Tactics Ogre: Reborn Interview - How Square Enix approached revisiting a beloved classic RPG
Of the slew of RPGs that were released late last year, only one can be described as one of the most well-regarded RPGs ever made. Tactics Ogre: Reborn is not the first time that the seminal tactical RPG has been re-released, but it now stands in a spot where years of praise, critique, and feedback can be taken into consideration as Square Enix looked to repackage the best version of its "crown jewel" in what will easily be the most available version of the game for new audiences for the foreseeable future.
After its launch, RPG Site had a chance to ask some questions to the development team of Tactics Ogre: Reborn, including producer Hiroaki Kato, director Takashi Katano, and lead game designer Naoyuki Takahashi.
RPG Site (to Hiroaki Kato): What is your history with Tactics Ogre before working on Tactics Ogre Reborn, and how did the project come about initially?
Hiroaki Kato (Producer): My history with Tactics Ogre goes back 28 years to when I did some debugging work on the original SNES game. I can remember looking at all the elements that made up the game — the system, the story, the visuals, the music — and being amazed at the quality of it all. I thought to myself, “this game is going to go down in history”. I can still remember it like it was yesterday.
I also worked on the PSP version as Project Manager, so this is now the third time that I’ve been involved in the development of this game. I’d really wanted to revisit the development of Tactics Ogre at some point, paying attention to the feedback from people who had played the PSP version around the time of its launch. The real turning point came during development for 2017’s Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, which I oversaw. We made a lot of enhancements over the original Final Fantasy XII, including boosting the game’s visual performance, recording new audio to improve the sound design, revising the battle design, and just generally improving the overall playability.
At that time, I thought to myself, “I think we now know everything we need to know to be able to make a new Tactics Ogre game”, and that prompted us to start development.
RPG Site: With Tactics Ogre being such a well-regarded genre classic, how did you approach developing a new version with so many adjustments? What was the prevailing philosophy in the development?
Takashi Katano (Director): Tactics Ogre: Reborn uses the PSP version, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, as its base. We reviewed the feedback from players, and at the start of the project, all the developers involved played the PSP game and shared their thoughts on things that could be improved. We also had discussions with Yasumi Matsuno, who designed the original game, about what kind of improvements we could make.
There were some decisions that were unanimous, for example, using the unit-leveling system from the original SNES instead of the class-leveling system used in Let Us Cling Together, and ulimately, we pinned down our approach after a number of discussions on how best to make Reborn into a title that people would enjoy.
RPG Site: Tactics Ogre Reborn has many changes from previous releases of the game. One of the most notable additions is that of the buff/debuff cards that randomly appear on the battlefield. How did the idea come about for the inclusion of these cards? Additionally, was there any consideration to give players an option to turn these off or adjust their spawn rates?
Naoyuki Takahashi (Lead Game Designer): A lot of changes were made to enhance or tweak the battle system, so that players would be rewarded for good strategy. The reason we’ve tweaked strategies for customising and building your forces that depend on skills or items since the previous games and bolstered certain class characteristics was because we wanted players to adapt and think about their party formation. We thought that buff cards were a good way to encourage players to strategize on the fly once the battle had already started.
RPG Site: Do you have any favorite classes to use in battle? If so, which ones, and why? Are there any you like more now in Tactics Ogre: Reborn?
Takahashi: Speaking as a player rather than a developer, I really like the Terror Knights. They’re powerful enough to fight at the front line, and because they inflict Fear on enemies, that means Archers at the rear can come into their own. It’s a class that allows for real coordination within your party.
RPG Site: What is your favorite part of Tactics Ogre’s storyline and narrative? Is it a certain character(s) or scene, the style, the dialogue, or something else?
Kato: I like every scene in this game, but with there being multiple story paths, you’re forced to make some choices that have a huge impact on how the story plays out. There were some shocking moments, and I would find myself agonizing over whether I was making the right decision. I think that left a lasting impression on me.
Partway through the game, there’s an exchange that takes place at The Arkhaiopolis of Rhime between the Dark Knights and a group from Xenobia that includes the Holy Knight Lanselot. The way this scene is edited is really dynamic and pacey, and the detailed character animation is a real highlight. I can’t think of any other games that have used pixel art to enact scenes that feel this cool.
RPG Site: The music player accessed via the Warren Report is especially enjoyable. It includes not just the names of the tracks and the composers, but direct quotes regarding how the remastered tracks came about. We greatly appreciate the effort that went into this, how did you come about deciding to do this and implementing this feature into the game?
Kato: The original Tactics Ogre game included a hidden mode that let players listen to pieces from the soundtrack, along with comments from the composers. At the time, there weren’t a lot of opportunities for players to hear the developers’ points of view, so this feature was well received by the players for the way it had comments for each individual track.
For the PSP version, we changed this feature to make it part of the Warren Report, rather than a hidden mode, and that’s the same approach that we’ve taken for Reborn. For this game, we rerecorded the entire soundtrack with real instruments, so the comments mostly focus on what went on during the new recording sessions. The tracklist grows as you progress through the game as well. I hope that players will try to unlock all the tracks.
RPG Site: What do you think about fan/media response to the game so far, in terms of appraisal and criticism? Is there anything that has surprised you?
Kato: The game hasn’t been out for very long, and there’s a huge volume of content to explore, particularly if you include the post-game content, so as of right now, there aren’t many players who have completed the game in its entirety. That said, we seem to have had a positive response from players who have really gotten into the game, as well as from the press.
Some players have spoken up about some of the unexpected ways in which they’ve been able to level up their knightly order, and others are coming up with their own strategies and sharing them with the community. I’m really happy to hear how the players are engaging with this game.
RPG Site: I know the game has released only recently and maybe you aren’t at liberty to say, but has the initial sales/player reception of Tactics Ogre: Reborn met Square Enix’s expectations?
Kato: I think this is probably the case for any title in any series, but any time you develop something, you have a moment afterward where you look at certain parts and think to yourself, “could I have done this part better?” With Tactics Ogre: Reborn, I had already had a lot of back and forth with Yasumi Matsuno, who designed, wrote, and directed this game, as well as internally within the development team, about what we should do, and what we wouldn’t do with this game.
This helped us to implement everything that we wanted to achieve, and I think that in that regard, the response has been good. I think that as more people get to play the game, we’ll start to hear more feedback about things that we could have done better. I hope that we can take this feedback on board and use what we have learned to develop even better titles in the future.
RPG Site: Do you think there is any possibility for Tactics Ogre: Knight of Lodis, Ogre Battle, or other Ogre series games to get ports or remasters in the future?
Kato: I love Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen, so I would love to be able to play an updated version of that. On a personal note, I’ve worked on quite a few remasters or remakes lately, such as Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age and Tactics Ogre: Reborn, so I think I’d like to work on an all-new title next.
RPG Site: Should an opportunity arise to revisit the series in the future with an all-new entry, would you be interested in participating in its development? Do you have any particular ideas in mind for further installments?
Kato: First and foremost, I want to get to a point where a decent-sized player base has spent a good amount of time with Tactics Ogre: Reborn. I’d like to see it become a staple of the tactical RPG genre with a longstanding fan following (there’s a huge amount of end-game content, so I think this is the type of game that you can pour as much time into as you want!). Once we’ve reached that point, then we’ll see what the response has been like and take it from there.
RPG Site: Thank you for your time!
Tactics Ogre: Reborn is now available for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC