Team Tactics Ogre Details PSP Remake
Minagawa and Matsuno discuss what's changed in the 15 years since the Super Famicom original.
Square Enix is readying a revival of classic Quest strategy title Tactics Ogre. In this week's Famitsu, the company shared first details on Tactics Ogre: Wheel of Fate, a remake of the Super Famicom original. The game is due for PSP release at an undisclosed date.
The original Tactics Ogre, fully "Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together" was a Japan-only strategy game that hit Super Famicom from Quest in 1995 (Quest was later bought out by Square Enix). The game was known for its rich world setting and advanced strategic gameplay, with such novelties as height-based play. PlayStation and Saturn ports were released in, respectively, 1996 and 1997, and a Game Boy Advance prequel followed in 2001.
The original staff has assembled for the PSP remake. The staff list includes Hiroshi Minagawa as director, Yasumi Matsuno as designer, Akihiko Yoshida and Tsubasa Masao as character designers and Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata on music.
Rather than "remake," Famitsu actually refers to Wheel of Fate as a "re-imagining" of the original. However, the game will see much of what one would expect of a remake, including a new visual engine, and new story and gameplay elements.
As this is a new version of Let Us Cling Together, the story and character basics remain unchanged. Famitsu introduces characters like Denim Powell, Catiua Powell and Vyce Bozeck, all of whom were in the original. The game will have new characters as well, though. One example is Ravness Loxaerion, a 23-year-old female Walstanian soldier. She's a playable character, appearing in the magazine's array of in-game battle screens.
In addition to the new character, the game will see some adjustments for the story, giving us a closer look at the emotional side of the characters along with added side stories and new stories for the newly added characters. This area of the game is being handled personally by Matsuno, who served as director, scenario writer and designer on the original.
The game will be seeing a great increase in text. This includes newly added descriptions for the various fields of play, and a great increase in the conversations that you encounter in battle. Some characters will have conversations exclusively with certain other characters. You'll also get to hear the emotional state of enemies via dialogue.
The battle system is also seeing some major changes, in terms of both gameplay and presentation. The maps are now fully 3D, allowing you to move the camera around and even view the action from above. The characters are sprite-based, giving the game a Final Fantasy Tactics visual impression. Visuals for enemy units and battle effects have been redone.
The screen layout has been reformed, with a character movement timeline at the bottom of the screen, and a single line text area at the top of the screen for detailing your currently selected unit.
The interface is also being sped up. Your characters will move more quickly. Additionally, the visual effects for magic and skill use are faster.
It looks like we can expect gameplay changes even beyond these areas. Famitsu shows a mysterious screenshot that looks somewhat like a flow chart. The caption for this screen reads "What if you'd made a different choice at that point? Will there be a system that realizes the 'what if?'." Famitsu is usually informed for such speculative statements, so we can probably expect something along this line.
Minagawa, Matsuno and Yoshida appear in the magazine this week for an interview. The interview was conducted by Enterbrain CEO Hirokazu Hamamura who was given a chance to play an early build of the game during the discussion. (If you manage to get your hands on Famitsu, you'll also see a picture of the three developers with a cake. This was apparently readied to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the series.)
Hamamura provided a few impressions as he played. After viewing the game's opening, he selected "New Game" and commented jokingly that the "hand mark" is very nice. As he viewed the opening proper for the start of the new game, he commented that the text has become prettier and easier to read. Minagawa noted here that this is because the resolution has been upped due to the game being on PSP.
Hamamura's initial impression, apparently after just seeing the opening areas of the game, was that the game retains much of the look and feel of the Super Famicom version. Matsuno pointed out that a lot has actually changed from the original. For example, the Super Famicom version did not have the shadows that the PSP version has. Because of this, the game has an overall brighter, fresher look.
One of the goals for the team, said Minagawa, was to recreate the look of the original, while adding in the beautifications players make in their minds due to nostalgia. They're purposely keeping the Super Famicom qualities of the visuals in place. Matsuno joked that it would be praise for them if someone who played the game would say, even with contempt, "This is just like the original!"
There's a lot going on in the background, though, noted Matsuno. For example, they're taking great care to make sure that the sprite visuals for the characters will not be out of synch with the 3D maps.
Hamamura suggested that they should have perhaps remade even the sprite visuals. This was under consideration at the start of development, replied Minagawa. However, they felt that there'd be no need for the original staff to be making the game if they went with that approach, and so decided on the current direction. More intriguingly, Matsuno said that if they were to go the full dynamic 3D route, they might as well make a brand new title. Hamamura joked that he'd like to see this.
While the character sprite visuals are being carried over from the original Super Famicom version, the character illustrations -- the artwork -- is all new. Working on the illustrations is Tsubasa Masao, who previously worked on Final Fantasy Gaiden: Four Warriors of Light.
Matsuno detailed some of the changes are that are being made for the other areas of the game. The game's text will be more readable -- this is both for the font itself, and also for the textual content, with Matsuno himself working to fix what he describes as "my amateurish writing from 15 years back." Players will find a number of areas that have been brushed up.
On the gameplay side of things, Minagawa said that the basic format of the game will remain unchanged. That is, you'll get into battle at points in the story, and you'll have to clear these battles in order to progress. During the turn-based battles, you'll need to make use of your units to defeat enemy armies.
Atop the basic game systems, the staff is working in a number of new features. Minagawa describes the battles as being "greatly changed," although he promises that the essence of the original, including the height mechanics for the maps and the ability to send arrows flying greater distance by shooting from above, will remain in place.
New features mentioned by Minagawa include the addition of "skills," and additional classes. Some of the current systems are being changed. For example, they're removing the difference between male and female versions of a class, a change that will allow players to freely change class without thinking about gender.
The scale and speed of battle will also be seeing adjustments. Minagawa said that he's placing importance on the tempo of battle. Regarding scale, the original featured 10 vs 10 battles. For the remake, players will be able to have 12 members on their party facing off against 18 enemies, making for 30 characters on screen.
One point of note that Matsuno brought up himself was the original's difficulty. In short, it was quite difficult. Minagawa believes that keeping the game as is would be tough, especially for portable gamers. To address this issue, they've added such things as the expected mid battle save feature. There will be other features as well, including something related to the "Wheel of Fate" subtitle. This "Wheel of Fate" element is deeply related to the battle system, and it's something that players will be able to use or not use as they like. For specifics, we'll have to wait until a followup report, but Minagawa said that hints can be found in the screenshots included in the magazine.
(These screens will hopefully be shared at Famitsu.com later in the week. I personally have a feeling the Wheel of Fate system may have something to do with that mysterious flow chart screenshot that appears in the story. Perhaps you'll be able to go back to past scenarios and change the outcome?)
Throughout the interview, Minagawa and Matsuno both downplayed the use of the term "remake" or "directors cut" to describe Tactics Ogre Wheel of Fate. Said Minagawa, "The goal of this game is not to make a 'Tactics Ogre Complete Version.' It's to remake Tactics Ogre again for the current generation." Said Matsuno, "It's not just a remake or directors cut. You could call it a 're-imagination.'"
Re-imagination or remake, Tactics Ogre is at last being revived for modern gamers. While Famitsu lists the game as release date TBA, the fact that Hamamura was able to demo it seems like a good indication that we'll get our hands on the game in the not-so-distant future.