Yatsumi Matsuno's an elusive man. Having made his name with Tactics Ogre and Vagrant Story before putting his own stamp on the Final Fantasy series with Tactics and his arrested contribution to Final Fantasy 12, Matsuno's spent the years since his departure from Square flitting between projects and studios. Crimson Shroud, the slight but fascinating table-top RPG inspired entry to Level 5's Guild series was his last game to see release, and the first all-new title to bear his design stamp since Final Fantasy 12 - and since then he disappeared once again.
Until now, that is. Matsuno made a subdued appearance at the Tokyo Game Show these past few days to announce his latest project, a new world created in collaboration with Playdek that will eventually house a new game cast in the Tactics mold from Matsuno. The appearance was so subdued that I wasn't even aware of it until the morning of the announcement - our US Gamer colleague Jeremy Parish let me sit in on his interview, of which you can read the full transcript here.
Together with Playdek Matsuno is helping create Unsung Story, a project with roots in board gaming that will eventually expand out into the digital world. It's a project that began with a simple dream from Playdek founder Joel Goodman that brilliantly came true. "Three years ago, Yoshi [Maruyama, Playdek advisor] and I were talking about games in general," said Goodman.
"I had mentioned that Vagrant Story was the greatest game I had ever played. He let me know that Mr. Matsuno was one of his good friends, and we started a conversation from that point - obviously having great respect for not only Vagrant Story, but also Final Fantasy Tactics. We continued that conversation, discussing and exploring how to create something new and bring that tactical gameplay to the more modern digital platforms."
Unsung Story is starting life next year as a card game with French board game designer Chris Boelinger taking charge of the systems and mechanics, while Matsuno helps build the world. "The setting will be very deep and detailed, as you've already experienced in some of the other worlds I've created," said Matsuno. "The game world will be composed of nine small countries, each competing to be the hegemon. Those nine countries will be very complex. Certain races will live in certain countries, but other divisions will also come into play - it's like the Balkans. It's going to be very complicated."
There's a consistency there with Matsuno's previous work, both in the rich universe that he intends to build but also within the dense politics that will spider their way through it. "It brings up some very contemporary issues, like the question of the Syrian civil war," said Matsuno. "Maybe just simply attacking the ruling government won't solve any problems. You have to understand a lot more than that. There are other ways to solve these kinds of problems than just fighting, and that's an idea I'd like to incorporate into this. The reason why we call this world 'Unsung' is that I don't just want to focus on big heroes, but also on the ordinary foot soldiers from each country - how they feel and how they act. That's something else I want to incorporate into the story. I want to strike a fine balance between battles and solving problems outside of going into battle."
There's no firm date on for the first chapter of Unsung Story, nor on what platforms the Tactics Ogre-style Matsuno designed game will emerge - Goodman won't commit to anything beyond 'digital platforms' - and Matsuno says it's one of several projects he's working on right now. If the prominence of smaller digital releases means we can see work from the likes of Matsuno on a more regular basis, then these could well be golden days.