Instead, the Gooch welcomed the opportunity to return to the building blocks and craft a stronger, richer experience because of the shift in focus. He wanted to make sure the game itself was structurally sound, so his team spent a year and a half on a prototype that consisted of just square blocks for characters, a process that he last used on Final Fantasy VII. Since he didn't have to worry as much about the hardware's graphical pipeline, he was free to experiment more than he would have otherwise.
None of this, of course, is to say that visuals aren't important: "I was really averse to allowing the quality of the graphics to drop just because we were working on Wii, which doesn't have HD graphics. I do really think that, in the end, what we've created can hold its own against other hardware." Merely, the team was able to approach The Last Story from an angle that they wouldn't have been able to had this been another project for the Xbox 360 and PS3.
He continues, "There's a tendency for developers to allow all their energy to be diverted into maintaining the high quality of the graphics." His sentiments are similar to some that Jim Sterling has mentioned before and which I share as well. While working with high-end consoles can provide ample opportunities, it's very easy to get lost in the details. Final Fantasy XIII, for instance, was criticized for limiting the scale and scope typical of the Final Fantasy name in exchange for fantastic visuals. It's a simple matter of economics -- if money is being funneled in one direction, it's not going elsewhere. A fine balance needs to be struck, and sometimes, working with "less capable" hardware might be the ticket to help a team refocus its priorities.
The Last Story launches in Europe on February 24. At that point, English-speaking gamers will be able to find out for themselves if Sakaguchi and Mistwalker succeeded in their experiment. If the extremely warm reception of Xenoblade Chronicles is any indication, The Last Story might just pull it off yet.
Also, make sure to read the full interview. Iwata Asks is always good for some juicy tidbits.
Iwata Asks: The Last Story [Nintendo via BeefJack]
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