Octopath Traveler has blazed a trail for Japanese role-playing games, with its flashy HD-2D style and branching storytelling. That trail has led the franchise to cell 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 launches today, July 27, on both 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 scenario writer Kakunoshin Futsuzawa about the franchise’s move to mobile.
We spoke about free-to-play mechanics, the HD-2D art style’s proliferation, the differences in the battle system, and more. We also touched on if characters or locations from the original game might impact this new game, and what players can expect from the three branching stories as they play.
This interview was conducted via 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 do not?
Hirohito Suzuki: Hello, this is Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent Producer Hirohito Suzuki. Thanks for having me!
The team’s mission is to deliver Octopath Traveler to as many people as possible. To this end, we decided to release this game as a free download for mobile devices, which has grown into 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 this experience that consoles/PC do not. As such, unlike a typical mobile game, there are no social elements, nor do we intend on having limited-time events for the most part.
I hope you enjoy our Octopath Traveler title that can be played on a mobile device.
This game’s battle system doubles the amount of heroes on the screen at one time. What went into the decision to increase the player’s hero count, and how did this choice affect the battle system?
Suzuki: The motivation behind this was due to the large cast of characters, and I wanted to provide them a moment to shine together.
What’s unique about the battle in this title is that players will use characters positioned forward or in the rear. BP will accumulate for all eight party members, so players can enjoy a speedier battle than the first game.
Additionally, there are abilities that activate based on whether your character is placed as a forward or a rear guard, so it makes for strategic battles as well.
What sort of free-to-play elements will be included in Champions of the Continent? How will they affect the player’s experience?
Suzuki: The title’s basic gameplay is free. We’ve adjusted it so that players can get through the first ending to the main story, which is about 60 hours of content, for free as well.
The characters that join a player’s roster will largely depend on luck, but it would make me happy if players can enjoy the process of figuring out how to best utilize the characters available to them.
Explain how in-app purchases have been implemented. How important are microtransactions to Champions of the Continent and what sorts of purchases can players make?
Suzuki: Fundamentally speaking, players can perform a summon from a pull and unlock characters if they choose to do so. In this game, the characters’ abilities may provide an advantage when advancing through the main story and battle content, but those are not necessarily mandatory. However, if you want to delve further into the scenario of a favorite character, you will have to obtain that character to play on.
How challenging did you find designing a “free-to-play” ecosystem without making it too reliant on using real-world currencies? Do you think you’ve achieved the right balance in this regard?
Suzuki: As mentioned earlier, the purpose of the game is to deliver Octopath Traveler to as many people as possible and so the adjustments we made allow for basic gameplay to be free for everyone. Because of this, unlike typical mobile games, we made sure perspectives like ecosystems or business models did not influence the game systems too much.
This decision was very hard to make as a producer, but my aim 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 their desire to collect their favorite character.
The game’s art style has become a subgenre of RPGs in its own right, with Live A Live and the Dragon Quest III remaster as notable upcoming examples. Are there any other games in Square Enix’s library you’d like to see get the HD/2D treatment?
Suzuki: This is strictly my personal opinion, but I would love to see some of the pixel art Final Fantasy titles done in HD-2D. Octopath Traveler was heavily influenced by them, so I believe they would come out wonderfully.
However, as a creator myself, I’d also like to think about making new games in the HD-2D style and not just focus on remakes.
Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent’s hero roll screen
How does your composition process change when working with a mobile title? Are there any limitations you’ve found in 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 difference or limitations from that of console games. However, certain implementations that could put a heavy load on a device’s CPU, such as interactive music, or long pieces of music/high fidelity music file formats, could cause issues with download capacity, and may be somewhat affected by limitations.
Of course, if a mobile game is meant to offer a different gameplay experience than its console counterpart, then the way in which the music is created must change to follow suit; however, our concept for this game was to provide our players with gameplay experience that does not pale in comparison to a console game. As a result, I made sure to maintain the feeling of the first game for the music as well.
The previous game’s soundtrack was widely praised back when the game’s launched. Do you find a sort of pressure in trying to recreate that success for this game, or are you approaching this as its own separate challenge?
Nishiki: The first title depicted 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 yet appealing villains; as such, the music is created with them in focus.
Of course, I did feel a sort of pressure that I can’t disappoint those who thought so highly of the first game, but I also remember being excited about how I can present these fascinating villains with music.
In fact, I was able to incorporate various music genres I didn’t use in the first game, so it was a great opportunity to experiment.
Additionally, because this is a live-service title, I wrote music at the beginning without knowing how the story would conclude, so that was quite thrilling, too (laughs).
How does Champions of the Continent fit into the overall story of Octopath Traveler? We know it’s a prequel, but how far back in time are we headed?
Kakunoshin Futsuzawa: This game takes place a few years before the events of the first game. The same towns and characters will be referenced as well. People who are playing an Octopath Traveler game for the first time can still enjoy this game without any issues, but those “travelers” who have experienced the first game may enjoy the journey a bit deeper.
How, if at all, will the characters from the original game–whether they be the playable heroes or NPCs–factor into this story? Will we see any familiar faces in our travels?
Futsuzawa: At times the characters may appear as a friend or at times they may stand in the way of your journey. I’m afraid I am unable to go into details, but many of the characters from the first game will definitely make an appearance, so I hope you look 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 how extensively?
Futsuzawa: These three are the “ultimate evil,” so to speak. The story takes place in the vast land of Orsterra, but considering the sheer evil–and three of them, at that– there is no way these three would not be somehow connected.
The Octopath Traveler series involves stories of many different people, and so I am very careful of these characters, their stories, and how they connect to each other. This is all I can share right now, however, I would love for you to take the journey to the world of Octopath Traveler and experience how the stories are a bit different and darker than the first game.