The 5 November 2020 issue of Weekly Famitsu includes a 25th anniversary commemorative interview on Tactics Ogre with some of the original developers who worked on the game: Director, writer and game designer Matsuno Yasumi, art director Minagawa Hiroshi, and music composer Sakimoto Hitoshi. Though unable to participate in the interview, illustrator Yoshida Akihiko also answered several questions outside of it.
Part 2 of this article is available here:
Tactics Ogre 25th Anniversary Interview (Part 2)
Law, Neutral and Chaos
The interview moves on to discuss the story. Matsuno says that the Law route was originally going to split into two as well, meaning that chapter 3 of the game would have had four different routes, but they were unable to do this due to space issues and the amount of work that would have been required.
Though the routes are currently called Law, Neutral and Chaos, they were referred to as the A, B and C routes in development. Matsuno says that when they working on the game, they thought that 95% of players would choose the C (Chaos) route: When considering the platform the game was to be released on, most of the target audience would be elementary and middle schoolers, and they thought that the players would not immediately go for the massacre, “the way nobody choose Flora (Nera) in Dragon Quest V first”, Matsuno says, chuckling.
The interviewer asks if the choice for the massacre was a surprise to the other staff, and Minagawa says that while he learned about the finer details of events in the game later on, because he needed to know things like how many maps would be needed when working on the game, he had an idea of the overall flow of the whole thing from early on.
In addition to Vyce, the differences in how Arycelle is handled also leaves a strong impression on players who went through the Chaos route first when they play the Law and Neutral routes is pointed out by the interviewer, who asks if this was intentional. Matsuno does not directly answer the question, but points out that Arycelle joins the player with low loyalty, and might leave easily depending on the player’s actions. All of the units in the game have a loyalty parameter which causes them to desert the player if too low, and Matsuno says that Arycelle in the Chaos route was made from the start to have a high possibility of leaving.
There is no way to know the exact number of loyalty a unit has, but using the help function on the unit’s name yields flavour text that indicates their current level of loyalty. Matsuno says that this is because loyalty is not the sort of thing that should be seen as numbers, the way one in real life cannot see how much someone loves them in numbers, and hiding the loyalty parameter was his way of portraying that sort of frustration in a game.
Naming Chapters and Characters
The interviewer says that the chapter titles leave a strong impression, such as “I don’t want to just give up and accept that things not going your way is how the world works” (“This World Can be Put to Rights” in the English release), and asks how they came up with them. Matsuno says that at the end of the 80’s, the music scene in Japan had moved from the trend of having song titles with English words, and was in the midst of a trend of having titles that were instead long Japanese sentences and phrases, and he decided to use them as reference. Chapter 1 and 4’s titles were the first he came up with.
The Chapter Names in the Original Japanese Release
Some of Tactics Ogre’s chapters’ names are quite different in the original release, and we have listed direct translations of the original Japanese chapter names here for reference:
・Chapter 1: “You’re telling me to dirty my hands?”
・Chapter 2 (Law): “Nobody can blame me for what I did”
・Chapter 2 (Chaos): “I don’t want to just give up and accept that things not going your way is how the world works”
・Chapter 3 (Law): “To deceive and be deceived”
・Chapter 3 (Neutral): “Not everything can be saved”
・Chapter 3 (Chaos): “Ambition and desire rise up, while dogs and swine lie down”
・Chapter 4: “Hand in hand”
The choice the player has to make at the end of chapter 1 was something in the very first iteration of the game’s plot, and Matsuno chose to make a title referencing it, “You’re telling me to dirty my hands?”. The interviewer says that they were especially impressed with “ambition and desire rise up, while dogs and swine lie down”, and Matsuno says that it’s something that he would rather forget.
Matsuno says that it also came up in a discussion with Final Fantasy XIV’s Yoshida Naoki that while things that the game designers plan may not always be a hit with the players, on the other hand, things that the game designers do not plan may turn out to be hits. He says that the chapter titles in Tactics Ogre are the latter for him, as he did not aim for them to be something popular and did not think that they would turn out to be so well-received.
The interviewer next asks about how Matsuno came up with the titles and names of enemies, such as “The Lone Mercury” (Mercure in the English release). Matsuno says that he started off coming up with them one by one, but there were just too many, and he eventually started going through a dictionary looking for words to tack on. With that introspection, he ultimately removed the titles in the PSP remake, but did try to make character profiles in the Warren Report reference them when possible.
The interviewer mentions how they thought that Catiua was the heroine of Tactics Ogre, but when discussing this with other Famitsu staff, some had the opinion that Olivya is the heroine. Matsuno says to this that it may depend on how one defines the word, and that to him, Catiua is definitely the heroine of Tactics Ogre, no matter what anyone else says. While “tsundere” and “yandere” type heroines are no longer rare these days, back when Tactics Ogre was in development, heroines tended to be idealised, archetypal, and stereotypical characters: Earnest and pure and always understanding of the player.
Matsuno says that while he too likes that sort of archetypal character, it had been ten years since the first Dragon Quest was released, and he had grown bored of the mass-produced orthodox heroine. Catiua was thus created as an antithesis to that orthodox heroine. He knew that people would hate her, but Tactics Ogre’s story is only possible because of her. The interviewer agrees that with both the original release and the remake, Catiua is what remains the most in their memory, and Matsuno chuckles, saying that she is a powerful character.
The interviewer says that they got the impression that Catiua’s obssession with Denam is close to how a mother would obssess over her child, and Matsuno says that it is because he is her only family. She learns early on that her father is not truly her father, and is distrusting of him for not telling her this, and this leads to her doting on Denam even more. She feels that this is her raison d’etre. This is why she opposes participating in the war, which might get Denam killed, saying that war is for people aiming for the throne, and not the business of commoners.
The Fun of “Thinking”
The interviewer points out how complex it is get Catiua to join in chapter 4, and asks why this is. Matsuno says that he did not want to keep it simple, where a single easy choice would get her to join. He made the story split for this sole purpose, and made the recruitment complex by having multiple choices the player has to make. He felt that this would result in how, when players talked about the game, they would find that one in four managed to rescue her.
Matsuno says that things back then were different from now, where everything is immediately explained on the internet. The Catiua gimmick was made as a way to give players the fun of figuring things out. That is also why, when Famitsu was to release a strategy guide on the game, he absolutely opposed it including spoilers for chapter 4 of the game.
The publisher said to him that strategy guides are supposed to have all the information, and he would have been fine if it were released half a year after the game, but not immediately after the game’s release, saying that he would rather not have a strategy guide if that were to be the case. In the end, he made them promise not to release the information until a specified number of months after the game’s release, which resulted in the strategy guide being split into two volumes.
Matsuno says that even now, he believes that the fun of thinking should not be taken away. Of course, the internet now makes it so that information can be disseminated instantly, and so he thinks that for a game to get the support of players, it has to be able to have them think even when they have access to information.
Part 4 of this article is available here:
Tactics Ogre 25th Anniversary Interview (Part 4)
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