News: The Dismal Fate of Hironobu Sakaguchi

Hironobu Sakaguchi Gets Stuck in the S-Bend

Mistwalker never had control over their own fate. Obviously, like many third party studios, Mistwalker lacked the resources to develop their own games independently from a publisher willing to finance the project. Unlike many other third party studios Mistwalker is not sufficiently staffed to develop console games internally, and rely on finding a publisher willing to hook them up with a third party development studio to do the heavy lifting. The closest that Mistwalker has ever come to being in control of their destiny was when they developed and self-published Terra Battle, which went on to receive over 1.8 million downloads. This led to Mistwalker announcing multiple different Terra Battle projects, including Terra Battle 2, Terra Wars, and talk of developing an entry in the series for consoles. Unfortunately for Mistwalker the failure of Terra Battle 2 has led to the series being left completely dead in the water, and the Terra Wars Twitter account has not been updated for over a year.

It is certainly a unique look.
Physical dioramas are constructed in order to create the game’s backgrounds.

Because of Mistwalker’s fragile place within the industry the only time they have ever been able to undertake large scale projects has been when a major player within the gaming industry has been looking to confer some legitimacy upon their platforms. Lost Odyssey was Microsoft trying to confer legitimacy upon the Xbox 360 in the eyes of Japanese gamers, while The Last Story was Nintendo trying to confer legitimacy upon the Wii as being more than just a shovelware platform for babies. Now Apple are trying to expand their role in the gaming space with Apple Arcade, so who might they look to to confer legitimacy upon them in this endeavour?

Apple Arcade will essentially be a subscription service for playing smartphone games across iOS devices and Mac computers. In order to get content for this service Apple are funding projects which will remain exclusive to Apple Arcade platforms. Queue the announcement of Mistwalker’s next JRPG, Fantasian, which can only be played by subscribing to Apple’s new service! In the past TDT has made light of the fact that the names of Lost Odyssey and The Last Story sound awfully similar to the series that Hironobu Sakaguchi is best known for, and the newest title being Fantasian will do nothing to buck this trend.

It's a novel way they've found to create cheap backgrounds.
This is what the above diorama looks like in game.

Production of the game seems kind of unique for a JRPG, as all of the game’s backgrounds are created by the team building a bunch of physical dioramas and then photographing them; 3D character models are then overlayed on top of these photo-realistic backgrounds. Of the extremely limited amount of footage released thus far for the game, some of the environments look attractive, while other environments look a little bit off. The effect is almost reminiscent of some of the recent Yoshi games, only the Yoshi games simulate real world materials by rendering them in 3D, while Fantasian literally just takes a photo of them and then uses it in much the same way as digitised pre-render backgrounds were used back in the PS1 era. All in all it is probably a good thing that Mistwalker is still getting work, but one cannot imagine ever playing Fantasian on this awful fucking platform.

Kaz Hirai to Retire

From one fallen icon to another, Kaz Hirai has this week announced his retirement from Sony. Readers might be feeling a sense of Deja Vu at this news, and that is because during February of last year Hirai announced his retirement as the Sony CEO. Since his retirement as CEO last year, Kaz Hirai has been serving as a Sony Chairman, but as of June 18 he will officially exit the company. Hirai will continue to offer his services to the company as a senior advisor, but this is not a serious position, rather it is a job title created to sooth the markets which might otherwise begin to speculate against a smooth transition.

He's not leaving Playstation in a good way.
You have to laugh, because otherwise you’d cry.

Last February marked an end of an era, and this week marks another one. Kaz Hirai rose up through Sony’s ranks through the Playstation division, as he was integral to pushing for Playstation’s global success from when he joined the company in 1995 until he was made a corporate Vice President in 2006. While Hirai has not had much to do directly with the functioning of the Playstation division for the past thirteen years, it nevertheless seemed like the Playstation brand was always OK while he was CEO. It felt like he probably offered some degree of shelter to Playstation Japan, which is an infinitely more trustworthy entity than Playstation America.

Since Kaz Hirai stepped down last year the company has wasted no time in transferring all authority for game approvals to Sony of America, which is headquartered in California. America and Europe have become far bigger markets for Playstation than Japan, and so Hirai’s replacement probably felt like Sony of America were better placed to meet the needs of Western consumers. Nothing could be further from the truth however, as the blue-haired weirdos who are currently calling the shots could not possibly be further removed from the normal tastes of mainstream consumers. Now Kaz Hirai is exiting the company even as Playstation is fast becoming an open joke among gamers. It is a sad note to leave on, but this was probably not of Hirai’s doing. He cannot Save Soyny from itself forever.

Switch To Receive Major Hardware Refresh

The Nintendo Switch turned out to be a far better platform than it had any right to be. That being said, the platform’s success does nothing to invalidate two of TDT’s biggest criticisms of the hardware. The first is that the Switch is not powerful enough to hang with the big boys; PS4 and Xbox One. The second is that the Nintendo Switch is not cheap and portable enough to replace Nintendo’s aging 3DS portable. The Switch only had to do one of these things, but its failure to do either was a legitimate point of criticism.

Only two years too late.
The Nintendo Switch might be about to get that secret sauce after all!

It sounds like Nintendo is preparing to do both, albeit with separate pieces of hardware. If a developer puts a ton of work into their Switch port then they can sometimes fudge an eighth generation appearance provided that players squint really hard, but now the gap between Switch and the base PS4 ports might be about to get a whole lot narrower. Nintendo are apparently set to reveal a premium high performance SKU of Switch hardware. The Journalist who broke this story did clarify that the premium Switch will not be as powerful as the PS4 Pro or Xbox One X, because of course that is the case, but there is still no word yet on whether it will be more or less powerful than the base eighth generation consoles. It will also be interesting to see whether this high performance model will still be portable, or whether Nintendo will decide to consolise it. The other new SKU on the cards is a smaller, cheaper Switch, which will jettison HD rumble in order to achieve a more compact form factor. Apparently these new Switch models could release as soon as this Summer.


  1. I’m wondering whether they may ship a Switch which is just a console (no screen, not undockable), and then another Switch which is just a handheld (no outputs or dock functionality at all). Assuming identical technical ability, both could be sold for less than the cost of the current Switch, because the console version wouldn’t have to include expensive screens etc., and the portable version would be able to omit the dock etc.

    So, Nintendo can make up the new gap between cost and price by putting better hardware in, and then sell it at current Switch prices for roughly the same profit-margin.

    The problem with this thinking is that it undercuts the Switch selling point which is its versatility in being both a console and a handheld by forking it into a one-or-other proposition.

    Alternatively if they go with a ‘high performance’ model, what effect will that have on the dev landscape? Will we see games that soon require the New Switch in order to play, a la New Nintendo 3DS titles?

  2. Will we see games that soon require the New Switch in order to play, a la New Nintendo 3DS titles?

    That only happened with one or two 3DS games, and thus far it has happened with zero PS4 and Xbox One games. The bottom line is that most devs don’t want to exclude a large part of the audience. What I would be more concerned about is games that play like absolute trash on the OG hardware.

  3. What I would be more concerned about is games that play like absolute trash on the OG hardware.

    That’s effectively the same thing. So the question persists.

  4. That happens a lot now. There are quite a few action heavy games that dip into 20fps territory on the PS4 and Xbone, which have >40fps framerates on the Pro and the X.

    We have also seen one or two games on the 3DS which are almost unplayable on the base hardware.

    That said, we already have a bunch of games on the Switch that run like absolute trash because the Switch fanbase keeps wanting companies to port PS4 games to their console – so basically these cutdown ports already offer us a glimpse of the future.

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