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The Last Story: Sakaguchi Discusses Freedom, Online and Story

Latest installment of the game's ongoing Iwata Asks features.

 
Matsumoto (left), Sakaguchi (center) and Iwata (right) discuss The Last Story over tea.

Part two of The Last Story's Iwata Asks column featuring a discussion between Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata, Mistwalker CEO Hironobu Sakaguchi, and AQ Interactive's Takuya Matsumoto hit today. Be sure and read up on last week's column here, and continue on for some of the new revelations.

PLAYER FREEDOM

One of the main points in all the Iwata Asks columns for The Last Story has been that the game offers players lots of freedom. Matsumoto and Sakaguchi hope that players will see videos from other players and end up being surprised by the differences from their own play experiences.

Nintendo has yet to provide specifics on The Last Story's camera control system.

This is the reason they made it so that the event scenes don't have a fixed camera. Players can freely control the camera to a certain extent. Sakaguchi feels that when players see videos of the game at video sharing sites, they may might wonder why the camera movement is different for the same scene from when they played the game. Because players can make unique play videos, perhaps the thought of "what would I do" will drive gamers to want to play the game.

Nintendo hasn't provided specifics on how the camera system works. However, Sakaguchi said that during test play sessions he enjoyed creating a purposeful hand-held camera effect to give the game a live feeling. Matsumoto joked that during events he kept the camera continually focused on heroine Kanan. As Sakaguchi previously said, the game will not force the camera on the speaker during event scenes, so keeping it fixed on Kanan looks like a possibility.

Other ways the experience will be different for all players is in treasure boxes and drop items (items that are dropped by enemies). These are all random, so you won't know what will appear. Of course, the game's changeable costumes also contributes to this aspect.

ONLINE "CHAT"

During online play, the experience will be personalized even further. After selecting your character, you can customize the lines the character says during combat. This replaces the typical voice communication you'd find in an online game.

A screenshot showing The Last Story's online play.

This dialogue customization system originates from the sheer amount of voice in the game. Outside of event scenes and dialogue sequences, you'll hear your allies' voices while on the move and during battle. For example, prior to battle the leader will give advice, and during battle the leader will continually shout out orders. Because there are so many interesting lines, Sakaguchi wanted to make it so that you can use the lines during online play, resulting in the final chat system.

You'll be able to hear some totally out of place things, it seems, with Matsumoto bringing up the example of Yuris saying "Father... Father..." repeatedly (which does sound like it could be pretty funny depending on how the line is said).

As a side note, Sakaguchi recalled how during the game's development they originally had the staff members reading out the lines. These were eventually swapped out for professional voice actors of course, but Sakaguchi actually found the staff voices to be more enjoyable for the online dialogue system. He even suggested keeping the staff voices in the game, but this didn't go through.

ONLINE PLAY

Outside of the chat system, Matsumoto and Sakaguchi shared a few additional details on The Last Story's online mode.

As previously detailed, Online play is split into cooperative boss fights and competitive battle royal modes. Both modes are playable by six players.

Sakaguchi feels that the battle royal mode will offer a different play feel from the main story part of the game. He also hopes players will use it as an arena to show off their clothing.

The game's cooperative online play component will allow players to experience the joy of being helped by others, Matsumoto said. The game's battle system has a "chain" system where allies take turns striking an enemy, building up more and more damage. Matsumoto feels that experiencing this system with actual friends will increase the feeling of affinity.

Online play will allow players to use characters other than just main character Elza. This means some players may opt to be a mage. One of the main parts of The Last Story's battle system is that mages take time to cast their magic. During this time they're left open to attack. Sakaguchi joked that through online play, players will be able to see the perspective of the mages Elza protects in story mode. Matsumoto joked that mage users should one of the lines to be something that calls for "Help!"

(NOTE: Based off Sakaguchi's comments it's still unclear if the game will allow you to use characters other than Elza during competitive online play. The above passage about players selecting to be a mage was mentioned as part of a conversation about cooperative play.)

Closing off the discussion of online play, Matsumoto said that The Last Story has an image of being a more open game. This is something that you can get a better feel for when playing online.

STORY

All this talk of player freedom may be worrying to some players who love themselves a good RPG story. Elsewhere in the Iwata Asks feature, Sakaguchi and Iwata assured us that The Last Story still has as one of its pillars a story that leads players to a goal. Sakaguchi feels that having a single story firmly in place is important.

The Last Story has a huge main town.

Iwata noted that in the past, RPGs wouldn't have much replay value beyond a single play through. Developers have attempted to fix this through a variety of means -- increasing the things the player can do after the quest, for instance. However, with The Last Story, Iwata said that it seems Sakaguchi has taken a different approach to making the players want to play again. As detailed above, by giving more freedom, they're making it so that players will think "What if I'd done this at that point," and will play the game over and over again.

While Sakaguchi admitted that this was one of his goals, he reiterated his belief that story is fundamental. There are some games that, for example, do away with a major story and let players just experience freedom in a single town. This is a different direction from what he's taking with The Last Story.

One of the reasons Sakaguchi feels story is important is that it's one element that can reach players of all types, from those who actively attempt to dig into the game on their own to those who do things only when directed.

Additionally, he feels that in order to get players accustomed to the game's controls and the peculiar rules of the game world, it's essential that they experience a large scale story once. He wants players to enjoy the depths of the gameplay systems and the online play after they've fully submerged themselves in the game world.

Sakaguchi used a food (if you'll allow for "gum" to be called food) analogy here. He believes the best game is one where you get a second burst of flavor after biting into the gum the first time.

This phase of the Iwata Asks interview will continue with another installment. Nintendo seems to be releasing these once a week, so check back next week.

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