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Sakaguchi's Last Story

Legendary Japanese developer talks us through his mould-breaking new RPG for the Wii.

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A rare online foray

With The The Last Story, Sakaguchi has also ventured beyond his traditional comfort-zone by including a multiplayer element. The game supports Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch versus battles, and also has a six-player co-op boss-battling mode. Sakaguchi fills in some more multiplayer details: "The biggest difference between the online game and single-player is that the player can't use the Gathering system online.

"One thing that I personally dislike about online gaming is that there will always be people who use dirty words, and therefore, for The The Last Story's online play, I came up with the idea of players communicating with each other using the script that is actually used in the single-player game.

"In the game there is a vast amount of dialogue - a lot of small-talk goes on between the characters. So using these scripts, players can have decent conversations with each other. Also, I felt that for people to be able to talk as a character gives a different experience from just voice-chat.

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"Moving onto co-op mode and battle: in the first, you co-operate to defeat a boss, and in the battle mode, one thing that is fun is attacking with bananas - making the other players slip with banana skins."

Why the Wii?

It seems a bit odd that The The Last Story should be coming out on the Wii. For starters, Nintendo's venerable, once-innovative console is nearing its death-throes, with the Wii U waiting in the wings. And when Sakaguchi set up Mistwalker, he did so with very public assistance from Microsoft, which published Blue Dragon (a rare Sakaguchi dud) and Lost Odyssey as Xbox 360 exclusives.

Sakaguchi, though, sheds some light on why The The Last Story came to be one of the Wii's last hurrahs: "Shinji Hatano at Nintendo, who is high up in the ranks there, said: 'Why don't we try this new type of RPG together?' When creating new things, there are always risks - you never know whether they will be accepted by gamers. So I was extremely thankful that he offered to collaborate. So the game was born not from the feeling that I wanted to create a game for the Wii, but rather from the trust that I have for Hatano-san."

To be fair, Sakaguchi has generally adopted a pretty platform-agnostic stance. At Bafta, he revealed he is making three iOS games (including, he claimed, one involving surfing, which he says is a hobby) - simply because "I am a massive Apple fan". But he was non-committal towards the Wii U, saying that he isn't working on anything for it at the moment.

Still loving Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy, the all-conquering RPG franchise he founded in 1987 - and which Sakaguchi named because after a couple of flops, he decided that it was his last chance to launch a successful career in the games industry, otherwise he would have returned to university - has shown signs of losing its way since Sakaguchi left Square-Enix.

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Final Fantasy XIII received some criticism when it came out - although Final Fantasy XIII-2 is generally held to do a decent job of addressing those criticisms - and Final Fantasy XIV, the company's first concerted attempt at an MMO, was an unmitigated disaster.

Sakaguchi, unsurprisingly given that he was instrumental in creating the first 11 games in the franchise, remains loyal: "I still go out drinking with Yoshinori Kitase, the current producer of Final Fantasy, once in a while, and on those occasions he does tell me that it's all fine. Sometimes, I personally complain a little bit about certain things about the franchise.

"But when I left Square, I left the franchise in Kitase's hands, and he promised me he would protect and progress the Final Fantasy brand. He has been my right-hand man since round about the middle of Final Fantasy III, and therefore I have a lot of trust in him. I believe that if it's him in charge, he will continue to create good games for the franchise."

Likewise, even though The The Last Story abandons the turn-based battling that typify Sakaguchi's games in favour of a real-time system, he refuses to sound the death-knell for turn-based RPGs: "Of course, games are a form of entertainment, so new things will always be more exciting than old things.

"But I'm confident that the talented youngsters in Japan will come up with new things in the future. Turn-based RPGs are an established form of entertainment, and just like puzzle games never died out, I believe that turn-based RPGs will continue to exist."

With that, Sakaguchi turns his attention to the demo of The The Last Story he would deliver later that evening, to a packed house: "There's a Japanese saying: I'm a koi carp in the kitchen, waiting to be cooked." In the event, of course, he was received rapturously and reverentially - as befits one of the true colossi of games development.

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