The joy of travel – how Square Enix learned from the past with Octopath Traveler II

Even before the release of the game, we had the opportunity to ask some members of this very team about breathing the continuation into life. We chat with producer Masashi Takahashi, character designer Naoki Ikushima, and writer Kakunoshin Futsuzawa on topics such as taking inspiration from the game’s predecessor, the evolution of the HD-2D style, and who is everyone’s favorite character…

Masashi Takahashi (Producer) — Image: Square Enix

Nintendo Life: Octopath Traveler has been a big success for you. What inspired you to revisit the concept of a sequel, and how much did you want to stay true to the core of the original game?

Masashi Takahashi (producer): We were absolutely blown away that the first Octopath Traveler was a huge hit and so many people played it! While we were very grateful for this success, to be honest it put a lot of pressure on us when it came to the second game. When we launched the original Octopath Traveler, I said it was “a battle against people’s memories of the pixel games they’ve played in the past”, but this time it was very much a battle against the first game we made. Our goal was to evolve the formula, not change it, keeping as much as possible what people liked about the first game and trying to fully realize all the things we couldn’t do in it.

Octopath Traveler II takes place in a brand new world, Solistia, and looking at some of the characters, it looks like we’ll be exploring places inspired by different historical periods. Why did you want to create a whole new world and what possibilities did this open up for the development team?

Takahashi-san: As the title suggests, this is a game about traveling and enjoying the journey. We felt it was necessary to set Octopath Traveler II in a whole new world to give the player a sense of excitement and anticipation as they explore it, wondering what lies on the next path, or who might live in the next city.

Time passed very quickly, and five years have passed since the release of the first Octopath Traveler. I’m sure there are still people who haven’t played the first game and some who have played it but have already forgotten the story and that’s why we intentionally didn’t have any links to the story of the first game so I can safely say that both fans of the series and new players will enjoy the content of Octopath Traveler II without worrying about the events that have already happened.

In Octopath Traveler II, one of the most important points to discuss is that “along with crossed paths” there is more interaction.” Can you tell us more about what it looks like in the game and why you decided to improve the interactions?

Takahashi-san: One of the reasons for including this type of interaction was because many fans were asking for it in Octopath Traveler. The other half of the reason came later, as the elements along these lines naturally took shape as we structured the game.

I hope players will appreciate the new interactions in Octopath Traveler II, which will open up opportunities for them to explore deeper and reveal interesting facts about the townspeople and characters.

The original Octopath Traveler was the first HD-2D game, and Octopath Traveler II is the fourth game with this graphic style. What did you learn from working on your first game and watching the style evolution of Triangle Strategy and Live A Live that helped define OTII’s artistic direction?

I tried to write these characters by sharing different aspects of my own personality and then fine-tuning them.

Takahashi-san: All the games were produced by the Asano team, but Triangle Strategy and Live A Live were actually developed by different studios. The genre and style of each is completely different, so we encouraged the teams that worked on them to challenge themselves in their own way, without sticking to the HD-2D Octopath Traveler style. So I have a feeling that there wasn’t much looking at other games when creating these titles.

In the case of Octopath Traveler II, we were able to ask ACQUIRE Co., Ltd, the developer of the first game and the place where the series originated, to create a second game, so I think there’s a big evolution in it. When we put the “HD-2D” logo on the official websites of these games, we update it every time, so we used version 1.1. for Triangle Strategy, version 1.2 for Live A Live and increased to version 2.0 for Octopath Traveler II.

The sequel features the same eight initial quests as the first game. How did you intend to diversify the cast’s character designs and personalities? Do you have a favorite?

Naoki Ikushima (Character Designer) — Image: Square Enix

Naoki Ikushima (Character Designer): The original game was set in a fairly small area with a strong Medieval European theme, but this time one of the main design ideas was to have a bigger world to explore, so we focused on showing the changes in different eras and the diversity of cultures.

This diversity is also represented in the characters themselves, so we have characters like Thronè and Partitio who wear more urban outfits, Hikari who comes from a country with Asian styling, and Ochette who lives with beasts. Furthermore, we also wanted the differences between the characters in Octopath Traveler II and their predecessors who performed the same tasks in the first game to be consistent with the new environment. For example, the fighter in the first game was Olberic, who was physically imposing and used his great strength to swing his sword, but in contrast, the fighter in Octopath Traveler II is Hikari, who is physically small but wins battles with technical skill instead of raw power.

The characters of the dancers are also very different, so while Primrose had a dark and anxious expression on her, her counterpart Agnea from Octopath Traveler II has a completely different personality and is a bright and sunny woman. I have a strong affinity for all eight new champions, so I really can’t pick a favorite among them. Sorry!

Kakunoshin Futsuzawa (screenwriter) — Image: Square Enix

Kakunoshin Futsuzawa (screenwriter): I tried to write these characters by sharing different aspects of my own personality and then fine-tuning them. If I had just created characters that were entirely based on me, people probably wouldn’t have liked them as much, so I made sure to re-arrange them to make them all likeable people. I like them all, so I’d be happy if the players liked them too. If I had to pick a favourite, I’d probably say Ochette. She is a simple person at heart and is happy as long as she has some jerky to eat.

I’ve written about a variety of greedy and materialistic characters (especially villains), so the uncomplicated Ochette may be somewhat comforting to me.

Can you tell Square Enix that we want to see a lot more Octopath music in the future Theatrhythm DLC? Or even the Octopath rhythm game!

Takahashi-san: Thank you very much!

Five tracks from the original Octopath Traveler will be released as DLC for Theatrhythm Final Bar Line! They include both the main theme and battle music, so enjoy these songs filled with Mr. Nishiki’s passion while playing the rhythm game!

The Voyager Octopath II
Image: Square Enix

This interview has been slightly edited for clarity.

We thank Takahashi-san, Ikushima-san and Futsuzawa-san for taking the time to answer our questions. Octopath Traveler II is now available on Switch.

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