NEWS - Friday, May 20, 2005

E3 2005: Mistwalker Xbox 360 Update

E3 2005: Mistwalker Xbox 360 Update Two of the most promising upcoming Xbox 360 titles aren’t getting all that much space at E3. Mistwalker’s Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey represent Microsoft’s first stab at conquering the Japanese RPG market, and both look hot. To learn more on them, we had to turn not to the halls of the LA Convention Center, but to to the latest issue of Famitsu, which features a lengthy interview with Mistwalker founder Hironobu Sakaguchi. First, Lost Odyssey. As mentioned in our first look at the title, Lost Odyssey tells the story of a man who lives for 1000 years at a time when the world is going through a mystical (magic-based) industrial revolution. What we didn’t know at the game’s unveiling is that joining Kaim, the main character, is Seth, a woman who also lives for a thousand years. Seth is the blue-haired girl shown walking around on a green field in the trailer (that sequence is, according to Sakaguchi, a good indication of what Lost Odyssey will look like). Sadly, Sakaguchi does not reveal details on the relationship between Seth and Kaim. We now have a few hints at something resembling a gameplay system for Lost Odyssey. Kaim, who’s apparently of royal lineage and is physically weak, can suck skills and power from the more mortal folk who surround him. Doing this will result in some cool effects that Sakaguchi is not ready to reveal just yet. Whatever emerges from your vampire session will be customizable by the player. More than gameplay, IGN is interested in Lost Odyssey for the promise of an immersive storyline. As revealed at the game’s premier, Sakaguchi is working with Japanese author Kiyoshi Shigematsu. Sakaguchi reveals in this latest interview that Shigematsu has been asked to write a thousand year’s worth of memories for Kaim. Typical of his style, Shigematsu performed this task by writing over fifty short stories. As the player, you’ll trigger these memories in Kaim as you play through Lost Odyssey, and while they don’t form the main part of the game, they will give players a closer look at the main character. Sakaguchi also provides details on Blue Dragon, a youth-oriented RPG featuring character designs from Akira Toriyama. The Toriyama connection seems to be of primary interest in the interview, with Sakaguchi revealing that things didn’t go so well initially, with his ideas not lining up perfectly with Toriyama’s. Sakaguchi received input from Toriyama, threw out the original plot and quickly wrote another one, which Toriyama accepted. We suspected as much from the trailer shown at the Blue Dragon unveiling (Sakaguchi reveals that, while the trailer featured pre-rendered concept images, the final game will look similar), but monsters are going to play a big role in Blue Dragon. Famitsu was given a chance to see a number of monster drawings, and made note of the large number. Sakaguchi replied that Toriyama is still hard at work on new creations for the game. Although specific names and details for the monsters have yet to be revealed, Sakaguchi does provide new character details. Five heroes have been revealed so far. The game’s main character is Shu, a 16-year-old boy who never gives up and often takes to exploring an ancient area of town that’s closed off to the public. Kurukku, a 16-year-old girl, and her friend, 17-year-old Jiro, are from the same town as Shu. Your adventure starts with these three characters, with Jiro and Shu have somewhat of a rivalry from the start. Eventually joining the quest are Zora, a twenty-year-old girl who’s been backstabbed so many times that she doesn’t trust anyone anymore, and Marumaro, a non-human boy of the equivalent of 14-years age. Shu’s adventure begins when he gains the ability to control his shadow, an ability that serves an essential point both for Blue Dragon’s story and gameplay. The game’s storyline focuses on a lost civilization whose remains and technology is not understood, and cannot be used, by present mankind. In order to make use of the remains, one must use magic, and that’s where the shadows come into play (we’re not sure how just yet -- but it’s probably a key point in the storyline, so even if we did know, we wouldn’t give it away). Shu and friends normally have standard human-like shadows. When they enter into battle, their shadows change into beast form. One of the game’s themes is "The light from your heart creates your shadow," and following up on this, the shape of a character’s shadow is determined by his heart’s form and power. Shu’s heart is similar to a dragon, and thus his shadow becomes a dragon when he enters battle. Shadows perform all your attacks in battle. The characters don’t actually hold weapons. In order to attack an enemy, the characters form an attack pose. The shadow then follows with a similar motion, only resulting in an actual attack, such as a flame spray. The game includes a number of shadows types, including sword, assassin and magic forms. These indicate the type of attacks that the shadow will perform. It’s similar to a job system, with a sword shadow being the equivalent of a knight and an assassin equaling a ninja. Some shadows are better at attacking while others are more useful for recovery. You can combine shadows, resulting, for instance, in a sword-type shadow that can cast healing magic like a white knight. Sakaguchi promises a whole lot of gameplay from Blue Dragon, even after you’ve seen the ending. Having played Sakaguchi’s previous work at Square Enix, we think there’s a good chance that he’ll live up to the promise. Both Lost Odyssey and Blue Dragon share one thing in common: a realistic world. In Lost Odyssey, one button is used to make your character touch parts of the world, with one of the game’s charms apparently seeing how reactive the world is. Sakaguchi expects players to be surprised with the amount of interactivity. Outside of interactivity and the expected visual qualities of a high definition Xbox 360 title, Sakaguchi also promises a physically realistic world. Realtime physical calculations are used in all aspects of the game. Sakaguchi cites an example involving a magic spell which sends rocks and sticks flying into the sky and then falling back down. While previous games would have the movement of the rocks and sticks pre-calculated as part of a set pattern, Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey perform their calculations on the fly, resulting in spells that look different every time. Finally, Sakaguchi reveals a possible release time frame for Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey. While neither title will be ready for the 360’s Japanese launch this December, Sakaguchi hopes to have at least one out within a year of the launch, with the possibility of both making it out in the time frame.

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