Mistwalker Interview: Hironobu Sakaguchi
Legendary Japanese RPG creator Hironobu Sakaguchi talks in-depth to Kikizo about his new Mistwalker company and its two Xbox 360 projects, Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey. Video interview included!
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Even with the Xbox 360 launch mere months away, there's still a few cards Microsoft is holding close to its chest. Similarly, while the impressive February announcement that Hironobu Sakaguchi had signed to the platform was one of Microsoft's earliest 360 announcements, there's really no doubt that the best is yet to come on the Mistwalker front.
Sakaguchi started his career at Square in 1986 as director of planning and development. In 1995 he ascended to president of Square USA, and 2000, saw him inducted into the coveted Academy of Interactive Arts & Science (AIAS) Hall of Fame for the Final Fantasy series. Fast forward to 2004, and Sakaguchi-san announced his new development studio, Mistwalker.
The famed video game producer looks to the future and reveals essential details on his two current Xbox 360 projects, Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey, in this extensive interview.
For the first time in ages, we're offering the interview in both traditional text form, and also in our regular video feature format, which you can download below. Due to things we can't be bothered to explain, there's slightly more detail in full text that follows - but as always, the video is absolutely worth watching! Enjoy.
Kikizo: Can you tell us about how the deal with Microsoft happened?
Sakaguchi: When I started out with Mistwalker and decided to create these two titles, and I was talking to Akira Toriyama [admired game designer - eg. Dragon Quest], Takehiko Inoue [famous artist] and also Kiyoshi Shigematsu [famous novelist], and we were preparing - but I had nobody in mind about who to go with on the hardware side of things. And of course, the projects needed funding, and obviously a publisher. And at around that time, I was talking to [Xbox Japan boss, Yoshihiro] Maruyama, and also [Microsoft Game Studios' Japan boss, Hiroshi] Kawai. And Mr Maruyama was the one who I worked with when I was still working at Square. At that time, Mr Maruyama was working on U.S. sales of Final Fantasy, so I had a very strong trust with Mr Maruyama, and also Mr Kawai is the one who was working on Final Fantasy VII, VIII and IX, so I really trusted these two, and that's why I chose to go with Microsoft.
Kikizo: What can you do with RPGs on Xbox 360 that you couldn't do before?
Sakaguchi: Well ultimately, graphics is the main thing. Previous generations just couldn't do certain things like physical simulation, particularly with things like water, shadows, light and smoke. Those are the kind of things that we can really express well now. Plus, high definition is another thing. These things are possible with 360, but I don't just want to create pretty graphics; beneath that I would like to have a lot of tricks, so that whenever something in the world is touched, it reacts. There will be a lot of surprises and exciting elements underneath the graphics.
Kikizo: The footage that we have seen of the titles, is it in-game footage or is it an estimate of what you think you'll achieve in the timeframe?
Sakaguchi: As for Blue Dragon, that's an estimate of the visuals, but with Lost Odyssey, what you have seen is about fifty per cent real time.
Kikizo: The two titles you are working on look quite different. Are you trying to reach different audiences or is there some crossover?
Sakaguchi: I think it's the same audience. Mr Toriyama's design [in Blue Dragon] is cute, however the game system can be very complicated, and there is a lot of depth.
Kikizo: Has working on a 'western console' influenced your approach to game design in any way?
Sakaguchi: Well of course, I want the Xbox to sell in Japan. So in a sense, I look at the Japanese audience, and I want the Japanese audience to have fun with these games. But I'm also the original creator of the Final Fantasy series, which was originally made for a Japanese audience, but turned out to be a world-wide hit - so ultimately, I'm looking at a world-wide audience.
Kikizo: How confident are you that these two projects could become as popular as the Final Fantasy series - not necessarily in terms of sales, but maybe critical acclaim among gamers - is there a chance of that? Is it a personal goal of yours maybe?
Sakaguchi: Of course I would like to see a huge number of sales. However, before talking about that, many role playing games these days that are getting so old, and there are rarely any new elements. So I would like gamers to experience fresh elements in playing these new RPGs. That is why I brought Mr Shigematsu into this project, so that he can provide new elements and when gamers play, they will experience something fresh. As entertainment creators, I really think we need to provide that. And I think once gamers find the excitement and freshness of these games, then success will follow.
Kikizo: Having said that though, many Japanese RPGs have stayed very much the same over the years. Meanwhile, more and more western games have success in Japan, yet fewer Japanese games sell well in the west. What do you think about this situation?
Sakaguchi: Japanese software houses are sometimes not really active, and that's why I decided to do these two projects this way, with innovative new content. I think it's very important to provide something new and fresh in entertainment. I've had many colleagues in Japan and I would like these people to be successful, so I wanted them to be part of my project. I am not necessarily saying that I want to see the Japanese winning in this industry! But I want my colleagues to do well.
Kikizo: We still haven't seen much of the environments in Blue Dragon. Will it be cartoon style [like the characters]?
Sakaguchi: Currently we are in the process of experimenting with this, but what I can tell you is that, while the characters are more cartooney, the environment is more realistic, with global lighting and so on.
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Hironobu Sakaguchi: The Mistwalker Video Interview
Video feature rendition of Kikizo's interview.
|10.46m||78.5MB||DF, SD, 25
Hironobu Sakaguchi: The Mistwalker Video Interview
As above, low filesize version
|10.46m||27.2MB||DF, Low, 25
Trailer HD (Microsoft)
|1.31m||33MB||DF, HD, 60
Trailer SD (Microsoft)
|1.31m||22MB||DF, SD, 30