Final Fantasy XIII: Square Enix Interview
We catch up with Square Enix Corporate Director Shinji Hashimoto and Final Fantasy series Producer Yoshinori Kitase to find out about one of 2009's biggest games.
It's one of the most hotly anticipated games of this console generation. Its trailers have been analyzed and re-analyzed over and over by passionate fans. It caused the gaming forums of the internet to explode when it went dual-platform.
And yet, we still don't know a whole heck of a lot about Final Fantasy XIII.
So when we were given the opportunity to speak with the FFXIII staff, we jumped at the chance. We spoke with Square Enix Corporate Director Shinji Hashimoto and series Producer Yoshinori Kitase about many different aspects of the game - and the Final Fantasy series as a whole.
While Square-Enix is still fairly tight-lipped when it comes to divulging gameplay specifics on FFXIII, they're still plenty talkative about all kinds of FF-related topics. Read more to learn about FFXIII's world design, Square-Enix's thought on fan feedback, and a secret story that's never been heard... until now!
Kikizo: Back when the FF series was just getting starts, localisations were an afterthought. After the series really started picking up steam in the West, that market seemed to gain a much greater importance for you. Is this reflected in the development of FFXIII? Are you taking the Western market into more consideration when developing the game?
Kitase: Since the release of FF7, a lot of doors have opened for the series. We had a lot of people overseas pick up the series for the first time. When we realised just how much the overseas market was picking up on the game, we made a conscious effort to try and eliminate Japan-specific customs and concepts in the games. But maybe we've become a bit too conscious of that...? Maybe the Japanese origin of these games is part of their appeal. So, for FFXIII, we're just trying to do things as naturally as possible, and not worrying about tailoring it to any one specific market. The game's made in Japan, so the culture just follows naturally, I suppose.
Kikizo: Could you tell us about how progress is going with development with Final Fantasy XIII?
Kitase: For development, the PS3 version is currently being worked on. We're going to complete that version first before we move onto the 360. We're at the state where we can put the build on a BRD and play them on our testing units.
Kikizo: It's well known by now that FFXIII is no longer PS3 exclusive. Some PS3 fans are extremely disappointed, and have become quite vocal about their dissatisfaction. What would you say to them?
Hashimoto: I'd rather they not think of this as a "betrayal" or disappointment. It's not like we're cancelling or delaying the PS3 version at all! It's more of an added bonus for 360 fans. We won't be putting them at a disadvantage in any way.
Kitase: I'd like to add... I think that maybe because it's going multiplatform that some fans are worried about the game's scope being reduced to fit onto both consoles. The fact is, the PS3 version is what's in development right now, and the team is working to specialise that version to the very best of the PS3's abilities. After that, we'll do the 360 port and optimize it to that particular hardware. There will be no decrease in quality as a result of the game appearing across two platforms.
Kikizo: Has the expanded capacity of the Blu-way format had any effect on the game's presentation?
Hashimoto: Blu-Ray's additional storage capacity doesn't matter as much as the strength of the hardware itself. In the past, we could only create really high-quality cinematics as prerendered CG. But now, we can move that high-quality CG into realtime. We can portray large monsters and expansive, lush environments. So, the hardware is definitely a key element in the progression of the presentation quality.
Kikizo: The PS3's been around in Japan for a while now. Would you have hoped to release the first Final Fantasy game for the system a bit more quickly?
Hashimoto: Definitely! We would have loved to have had it ready sooner for the console, but with the development of new hardware, it's become more and more complicated to develop software. The process has become far more time-consuming.
Kikizo: There's not much known yet about how Final Fantasy XIII plays. Can you shed some light for our readers?
Kitase: Gameplay-wise, there's not much we can disclose at the moment... except that, similar to Final Fantasy XII, there's going to be a field with monsters roaming on there, which the character can interact with, and you can pursue or avoid them on the field. When you touch them, it will transition into a battle sequence. We can't say how many members will be in the party, but we will definitely have the traditional party element incorporated into the battles.
Kikizo: How long did it take to finalise the story and concepts behind Final Fantasy XIII? What were the main difficulties?
Kitase: The project is constantly evolving, so there's no specific time limit on when we have to have certain aspects of the game done by. The battle system, in particular, is something we continuously play and try to improve upon. The scenario is pretty much done, and the art assets are at about the 80% complete stage.