The last time a Final Fantasy game was given a direct sequel, things didnít end well. The shameful ogle-fest that was Final Fantasy X-2 seems like a lifetime ago, especially when compared to the concerted efforts made by Square Enix today to create something more adventurous in Final Fantasy XIII-2. And itís had a lot of help from the seriesí fans.
Producer Yoshinori Kitase explained to me the reasons behind the tweaks and changes in this continuation of Lightningís story. Streamlined world selection, side missions, Chocobos, Serahís journey to find her sister and repair a broken world... itís all in this interview. Have a read.
SPOnG: Time travel is a big aspect of Final Fantasy XIII-2. Is it a new mechanic youíve introduced to the series? Why did you decide to go down this particular route?
If you played through to the end of Final Fantasy XIII
youíll remember that Cocoon collapsed. In XIII-2
the main story revolves around the people trying to rebuild the world. But if youíre thinking about trying to rebuild a broken world from scratch, that cannot be achieved overnight. Certainly not in just one or two years - weíre talking about a fresh start for mankind.
So you have to be able to look at the whole story in a span of a hundred or two hundred years easily. When we thought of that, we decided that the best approach would be turning to the time-travel concept, so you can see how people are trying to rebuild and when they have actually accomplished it.
SPOnG: When I played it, it seemed like dungeons were structured in a much more straightforward way. I donít want to call it linear, as the Historia Crux has plenty of branching pathways, but certainly it has replaced a more open world map. Do you feel that the world map has lost significance in RPGs in this day and age?
I think the world map can be quite important in some game concepts. You may have heard of our new games called Type 0
, which has just been released in Japan. That has got a world map.
Itís not that we have given up on them or anything like that. On the other hand, I think what the world map used to do for many traditional Final Fantasy
games has sort of been replaced by the Historia Crux, if you like.
What the world map did to each player is that it limits the kind of space accessible areas, and every time you get on top of a Chocobo or Airship or something like that, that area is expanded and you get access to more areas and locations. With the Historia Crux though, you travel through different times and dimensions and in each one you find a gate, unlock it to go through to a different world. So the expansion process is almost like a world map in that respect.
I mentioned the world map in Type 0
- because of the size of the screen on the PSP and the specs of the handheld, the kind of proportion in the woods, mountains and characters is not so realistic compared to the high-definition games. When it comes to home console titles like XIII-2
, the mix of graphics have been advanced so rapidly and gamers expect some kind of realistic perspective.
Before, if you wanted to achieve all that itís obviously going to be very expensive of course. But for Final Fantasy Versus XIII
we are trying to implement a worldwide view while maintaining that realistic view. Itís a big challenge, but weíre trying our best to make that work.
SPOnG: Speaking for XIII-2, was the decision to use the Historia Crux in favour of a world map made to provide a bit more of a focused experience when travelling between maps? Compared to XIII where fans had noted that Gran Pulse was perhaps too open and confusing to navigate?
Your sort of assumption that we took the feedback about Gran Pulse being too open - which we took quite seriously - thatís half right and half-wrong. What we did with XIII-2
was that we wanted to give the player a higher degree of freedom in gameplay. A huge world like Gran Pulse, for example, if youíre chucked in there youíre not always sure of what you need to do and also between different quests and episodes.
Between these quests and episodes sometimes you lose a kind of speediness - progress and flow can go a little too slowly. You might lose your way, or youíre not sure what to do. In XIII-2
we wanted to ensure a very speedy gameplay so that if you go through the Historia Crux all the time and fight boss after boss there are constant high points.
There are no loose, 'sloppy' times where you donít have an awful lot to do. So no itís not that we wanted to change the system from XIII
. Itís more like we wanted to make sure that the player can enjoy a very free, yet speedy gameplay throughout the experience.
SPOnG: You mentioned in our last interview at E3 that you were taking a lot of feedback from Final Fantasy XIII players in regards to towns and other gameplay tweaks. Do you feel that XIII-2 is a more traditional Final Fantasy game in style than the last game? Or do you even feel that this is the game that XIII perhaps should or could have been?
No, we didnít make this game with the intention of making it a game that XIII
should have been, or could have been. But on the other hand, because we received so much feedback from our fans after that gameís release, we learned a lot of lessons and we realised what they really want to see in a Final Fantasy
game. So all of these elements we just developed and implemented into the new game.
And in some ways, youíre right - I think that XIII-2
has more traditional features that Final Fantasy
used to have, but somehow just departed from. One prime example is the mini-games. XIII
didnít feature that many mini-games or any sort of optional side-quest features. It was a very serious focused story experience.
You may remember the Gold Saucer casino from Final Fantasy VII
. In XIII-2
, there is a casino that may remind you of that. You can go in and play slot machines and take part in Chocobo racing there. So in that sense there are some features from more traditional Final Fantasy
RPGs in this game.
SPOnG: One of the most interesting characters Iíve found in the game is a store merchant called Chocolina. How fun was it to design her, and are you anticipating or aware of how many people are going to cosplay as her at future events?
Chocolina was originally created as a waitress at the casino! But the gameís director, Motomu Toriyama, really liked the design and he wanted to make sure that she was actually more prominently seen. Eventually she became a shop clerk. And because the director loves the character so much, he actually created dialogue and background history about her as well.
So when you think about Final Fantasy
mascots, you probably think of the Chocobo or the Moogle and creatures like that. You can think of Chocolina as a new breed of Final Fantasy
mascot, and I hope you like her very much.
SPOnG: How does she travel from place to place so quickly? Sheís everywhere in all places in time and space!
[Laughs] You have to take this sort of thing reasonably light-heartedly. Itís not such a serious thing. But she is supposed to have this mysterious power - apparently in one segment of the game she talks about having this special capability of flying around the world from one place to another. So maybe she uses these skills to get around!
SPOnG: Thank you very much for your time.
Thank you very much.