A friend in need is a friend indeed.
There is no denying a loyal canine truly is a man’s best friend, but when you take said friend, introduce it to an apocalyptic setting and mashup tower defence games with the beat ’em up genre, something truly special is created, The Last Friend. Having recently obtained the opportunity to talk to one of the developers of The Last Friend, now is the perfect chance to bark and howl all about it.
Thus, once again we ask you to strap yourselves in for another Miketendo64 interview, because in this, we’re talking to Mario Aguirre about The Last Friend:
Miketendo64: Before we dive right into the probing questions, we always like to begin by asking a couple of easier questions first. Therefore, would you be so kind as to introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
Mario Aguirre: I’m Mario Aguirre. I’m one of the co-directors for the Last Friend, a Zelda aficionado, casual fps player and child at heart. I studied 3D Animation but now I work mainly on illustration, world building and filling lots of excel sheets for the studio. I first came into the studio to do some background design work on a variety of projects, and later became a sort of production assistant slowly entering the realm of video games.
Miketendo64: And now to follow-up, what is your role at Skystone Games and what is the extent of your involvement with The Last Friend?
Mario Aguirre: My work mainly consists of overlooking the production in the story department. I’m for the most part in charge of worldbuilding, coming up with ideas for new characters, plot points and especially ways to tie the mechanics of the game with the overall story. On The Last Friend I also did some background designs for the levels, painted the overworlds, but mostly I was in charge of the script and dialogues for all the characters.
Welcome to the Apocalypse:
Miketendo64: First and foremost, can you tell us a bit about The Last Friend? What is it and how does it play?
Mario Aguirre: The Last Friend is an Action/Adventure game set in a post-apocalyptic world. It is a hybrid of tower defence games with elements of classic beat-them-up titles, where you take on the persona of ALPHA, a retro/style action hero on a worldwide quest: to save all the dogs in the world.
The dogs are not just for show though, they provide the player with all kinds of abilities and new turrets to fight against the evil faction leaders that dominate this new, yet weirdly familiar world.
Miketendo64: It’s all out with your paws out. Can you tell us a bit about the brawl action elements to The Last Friend?
Mario Aguirre: As Alpha, or in Co-op mode as Alpha and friend, you have a variety of ways to deal with enemies. Combine your normal attacks with your strong attacks and you’ll get a mix of punches, kicks and combos. Mix in some special moves like a dash and a counter and you’ll find new ways to finish off grunts. But of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg, once you throw a dog into the mix, well a whole Pandora’s box of opportunities just opens up. I am especially keen on freeze teams for example, but I’m sure people will come up with their own equally powerful dog teams.
Miketendo64: In terms of content and content completion, how large a game is The Last Friend? Is it all bark and no bite, or is there plenty for eager players to sink their teeth into?
Mario Aguirre: I think the players will be happily surprised with the amount of content we manage to squeeze into the game. It starts as a game where you rescue a couple of dogs and fight a grunt or two, but it rapidly turns into this save-the-world adventure. I’m quite pleased with the overall scope of the game, the different biomes, enemy variety and story. I think players will be particularly happy to see how unique enemies are and how deadly they become on later levels, but hey, that’s why we have so many dogs right? I recommend you set aside a couple of hours if you want to completely sink your teeth into the game.
Miketendo64: Said to be a dog-eat-dog world, what disasters occurred in the world of The Last Friend, to lead to the apocalyptic wasteland?
Mario Aguirre: Funny answer, we really don’t know. We focused very little on what happened and really didn’t want to lean too much on the story behind the apocalypse. We really wanted to put the focus on what was left, what type of person survived and how this new world looks like. The real mystery of the story is why the dogs are disappearing and yes it does tie in with what happened but not in the way you might think. The setting was mostly a way to come up with wacky enemy types and villains.
Miketendo64: Having shown off a few boss battles in the game’s announcement trailer for Nintendo Switch, do you have any tips you might like to share with our readers to best prepare them for these bodacious brawls?
Mario Aguirre: Really, really,…. no, really take your time and rethink your dog team. Some of your favourite dogs might be very useful on the normal, more tower-defence focus levels, but bosses, well they are bosses after all. Don’t forget you have the power of dogs on your side.
Barking up the Right Tree:
Miketendo64: To get the most important question out of the way, as a game all about dogs, can you pet the doggies? As part of an easter egg, natural story progression or mini-game?
Mario Aguirre: I agree, this is the most important question. I’m glad to announce that yes you can pet all the dogs in the game, although you might have to try harder for some of them. Once you rescue a dog, they will appear at your camp and you’ll be able to interact with them. It is quite an achievement to see your camp expand as you rescue more and more dogs.
Miketendo64: Being the dog centric game that The Last Friend is, when it comes to canine representation, were there any particular species you just needed to include?
Mario Aguirre: The real question was what to leave out? We found so many species that just look fun and cute, but ultimately, we had to decide on a final roster. It came down to how known the species was and most of all how well we could tie that species to an ability or turret. We still manage to slip in some unusual species though. I especially love each dog’s unique personality, something you can also experience at the camp.
Miketendo64: Were any real, animated, computer generated, CGI doggos, harmed in the development of this game?
Mario Aguirre: No of course not. Some old computers died and needed repair and some of us might have collapsed once or twice after 24 straight hours of sprite painting. All doggos were well taken care of and happy. They are especially cheery when you pet them.
Miketendo64: Can we expect to encounter a villainous kitty cat at some point in the game, or would we be barking up the wrong tree on this one?
Mario Aguirre: I do think cats do still exist in the world of The Last Friend, I bet there is someone just like Alpha with a van full of kitties instead, but that might be a story for another game.
Miketendo64: Can we expect any in-game leader boards to see who is top dog amongst our friends and global rankings?
Mario Aguirre: That’s a great question. Maybe in the future, but not for now.
Paws for Thought:
Miketendo64: What prompted the promising genre mash-up combining tower defence with beat ’em up elements and did you ever expect it to be as good as it looks right now?
Mario Aguirre: It was definitely a risk, a very scary, are-we-messing-this-up kind of risk. I think we saw something that in theory could work and went with it, luckily it didn’t blow up on our faces. We have a turret for that. I must say though, that finding that balance between how much we could lean into one genre or the other was the most difficult part. I really believe we did find a way to keep some of the strategic elements of a tower defence game, but infuse it with a much more needed action spark.
Miketendo64: To ask a “what came first, the chicken or the egg?” type question, what came first, the decision to make a dog focused game that gives plenty of paws for thought and puppy-based humour, or the desire to mash up a tower defence based game, coupled with old-school beat ’em up styled gameplay?
Mario Aguirre: I really can’t answer that. The genre mash up might have been what ignited the first idea, but I truly think the dogs came hand in hand with it. I don’t think the Last friend could exist without either one of those elements. Of course, once the puppy-based humour showed its fluffy cute face, well the dog puns just kept on coming.
Miketendo64: From tofu aficionados, tanned mutants and “electrifying enemies”, it sounds like you’ve really thrown us a bone when it comes to a variety of enemies to overcome. What other threats can players expect to face?
Mario Aguirre: I’m really excited to see how players react to the full enemy roster. We went all in on their design and move set to make them feel really unique. I love all of them, although I bet players will be less excited about some, let’s say, more muscular ones. I would just advise players to enjoy the ride and try not to panic when your turrets are getting destroyed by a barrage of rockets or by the power of patriotism.
Miketendo64: We’ve all got to travel in some capacity when the world goes to ruin. What led to the protagonist of The Last Friend, ending up in an upgradable RV and in what ways can it be upgraded?
Mario Aguirre: I think an RV is a great way to travel a post-apocalyptic world don’t you think? All jokes aside, we really just needed a believable way to move the dogs from one place to the other, so the RV kind of fit. But just like the dogs, the RV became this monster of its own, especially in the hands or should I say paws of T. Juan. This tiny chihuahua, and Alpha’s best friend is in charge of the machine, visits his workshop and you’ll find that he is willing to make a variety of useful upgrades. Nothing comes for free, not even in the world of Last Friend, so get ready to pay T. Juan for his services.
Dreaming the “N” Possible:
Miketendo64: Being the Nintendo site that we are, with the likes of WayForward working on Advanced Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp and Brace Yourself Games having developed Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda, if you had the chance to work on ANY Nintendo IP, which one would be your dream come true and, if you were in charge of the entire project, what kind of game would you like to make?
Mario Aguirre: A Zelda game of course. Those were the games of my childhood, I still remember playing Ocarina of Time for the first time and being unable to put it down. I was so in awe. My brother still hates me for beating King Dodongo on his save file. I don’t regret it though. As for what kind of game would I like to make, I don’t know, maybe a mix of tower defence and beat-them-up where you play as link and rescue Koroks? Sorry I guess I’m still on that Last Friend wavelength.
Miketendo64: After all is said and done with The Last Friend, what comes next for Skystone Games? Do you have anything else lined up in the pipeline for 2022 and 2023?
Mario Aguirre: We have a few ideas of what we want to do next, but nothing has yet materialised. Of course, there might be more Last Friend on the horizon, but who knows, for now we are so glad people can finally get their hands on the game and experience the world we’ve created.
Miketendo64: Last question of the day, is there anything you would like to say, or any additional comments you would like to add, for our readers and your fans? The floor is yours.
Mario Aguirre: On behalf of everyone at the studio I would like to thank all of you who support this game. It was made with a lot of care and passion. Hopefully it brings joy to many people across the globe. And remember, all dogs deserve a nickname and you should never leave the camp without petting them doggos.
Mario, we are hugely appreciative of you taking the time to answer our questions and wish you and everyone else, at Skystone Games all the best. For any of our readers who would love to know more about The Last Friend, both a demo and the full game, are available now on the Nintendo Switch.
About The Last Friend:
In a world that has become yet another post-apocalyptic future where humanity is distracted by chaos, destruction, rampant mutants and a thing called surviving, something even more sinister is afoot…
The World’s doggos are disappearing! Now enters Alpha (you) who at an early age lost his man’s best friend…
While traveling the wastelands he comes across some mutants up to no good dognapping a lost puppy! During this battle he discovers he has the ability to understand what the pup can say and his name is T. Juan! Now T. Juan joins Alpha on this grand adventure looking for answers about what truly has happened to all the doggos. It’s time to join them and put dem paws to the pavement! Woof!
Got to Pet them All – From the warm and fluffy Newfoundland who has a healing passive, the Tibetan Mastiff with a beast mode unlocked, and to the ever-charismatic Beagle, it’s up to you to rescue these fearless pups and then set them loose on the bad guys!
Welcome to the World, Pup – The world has changed and some could even say it’s gone to the dog house…WOOF!!! Get ready to explore deserted badlands, ruined cities, a military base or two and not to mention forgotten jungles teeming with challenges as you set out in an upgradable RV!
Who let the ‘Brawl’ out – It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there so best bring your best when it comes to going all paws with the various bad guys you’ll be sure to face!
A Unique Bark on Tower Defense – Your bite isn’t your only defense when dealing with overly tanned mutants, electrifying enemies, and one or two tofu aficionados! From super soakers, steel walls, and wire traps you’ll have your pick of the litter when it comes to offensive and defensive options to protect your yard!