenobladeJP) June 21, 2017
But why Nomura? As talented as he is, he's certainly not the only one who can draw spikey-haired, giant-sword-wielding JRPG dudes. Plus, doesn't he have his hands pretty full with Kingdom Hearts III, a game revealed several years ago whose release is still indeterminate?
Well it turns out that the director of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Tetsuya Takahashi, has been wanting to work with Nomura for over 20 years, so when the opportunity for a small collaboration finally presented itself, both men figured out a way to make it work.
"I've always wanted to work with him," he said in an interview with Time. "And this idea of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 came up, and I thought I'd love to work with him again. After our discussion with Nintendo went through and this project was a go, I went directly to Square Enix, thinking that I'd be denied, asking if I could work with Tetsu. To my surprise, it was approved, and that's how it happened."
Takahashi and Nomura were originally supposed to team up back when the former was creating Xenogears, the spiritual predecessor to both the Xenosaga and Xenoblade series. But Nomura ended up working on Final Fantasy VII, also in development at the time, instead (in the interview Takahashi makes it sound like Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of Final Fantasy, had made the final call on which game Nomura would be assigned to).
In the end, manga artist Kunihiko Tanaka created the characters for Xenogears and the Xenosaga follow-up, and no one can fault his work, especially in the first game (Citan remains one of my favourite video game characters of all time). That was two decades ago. It's great to see the two designers finally get the change to work together in some capacity, and even more remarkable that Square Enix signed off on Nomura's involvement since Takahashi left the company in 1999 to co-found Monolith Soft.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is due out for the Switch sometime in late 2017.