The japanese xbox.com put online this interesting interview of Sakaguchi following yesterday's annoucement. Bizarro Sun Yat-sen allowed me to use his translation here. Many thanks to him!
Q: So what drove you to break your long silence and finally start making big RPGs again?
Sakaguchi: The truth is that as of last spring I'd gone two and a half years without any direct, day-to-day involvement with content development. I spent most of my time watching movies and reading books. But after two and a half years of that lifestyle an impulse to make something arose within me.
Q: You've established your own company, Mistwalker...
Sakaguchi: Game development teams and budgets are getting bigger. Relying on game development to raise the money to pay all those people can lock you into a very bad cycle, where you're just making things to somehow pay down those costs. But if you can't break away from that and make something new, I didn't think there was any point in making games at all. I established Mistwalker to try a style of work that wouldn't make us so dependent on development.
Q: Was it the next-generation Xbox console that led you to work with Microsoft Game Studios (MGS)?
Sakaguchi: Broadly speaking that's certainly true, I definitely wanted a limitless world where I could cram in everything I wanted to do. I think next-generation consoles are past the threshold of being able to do that. It's like, everything I wanted to express could fit in this box called the game machine, so I could send it out. While groping for a way to get back into making games I'd sometimes ask outside creators if they'd be interested in working together, and thanks to the good response I came to think we could do two RPGs. Then I got a talk from Mr. Maruyama (Xbox business director Yoshihiro Maruyama) a friend I'd worked with before. Hiroshi Kawai (game development director) who'd worked with me on development (of FF7 and FF9) was also at MGS, and since we understood each other's abilities I felt things would go smoothly this way. So it wasn't so much that I chose the hardware myself, I was led to the next-generation Xbox by personal connections.
Q: What's your role on these two games? Also, what kind of games will they be?
Sakaguchi: Basically, I'm the producer, and I'm also writing a lot of the scenarios, including game system design. One of them goes the realistic route. It will have stylish visuals - this is what I've always been aiming for - it will be a game that gives you the pleasant sensation of walking among amazing visuals. The story won't be the typical coming-of-age RPG story, the main character is, if anything, knowledgeable and experienced. But I'd like to try and show how even that kind of person can be moved to laugh by trivial things, or moved to cry by everyday things. I'm going for a deeper style that shows a bit of psychological depth. For the other game, I want to make an RPG with deformed characters who move with lots of energy. The main character is someone who never gives up, no matter what hardships he (/she?) undergoes, he grits his teeth and keeps on going.
Q: You have a strong image as a storyteller. Are there any particular rules of thumb or reflections on RPGs that you're using to guide you?
Sakaguchi: Right, well, with each new generation of games my thoughts have changed, so... At the moment, I feel that the sensation of walking among amazing visuals - that's already been done. But however pretty a game's graphics may be, if they can't be touched they're just decorations in the end. So I'm thinking I want to aim for a game world with lots of things you can seamlessly interact with in various ways, for the sense of a world where everything can be touched. Also, as I said before I want to get away from coming-of-age stories, and create comical or tragic scenes unlike any seen in games before. I'm trying to make something that will feel fresh, and explores the possibilities of interactivity.
Q: Finally, please say something to the game fans eagerly awaiting your works.
Sakaguchi: The users have appreciated what I myself found fun, they've been tuned in to my wavelength and that's made me very happy and very grateful. So when making games, I never forget the minimal requirement to satisfy the users who spend their money to buy them. I believe in the fun these games will deliver, so please look forward to them.