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Sakaguchi details Blue Dragon

Mistwalker founder releases more information on second Xbox 360 game; reveals alliance with Dragonball creator Akira Toriyama.


TOKYO--As reported earlier, Microsoft assembled three premier designers in Japan to talk about their upcoming Xbox 360 projects. Following Okamoto and Mizuguchi's presentations, Hironobu Sakaguchi of Mistwalker appeared onstage to talk about his two Xbox 360 projects.

"I've been working on the Xbox 360 since about a year and a half ago," stated Sakaguchi. "I'm already 43 years old and it's proving to be physically tough, but I'm hard at work on two projects," The seasoned producer has been making games for nearly 20 years.

The first title that Sakaguchi presented was Blue Dragon, a role-playing game that was first revealed in Japan's popular weekly manga magazine, Shonen Jump.

The game is being developed with Sakaguchi acting as overall supervisor; joining him is Dragonball creator Akira Toriyama. Toriyama is the game's character designer.

The game's score will be composed by Nobuo Uematsu, who left Square Enix last October and joined Sakaguchi at Mistwalker, their jointly run studio. The three men are no strangers to each other; they previously teamed up to create Square's 1995 RPG classic, Chrono Trigger.

Sakaguchi revealed that Blue Dragon is being developed by Artoon, which is best known for its Blinx series on the Xbox. Artoon's Takuya Matsumoto is working as the director on Blue Dragon, while Manabu Kusunoki is creating concept art.

Matsumoto was one of the creative directors for Blinx 2. Prior to joining Artoon, Matsumoto worked as a programmer for Sega and was involved in a number of titles such as the Sega Saturn games NiGHTS Into Dreams and Burning Rangers.

Kusunoki previously created art for Blinx: The Time Sweeper and Pinobee: Wings of Adventure. Prior to leaving Sega together with Matsumoto, he worked on games including Sonic Adventure and Panzer Dragoon.

"I'm very happy that we'll be able to make a game that's based on Toriyama-san's artwork," said Sakaguchi. "Whenever new art [from Toriyama] comes around, the staff wants to incorporate it into the game as a 3D model and move it around as soon as they can. There's a lot of tough times in game development, but we're enjoying Blue Dragon."

Akira Toriyama's art should be familiar to gamers that have played Chrono Trigger or Dragon Quest, two of his previous endeavors.

In Blue Dragon, players take on the role of a boy named Shu and his two friends: an intellectual boy named Jiro, and a girl named Kluke (who is a bit mature for her age).

One day, Shu and his friends find out that their shadows have changed to the shape of monsters. This is said to be both a vital plot point and a gameplay aspect, according to Sakaguchi. The three will be going up against Nene, an ancient human who plots to bring chaos to the world by using magical powers that have long been forgotten.

Sakaguchi showed a short trailer of Blue Dragon in which a 3D-rendered graphic of Shu moved around, his shadow following close behind. When Shu smashed his fist on the ground, his shadow--which took the form of a huge blue dragon--did the same, except with a lot more power.

The trailer hinted that each of the character's shadows has a different form: Shu has a shadow in the shape of a dragon, while Jiro has a "Minotaur Shadow," and Kluke has a "Phoenix Shadow."

The trailer also revealed two additional characters; a young boy with a round face and spiky red helmet named Marumaro (he controls a "Tiger Shadow"), and a young girl with silver hair, named Zora. Zora wears short pants and a black bandana with a skull mark, and controls something referred to as a "Bat Shadow."

Sakaguchi revealed that the shadows play a vital role in Blue Dragon's game system. They can be switched around to give different abilities to the characters, much like the job-change system from the Final Fantasy series.

According to Sakaguchi, the developers currently plan on featuring approximately 200 different shadows for this "Shadow Change" system. He also disclosed that the skills from shadows could be mixed to make custom moves, which will allow players to advance their characters as they choose.

"We're trying to make the game so that it won't be merely beautiful. We want to make it so gamers will have to react all over the place. We are hoping to really pack the game [with interactivity], so that when the player goes into a map, such as a town or a dungeon, they'll be excited about how many things [they] will need to react to," commented Sakaguchi.

Composer Nobuo Uematsu made an appearance during Sakaguchi's presentation. Akira Toriyama, who's known to be camera-shy, didn't appear at the presentation, although he delivered a written message that was read aloud by Sakaguchi.

"Dragon Ball, Dragon Quest, and this time, Blue Dragon. It seems that I really have a bond with Dragons," commented Toriyama by proxy. "I was thinking of turning down this job offer if it was similar to Dragon Quest. But as I read the script, it turned out to have a completely different worldview, with a lot of sci-fi elements. It seemed like an enjoyable project, so I took on the design offer."

Sakaguchi said that working with Toriyama has been tough at times, but it has been for the best, since his ideas were adopted into the game, "making it even better."

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