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Sakaguchi Shares More Last Story Details in Latest Iwata Asks

Director joined by Metroid co-creator Yoshio Sakamoto for latest column.


Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata has an unexpected duo of developers seated opposite him for the latest Iwata Asks column.

To the left of Iwata (center) is Metroid co-creator Yoshio Sakamoto. To the right is Final Fantasy father Hironobu Sakaguchi.

Both creators have major Nintendo-published titles in the works. Sakamoto is working on Metroid: Other M, which hits here on September 2. Sakaguchi is directing The Last Story, which is scheduled for release later this year.

The two don't seem to have any actual ties as far as their current work is concerned. But they did in the past. Their connection involves this fine piece of classic Famicom box art:

The above Famicom Disc game is a 1987 adventure game called Miho Nakayama's Tokimeki High School. The game, which features idol Miho Nakayama, was developed by Square and published by Nintendo.

Sakamoto describes Tokimeki High School as a text adventure game in which you make use of the phone. Yes, the real phone. Midway through the game, you're given a phone number which you can actually call to hear hints on how to progress along with messages from the real Miho Nakayama. (In later versions, Nintendo swapped out the telephone component with in-game messages relaying the same info.)

As detailed by Sakamoto, some 20 years back Square approached Nintendo about making an adventure game that made use of the phone. There was no talk at the time about the game featuring Nakayama. Sakamoto was called in to attend the meeting with Square.

At the time, then a five year employee at Nintendo, Sakamoto was growing tired of the same old adventure games, so he pushed his superiors to go with the idea. However, rather than using an original character, he suggested that they use an idol. Iwata jokingly asked if Sakamoto was a big idol fan at the time, but Sakamoto replied that he just figured the added flash would draw attention to the game.

Sakaguchi comes into the picture because he was actually on the Tokimeki High School development team. Not originally, though. Following development on the original Final Fantasy, Sakaguchi joined the Tokimeki High School team towards the end of its development.

The Tokimeki team went down to Kyoto for a two week period, and that's where Sakaguchi and Sakamoto met for the first time. Sakaguchi initially couldn't believe that Sakamoto was a Nintendo employee. Apparently, Sakamoto's hair was the same back then as it is now.

Much of the column consists of Sakaguchi, Sakamoto and Iwata reminiscing about the the old days of development. But Sakaguchi did manage to comment a bit about some of his design decisions for The Last Story.

Gameplay systems took priority in The Last Story's development, said Sakaguchi. He suggested thinking abou the game as "a game that has a story in it." While the game has a solid story with strong cinematic components, gameplay is the strongest point.

This is only the third time that Sakaguchi has placed emphasis on gameplay first. The last time was Final Fantasy VII, whose development began with considerations about how to use 3D in the game. Prior to that, you have to go back to the original Final Fantasy, as Sakaguchi began development with a trial and error phase where he attempted to see how the PC role playing games of the time could be brought to the Famicom.

"In these 23 years, there have been only three instances where I considered gameplay systems first," said Sakaguchi.

To help test out those gameplay systems, Sakaguchi drafted Nintendo's testing subsidiary, Mario Club. In fact, Sakaguchi was visiting Mario Club for a four day period when Iwata conducted this latest Iwata Asks column.

The reason Sakaguchi wanted to use Mario Club was because he wanted to see how beginner players react to the game. Watching players actually play allows him to see where they're enjoying themselves. Of course, they also had the test players write their opinion, although Sakaguchi warns against trusting this form of feedback as players will sometimes write just the good points, or their feedback listing what they enjoyed will differ from how they react when actually playing the game.

Closing off the interview, Sakaguchi provided some hints about how the game's conversation system will work. Previous posts at the game's official blog suggested that there might be a system similar to the Tales series' skit system, where the characters will stop and engage in character-building dialogue bits that may not necessarily be related to the story. With The Last Story, it seems that the characters will actually converse as you run about the fields. Sakaguchi believes this system will allow players to get a better feel for their relationship with their ally characters, which is one area he wanted to convey with the game's story.

Some of your allies in The Last Story.

This is the second Iwata Asks column for The Last Story. For a summary of the first, see this story.

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