The creative team behind OCTOPATH TRAVELER II reveal their vision for the acclaimed RPG… and challenges of bringing it to life.
By Duncan Heaney

OCTOPATH TRAVELER II highlights everything that makes RPGs so beloved.

It’s packed with memorable characters, whose vibrant personalities are matched by their incredible designs. It features incredibly engaging stories, satisfyingly deep combat, and beautiful HD-2D visuals, all supported by an utterly wonderful soundtrack.

It is, in short, the complete package and quite an achievement for the talented development team.

We recently had a chance to speak to some of the key developers about their experiences of making the game, including Keisuke Miyauchi (Director/ACQUIRE Corp.),Yasunori Nishiki (Composer), Naoki Ikushima (Character Design/SQUARE ENIX) and Kakunoshin Futsuzawa (Scenario Writer/SQUARE ENIX).

So, read on to learn all about the making of OCTOPATH TRAVELER II.

Director Keisuke Miyauchi

OCTOPATH TRAVELER was acclaimed when it released, so how did you approach creating a follow up?

One of the main things we thought about was making sure the game is fun for those who had played the first game, and those coming to the series for the first time. This was something we kept foremost in our minds when adding or balancing features.

Another key feature was the ability to switch between day and night at the press of a button. This was something we considered particularly important right from the beginning of development, so we used it as a central axis when implementing other features.

What did you find most challenging about this approach?

First and foremost, we wanted to showcase to players that there had been iterations, rather than drastic changes made to the overall experience.

This was particularly true when it came to the visuals, where it was challenging to find the right balance. We wanted a game that was even more beautiful than the first but making the graphics too finely detailed lost what makes the pixel art great.

It took a lot of trial and error to find that balance. Fortunately, the core development team worked together on OCTOPATH TRAVELER, and we’ve built really strong relationships with each other. That helped us to go through this repeated trial and error process relatively smoothly.

The visuals were improved, with more dynamic camera movements too. How difficult was it to integrate these new cinematic touches with the established style of OCTOPATH TRAVELER?

When the camera angle changes, it means you can see places that would originally have been hidden! So we had to create these places in detail, which was a challenge we didn’t have in the previous game.

However, from the beginning stages of development, we planned the maps in much more detail than in OCTOPATH TRAVELER. Thankfully, because we did this work, making these new maps wasn’t as tricky as expected!

There are lots of hidden treasure chests and other secrets throughout Solistia, but are there any very special items you'd encourage players to look out for?

This is about dungeons rather than items, but there’s one particular side dungeon that you can only access in a rather unique way. We don’t want to ruin too much of the surprise, but would encourage players to try to uncover it and see what they find!

Composer Yasunori Nishiki

The first OCTOPATH TRAVELER was widely praised for its superb soundtrack. How did that make you feel?

I think “relieved” is the most appropriate word!

Honestly, I challenged myself quite a lot with the soundtrack for the first OCTOPATH TRAVELER. I could feel the weight of everyone’s expectations for a Square Enix RPG with pixel art graphics… but above all, I didn’t want to let myself down because I’m a fan of Square Enix RPGs too!

Then there was the question of whether I could follow on from the great work done on previous Asano Team games by REVO and Supercell - suffice to say, I was facing pressure from all angles.

Thankfully, a lot of people were pretty positive about the soundtrack so I felt such relief!

Did that acclaim add pressure when composing for OCTOPATH TRAVELER II?

As I’m sure you can imagine, I inevitably felt even more pressure when it came to making the soundtrack for OCTOPATH TRAVELER II! Because in addition to everything I previously mentioned, I now had a new goal: to not disappoint the people who enjoyed the first game!

So yes, I felt a huge sense of responsibility as I worked on the soundtrack.

Each character has a very memorable theme. How much do you know about each character before you start composing for them?

When I come to create the themes for the characters, the OCTOPATH TRAVELER II team provided me with a huge amount of information - almost as much information as ends up in the game itself. I’d say that around the only thing I didn’t have was the actual voice of the actors.

So, essentially, they put me in a situation where I didn’t have any excuses - all that was left was for me to deliver (laughs).

The OCTOPATH TRAVELER main theme has already become instantly recognizable. How did you rearrange it for this new game?

To match the evolution of the HD-2D visuals, I wanted to give the main theme more breadth, musically speaking.

However - and this is the tricky thing with sequels - you can’t change it too much. You have to leave in the elements that make it recognisable as OCTOPATH TRAVELER series theme on first listen, while at the same time adding in new elements.

It was a very challenging task.

I love the way the themes flow into each other - for example, character themes transitioning to battle themes. It’s so seamless - what tricks do you use to pull this off?

The system itself is very simple. The theme song loops, and when the player presses the button (whenever they like), it moves to dungeon music that fits between, which then connects to the tracks for the boss battles.

It’s not a new feature in terms of being interactive, but I think it probably leaves a lasting impression on the gameplay experience because of the way each of the eight characters’ themes all connect through to the final boss battle in their scenario. They’re linked to the distinctive gameplay of OCTOPATH TRAVELER.

What was the most challenging thing about creating the OCTOPATH TRAVELER II soundtrack?

Broadly speaking, I don’t think there was anything that wasn’t challenging (laughs).

If I had to choose something, then it would be creating memorable melodies. That’s one of the most difficult and time-consuming parts of creating the soundtrack.

And it can only be resolved by just sitting at your desk and confronting yourself (laughs).

Finally, OCTOPATH TRAVELER isn’t the only release this year featuring your music. The OCTOPATH TRAVELER soundtrack was also included - and playable! - as THEATRYTHM FINAL BAR LINE DLC. That must be exciting!

Yes, it’s an absolute honour to be included alongside the greats of Square Enix music!

The OCTOPATH TRAVELER soundtrack is now available on streaming services, including Spotify, Amazon Music and Apple Music. You can also listen to the full soundtrack on the Square Enix Music channel:

The OCTOPATH TRAVELER II soundtrack is available to buy digitally including on Amazon and iTunes

Character Designer Naoki Ikushima

It’s impressive how the character designs for the heroes clearly convey their roles in the game yet are completely different to those of the original OCTOPATH TRAVELER. How difficult was it to find a balance between looking appropriate for a thief, warrior etc, but being very clearly distinct to the original game’s cast?

The previous game was set in a fairly limited geographical area, in a medieval European style setting. However, an even bigger world is one of the themes of OCTOPATH TRAVELER II, so I made sure to keep the changes to the time period and the variety of cultures in mind.

So, there are some characters that you wouldn’t have found in the previous game: those with urban outfits, such as Throné and Partitio, those from more Asian-inspired countries, like Hikari, and the beastling Ochette. They really are an eclectic bunch!

What’s more, even when characters’ jobs are the same, I’ve added some differences to better fit the world of the sequel. For example, Olberic, the warrior in OCTOPATH TRAVELER, was well-built, and swung his sword around with great power. On the other hand, Hikari, the warrior in this game, is slighter and is the type to rely on technique rather than power.

Another example: the dancer in the previous game, Primrose, was a woman with a dark past, while the dancer in this game, Agnea, has a cheerful and sunny disposition.

Which character was the hardest to design and why?

Castti the apothecary. I settled on the design for her outfit fairly quickly, but I really went back and forth on her color scheme.

In the previous game, I went with green as a color that suited an apothecary, but I’ve used blue for Castti’s design. I think her final color scheme is fitting for a kind character, and also fits extremely well with her starting location being the ocean.

It’s remarkable how expressive characters in the game can be. When designing them, what elements do you consider important to ensure they look good and expressive in-game?

I do, of course, keep the pixel art in mind when designing the characters, but even more important is the work that the pixel artists themselves do to optimise those designs - first and foremost, Shizuka Morimoto!

Did any character designs have to change over the course of development?

Ochette’s ears changed.

Initially, I tried designing her with floppy ears as a new kind of approach to creating the beastlings. However, when we considered how clear this would be when converted into a sprite, I changed these to her current pointy ears.

Which character design in the game are you most proud of? Why?

I’m proud of all eight!

To explain a little bit further, I’m honestly proud that I managed to create a new set of uniquely distinct characters who differ in very specific ways from the previous eight protagonists!

Finally, are there any little details into the designs that you especially hope fans will notice?

There are in the designs for Akalā and Mahina - Ochette’s companions.

One of the themes of OCTOPATH TRAVELER II is night and day, so I’ve added a little sun and moon motif into their designs. These might be tricky to see on the sprites, but I hope you’ll keep an eye out!

Also, I was really excited to be the one to give Akalā and Mahina their names!

Scenario Writer Kakunoshin Futsuzawa

Eight characters is a lot! How difficult was it to find unique and varied situations to put them in?

Some of the situations are defined for the game - for example, Osvald being imprisoned - so that was a huge help in building out my idea of the character.

But on top of that, I came up with the myths from scratch, researched modern and historical cultures, thought up how the beastlings came to be, and the backstories for each individual protagonist!

What were your inspirations for the characters’ arcs?

Well, if I can go through them one by one…

  • Hikari – I’d decided from the very beginning that I was going to tell the story of a prince fighting his own family. Among the rough character outlines during the planning stages, there was an “Asian swordsman.” That gave me the idea to go with a story inspired by Asian war chronicles.

  • Agnea – The dancer’s story in the previous game was the darkest of all the tales, so I wanted to make Agnea’s arc optimistic and cheerful. The simple theme of becoming a star came from that starting point.

  • Partitio – I liked Alfyn in the previous game, so I wanted to create another all-round good guy, like him. Because he’s a merchant, his theme focused on wealth, which gave rise to the story of him being someone who altruistically wanted to share it with others.

  • Osvald – Similar to his physical imprisonment, I tried to create a story that mirrors and weaves together Osvald’s ‘heart,’ which is also locked away in prison, with the element of magic.

  • Castti – Actually, Mr. Miyauchi, the director, came up with the idea!

  • Throné – I wanted to do a story of the thief in the style of Primrose from the previous game but had the aim of making it even darker.

  • Temenos – At the time, I was really into looking up unsolved cases in Japan for some reason. So, I decided to make this a mystery / detective story.

  • Ochette – For this story, I had the concept of creating a narrative that could be enjoyed visually, without having to think too deeply. As a result, it ended up being a fairly simple story about collecting legendary monsters.

I was really careful with this tonal balance when planning out the characters and stories. People seemed to like the dark stories in the first game, so I set the overall tone of OCTOPATH TRAVELER II to be a little darker.

Which character was the most difficult to write for?

The hardest thing to write was the chapters for Temenos.

It was just complex, with lots of things to think about - myths, the outline of the incident, the structure of the church organisation, other background information for the religion, the incident and characters…

I imagine it must have been difficult for Temenos as well, having to solve the mystery!

Which scenarios are you most proud of in the game?

In terms of which I’m most proud of, I’d have to say it’s all eight. I spent a lot of time thinking about how to ensure that none of them are superior or inferior to the others.

But in terms of my personal preference, I like Throné’s story and Ochette’s character the best.

Many thanks to Mr. Miyauchi, Mr. Nishiki, Mr. Ikushima and Mr. Futsuzawa for sharing their experiences - and for creating an amazing RPG in OCTOPATH TRAVELER II!

You can experience all eight characters’ amazing tales in the full game, available now on Nintendo Switch, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S and PC via Steam:

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