Last night Nintendo Life editor James Newton attended a presentation by Final Fantasy creator and The Last Story director Hironobu Sakaguchi at London's BAFTA HQ. The famous developer reflected on his 25+ years of industry experience and his latest project, answering questions from the packed-out audience.
The night opened with an on-stage demonstration of The Last Story as Sakaguchi explained his desire to create a single detailed city — Lazulis — filled with little touches: the main character can bump his head on a sign post, for instance. Sakaguchi described this as a desire for "density of minute details" that help to build up a believable game world.
Leaving the city to take on one of the game's real-time boss battles, Sakaguchi explained that The Last Story came from a desire to create a new kind of battle system, and that he and the team went through a year of experimenting with various fighting styles before landing on the one included in the game. His ultimate goal, he said, was "to create a new style of RPG" by implementing a new system called Gathering.
During the real-time battles, your AI team mates mostly do their own thing — though you can give them specific pointers — but as the main character you can use Gathering to draw the attention of any enemies. In one boss battle we saw this was used to distract a giant from attacking your squad mates to allow them to attack, before leading the monster onto a crumbling bridge and down to its doom. Sakaguchi believes the real-time battles and Gathering system are tightly interwoven, allowing the player to "bring order to chaos or break up organised enemy groups with unpredictable attacks". The idea for the intriguing system came to Sakaguchi while waiting to catch a wave when surfing, and while at first the system meant players would get beaten over and over, trial and error put it right.
After the demonstration Sakaguchi opened up the floor to questions from the audience, telling tales of his early failures and his next production, a surfing game on iOS, apparently. When asked about the semantic parallels between Final Fantasy and The Last Story's titles, Sakaguchi replied:
My daughter said to me: "Lost Odyssey, Final Fantasy, The Last Story — why do all your games have the same name?", so my next game will definitely be called something different.
Sakaguchi also spoke on his long-standing creative collaboration with composer Nobuo Uematsu:
I give Mr Uematsu the story outline and he returns with two or three pieces of music. The only time I have rejected his music is for the first Final Fantasy and for The Last Story; as the game system changed, so I felt the music had to be different too.
After I rejected him I didn't hear from him for a month, and I thought it could be the end of our 25-year marriage, but he returned with music that perfectly fit the game world. His music is so influential and inspiring that I sometimes edit the game around music itself if it gives me an idea for a character or system.
Upon leaving the stage Sakaguchi spent time meeting fans — some of whom had travelled from all over Europe — signing autographs and posing for photos. If you missed him at BAFTA, he's attending the MCM Midlands Comic Con in Telford tomorrow.
Thanks to Nintendo, BAFTA and Mr Sakaguchi for the event.