– Why was it decided that Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis would be made for the Game Boy Advance?
Makoto: After hearing that Nintendo would put out a new handheld game console we had discussions within the company about what kinds of games we could put on it. We decided to create a successor to the Tactics Ogre franchise, with the game’s systems rearranged for the handheld format. For a number of reasons, we decided that rather than a main installment, a side story of the franchise would be more suitable to a handheld console, and decided to make it a Tactics Ogre side story1.
1The Japanese title is Tactics Ogre: Gaiden, or “Tactics Ogre: Side Story”
– The game’s systems follow Tactics Ogre quite closely, but the story is completely original, correct?
Makoto: That’s right. Tactics Ogre typically revolves around human drama, but we wanted to avoid delving into such deep themes this time and focus more on telling the story of an individual. It’s also a bit separated from the grandiosity of the overall Ogre Battle franchise as well, so I’m hoping players will be able to enjoy it as an independent experience
– But it is connected to Tactics Ogre in some way, is it not?
Yuuichi: Correct. It’s set 25 years prior to the events of Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together.
Makoto: It’s the story of a certain character from back when they were 15 years old. It seems like there’s already a whole bunch of speculation going on amongst fans. (laughs) Learning more about that will be part of the fun, as well.
– The protagonist is with the Holy Lodis Empire – on the side of the conquerors, that is. It seems like a complicated position.
Makoto: I think people expect morality to play a big part in the Ogre Battle series. That, and the more adult-oriented, mature stories that the Ogre Battle games are known for.
Takuji: Complicated, multifaceted conflicts as well.
Makoto: When people see the commercials aired on the trains, they often ask me “Are you sure about this?”
– The game mechanics seem to have changed in a variety of ways.
Yuuchi: The biggest change would be that we switched it to a regular turn-based system. In Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together we had NATS (Non-Alternate Turn System)2, which was plenty interesting, but also kind of impenetrable. People who played the previous title would probably be fine, but we thought it might be difficult for new players to grasp. Also, since it’s on a handheld, we wanted to make it so that you would be able to put down the game whenever you need to, so we made it turn-based. Since having every other system stay the same would have been boring for us as creators, we decided to go ahead and toss in the Emblem system as well. We were also able to implement a 3D map system that we call Hermit3, letting us take our existing system one step further through the inclusion of elements like weather conditions. The reason we decided to have the game be impacted by weather conditions was that we wanted to illustrate how interesting it was to watch the battlefield change in real time.
2NATS (Non-Alternate Turn System): A semi-real time battle system that includes both real-time and turn-based elements. Each unit has a fixed parameter called Wait Turn (WT). WT begins to count down as soon as the battle starts, with whichever unit whose WT reaches 0 first entering into its Attack Turn (AT). How long that unit will need to wait until its next AT depends on what actions it performs, affecting the order in which other units will be able to act.
3Hermit: An automatic 3D map creation tool developed by QUEST. Containing data such as “height” or “geography” for each panel, this tool can created a total of 19,000 blocks per second, allowing the creation of maps using extremely small quantities of data.
– Where the idea for Emblems come from?
Yuuichi: It first came up while we were chatting over drinks and talked about how sometimes, in Let Us Cling Together, there would be a single unit that ends up stealing the spotlight for a battle. That’s always great, isn’t it? We thought it might be interesting to think up some possible situations where that might happen and have characters receive some kind of award as recognition. It was just an idea at first, but after trying it out it ended up being quite interesting. We actually wanted to have 100 different emblems, but 32 ended up being the limit. There are 35 in total, but the maximum that any individual character can get is 32. There are also emblems that are gender or race specific.
– Units have a luck stat this time, as well.
Yuuichi: It’s really not that major, but we figured if we were going to have luck as a hidden stat, we might as well turn it into biorhythm instead. We’d like for our players to think of it more as, “Wow, this character is really in the zone today!”
What came first on the development side? Did you start with the story?
Yuuichi: No, we started with the base systems. It was planned as a successor to Let Us Cling Together, after all. Since we were going to use its engine, we wanted to have the story remain true to that and ended up selecting the plot based on that. There were multiple candidate stories that we were considering, but we chose this one because we wanted to focus on the Holy Lodis Empire, which had always been on the opposing side until now. This is attached to the Ogre Battle saga, after all–we can’t have a story about clear-cut good and evil when there’s drama to be found on the Lodis side.
– So you made the systems first, and then thought about things like items and other parameters afterwards, then?
Yuuichi: What we had decided from the beginning was to make Tactics Ogre’s battle system turn-based. After that was finalized, there were some things we needed to change out of necessity, such as what items do or how characters access consumables. Emblems were implemented relatively later on in development.