Interview with Okage's Torrin Rettig

Sony's latest RPG Okage: The Shadow King has just hit shelves across North America. We were fortunate enough to talk with Torrin Rettig, who served as Associate Producer of the game.

RPGamer: Can you tell us a little about yourself, how long you've worked for Sony, games that you have worked on, etc.?

Torrin Rettig: I've been working at Sony Computer Entertainment America for about a year now. While working in Product Development I worked on Dark Cloud and Extermination. For Dark Cloud, I basically edited and rewrote the raw translation of all of the text in the game. Also, because the Dark Cloud team was very open to suggestions, SCEA Product Development was able to give creative input in regards to gameplay that was incorporated into the US release. For Extermination, I did some script rewriting and assisted in the supervision and direction of the English voice-overs that were done for the U.S. release.

RPGamer: What is the driving story of Okage: Shadow King?

TR: Okage: Shadow King basically tells the story of a rather shy and introverted boy, Ari, who gradually comes out of his shell and into his own with the help of an unlikely character. This character is Stan, Stanley Hihat Trinidad XIV to be exact, an ancient demon who possesses Ari's shadow in order to subjugate fake Evil Kings and conquer the world. One day after a circus in Ari's small town of Tenel, Ari's little sister, Annie, is attacked by a ghost and placed under an evil curse. In order to save her, Ari's father summons an ancient demon out of an old bottle he found to cure her. In exchange for the cure the demon demands to take possession of Ari's shadow, to aid him in regaining his old power.

The two of them, Ari and Stan, journey off on an adventure to defeat a number of Evil Kings, falsely claiming Stan's rightful title as the one and only, true Evil King. Along the way they pick up a wacky group of allies, most of which are defeated Evil Kings, who join them on their quest.

The adventure deals with themes of not only good versus evil, but class and the roles of the inhabitants of the Okage: Shadow King world. Throughout the tale, however, the strongest aspects are the themes of Ari becoming a brave and strong hero as well as that of the strengthening bond between Stan and Ari. They become not only allies, but friends too.

RPGamer: At first glance, Okage seems dark, but at the same time many of the characters are whimsical. What was the motivation behind using these seemingly opposing styles?

TR: Certainly the art and some of the aspects of the story have a somewhat dark feel to them, but the overwhelming feel of the game is that of a wacky and whimsical adventure. In the context of Okage: Shadow King, these styles really don't oppose but rather complement each other. The characters and world itself are all built around the idea of outlandishness. Not only the characters, but even the fields, towns, roads and buildings bend and twist in interesting directions giving them a unique presence. This quirkiness is further accentuated by the dialogues between characters that are often quite off-the-wall.

RPGamer: How many characters can join your party in Okage? Can you provide a brief description of each character?

TR: All together, gamers can expect five other characters to join Ari and Stan on their enchanting journey. Their descriptions are as follows:

Ari - A quiet, shy boy that has gone mostly unnoticed in his hometown of Tenel, due to his unassuming demeanor. Although overshadowed, he holds an inner strength and potential to become a great hero. He courageously takes on the responsibility of being enslaved by the evil King in order to save his sister, Annie, from a ghost's curse. Ari uses swords as his primary weapons.

Stan - The ancient Evil King who was imprisoned in a bottle for 300 years. The reincarnation of the Evil King, Gohma, who destroyed half the world. He takes possession of Ari's shadow and embarks on a quest to subjugate fake Evil Kings reclaim his lost dark powers and conquer the world. Stan aspires to be feared and regarded as the most awesome evil the world has ever witnessed. He has a hard time convincing people of it though and, even though he is an Evil King, people think he is more cute, cool and funny than scary. If he is so inclined, Stan aids Ari and his companions in battle with powerful spells that grow as the adventure progresses.

Rosalyn - Former distinguished student of the Hero's University. However, an unfortunate run-in with an evil spirit turned her shadow pink. The shame of this forces her to carry a pink parasol wherever she goes to hide her secret. Despite her shame, Rosalyn is still a formidable warrior and noble hero filled with a strong sense of justice. She seeks not only the evil spirit that stole her pride but also to defeat the evildoers of the world. Her weapon of choice is the Rapier.

Linda - An aspiring songbird of questionable talent but inspiring spirit. She sings proudly on the streets of Madril hoping for any passerby to take notice and listen. With a mysterious secret, her day in the spotlight may soon come. Linda rocks hard and smacks enemies with her microphone.

Kisling - A world-renowned scientist who has devoted himself to the study of ghosts and the supernatural. Gutten Kisling is more than happy to join the adventure as he feels that Rosalyn's uncanny bad luck will attract untold numbers of ghosts for his research. Proving that study is serious business, Kisling strikes ghouls with his research books.

Big Bull - An uncompromising pugilist and competitor, Big Bull will settle for nothing less than to fight the most worthy of contenders. He aspires to open a training spa where the aspiring fighters can come to hone their speed and skill to become the strongest competitors. Like a tried and true fighter, Big Bull needs no other weapons than his bare fists.

Epros -The phantom magician is an enigma, even in the spirit world. With him are many mysteries and secrets that perhaps only he knows. He employs a powerful deck of mystical playing cards to cast magical attacks against enemies.

RPGamer: Okage's battle system features some unique elements, such as halting the action completely when choosing an action for a character. What else can you tell us about the battles?

TR: The battle system is interesting and somewhat complex, in that it is a combination of real-time and turn-based combat. It is turn-based in the sense that each character has an attack bar that must fill up before they can take an action. However, as opposed to most RPG turn-based battle, once a character gets an opportunity to take action, they do so, regardless of whether or not other characters are attacking at the same time. So, quite often all the enemy characters and playable characters will attack and receive attacks at the same time. With up to 10+ enemies possible onscreen at once, this kind of scene can look like an insane melee at times. That is where a lot of the excitement of the battle system comes from. In addition to all playable characters and enemy characters being able to attack at the same time, the player can choose to have 2-3 of the playable characters attack a single enemy simultaneously. This is a very important tactical tool in battles when fighting tougher enemies. The player can and should use the fact that he/she can make characters wait to attack as well as attack simultaneously. Not to be overlooked, however, is the fact that the same goes for the enemy characters. They can, if they choose to, gang up on a single character and really ruin their day.

RPGamer: A lot of the media released for Okage shows expansive towns and landscapes. What types of environments can the player expect to visit? What types of creatures inhabit the world?

TR: There are a number of different environments for the player to explore. Geographically speaking, there are forests, plains, snowfields, deserts and mountains. There are also a number of dungeons for the player to explore. The towns themselves all have very unique looks to them. The buildings are very distinctive and can look like anything from harsh and industrial, like the gear-driven Madril, to quaint and kooky, like the quiet village of Tenel. There's really quite a bit of variation in locales with a good deal of contrasting appearance and atmosphere. And as much as the structures, the townspeople also help shape the landscape. There's vast variation in the colors, sizes and shapes of the wacky inhabitants of the Okage world.

As far as the creatures of this world are concerned, they outdo the landscapes and people in terms of uniqueness. They have simple names like Perky Frog and Chicken Chicken but they are the most interesting-looking versions of these creatures you've probably ever seen. Also, their names are worth mentioning as, as they really help convey their character and the overall quirky feel of the game. Players should really try to get a good look at the names. There are names like Compassion Crab, Minty Alligator, Perpetual Mudman, Apocalypse Goat, Daring Dino and, one of my favorites, Bad Poetry Golem. These kinds of off-the wall creatures really distinguish Okage: Shadow King from most RPGs out there.

RPGamer: How many sidequests will be available in Okage?

TR: There are five sidequests in the game, although one of them can take you on a number of different paths each with a different goal.

RPGamer: How long can the average player expect to play Okage?

TR: The average player could take anywhere from 25-35 hours.

RPGamer: What is your favorite Okage moment?

TR: I have a lot of favorite moments, including whenever Stan and Rosalyn get into an argument.

RPGamer: If you had to sum Okage up in just one sentence, what would it be?

TR: A fun, witty, wacky, brain-tease of an RPG.

RPGamer would like to thank Torrin Rettig for taking the time to talk with us. Okage: The Shadow King is in stores right now, and readers can look for our full review of the game in the coming week.

by Alex Wollenschlaeger    
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