It may look like Nintendo totally forgot about Xenoblade following its release last June, but this may not be the case. For the latest Iwata Asks column, Nintendo had Xenoblade director Tetsuya Takahashi sit down with CEO Satoru Iwata and The Last Story director Hironobu Sakaguchi for a chat about the good old days at Square, and the future of RPGs.
This isn't the first time Takahashi and Sakaguchi have met. The two were both employed at Square in the 90s. Takahashi worked as graphic designer on Final fantasy IV through VI. He left Square in 1999, and met up with Sakaguchi once more three years later, but this is the first time they've met in the eight years since.
Following VI and before leaving Square, Takahashi split up from Sakaguchi's team saying that he wanted to do new things. Specifically, he was interested in using 3D in different ways from Final Fantasy VII, with fully 3D maps. Despite this goal, 90% of his team did not know anything about 3D at the time. Sakaguchi admitted that this was also the case when his team tackled FFVII.
Sakaguchi and Takahashi discussed a number of other issues throughout the dialogue with Iwata, and even shared some development secrets. Sakaguchi recalled how the Final Fantasy series main programmer through Final Fantasy III was a foreigner, and while he had unrivaled skill, he couldn't speak Japanese. Sakaguchi and the programmer would have steak every night because that's all the programmer could eat.
More seriously, the three took on the tough topic of what it will take for Japanese RPGs to succeed on the world market. Iwata suggested that one of the reasons Japanese RPGs aren't as successful outside of Japan is because creators made excessive use of the same patterns and conventions. Sakaguchi agreed with this, adding "Because of this, RPGs need a change." But he also said that he believes Japanese-developed titles are good at showing feelings and detail, and if creators value these areas, Japanese RPGs will be accepted throughout the world.
All three agreed on one other area. As indicated by foreign movies, which are accepted in Japan regardless of cultural differences, there are things out there that all people throughout the world can find interesting. Sakaguchi feels that the answer to this is near and RPGs can succeed if they work towards this target. "This is one topic we game creators in Japan will have to clear going forward," said Iwata.
Incidentally, in this discussion of overseas success for RPGs, I didn't see any hints at an overseas release for Xenosaga or The Last Story. But it's certainly nice that Iwata brought it up!
Unlike past Iwata Asks for The Last Story, this one is more general interest than related to Thursday's big Wii release. I only summarized a bit of the column, so those with Japanese reading abilities or mastery of translation program should take a look for themselves.
Overall not too interesting, but Iwata did bring up what it would take for JRPGs to succeed in the world market. Hmm...