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Interview: Tactics Ogre director Hiroshi Minagawa


We all love it when Japanese games get released in English, because they sometimes come with odd and amusing subtitles. Tactics Ogre is no exception with its quaint subline, “Let us Cling Together.” We're not sure what we’re clinging onto, but let's do it together.

The funny thing about this particular subtitle is that the Japanese version is actually called Tactics Ogre: Wheel of Fortune, which makes much more sense seeing that the game starts off with tarot cards.

On a recent trip to Tokyo, we spoke to director Hiroshi Minagawa, part of what can only be called the "dream team" working on the SRPG's remake: the original released in 1995 for Super Famicom.

He talked to us about his worries for the European audience, major changes from the original and how the fans are not always right.

Tactics Ogre will release in Europe for PSP on February 25.

VG247: The original game was received quite well when it released in the US in 2006. What was the reason for the PSP release against a digital service like XBLA or PSN?

Hiroshi Minagawa: When I create games, I think about it as a player. Compared to back in the day when I used to play on home consoles, these days I play on PSP. I don’t want to sit in front of the TV for hours and hours so I wanted to go for a portable console that I can pick up whenever.

Do you not feel that having the game release on PSP will be detrimental to its reception in Europe rather than having it on XBLA or PSN?

[Laughs] When we started this project, we worried about how it would take off within the western market. However, as a creator, I’m not thinking too much about sales. I’m more worried about what people feel about the game rather than if people buy it or not.

What was it about Tactics Ogre that made it special enough to warrant a remake?

[Laughs] The main reason was actually all to do with timing. It wasn’t my decision. It was more of an internal decision. After the Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions came out everybody was saying, “How about Tactics Ogre?” I thought it was a great idea. I had just finished up on a project and put my hand up for this one.

The sequel for Tactics Ogre was also quite popular. Will be seeing more from the Ogre Battle saga?

When we created the two previous games [Tactics Ogre and War of Lions], game design came first. The design always comes first. After that we thought about what chapter of the Ogre Battle Saga fits into this game design.

So if we make some game design choices that fit the other chapters of the Ogre Battle Saga then we will definitely be looking at creating those as well. There are currently no plans on any other remakes for the Ogre Battle series.

In this remake you level up classes instead of individual units. What other major gameplay changes we will be seeing this time around in comparison to the original?

The point you mentioned is something that was a major change from the original version. So, rather than having single units you have a class you can level up without worry of losing units. Apart from that, there is more of a support system available. The tarot system allows you to go back to where you made a mistake rather than just having to do it all over again.

The other change is that you can change the camera angle, allowing the player to look behind things like walls and such, which adds a new dynamic to the gameplay and map design.

Do you not worry that the tarot system and the class levelling may have made the game easier and will upset fans of the original?

[Laughs] Obviously we care a lot for the original core fans of the game because if you put something in too different they will react and ask, “What is this?” and say they don’t like it. There was a lot of this feedback at the start of the project.

Though, halfway through the development we decided that we wanted to put something in that we thought was great and fun. This is why we created the tarot system.

Of course, some people will say that they prefer the original, but we honestly couldn’t care too much about that because some people love both of the games. We are not worried about that.

What about the main story?

Obviously the story, the main storyline, is identical to the original version. All the additional content, though, like secret or hidden side-stories, is brand new. This is more because of the hardware being a lot more sophisticated this time around, allowing us to add more content than we could in the original. Its content that we would have liked to add to the original but couldn’t due to hardware limitations.

Have the core tactics of the game changed in comparison to the original?

As you mentioned earlier, you can level up classes instead of units. These changes make dramatic differences to the gameplay in this version. You could have a perfect playthrough of the first game that just won’t work here. The objectives are the same, but how you pass them can be very different.

You make a couple of choices at the start of the game with tarot cards, such as name and date of birth. How does this affect the gameplay as a whole?

It doesn’t. It’s more like putting yourself into the character.

So nothing awesome will happen when I play on my birthday?

Sadly, not [laughs].

Japanese strategy games are generally very Japan-specific, gaining more popularity over in their home country than overseas. How do you feel Tactics Ogre will be received in Europe?

When we create these games, I always want to know what other people from the US or Europe will think about it. It’s really difficult to predict what kind of feedback we can get from this version.

The feeling in this game is so different in comparison to the original, so I’m really looking forward to the feedback.

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