Wednesday, March 28, 2012
The Return of the pixel magician
Good vs. evil, magic against technology, humanity, against totalitarianism: Hironobu Sakaguchi's games are full of pathos, love and devotion. Accordingly, it read: "Final Fantasy", "Lost Odyssey" and now "The Last Story". The titles always sound as if every game was the last of his kind, and yet also decide the fate of the world would.
"My daughter always says that I should sometimes think of a happier title," Sakaguchi says with a smile, "maybe the next game." The Japanese is currently en route to present his new work. "The Last Story" is the story of a group of young people, mercenaries, wander the country and peddle their services. They fight for money against monsters, find treasures and stand guard. Soon the group will be drawn into a war in a struggle for power and love, set in an imaginary island kingdom. In other words, it is a typical game from Sakaguchi says moving and full of melancholy.
The game is full of charm, full of quiet moments in which one learns to love and understand the characters. And what a great advantage: The combat system is much simpler. Will it work on "Final Fantasy" is often as if you were fighting in Excel spreadsheets, so it goes smoothly here, does not arise in the way of the story.
Somewhere between steampunk, Tolkien and hippie dreams
"The Last Story" is a comeback attempt. Until ten years ago, Sakaguchi was one of the most successful games developers. In 1987 he invented "Final Fantasy". It was the last attempt of the game Square Studios to score a success, to escape from bankruptcy. The attempt was successful. From "Final Fantasy" game series has been one of the most successful ever. With more than a hundred million copies sold over the years, the series is on a par with "Super Mario", "Grand Theft Auto" or "Call of Duty". Just appeared with "Final Fantasy XIII-2", a new part.
Despite different from game to game characters, different worlds and different combat systems are similar, the individual episodes. Again and again it is a group of mostly young people who are forcibly removed from their everyday lives and engaged in battles with evil. What are initially small rivalries developed over the course of the game to an existential struggle. Topped the games with stunning cut scenes, movies, the fantastic worlds are shown, mythical creatures, which provide combat. "Final Fantasy" is somewhere between steampunk, Tolkien and hippie dreams, with characters that seem to be directly imported from the trendy neighborhoods of Tokyo - bizarre hairstyles and clothes are impractical to do so.
A whole new genre has emerged, for the term JRPG, Japanese role-playing influenced, was (RPG stands for "role playing game"). Sakaguchi is considered one of the fathers of the genre, but is not happy about it, "Role-playing is what I'm doing nothing." There are no decisions that affect the story, no way to build good or evil heroes. There is always a group that is leading, with none of the protagonists will be one, either in his old games still in "The Last Story". European role play, which ultimately come from the "Dungeons & Dragons" tradition have so little in common.
The 130-million-dollar flop
Sakaguchi had to reinvent itself, because he had to leave Square 2003rd His studio, the studio that he has made large, and later brought to the brink of ruin, because he sat through a risky project. Was: "The Spirits Within Final Fantasy" meant and was a film, an animated film with the best computer graphics, which can produce 2,001th Four years Sakaguchi used for him, spent more than $ 130 million recorded, he has only just under 85 million. The film was a flop, Sakaguchi left Square.
"Final Fantasy" and remained there continues to be the best-selling series of the company, now led by Yoshinori Kitase, Sakaguchi's former assistant. "I'm good friends with Kitase," says Sakaguchi, "the series is in good hands." One regret is felt, when asked whether he still wants to make a film, but to also see a little glint in his eyes. "If someone gives me money - gladly." He knows that this will not happen more comfortable and says he can tell his stories in games.
So in 2004 he founded Mistwalker, his new studio, and teamed up with Microsoft, desperate for a big name for their business in Japan, because their Xbox consoles there were extremely bad. That helped anything, the games could bring the device hardly any additional sales. Now he works with Nintendo, "The Last Story" will appear exclusively for the Wii console. Actually, could also "Final Fantasy" are on the package, no one would complain. Sakaguchi laughs about it. It is his way of making games, why should he change it.
Sakaguchi seems modest when he talks about his play. Asked about the cause of his love for storytelling, he calls, after long deliberation, the death of his mother. He is about to show in games that are coexistence, cooperation and humanity worthy goals. But he brings such words is difficult on the lips, they appear too large. Sakaguchi for a game is really only one way to tell a story.