E3 2011: Kitase and Toriyama Give Us The Lowdown on Final Fantasy XIII-2
Written Thursday, June 30, 2011 By Dan WebbView author's profile
There aren’t many franchises that are as globally recognised as Final Fantasy, that’s a fact, and despite Final Fantasy XIII not being as iconic a Final Fantasy as fans had hoped for, you still flocked in your masses to pick up a copy last year.
In a similar move to what Square Enix did with Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2, the Japanese publisher is releasing its direct sequel to XIII, Final Fantasy XIII-2 in Japan this year and in the West next year. We caught up with the Final Fantasy Producer, Yoshinori Kitase and Final Fantasy Director, Motomu Toriyama, at E3 this year to talk about what they have in store for fans, what they learnt from Final Fantasy XIII and how they intend to remedy the previous game's perceived shortcomings.
What was the reason to do a direct sequel in Final Fantasy XIII-2, as opposed to starting fresh with a new cast of characters?
Kitase: If we were going to make a numbered title, obviously we’d have to make it from scratch, and that takes a really long time. Final Fantasy XIII only came out in March of last year, so literally only over a year, so it’s quite a short turnaround. Because Final Fantasy XIII has been so popular, we’ve also enjoyed commercial success – shifting over 6 million copies – so instead of taking a long time to make a new Final Fantasy title, we wanted to make a direct sequel.
It seems like a reaction to reception that Final Fantasy XIII got, with a lot of the things that many complained about, remedied in the sequel. What was your reaction to the reception that Final Fantasy XIII got? How did you feel when the responses to the title were so mixed?
Kitase: When you make a new game, obviously you have to have some kind of concept to start it on. Final Fantasy XIII’s story was a bit of an escape for people, in some ways, it helped to be story-driven, story-lead, we have no regrets about that, but on the other hand, some players were not happy about it and they said that the progression was a little bit too linear, so we took that on board. That particular game had to be presented in that particular way so we have no regrets there. However, after hearing all the feedback from the other players we thought the new game had to be more player-driven, so that the player makes choices as you progress through the game. So that kind of feedback has been incorporated into the new game.
What role do you think Japanese RPGs play in the world today? 10 years ago it was all Japan. Do you think that the Final Fantasy brand has a big responsibility in keeping the genre alive?
Kitase: We’re not quite sure how much influence we still have in the world of gaming these days, but obviously what makes a Final Fantasy a Final Fantasy is three things: firstly the attractive characters, the original universe and the dramatic and spectacular story. These kind of elements can now be found, not necessarily in RPGs, but also shooting games like FPSes as well – some FPSes these days have some dramatic elements as well. In that case, I don’t know what our choices or our decisions have caused in the gaming world. I think Final Fantasy has impacted the way that the gaming world has evolved in the last 10 years.
Would you say you’ve taken any inspiration from any Western RPGs for some of the upgrades between Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2?
Toriyama: We’re not aware of any direct inspirations from any Western games, however, our main goal with XIII-2 was listening to what people thought of XIII. A lot of people were unhappy, so we wanted to answer to those voices, but one game I can think of is Red Dead Redemption. In that game there’s a bit where you actually ride a horse and also the fact that you can receive missions almost anywhere in the world. Those elements, actually, we may have actually learnt from.
Mini-games used to play a large part in the Final Fantasy series, but they seemed to have been scaled back in recent years – games like Blitzball. Can we expect to see them return in XIII-2?
Toriyama: Yes, you’re absolutely right. It’s one of the areas we had negative comments on in XIII – we didn’t have many mini-games in the game. So we’ve taken that on board and XIII-2 will have many mini-games, interesting mini-games and a whole host of different types of mini-games. We can’t tell you much about individual mini-games, but you can be sure there will be lots of mini-games that you can enjoy.
Can we expect a load of side missions as well, as they were seemingly lacking in XIII?
Toriyama: In Final Fantasy XIII you couldn’t really enjoy any sort of high freedom from gameplay until you go down to Gran Pulse – not much was available. In XIII-2, from the very beginning a lot of side missions will be made available and you have to make choices - which path you want to take - so it’ll be a lot freer.
Can we expect any sort of item creation as well, with Final Fantasy having a bit of a long legacy with such a thing normally?
Toriyama: This is actually tied in with a part of the battle system that we can’t talk about at the moment, but please wait for TGS and you’ll get more information on that.
Was there ever the temptation to tweak or change the paradigm system or did you always want to keep it the same as XIII?
Kitase: Actually the paradigm shift was quite popular in XIII, so on that principle the paradigm system is going to be carried across into XIII-2. The basic mechanics of the role changes and setting the roles for the second and third character, that wont be changed, but there are two new elements that are going to be added to the battle system.
Firstly, you’re going to be able to recruit over 150 types of monsters and each monster comes with specific roles and different special attacks which you can enjoy. The new addition of those monsters will make the battle more varied and more strategic. That’s one of the elements. The second one is the cinematic action sequences. It’s quite spectacular and it actually happens during a battle, and it makes it more spectacular and also you have to apply a different game control during that particular period. It gives an additional wow factor, if you like, as well as additional monsters and more strategy. That is going to enhance the same battle system.
What have the team done to make sure that gamers who haven’t played Final Fantasy XIII are familiar with the story and don’t feel out their depth?
Toriyama: There are two issues… when it comes to gameplay, obviously, traditionally Final Fantasy games have got a tutorial system and there’s a mansion where you have to go to cast spells and everything like that, that’s going to be included in this game as well. And another thing is, if you haven’t played Final Fantasy XIII yet, maybe you can find yourself in the new male character, Noel, as he’s detached from what happened in Cocoon in Final Fantasy XIII’s story and also what is actually happening to Lightning and the other characters at the moment in Cocoon and Gran Pulse. He’s kind of a beginner to the Final Fantasy XIII world anyway, so maybe you can actually look at the story from his point of view.
This isn’t directly related to FFXIII-2, but are you planning on an HD console collection for next-generation consoles, like Ubisoft, Sony, etc. are doing with their older titles?
Kitase: We haven’t made up our mind about that yet, but if there was a strong voice coming through from the users asking for such porting, then obviously we would seriously consider it, but no actual plans yet.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is scheduled for a 2012 release in the West.