The Last Story Is Sakaguchi’s Third Game That Emphasizes Game Over Story

By Ishaan . July 10, 2011 . 4:30pm

I just happened to notice the other day while browsing Nintendo of Europe’s site, that they actually translated an interesting discussion between Satoru Iwata, Final Fantasy creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi, and Metroid producer, Yoshio Sakamoto, in August 2010. I never caught wind of this, so perhaps some of our readers haven’t either.

 

It’s an odd trio that you think wouldn’t have much in common, but after developing the original Final Fantasy, Sakaguchi worked with Sakamoto on an adventure game titled Nakayama Miho no Tokimeki High School. Squaresoft and Nintendo developed the game together, and it involved the player’s character transferring to a school that Japanese celebrity, Miho Nakayama, was attending.

 

The two developers discuss their styles of development and how they’re similar. Sakaguchi gives away a little more information regarding how he developed The Last Story as well, saying it’s the first game since Final Fantasy VII where he chose to flesh the game and its systems out, and then inserted the story into it where appropriate. The only other game he’s approached in this manner is the original Final Fantasy.

 

“There are also places in games,” Sakaguchi says, “such as the moment when you open a castle door for the first time, when you think, ‘I’d like some story here’. For The Last Story, especially because I wasn’t making it using my usual method but rather started by implementing the game systems, there were times when I’d have to begin by finding such places.”

 

“I was thinking about where I could bury the story, as it were,” he elaborated. “That’s why I used a new method of writing the script, trying to write it in map units. During the process of making these into a game, I’d think ‘where can I bury this episode?’, and if the order I buried the different parts changed, there were times when I’d also change the flow of the story.”

 

“I think players hate it when they play a game where the story isn’t developed where they want it to. Can’t you imagine them thinking ‘I’m being pushed around by some self-important story writer’?”

 

Going back to his castle door reference, Sakaguchi emphasized: “So when the door opens with a thud, as well as playing the dun-dun-dun-duuun music and displaying a message saying ‘this is ___ castle’, that is the moment for adding some kind of story. That was the thing I was most aware of on this project.”

 

Food for thought:

In the Tokimeki High School game, Nakayama’s true identity was hidden, and it was up to the player to get to know her. The quirky part is that Square wanted this to be a game that had players making use of telephones, and so, there was a number that players could call to listen to hints regarding the game and its story.


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  • Jirin

    Actually I find an abundance of long story segments when I just want to play rather oppressive.  Unless you have some grand ambitious plan for a story, it’s better to design the game first, then the story.

    • http://www.gamefaqs.com/features/recognition/21421.html?type=4 Kashell

      That statement reminds me of Xenogears to the T. Disc 2 anyone? After hours of text boxes, I just want to unleash a combo with Citan!

      • solbalmung

        yea, wanting to use Citan with his Katana in CD2 was really killing me, nevertheless Xenogears plot was one of the most deep and developped plot that ever was for a videogame! I wish Monolith would make a remake…..

        • http://twitter.com/Unorfind Unorfind

          but Square Enix has right to Xenogears that’s why
          Xenosaga isn’t official continuation of series but is more like “spiritual successor”

  • http://chronotwist.deviantart.com/ JustThisOne

    I feel like I don’t totally understand what he’s trying to say. Does he mean that the storyline is always emphasized at the parts that the developer wants to see, as opposed to what the player wants to see? Or does he mean that there should be story everywhere so the game has flow?

    I … kind of got lost when he used burials. Map units? Am I missing some general knowledge here? :X

    • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

      When I was writing the post, what I basically got from it was that he wants this to be a game that people play because it’s fun, not just for the story. Story is an important aspect of RPGs, though, so he made sure to insert it in places where he felt players would like to see some kind of plot development.

      • http://chronotwist.deviantart.com/ JustThisOne

        Thanks. :D

  • Lexaus_the_Alchemist

    “I was thinking about where I could bury the story, as it were,” he elaborated. “That’s why I used a new method of writing the script, trying to write it in map units. During the process of making these into a game, I’d think ‘where can I bury this episode?’, and if the order I buried the different parts changed, there were times when I’d also change the flow of the story.”
    (For those having trouble understanding, I’d use the word ‘insert’ instead of ‘bury’ to make sense of what he’s saying. Also I think he’s saying he wrote the story of the game going from map to map instead of a story written first then creating stages from there, if I’m interpreting this correctly.)“I think players hate it when they play a game where the story isn’t developed where they want it to. Can’t you imagine them thinking ‘I’m being pushed around by some self-important story writer’?” Ironically, I think one of the games that first comes to my mind after reading this quote was from the series he help create, Final Fantasy. More specifically, FFXIII. It wasn’t too fun being tugged (by an invisible leash) to go straight through the story and not being allowed to let your curiosity for the surrounding world take over.Interesting quotes to say the least. It seems The Last Story was done in reverse from “normal” game creation methods. I haven’t played it so I don’t know how the story and gameplay work together in the end from this different process. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Leon-Hart/100002316814779 Leon Hart

    I just hope Mr. sakaguchi has plans to bring this game in the near future with bonus content as i think the  jp version was so short but great story.

    • http://twitter.com/Paradox_me Paradox me

      I’ve read that it’s around 30 hours and encourages multiple playthroughs.

      • Aoshi00

        I did most of the sidequests (there’s maybe 30+ of them), tournament, and multiplayer co-op against bosses (didn’t play battle royale) and it took me over 45 hrs.  I played a little new game +, it was very fun to go thru the game again w/ all the powered up weapons, but  still haven’t done everything and got all the upgrades..  I don’t think the game is that short, but there were times I thought it was really fun and hoped for more battle scenarios in the main story..  The pacing of the story is quite fast in terms of how things escalate since Sakaguchi said the story was tied in to the battles.. If one really skips everything and get to the end ASAP, I guess it could be a 30-35 hr game.. Actually there were a couple of extra chapters after the ending it was pretty cool..

        • http://twitter.com/Paradox_me Paradox me

          Ah, thanks for the clarification. I’m hesitant to read into the game more because I want it all to be fresh whenever I get to play it. :P

  • ragnarok989

    FF7 had game emphasized over story…wow that actually explains a lot.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/Leafy_Cam Leafhopper

      Yeah, it explains for the whole “Yeah its just a meteor” thing.

    • http://www.facebook.com/santd Daniel Sant

      How did I know people would be talking smack about this :|

  • http://profiles.google.com/sebagomezi sebastian gomez

    yeah, yeah, yeah, just bring The Last story to american shores.

  • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

    Yes, i can easily see the story didnt had much thought on it, even if it’s decent, in my opinion, while not bad, it lacked of new stuff, it felt way too… umm “safe?” they didnt do anything “woah!”, and neither bad, really on the safe line, this can sometimes bore me though.

  • http://twitter.com/Paradox_me Paradox me

    To be honest, story comes first for me. Odd thing to say about video games, but it’s usually an interesting story (in addition to a fantastic score) that pulls me in and holds my attention.

    My favorite style of gameplay was basically established with the birth of the JRPG (turn-based; Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, etc.) and incredibly polished a decade ago (e.g. Final Fantasy X). New styles and “innovation” the past few years have typically ended in disappointment, and it’s always been the stories and characters that pick up the slack.

    Just love me some story, even if there’s a ton of it around every corner. I looked forward to my next 10 hour cutscene in Metal Gear Solid 4. Stories that are different than what you get from even the best films. Developers shouldn’t completely forgo attempts to advance gameplay though, and I think someone like Sakaguchi/Mistwalker are talented enough to prioritize just about any aspect of a game and still end up with a well-rounded title.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Smith/100001371066080 Robert Smith

      I HATE MGS4 with a vengeance. Such a crappy story in that one.

    • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

      I think the thing with The Last Story is that Sakaguchi wanted to create a game that was progressive, and not held back by the things he feels make modern gamers view JRPGs unfavourably. From that point of view, it makes total sense that he’d want to concentrate more on locking down battle systems and dungeons and whatnot, and then base the story around how those are paced.

      • http://twitter.com/NeverUnplaying Sonny Oliveira

        If that’s the case, then it is a great move. Thinking about gameplay first is what developers should do since video games are a medium that revolves around user interaction. If you are not gonna revolve your game around its gameplay, then make a movie. 

        I had that feeling with Fragile Dreams, where I absolutely loved the story, characters and setting; but hated it because I wanted to throw my controller due to its sloppy gameplay mechanics.

        • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

          I agree fully. I’m willing to put up with bad game design (to an extent) for a very good story, but really, how often do we get that combination? Flower, Sun & Rain is the only recent example off the top of my head. Fragile, too, like you pointed out. :)

          Flipping this around, I’m often not willing to overlook a mediocre story and character-development unless the game itself is really, really good. And well, let’s face it…how many JRPGs actually have stories that really make you want to stick with them all the way through to the end? 

          From that point of view, Sakaguchi’s approach makes sense. I feel like he understands that sometimes, you don’t even need a story — just enough of an outline and characters that draw you into the world. That approach is what makes Monster Hunter and Metroid such amazing, replayable games. The setting and the pacing are what draw you in and make you believe in the world and its characters, and keep playing the game.

          TLS, like both those games, is meant to be replayable, too, so it makes perfect sense that he’d approach it from this angle. Not saying the game doesn’t have a good story (I’ll let @aoshi00:disqus comment on that), but I’m very interested in seeing how TLS feels different from other games in its genre because of Sakaguchi’s decision.

  • http://nocturneadagio.blogspot.com/ LainaLain

    I wanna play Last Story so badly. I think he means where there’s a moment where there wouldn’t normally be any kind of story, there is story.

  • Bunzi

    I think it’s sad that game developers still feel that there has to be a wall between gameplay and story. Intermix the two whenever possible, I say: I love games where character development and dialogue happens as you control your character. If I didn’t want to interact with a story, I’d watch a movie or read book.

  • http://twitter.com/seph_luis_br Luis Camargo

    He REALLY should do this more times. Think about the game then the story.
    The results at least are so far great.

  • elcido6

    This is how many comic books are made, the artist will create the panels with empty bubbles, then send it to the writer to fill them in with what he thinks is happening.

    Very interesting read, this method is counter to what I would think made a good game with a good story, but obviously it is proven successful.

  • blah blah

    I would’ve thought that second one was Blue Dragon.
    That had a crappy story.

    • Guest

      not sure that one counts since its Toriyama’s manga?

      • http://flailthroughs.blogspot.com Flailthroughs

        Toriyama just did character designs. To my knowledge he had nothing to do with the story, and the Blue Dragon mangas were done by other people to boot.

  • Wake

    [edited by mod: This topic has been done to death already. No more please.]

    • mooncalf

      Dude, poke your head in at the Neogaf gaming forums. There are completely legitimate ways to play games from the UK on a USA Wii, and online stores to buy them from that are same price or cheaper than local bricks and mortar.

  • KyoyaHibari

    7 still had a pretty coherent story, although it isn’t the best FF, but I love the combat, especially travelling around looking for new enemy skills.

  • PrinceHeir

    cannot wait to see what’s Mistwalker’s next project :)

    Lost Odyssey 2 anyone?? :D

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