Even if you’re unfamiliar with Matsumoto by name, you certainly know him by his work. As the development lead of the critically-acclaimed Wii RPG, The Last Story (which is being published in North America by XSEED this July), Matsumoto was in charge of the game’s programming and level design, not to mention devising its unique combat system. Nintendojo was given the opportunity to sit down with Matsumoto, who was interpreted by XSEED’s Product Manager, Jimmy Soga, to ask him a few questions about the highly-anticipated RPG.
Nintendojo: Can you explain how you became involved in the development of The Last Story?
Takuya Matsumoto: I guess the very beginning of how this started was, I was drinking with Sakaguchi-san and we were talking about how we should make a new type of RPG together. That’s how I got involved.
I worked with Sakaguchi-san on Blue Dragon [for Xbox 360], and after that we were talking about wanting to do something that’s not a traditional RPG– or a traditional turn-based RPG– and I had the same mindset as what Sakaguchi-san was talking about, so we hit it off.
ND: What was the inspiration for The Last Story? Was it a gameplay concept, or was it a story idea?
Takuya: The story was all Sakaguchi-san. He created it, he wrote it, he wrote the plot and everything, but for gameplay I discussed it in detail with Sakaguchi-san to see what would work best, and that’s how the game started to really come together.
ND: So the gameplay was decided on first?
Takuya: Actually, when we first created the story it got turned down by Nintendo, but the gameplay existed, so for this game the gameplay was the first thing that was created because the story came after that again.
ND: What was the reason Nintendo turned it down?
Takuya: I’m not really sure exactly. I’m thinking there wasn’t enough romance in it. The first one was a little more– not detailed, but a little more mature-ish, so they wanted to make it more simple like just a fantasy story.
ND: That leads into my next question. The Last Story seems to be more like a personal RPG, focusing more on the characters’ intimate stories than a larger world. Was Nintendo’s initial rejection what led the team to develop it this way?
Takuya: It’s exactly what you said. We wanted to create something that’s not a typical story-based RPG but concentrating more on personal aspects of the game, and my task and my challenge was to create that in an RPG battle system.
ND: You already said there was one draft of the script that couldn’t be used. Was there anything else that couldn’t be included, gameplay or story-wise?
Takuya: I guess this is kind of related to the first draft of the story, but there was a lot more shooting elements in the game. You used the bow and arrow to shoot stuff, and there was a lot more, like, you command your allies from a distance to see what’s going on on the battlefield, so that changed because of the story. And another one is there’s a special feature called the Rewind feature, which Sakaguchi-san has explained in other Q&A’s, but basically there is little magic cast and you get to rewind the battles, but we weren’t able to use that either.
ND: Can I ask what the first draft of the story was like?
Takuya: It was more science fiction. It took place in the North Pole in the future.
ND: Wow, that’s a far cry from the final game. (laughs)
Takuya: So yeah, it was very different. (laughs)
ND: Would it be okay if I include that in the interview?
Takuya: Yeah, just say Matsumoto-san said it was okay. (laughs)
ND: So The Last Story is primarily set in Lazulis Island and Lazulis City. Were you guys worried that they would not be interesting enough settings for players who were used to exploring bigger worlds?
Takuya: This goes back to the characters’ battle system and battle scenarios, to focus more on the character. In that sense, the best floor layout would be to not expand too much and just concentrate on one part to make it more dense. Within the game, the characters will be talking to each other a lot, and even in the game someone will say something like, “We’ve been to this dungeon before,” but the thing is, because there were a limited amount of places to visit, we were able to make it so that, even if you’ve been there before, the next time you go there there will be, like, enemies popping out in a place you didn’t expect them to come out, so it’s more like a surprise this way.
ND: Where did the idea for the banana peels come from?
Takuya: (laughs) For this game we actually used motion-capture sensoring, and one of them was slipping on a banana peel, and I guess they really liked that and decided to implement it into the game. It’s the usual pattern that Sakaguchi-san thought it was really funny and thought, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we implemented this into the game?” and that became a serious conversation.
Sakaguchi-san is really a person that likes deep, serious stories, but he wants to tell it not too seriously, with a more comical humor aspect to it, and I think that was one of the good examples to put it in there as kind of like comic relief. Also in the conversations you’ll see a lot of humorous conversation pieces here and there.
ND: What is your favorite aspect of the game?
Takuya: When you start up the game, before the Nintendo logo or anything, it says “The Last Story,” and the first line you hear is, “I wasn’t into this to catch up,” or something– I forget the actual line– but it’s not a serious thing; it’s a total mockery, but it’s the first line of this epic game, which is like the comical aspects that Sakaguchi likes.
ND: Are there any last things you’d like to say to people who are looking forward to this game?
Takuya: For this game, it’s a new type of this style game with a cover system for a Japanese audience, but it’s something that the US audience has been used to for years, so I really want to know what the US audience– or the western audience– will think about this Japanese fantasy game with those elements in there. I’m really looking forward to what you guys have to say about it.
ND: Thank you again for your time.
Takuya: Thank you.