Q&A: Hironobu Sakaguchi and The Last Story

We take part in a Q&A session with gaming legend, Hironobu Sakaguchi.

By Katharine Byrne. Posted 02/20/2012 13:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

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On Thursday I took a trip down to BAFTA HQ in London for a Game Developer Q&A with the creator of Final Fantasy and The Last Story, Hironobu Sakaguchi. Chairing the event was Keza MacDonald, Games Editor at IGN UK, and a Nintendo of Europe representative was also helping out with the gameplay. We were treated to a short demonstration of the game and then the floor opened up to questions from the audience.


Hironobu Sakaguchi: Hi, I’m Hironobu Sakaguchi, nice to meet you.

In Japan The Last Story was released on the 27th January last year. It’s taken time to localise the game, but finally we’ve been able to come to its release on the 24th February. I will be in Paris for the release, and I hope everyone enjoys the game.

Nintendo of Europe: We’re going to see an introduction to the main city of the game, Lazulis City. We find ourselves just at the beginning of the game just before entering the city for the first time.

Keza MacDonald (IGN UK Games Editor): How would you describe The Last Story’s world?

HS: The game is staged as a fortress that protects the empire of Lazulis Island. It’s a story about mercenaries who dream about becoming knights.

NOE: This introduction shows the areas of the castle and a bit of the main characters that take part in this story.

KM: So we’ve heard it’s a game about a group of mercenaries. You’ve always been famous for the characterisation you’ve given, Mr. Sakaguchi – how would you describe the characters in The Last Story? What are they like?

HS: As we have said before, six mercenaries are the main characters of the game. For example, these guys are walking through a cave and start talking to one another so you get to hear some humours conversations between them. Ultimately I believe the game has a group of characters with varying personalities and qualities.

KM: Can you tell us a little bit about the city and what makes it different from other cities?

HS: By making the main city only one, I created the game with greater detail and density. I was also very conscious about including more minute details such as the protagonist bumping his head against a signpost and him reacting to that.

NOE: Often, the game will ask the player to find the people that are talking to them, so you are pushed into first person view and you have to look around to find, in this case Dagran, another of the protagonists in the mercenary band.

KM: You’ve always gone outside the normal JRPG conventions with your stories, and outside the spiky-haired boy saving the world kind of thing – how have you done that in The Last Story?

HS: Because I wanted to create a completely new battle system for this game, we had a year-long experimental phase where we tried out perhaps twice as many systems that were, in the end, adopted. My ultimate goal was to create a game that will be hailed as a new style of RPG, and I hope people will feel the same way.

NOE: Now we move over to a section showing the fighting system of the game. This is earlier than what we just saw, but it shows the basics of the fighting system.

KM: Why is it important to you to have a real-time battle system as opposed to a turn-based one?

HS: For this game, I had the idea of “gathering” – this is a move that attracts the attention of the enemies to the protagonist to make your party mages free. By doing this the player can bring order to a chaotic battle field, or perhaps conversely break up an ordered enemy group. So because this concept was at the core of this game, for me a real-time battle system was most important.

NOE: Each time you are about to face a battle, you get a strategic view of the battlefield. As soon as you start the battle, you have a top-down view of the battlefield in this game, and we’ll need to use gathering to help my party from these archers who are shooting from far away. When I start the fight, I must activate gathering so all the enemies are targeting me and my party can cast spells to destroy the bridge the enemy’s standing on. You can also give orders to your party members in first person view. In many cases in the game, brute force is just not enough – you need to use strategy.

Now we are approaching the very first boss battle of the game.

KM: We’re going to showcase one of your favourite features in the game, Mr. Sakaguchi – can you explain what it is?

KM: So that’s the end of the first boss battle.

HS: Yes. It’s lucky you didn’t die!

KM: So you’ve worked on loads of games, Mr. Sakaguchi – how is The Last Story different from everything else you’ve made?

HS: Gaming is a form of entertainment, so it’s more fun for players to have fresh elements that surprise them, so I believe that this new battle system will be enjoyable for all of you. Apart from that I’ve created a very detailed city and incorporated an online function, so I feel that new players will be able to enjoy a game full of new ideas.

KM: We did want to show a bit of the online – it’s got six-player co-op on the boss battles, which is pretty cool.

NOE: There is both the classic death-match mode, and a team death-match up, to six players, as Keza said. And there is also a co-op mode where with up to five other human allies you can take on the bosses you fight in the single player game. So instead of you alone controlling just your character, you have to really co-ordinate with other human players in order to defeat the bosses that you also face in single-player battles. You can also fight the bosses with reduced parties, so parties with two, three or four players, to make it even more challenging.

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