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.
This part of the article contains spoilers for the ending of Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
Part 3 of this article is available here:
The interviewer brings up how saving Catiua changes the ending, with Denim being assassinated if she is not saved, and asks Matsuno how he came up with this idea.
The first thing Matsuno says is that he would like to point out is how the actual outcome of the ending is not shown, and only suggested.
Matsuno says that the reasoning behind the endings is that the long period of strife has left the people yearning for a saviour, and as the daughter of a charismatic king, Catiua fits that role perfectly. Matsuno points out the tendency for second-generation people to be well-liked in politics, sports, and show business in real life as well, and says that the people of Valeria have similar hopes for Catiua.
Without her charisma, the people’s resentment remains, and is directed at Denam, who has become the king, and that is why Matsuno made it so that in that case the future would look dark and uncertain.
The Developers’ Favourite Characters
The interview goes on to discuss the characters that left the strongest impression on each member.
Matsuno says that whenever he is asked this, he says it is Xapan the mercenary, and that he particularly likes his exchange with Denam in the epilogue. But now that he thinks about it, he also feels attached to Leonar, saying that his lines were what he spent the most time coming up with.
Matsuno says that while Leonar is frequently seen as a character who has to deal with many problems, he is actually also the person to lead Denim directly, and thinks that this makes him the coolest of the characters. He says that now that he looks back at the game after time has passed, Leonar is the one who shares the feelings closest to his own. The interviewer is surprised that it is not Lanselot Hamilton in this role, and Matsuno says that Lanselot Hamilton is an ideal that he would like to become like, but he still has not managed to do so, and so is still closer to Leonar.
Minagawa says that the Hawkmen gave him the most trouble during development, and of all the characters he remembers Canopus the best. He says that it was very hard to get the wings to fit into a 16 pixel width limit for the template, and the memories of struggling through this and Canopus sharing the same birthday as him (11 August) remain with him. He also points out how Canopus sticks with Denim no matter which route is chosen.
Sakimoto is next, and he says that for him, it is in the end Catiua, causing Matsuno to chuckle. Sakimoto recalls that at the time, Matsuno said that he would rather make a romantic simulation game than Tactics Ogre. He says that looking at Catiua, he thought that a romantic simulation made by Matsuno would have really impressionable characters, which prompts everyone to laugh loudly.
Sakimoto says that at the time, he thought that if he had more experience and interpersonal skills, he might be able to accept a person like Catiua. But when he played the PSP version 15 years later, he went “nope”, prompting everyone to laugh again.
Sakimoto says that even now that he is older, and looking at her from a different point of view, his impression of Catiua remains unchanged. He says that maybe if he had another 100 years to try he might be able to accept her for who and what she is, and that in any case, she is the character he spent the most time thinking about.
Sakimoto the Gamer
The interviewer says that it is surprising that Sakimoto actually played Tactics Ogre, and asks if he usually plays the games he works on. Sakimoto says that he usually does not, because being involved in development means he sees most of the events of the games over and over again. Tactics Ogre was an exception, interesting him back then, and so he played not just the original version but also the PSP remake, including the Palace of the Dead. That being said, Sakimoto mainly used the auto mode in the PSP version, only taking control when unable to win.
Sakimoto says that a thought struck him while playing the game that being curious about how many floors there are in the Palace must be a huge motivation for players, and that it’s probably tougher for them as developers to go through the game because they lack such motivation.
Writing for the Information Age
The interviewer goes back to what Matsuno said about how information is immediately available to everyone nowadays, and asks if he finds it harder to create games now. Matsuno says that he does not, because the only difference is that one has to write while keeping in mind that things will immediately be spoiled.
He says there may still be games where people have to keep saying not to spoil them, similar to M. Night Shyamalan movies, but he thinks it is better to start off writing knowing the content will be immediately spoiled and analysed.
The interviewer recognises that it is now more difficult to make a game where every player has a different experience with their own discoveries, noting how the various elements Matsuno put into Tactics Ogre were to facilitate that, and Matsuno acknowledges this.
He does point out, however, that people were already exchanging information via avenues such as Nifty Serve (a Japanese equivalent of CompuServe) before the internet, and so whether presenting experiences is difficult is a separate issue. He thinks that the most important thing to a game’s story is its synergy with the game itself: For example, how a battle can make the story more exciting, and vice-versa.
Mentioning how he participates as a guest writer in Final Fantasy XIV, Matsuno says that he thinks that FFXIV is also a game that aims to combine the gameplay and story.
He says that while watching videos on Youtube is fine too, it is better to play games for yourself to truly experience their stories.