Octopath Traveler II is coming out next week, bringing in the latest addition to Square Enix’s series of HD-2D RPGs, and in preparation, the game’s producer Masashi Takahashi spoke to us in a new interview, telling us more about what the new game will add to the formula started by its predecessor.
Masashi Takahashi has been an integral part of Team Asano, a group of developers in Square Enix Creative Business Unit II under Tomoya Asano who focus on making more traditional RPGs. His earliest work involved being an assistant producer on Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light, Bravely Default, and Bravely Second. The latter two games are often credited with showing Square Enix that turn-based RPGs could still be successful in modern gaming.
He would then go on to being the full producer of Octopath Traveler, the first game to have the HD-2D style as well as producing Bravely Default II and acting as the manager for the Live A Live Remake which also used the HD-2D art style too much success. In this latest interview, Takahashi told us more about Octopath Traveler II, and how they intended to improve on the first game as well as further evolve the HD-2D style going forward.
Further Improving HD-2D
Square Enix and Team Asano have experimented with HD-2D a lot since the original Octopath Traveler. It would be followed by the narrative-driven tactical RPG Triangle Strategy and the experimental remake of cult classic Live A Live. Takahashi started the interview by telling us how both games further enhanced and innovated with the style.
“As a tactical RPG, Triangle Strategy allowed us to reconsider how the three-quarter view could be reimagined using HD-2D, while the vast array of different worlds to be explored in Live A Live — from the ancient past to the distant future — made it the perfect opportunity for our artists to explore a diverse range of different colors and styles.”
With this in mind, he said that Octopath Traveler II would further continue improving on the system and the key way it would do so was through the graphics.
“For this return to the original HD-2D series in Octopath Traveler II, we felt that we needed to produce graphics that exceeded what we had achieved in the aforementioned titles. In terms of specific differences between this title and previous ones, the graphics have evolved in a number of different areas, including character head-body ratio, character movement, and camera work”.
One of the bigger criticisms of the original Octopath Traveler is despite having eight colorful main characters, they don’t interact with each other outside of short optional dialogues.
Octopath II aims to improve on this issue with the introduction of Crossed Paths. According to Takahashi, these are extra campaigns that involve two of your party members.
“This bonus story [Crossed Paths] came about as a result of the repeated requests we received from fans of the original series to see more interaction and conversations between the characters”.
“The Crossed Paths story follows two other characters aside from the main story and can be played at any time at the player’s discretion. I hope this will help the players understand how these eight people, who are seemingly disparate in motivation and personality, have come together over the course of the story”.
A Legacy That Travels Ownwards
Finally, we asked a bit about the legacy of these recent HD-2D games. The first Octopath Traveler is largely credited for being behind the “HD-2D movement” in games. We asked Takahashi how he felt to be a part of this new series of JRPGs which have become incredibly popular in recent years.
“First of all, it’s an honor to have our work thought of in this way. As someone who grew up in the heyday of pixel graphics games, I am so grateful that the HD-2D art style, which can be considered to be a homage to pixel graphics, has been so widely appreciated”.
“What makes me feel particularly pleased is when I hear stories of people who had given up on gaming for a while being drawn back into the world of gaming by Octopath Traveler”.
Role-playing games may continue to evolve but classic turn-based, four-dudes-in-a-line style RPGs with sprite-based graphics will always have a place. It’s great to see games like Octopath Traveler keeping that spirit alive.
Octopath Traveler II launches on February 24th for the Nintendo Switch and PS4.
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