Octopath Traveler II
Image: Square Enix

It has been five long years since the release of Square Enix's fantastic, multi-pronged RPG Octopath Traveler on Switch. Starting as a console exclusive on Switch before branching out onto other platforms, the game gave us eight different storylines to dive into, a range of protagonists to fall in love with, and even kicked off the HD-2D art wave that we have since seen in titles such as Triangle Strategy and Live A Live.

The sequel, the cunningly named Octopath Traveler II, was first announced back in September last year, and the ensuing months from then until its 24th February launch date were a long old waiting game for those wanting to stroll down eight new, enticing and, this time, interconnected paths. Fortunately, with the game now available for all, we can confirm that it is once again a beauty. We had a great time with the sequel, granting it an impressive 9/10 in our review and stating that "Team Asano demonstrates mastery of its craft at every turn here".

Before the game was released, we got a chance to ask some of the members of that very team about bringing the sequel to life. We spoke with producer Masashi Takahashi, character designer Naoki Ikushima and writer Kakunoshin Futsuzawa about topics such as drawing inspiration from the game's predecessor, the evolution of the HD-2D style, and who everyone's favourite character is...

Masashi Takahashi (producer) — Image: Square Enix

Nintendo Life: Octopath Traveller was a big success for you, what inspired you to revisit the concept for a sequel, and how faithful did you want to stay to the core of the original game?

Masashi Takahashi (producer): We were absolutely delighted that the first Octopath Traveler was a big hit and so many people played it! Although we were very grateful for that success, it honestly did put a lot of pressure on us in terms of the second game. When we released the original Octopath Traveler, I said that it was “a battle against people’s memories of pixel games they had played in the past”, but this time round it was very much a battle against the first game that we created. We aimed to evolve the formula rather than change it, keeping as much of what people liked from the first game as possible and trying to fully realise all the things that we were unable to do in it.

Octopath Traveller II takes place in a brand new world, Solistia, and going by some of the characters, it looks like we’re going to be exploring settings inspired by different historical periods. Why did you want to create a brand new world, and what opportunities did this open up to the development team?

Takahashi-san: As implied in the title, this is a game about travelling and enjoying a journey. We felt that it was essential to set Octopath Traveler II in a completely new world in order to give the player that feeling of excitement and anticipation when exploring it, wondering what lies down the next path or who could be living in the next town.

Time has passed very quickly, and it has now been five years since the first Octopath Traveler came out. I am sure there are still people who will not have played the first game, as well as those who did play it but have already forgotten the story, and this was why we deliberately did not have any links to the story of the first game, so I can confidently say that fans of the series and new players will enjoy the content of Octopath Traveler II without needing to worry about events that had happened before.

In Octopath Traveller II, one of the biggest talking points is that there are “more interaction, along with the ‘Crossed Paths’". Can you tell us more about how this plays out in the game and why you decided to improve interactions?

Takahashi-san: Half of the reason for including these kinds of interactions was because we saw a lot of fans asking for them in Octopath Traveler. The other half of the reason followed on later as elements along those lines naturally took shape while we were putting together the game’s structure.

I hope that players will appreciate the new interactions in Octopath Traveler II which will open opportunities for players to explore more and reveal interesting facts about the townsfolk and characters.

The original Octopath Traveller was the first HD-2D game, and Octopath Traveller II is the fourth game in this art style. What have you learned from working on the first game and seeing the style evolve in Triangle Strategy and Live A Live that helped to inform the art direction of OTII?

I tried to write these characters by dividing off different aspects of my own personality and then fleshing them out.

Takahashi-san: All of the games were produced by the Asano team, but Triangle Strategy and Live A Live were actually developed by different studios. The genre and style of each one is completely different, so we encouraged the teams that were working on them to challenge themselves in their own ways, without getting caught up on sticking closely to the HD-2D style of Octopath Traveler. So I have a feeling that there was not too much looking at other games when making those titles.

For Octopath Traveler II, we were able to ask ACQUIRE Co.,Ltd, the developer of the first game and where the series originated, to make the second game, so I think you can see a lot of evolution in it. When we put the “HD-2D” logo on the official websites for these games, we update it each time, so we used version 1.1. for Triangle Strategy, version 1.2 for Live A Live and went up to version 2.0 for Octopath Traveler II.

The sequel features the same eight starting jobs as the first game. How did you aim to vary the character designs and personalities of the cast? Do you have a favourite?

Naoki Ikushima (Character designer) — Image: Square Enix

Naoki Ikushima (Character designer): The original game was set in a fairly small area with a strong medieval European theme, but this time one of the main design concepts was to have a bigger world to explore, so we paid attention to showing changes over different eras and having a diverse variety of cultures.

This variety is also represented in the characters themselves, so we have characters like Thronè and Partitio who wear more urban outfits, Hikari who is from a country with Asian stylings and Ochette, who lives with the beastlings. On top of that, we also wanted differences between the characters in Octopath Traveler II and their predecessors who held the same jobs in the first game, that were in line with the new setting. For example, the warrior from the first game was Olberic, who was physically imposing and used his great strength to swing his sword, but by contrast, the warrior in Octopath Traveler II is Hikari, who is physically small but wins his battles using technical skill rather than raw power.

The dancer characters are also very different, so where Primrose had a dark and troubled mien to her, her counterpart Agnea from Octopath Traveler II has a completely different personality and is a bright and sunny woman. I have a strong attachment to all eight of the new heroes, so I really cannot choose a favourite from among them. Sorry!

Kakunoshin Futsuzawa (Scenario writer) — Image: Square Enix

Kakunoshin Futsuzawa (Scenario writer): I tried to write these characters by dividing off different aspects of my own personality and then fleshing them out. If I just made characters that were entirely based on me then people would probably not warm to them all that much though, so I took care to re-arrange them to make them all likeable people. I like them all, so I would be happy if the players like them too. If I had to pick a favourite then I would probably say Ochette. She is a simple person at heart and is happy as long as she has some dried meat to eat.

I have written of various greedy and materialistic characters (especially the villains), so the uncomplicated Ochette might be somewhat comforting to me.

Can you let Square Enix know we want to see much more Octopath music in future Theatrhythm DLC? Or even an Octopath rhythm game!

Takahashi-san: Thank you very much!

Five tracks from the original Octopath Traveler will be released as DLC for Theatrhythm Final Bar Line! These range from the main theme to the battle music, so please enjoy these tracks filled with Mr. Nishiki’s passion while you play the rhythm game!

Octopath Traveler II
Image: Square Enix

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Our thanks to Takahashi-san, Ikushima-san and Futsuzawa-san for taking the time to answer our questions. Octopath Traveler II is available on Switch right now.