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Iwata Asks More Questions About The Last Story

Hironobu Sakaguchi and character designer Kimihiko Fujisaka in the hot seat again.

Sakaguchi and Fujisaka discuss visuals and more in the latest Iwata Asks.

When Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata last gathered the staff of The Last Story for one of his Iwata Asks interview sessions, we learned about the game's massive towns and unique camera work, and were even given a few bits of precious development trivia. See this story for a full summary.

Director Hironobu Sakaguchi and character designer Kimihiko Fujisaka are back in the hot seat today. Nintendo posted the second part of the Iwata Asks feature with the two.

This part of the interview began with a slightly unexpected question. Iwata asked Sakaguchi what he felt about working on a Wii game. "Can I answer truthfully?" responded Sakaguchi first.

After Iwata told him to be direct, Sakaguchi responded was that when he worked with HD platforms (Sakaguchi previously worked on Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey for Xbox 360), he placed a greater focus on such development areas as workflow and pipeline (pipeline referring here to placing graphics and motion data into the game). This is because, as with making a movie, by having a solid work pipeline in place, you can create a product with higher quality visuals.

"With the Wii, we took the approach of making a prototype first and investigating from there. So, compared to the hardware I've worked with until now, the creation process was completely different."

Iwata suggested that one could say that the Wii allowed them to use a creation process where they build up the game through experimentation. "There is that side to it," responded Sakaguchi. "To be honest, I personally feel that the HD visuals that are now the trend are still too much for a game world. You end up putting all your effort into preserving the quality of the visuals."

This doesn't mean that Sakaguchi was willing to make sacrifices on the visual side of The Last Story, though. "I absolutely did not want the visual quality to drop just because it's on the non-HD Wii. In the end, I truly believe we reached a point where it does not lose out to other hardware. The feel of the rocks, the feel of the water and so forth -- we really went deep with the creation. Also, another important area is motion."

Iwata noted that Sakaguchi placed a great amount of energy in the area of motion. Sakaguchi responded that when it comes to motion and visual fidelity, balance is what's important. You can't have one area be more advanced or inferior to the other.

Iwata also asked Fujisaka for his opinion of Wii. "I'm a designer," said Fujisaka, "so to be honest I initially felt like I wanted a bit more resolution. However, as I worked on the project, I came to the unexpected conclusion that it was okay."

Added Sakaguchi, "In the end, we were able to raise the quality more than we'd expected."

Sakaguchi feels that The Last Story's visuals are close in beauty to a photograph. Rather than having everything be clear, the Wii gives the visuals the perfect balance for a photograph-like taste.

He also noted that the because the Wii is easy to program, they were able to work details into the game. He mentioned one example where the player switches from dark to light and the game's lighting adjusts like a real person's eyes would.

"Even if you compare the visuals to other hardware, there's no disadvantage what-so-ever," said Sakaguchi.

Moving away from the talk of visuals, Iwata asked Sakaguchi and Fujisaka to name the points in the game's development that they felt were turning points.

For Fujisaka, a turning point came when the game's main city was completed, some time around early 2009 near the beginning of development. It was at this point that the gameplay systems also started to take shape, and he was given the feeling that they were on the right path.

Sakaguchi didn't mention a specific turning point. However, one candidate could be the point when Nintendo slapped the game's scenario with an NG (no good). Sakaguchi describes this as as the first "reset point" for the game.

He ended up making some changes to the game's world view as a result. "By simplifying the world view in the form of fantasy," said Sakaguchi, "I believe the characters became deeper. It's easier to show real human feelings in fantasy, after all."

Fujisaka joked that he was annoyed at Nintendo's disapproval as he'd readied a large number of images. In retrospect, though, he also feels the decision was a good one. "The world view we originally thought up was extremely dark. I'm glad that it ended up in its current form."

Delivering a closing message, Sakaguchi said "For music and paintings, movies and books, there are some works that give you energy when you touch them. I'd like for Last Story to be that type of work. Nothing would make me happier than if you connected with the game and felt something from it."

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