By Laura . September 25, 2012 . 12:32pm
Square Enix producer Tomoya Asano, has been in charge of games such as Final Fantasy III DS, Final Fantasy IV DS, as well as The Four Heroes of Light. Naotaka Hayashi is a scenario writer from MAGES, who’s worked on games such as Steins;Gate, Chaos;Head, and Remember11. Both are jointly developing Square’s next major portable RPG, Bravely Default: Flying Fairy.
In a recent chat with Nintendo president, Satoru Iwata, Asano and Hayashi reveal that the collaboration between the two wasn’t originally planned, but when Asano was looking for a writer to work on his new project, one of his colleagues recommended Steins;Gate to him. Asano particularly enjoyed playing the well-known visual novel, and so, he approached Hayashi with the offer.
Asano had a grand vision—Bravely Default was to be “the new epic RPG from Square Enix,” especially with a renowned writer like Hayashi in charge of writing its story, Revo from Sound Horizon on music, and Akihiko Yoshida of Final Fantasy XII and Tactics Ogre fame on art.
It was to be a step up from the usual RPG, utilizing the Nintendo 3DS to the utmost, to the point that Asano even proclaimed that, while the three pillars of an RPG are the battles, the plot, and growth (in gameplay and in story), Bravely Default was to have a fourth pillar—its wireless capabilities.
Community is extremely important in Bravely Default. To Asano, what could possibly be more epic than playing a grand story with a whole group of people, all working toward the same goal?
In line with this thinking, the game uses the 3DS’ StreetPass feature to allow you to summon friends in battle, and you can also take advantage of a feature called the Abilink, which allows you to borrow job abilities from your friends.
For example, if Person A raises a Knight, and Person B raises a Magician, then they can trade abilities such that A could have a more powerful Magician and B would have a more powerful Knight. These upgraded characters (person A’s Magician and person B’s Knight) will start out at a low level when you use them, but they will have the new skills, allowing you to use them in battle quicker and easier.
Not everyone lives in a community where there are many others who play the same game as them, though, so the StreetPass would be severely limited in this case. Players in such a situation can use the 3DS’ Wi-Fi capabilities to do the same things from there as well.
What makes a game “epic” is different in everyone’s eyes, though. Hayashi, as a writer, placed special emphasis on not only creating relatable characters, but also on creating a relatable world. The world would have to be firmly set, with its own history, and it would resonate with our own despite being completely different from it. The characters, NPC and main characters alike, would be as lively and as fun as possible. To achieve this goal, Hayashi says he paid special attention to the phrasing and wording of each of the characters’ lines.
Hayashi’s usual fare is visual novels, though, so he also had to make the step to writing for an RPG. He mentions to Iwata that he paid particular attention to the balance between story and freedom. Usually, he’d just write the entire story, but in an RPG, he had to give the player leeway and allow the players to discover and explore on their own.
What Asano and Hayashi both agreed on was that Bravely Default was to be a completely new, but “nostalgic” RPG. They both drew inspiration from the older role-playing games they’d played as children, such as the early Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest games. They recalled that the game systems back then were uncomplicated. The battles were simple. You didn’t have to sit through lines and lines of tutorial or manuals to be able to play the game.
As such, Bravely Default would have a turn-based battle system. In addition, the Brave and Default system unique to the game would have to be easy to use. Instead of the usual turn-based pattern of you-me-you-me, Brave and Default would allow you to input a bunch of commands at once to be used all in one turn. The Brave command would be for offense, and the Default would be defense.
Of course, easy doesn’t mean that the battle system lacks strategy. Asano specifically states that players won’t get far before they realize that strategy is extremely important. However, the Brave and Default system was also designed so that players could easily use the system to suit their playing style, whether it be on the aggressive or defensive side.
Going back to turn-based after all this time was tricky, but one of the tricks Asano used was to use the game’s demo as a sort of beta test. After the game’s demo was released, he received suggestions and comments from users on how to improve the game, which he took into account while making improvements. Examples of improvements include speeding up the battle movement, speeding up the walking through towns, the ability to skip through the text, and removing as many camera angle changes as possible.
(In addition, players can use StreetPass data and the Friend-record data from the demo and transfer them to the main game.)
The changes suggested by the players were more than they could’ve thought of, says Hayashi, especially those who have long been playing the RPG genre. Both agree that this not only bettered the game, but also increased the players’ faith in it. While they felt it would be frightening when the game was finally released because of raised expectations, they felt that all the opinions along the way would make for an even better game—one step closer to their goal of creating a truly “epic” RPG.