Wednesday afternoon, we had an opportunity to sit down with Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of Final Fantasy and founder of MistWalker. Though concrete details about MistWalker's upcoming projects were scarce, Sakaguchi was happy to explain some of the philosophies behind MistWalker's development -- as well as reveal a few small pieces of new information.
First, Sakaguchi talked about the manga-styled Blue Dragon, with its character designs by Dragon Ball Z artist Akira Toriyama. Sakaguchi confirmed that it would be a non-linear turn-based RPG, but added that he hoped to have a "new system" and "new feeling" to differentiate it from those already on the market.
When asked why he chose to develop for Xbox 360, Sakaguchi praised the system's sheer processing muscle, but stressed that the support and easy development environment Microsoft provided was the most important factor in his choice.
Lost Odyssey, with character designs by Slam Dunk and Vagabond writer Takehiko Inoue, was brought up next. The main character of Lost Odyssey is a 1000-year-old- man in a world where the industrial revolution and magical power arrived side-by-side. The protagonist has 1000 years of memories, including wars, families, and past lovers. Sakaguchi feels that this scenario will allow him to explore settings and emotions not normally associated with RPGs He also confirmed that Lost Odyssey will have more playable characters.
Both games have a Japanese style and manga-influenced characters, but Sakaguchi rightfully doesn't see this as any barrier to success in the states. Though Lost Odyssey skews older than Blue Dragon, both games have a universal appeal -- and besides, manga and anime are nearly as popular in the States as they are in Japan.
To that end, Sakaguchi confirmed that Toriyama studios would produce a Blue Dragon manga to accompany the game. The manga will be serialized in Japanese magazine Shonen Jump, but will definitely be published in the U.S. and Europe as well. Though a game with Toriyama-designed characters is guaranteed to make a splash in Japan, one with an accompanying manga series will make an even stronger impression.
Sakaguchi mentioned how happy he was to be working with Uematsu again. He considers music to have a strong role in any RPG, but Uematsu's music in particular to have a "strong melody line" that drives the emotions. Finally, Sakaguchi spoke about Xbox 360's online functionality. Though both Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey are primarily single-player RPGs, Sakaguchi would love to take advantage of Xbox 360's online functions -- not with these two games, but with another. He would definitely want to create an MMO-style game in the vein of Final Fantasy XI, and not simply a small party- based matchmaking service like Phantasy Star Online. "Maybe Blue Dragon Online?" he joked. Both games are expected to arrive "close to launch" -- maybe as soon as the end of the year.