Octopath Traveler paved the way for Japanese roleplaying games with its flashy HD-2D style and branching narrative. That trail led the franchise to mobile phones and tablets, as Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent brings the story of Orsterra to mobile devices in a new prequel story.
This new mobile Octopath Traveler will be released today, July 27, on iOS and Android devices. To learn more, we spoke with three key members of the development team: global producer Hirohito Suzuki, composer Yasunori Nishiki, and screenwriter Kakunoshin Futsuzawa about the franchise’s move to mobile.
We talk about free-to-play mechanics, the proliferation of the HD-2D art style, differences in the battle system, and much more. We also covered whether characters or locations from the original game might affect this new game and what players can expect from the three branching stories as they play.
This interview was conducted by email.
GameSpot: Why was mobile the platform of choice for a return to Octopath Traveler? What does the platform offer for this experience that consoles/PC don’t?
Hirohito Suzuki: Hello, this is Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent Producer Hirohito Suzuki. Thanks for receiving me!
The team’s mission is to bring Octopath Traveler to as many people as possible. For that, we decided to release this game as a free download for mobile devices, which has become the platform with the largest player base.
That said, our goal is to deliver the same kind of experience as a console or PC game with a mobile device and not about what the mobile platform offers for that experience that consoles/PC don’t. As such, unlike a typical mobile game, there are no social elements, nor do we intend to have limited-time events most of the time.
I hope you like our Octopath Traveler title which can be played on a mobile device.
The battle system of this game doubles the amount of heroes on the screen at the same time. What went into the decision to increase the player’s hero count, and how did that choice affect the battle system?
Suzuki: The motivation behind this was due to the large cast of characters, and I wanted to give them a moment to shine together.
What’s unique about the battle in this title is that players will use characters positioned forwards or backwards. BP will be accumulated for all eight party members, so players can enjoy a faster battle than in the first game.
In addition, there are abilities that activate based on whether your character is placed in the front or the rear, which also makes for strategic battles.
What kind of free elements will be included in Champions of the Continent? How will they affect the player experience?
Suzuki: The basic gameplay of the title is free. We’ve tweaked it so that players can get through the first ending of the main story, which has around 60 hours of content, also for free.
Which characters join a player’s roster will largely depend on luck, but I would be happy if players could enjoy the process of figuring out how to best utilize the characters available to them.
Explain how in-app purchases were implemented. How important are microtransactions to Mainland Champions and what types of purchases can players make?
Suzuki: Fundamentally speaking, players can perform a one-pull summon and unlock characters if they so choose. In this game, character skills can provide an advantage as you advance through the main story and battle content, but this is not necessarily mandatory. However, if you want to delve deeper into a favorite character’s setting, you’ll have to get that character to play.
How challenging did you find it to design a “free-to-play” ecosystem without making it too reliant on using real-world currencies? Do you think you’ve struck the right balance in this regard?
Suzuki: As mentioned earlier, the goal of the game is to deliver Octopath Traveler to as many people as possible, and so the tweaks we’ve made allow basic gameplay to be free for everyone. So, unlike typical mobile games, we made sure that perspectives like ecosystems or business models didn’t influence game systems too much.
This decision was very difficult to make as a producer, but my goal is for people to first play this title for free and fall in love with the game, then based on that they can choose to make a purchase out of a desire to collect their favorite character.
The game’s art style has become a sub-genre of RPGs in its own right, with Live A Live and the Dragon Quest III remaster as notable examples. Are there any other games in Square Enix’s library that you’d like to see HD/2D treatment?
Suzuki: This is strictly my personal opinion, but I would love to see some of the Final Fantasy titles in pixel art done in HD-2D. Octopath Traveler was heavily influenced by them, so I believe they would be wonderful.
However, as a creator, I would also like to think about making new games in the HD-2D style and not just focus on remakes.
How does your songwriting process change when working with a mobile title? Are there any limitations you encountered when writing music for this game, or is the process the same as the previous game?
Yasunori Nishiki: I think it can be said that music production for recent mobile games has virtually no differences or limitations from console games. However, certain implementations that can tax a device’s CPU, such as interactive music or high-fidelity music/music file formats, can cause issues with downloadability and may be somewhat affected by limitations.
Of course, if a mobile game is made to offer a different gaming experience than its console counterpart, then the way music is created must change to follow suit; however, our concept for this game was to provide our players with a gaming experience that doesn’t compare to a console game. As a result, I made sure to keep the feel of the first game to the music as well.
The previous game’s soundtrack was widely praised when the game was released. Do you feel some sort of pressure trying to recreate that success for this game, or are you approaching it as a separate challenge?
Nishiki: The first title portrayed the story of eight protagonists and each of their journeys and so the music was created to focus on that aspect. For this game, the story revolves around diabolical but compelling villains; as such, the music is created with them in focus.
Of course, I felt a kind of pressure that I can’t let down those who put so much thought into the first game, but I also remember being excited about how I can introduce these fascinating villains with music.
I actually managed to incorporate a lot of music genres that I didn’t use in the first game, so it was a great opportunity to experiment.
Also, as this is a live service title, I wrote the song at the beginning not knowing how the story would end, so that was also quite emotional (laughs).
How do Continent Champions fit into the overall Octopath Traveler story? We know it’s a prequel, but how far back in time are we going?
Kakunoshin Futsuzawa: This game takes place a few years before the events of the first game. The same cities and characters will also be referenced. People who are playing an Octopath Traveler game for the first time can still enjoy this game without any problems, but those “travelers” who have tried the first game can enjoy the journey a little deeper.
How, if any, will the characters from the original game – be they playable heroes or NPCs – influence this story? Will we see familiar faces on our travels?
Futsuzawa: Sometimes characters can appear as friends, or sometimes they can get in the way of your journey. I’m afraid I can’t go into details, but many of the characters from the first game will definitely appear, so I hope you’re looking forward to seeing them again!
The story so far revolves around three characters in Herminia, Tytos and Auguste. Will we see these three stories intertwine, and if so, to what extent?
Futsuzawa: These three are the “ultimate evil,” so to speak. The story takes place in the vast land of Orsterra, but considering pure evil – and three of them, there’s no way these three aren’t somehow connected.
The Octopath Traveler series involves stories from many different people, so I’m very careful with these characters, their stories and how they connect. That’s all I can share right now, however I would love for you to take the journey into the world of Octopath Traveler and experience how the stories are a little different and darker than the first game.
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