Enjoying the Journey – How Square Enix Learned from the Past for Octopath Traveler II

Before the game was released, we got a chance to ask some of the members of that very team about bringing the sequel to life. We chat with producer Masashi Takahashi, character designer Naoki Ikushima, and writer Kakunoshin Futsuzawa about topics such as drawing inspiration from the game’s predecessor, the development of the HD-2D style, and who everyone’s favorite character is…

Masashi Takahashi (producer) — Image: Square Enix

Nintendo Life: Octopath Traveler was a huge success for you, what inspired you to revisit the concept for a sequel and how faithful did you want to stay to the core of the original game?

Masashi Takahashi (Producer): We were very happy that the first Octopath Traveler was a huge hit and so many people played it! Although we were very grateful for that success, it honestly put a lot of pressure on us compared to the second game. When we released the original Octopath Traveler I said it was “a battle against people’s memories of pixel games they’d played before”, but this time it was very much a battle against the first game we created. We aimed to develop the formula rather than change it, keeping as much as possible what people liked from the first game and trying to realize all the things we weren’t able to do in that.

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

Takahashi-san: As the title suggests, this is a game about traveling and enjoying a journey. We felt it was important to set Octopath Traveler II in an entirely new world to give the player that sense of excitement and anticipation as he explores it, wondering what lies down the next road or who might live in the next town.

Time has passed very quickly and it is now five years since the first Octopath Traveler was released. I’m sure there are still people who won’t have played the first game, as well as those who played it but have already forgotten the story, which is why we deliberately didn’t have any links to the story about it first game, so I can confidently say that fans of the series and new players will enjoy the content of Octopath Traveler II without having to worry about events that had happened before.

In Octopath Traveler II, one of the biggest talking points is that there is “more interaction, along with ‘Crossed Paths'”. Can you tell us more about how this plays out in the game and why you decided to improve interactions?

Takahashi-san: Half the reason for including these kinds of interactions was because we saw a lot of fans asking for them in Octopath Traveler. The other half of the reason followed later, as elements along those lines naturally took shape as we pieced together the structure of the game.

I hope players will appreciate the new interactions in Octopath Traveler II, which will open up opportunities for players to explore more and reveal interesting facts about the town’s people and characters.

The original Octopath Traveler was the first HD-2D game, and Octopath Traveler II is the fourth game in this art style. What did you learn from working on the first game and seeing the style evolve in Triangle Strategy and Live A Live that helped inform OTII’s art direction?

I tried to write these characters by separating different aspects of my own personality and then fleshing them out.

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 one is completely different, so we encouraged the teams working on them to challenge themselves in their own ways without getting caught up in sticking closely to the HD-2D style of Octopath Traveler. So I have a feeling that other games weren’t looked at too much when making these titles.

For Octopath Traveler II, we were able to ask ACQUIRE Co.,Ltd, the developer of the first game and where the series originated, to make the second game, so I think you can see a lot of development in that. 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 went up to version 2.0 for Octopath Traveler II.

The sequel features the same eight starting jobs as the first game. How did you aim to vary the character designs and personalities of the cast? Do you have a favorite?

Naoki Ikushima (character designer) — Image: Square Enix

Naoki Ikushima (character designer): The original game took place in a fairly small area with a strong medieval European theme, but this time one of the main design concepts was to have a larger world to explore, so we were careful to show changes over different eras and have a diverse variety of cultures.

This variety is also represented in the characters themselves, so we have characters like Thronè and Partitio who wear more urban outfits, Hikari who is from a country with Asian styles and Ochette who lives with the Beistlings. On top of that, we also wanted differences between the characters in Octopath Traveler II and their predecessors, who had the same jobs in the first game, that were in line with the new setting. For example, the warrior from the first game was Olberic, who was physically imposing and used his great strength to swing his sword, but in contrast, the warrior in Octopath Traveler II is Hikari, who is physically small but wins his battles using technical skills rather than raw power.

The dancer characters are also very different, so where Primrose had a dark and troubled vibe to her, her counterpart Agnea from Octopath Traveler II has a completely different personality and is a bright and sunny woman. I have a strong attachment to all eight new heroes, so I really can’t pick a favorite among them. Pardon!

Kakunoshin Futsuzawa (screenwriter) — Image: Square Enix

Kakunoshin Futsuzawa (screenwriter): I tried to write these characters by separating different aspects of my own personality and then fleshing them out. If I just made characters based entirely on me, people probably wouldn’t warm to them as much, so I made sure to rearrange them to make them all likable people. I like them all, so I would be happy if the players liked them too. If I had to choose a favorite, I would probably say Ochette. She is a simple person at heart and is happy as long as she has some dried meat to eat.

I’ve written about various greedy and materialistic characters (especially the villains), so the uncomplicated Ochette might be a bit comforting to me.

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

Takahashi-san: Thank you!

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

Octopath Traveler II
Image: Square Enix

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

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

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