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Hironobu Sakaguchi

Interview: Topping Final Fantasy

If we decided to crown game designers as champions of their respective genres, Hironobu Sakaguchi would undoubtedly be glued to the RPG throne.

Credited as the creator of Final Fantasy, which every stat-loving gamer has surely sampled in one form or another, Sakaguchi is now shaping a new series of RPGs under the label of his new non-Square studio, Mistwalker.

We recently caught up with the man to discuss the recently-announced English version of his stellar Xbox 360 offering Blue Dragon as well as Lost Odyssey.

What changes - if at all - have been made to Blue Dragon for the western audience?

Sakaguchi: There are no changes to the game - the fundamental gameplay is the same. We've tried to stay faithful the original Japanese version and what I envisioned for the game.

The only things that we have changed are the two songs in the game - we've localised the lyrics and put the English versions in. The voiceover talent has also changed but we've tried to stay faithful to the character quality of the Japanese voice talent. So there's not a lot that you'll see that's distinctively different from the Japanese game.

How did Blue Dragon do in Japan from your point of view?

Sakaguchi: I believe that despite the install base in Japan prior to Blue Dragon being released - which wasn't great - I believe that Blue Dragon has become the key console sale-driver for Xbox 360.

It's attaching over 45 percent and that's really amazing, it's never been done like this before. I believe that it can push the console and that Lost Odyssey will help as well. Maybe Halo 3 will push the install base in Japan too.

Do you think Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey are going to impact the 360's performance in Japan?

Sakaguchi: Sure. Look at Blue Dragon - pretty much half of the Xbox 360 gamers in Japan have Blue Dragon in their hands because it's an RPG nation and we've got a great game that really has an appeal to RPG gamers not only in Japan but around the world. The impact is great in Japan and hopefully it's going to be even greater across the world.

The same thing with Lost Odyssey; it's has a massive appeal to experience-seekers who love great RPGs with a great storyline. Our expectations are big.

You recently expanded the Japanese game with new difficulty levels. What are your future plans for download content?

Sakaguchi: You know very well what's going on! So Japan has a set of three downloadable contents planned for post-launch and that's also what we'll be doing in North America and Europe. We'll be rolling out downloadable content over the course of four to five months post-release.

The last of which is a about multiple, randomised patterns in the game which means that each time you enter a new dungeon you actually see a different pattern, a different set of characters, enemies and environment.

So it's going to be really massive content in addition to what we already have. We've got great content coming online.

Seeing as you appear to already have English voices in the game, are you aiming for more of a simultaneous worldwide release for Lost Odyssey?

Sakaguchi: Right now the voice recording session is taking place in English - lip-sync is actually in harmony with that. So the Japanese dub version is actually going to follow the English lip-syncing.

So Japanese will actually see kind of like Hollywood movies that they see in Japan where characters actually speak English and they see the dubbed versions with the subtitles.

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