Star Ocean: The Last Hope Interview (Xbox360)
Since then the Star Ocean series has spawned two remakes for the PSP enjoying respectable sales and a solid critical reception. Yet, Last Hope will mark the series first and possibly only foray onto a current-gen console that doesnít bear the Sony or Nintendo name. We asked why tri-Ace chose Microsoftís console, which has had a decidedly lukewarm reception in Japan to bring Star Ocean up to date and what Yamagishi-san makes of Japanís current position in the global development race.
Strategy Informer: The previous Star Ocean games have been PSP titles. With Last Hope, youíre moving onto Xbox 360 development. Whatís the transition been like for the development team and what have been the biggest challenges youíve faced?
Yoshinori Yamagishi: The PSP games were remakes, but the Xbox is a fresh challenge for us to take on and developing for a next-generation console was a totally new experience for us. Obviously we had to improve the engine, which was the biggest challenge.
Strategy Informer: Why the decision to move away from PSP and the other consoles to work exclusively on the Xbox 360? Were you worried youíd upset the PlayStation 3 owners who will have played the PSP games?
Yoshinori Yamagishi: We didnít necessarily aim to make a new game just for Xbox 360, itís simply that the Xbox became available first out of all the next-gen consoles, so thatís why we just went for it.
|Yoshinori Yamagishi, Chief Producer, Star Ocean: The Last Hope||Youíre motley crew are certainly a varied bunch. An alien, a cyborg etc.|
Strategy Informer: So the game has been quite a few years in the making then?
Yoshinori Yamagishi: We actually moved onto this new project as soon as Star Ocean 3 (Till the End of Time on PS2) was completed, so itís been over four years now.
Strategy Informer: The art style is quite unique. What were your aims with that and how has current-gen hardware enabled you to bear out your vision?
Yoshinori Yamagishi: I believe that what weíve done is special, especially the lighting. Thatís the result of two things. One is the Xboxís capabilities, which are very high and also tri-Ace have developed an improved engine.
Strategy Informer: With the Xbox version nearing completion, would you ever consider working on a PlayStation 3 conversion in the near future?
Yoshinori Yamagishi: Weíve got no immediate plans for PS3, but let me ask you a question. Do you think a PS3 version of this game is something people would like to see?
Strategy Informer: I think so, yes. Especially for the fans whoíve played the PSP games.
Yoshinori Yamagishi: Yoshinori Yamagishi: (smiles and nods) OK.
Strategy Informer: The release of Star Ocean: the Last Hope in Japan saw Xbox 360 sales rise. Was that always part of the plan and are you proud of your involvement in that?
Yoshinori Yamagishi: Knowing that Xbox sales have gone up in Japan made us feel really relieved that the Star Ocean fans had been waiting for this game to come out regardless of their choice of platform. Thatís great. We had been hoping that lots of people might get the hardware to be able to play this game, but we didnít realise the extent to which it would be received.
Strategy Informer: Do you feel that the Xbox 360 is still under appreciated in Japan to a certain extent?
Yoshinori Yamagishi: It is still a mystery to me why Japanese people have been shying away from Xbox 360 so much. I expect maybe thereís still a very strong ĎSonyís the bestí majority, but maybe itís not appreciated as a console because Japanese people look at it as a Microsoft product and thereíre still some negative connotations there.
|Star Ocean: The Last Hopeís battles are superb, real-time skirmishes filled with flashy pyrotechnics.||The improbably named Edge Maverick is the star of The Last Hope and in fine JRPG tradition heís a right girly-looking ponce.|
Strategy Informer: Going back to the art style, you have a lot of sci-fi elements, which give the game a fairly western flavour. Was this a conscious decision to appeal to a broader audience, both east and west?
Yoshinori Yamagishi: The development team at tri-Ace are all sci-fi fanatics anyway, so itís not as if we designed the game to have so many elements of sci-fi in order to appeal to so many users, because they simply wanted the game to be based in space.
Strategy Informer: Is there any more story mapped out for the Star Ocean series, whether itís for a sequel or something beyond the games?
Yoshinori Yamagishi: All of the development staff, including myself have absolutely no idea! Itís a complete blank as to whatís coming next!
Strategy Informer: So beyond Star Ocean, whatís the next project for tri-Ace?
Yoshinori Yamagishi: The team behind Star Ocean: The Last Hope has been dismissed and no new team has been formed yet.
Strategy Informer: Are there any plans to form a new team?
Yoshinori Yamagishi: When a project arrives then a new team will have to be formed, but not yet.
Strategy Informer: There have been concerns that Japanese developers are starting to lag behind western developers. Do you share these concerns?
Yoshinori Yamagishi: There was a time when Japan was leading the entire gaming industry across the world, but when it comes to the situation now with the current generation of consoles, yes I do get the feeling that we are lagging behind.
Strategy Informer: Do you plan to take measures within Square Enix to address this problem then?
Yoshinori Yamagishi: Thereís only so much I can do as one person! (laughs) Maybe you should interview our CEO!
|The ability to blindside your opponent gives you an immediate advantage in battle.||The Last Hope is the sum total of four years work. Good job it looks lovely then.|
Strategy Informer: Good answer! The gameís already been released in North America and Japan. What do you think of the feedback so far?
Yoshinori Yamagishi: I havenít heard any feedback myself because itís only just been released in those territories.
Strategy Informer: Have you considered following the example of some European conversions of certain games in offering some bonus content for European gamers?
Yoshinori Yamagishi: At the moment, we expect it will just be a localised version, so no new features Iím afraid.
Strategy Informer: Thank-you for your time!