Beginning as just another spin-off, The Crystal Bearers has managed to gather a lot of fan attention as the Wii’s equivalent of a main-line FF title. We sat down with the game’s director, Toshiyuki Itahana to discuss his vision of the game.
RPGSite: The Crystal Bearers is very different from the previous Crystal Chronicles games – what inspired you to take a change in direction?
Toshiyuki Itahana: We began work on this title almost simultaneously with our DS title. At this point we decided to go with multiplayer model for the DS title, and a single player title on the Wii console.
RPGSite: Did you feel forced at all to make use of the Motion Control with the Wii, or did it come naturally?
Toshiyuki Itahana: No, actually at the beginning of creating it, we did not direct to deliberately use the Wii functionalities – we actually told the team the motion sensor and pointer were optional methods of control. It was just lucky that the team felt these were the best methods of control and worked well!
RPGSite: Did you look at any other Wii games for inspiration on how to use the motion sensor?
Toshiyuki Itahana: I didn’t actively look at other games for inspiration, no. We just experimented with a lot of different control methods and found the ones which provided the most ease of use for the player. Because of that, the systems in the game might resemble some other western titles.
RPGSite: Obviously you’ve got more power with the Wii console than with the Gamecube. Is the game world bigger?
Toshiyuki Itahana: In size, it’s pretty much the same size as the Gamecube title. It’s much bigger than the DS versions, though. The Crystal Chronicles world is generally much more compact than the worlds of the numbered FF titles, though. In that compact world, monsters and townsfolk are more active and always busy. However, as all the maps are inter-connected it may well feel bigger than the Gamecube title.
RPGSite: Now, talking of areas being connected this brings up the issue of loading. Will there be much? What steps have you taken to minimize it?
Toshiyuki Itahana: We’re managing it by assigning just the right amount of memory to each area. Luckily we have a comparatively big memory to work with compared to other platforms. Thanks to that, we can allocate a lot of memory to each scene. Because of that you will barely notice loading – not just between maps, but also between story scenes and different gameplay modes.
RPGSite: We’ve noticed that on Square documentation this game has changed from being referred to as an Action-RPG to being called an Action Adventure. How would you categorise the game?
Toshiyuki Itahana: The change in the designation is more of a promotional thing in order to attract the attention of action-lovers. The game itself hasn’t changed much from the original design, which is very Final Fantasy. The gameplay is more action based, but still noticeably an RPG.
RPGSite: Would you say the design philosophy behind this game is the same as the other, multiplayer FF:CC games or is it a closer feel to the main FF games?
Toshiyuki Itahana: The game is aiming towards a more traditional Final Fantasy feel – we wanted to create a game similar to the main series on the Wii. It is more action oriented, though and we have more than one mode in the game like shooting mode and exploration mode.
RPGSite: We’ve noticed characters develop emotional icons above their heads like hearts. How does this system work?
Toshiyuki Itahana: Unlike traditional RPGs, the characters in Crystal Bearers don’t really talk. We wanted it to be distinct – we didn’t want characters to be like signs to give the player information. When the player does something to the townsfolk, they will react according to their mood. We built this AI so that characters moods will change from day to day. The icon above their head indicates their mood and attitude towards the player.
RPGSite: So theoretically if you were to be nasty repeatedly to one character, would they then dislike you and be in a bad mood with you in the future?
Toshiyuki Itahana: [laughs] No, if that’s how it worked everyone in the town would dislike you! Each character doesn’t have individual AI – they’re divided into groups based on things like age, gender, race and other factors. The different groups and effects available on characters means there will be quite a lot of mood combinations available, though.
RPGSite: A lot of stuff in the town can be picked up and thrown, including people. How much interactivity is there in the game world?
Toshiyuki Itahana: You can use lots of objects around the world and in the town. In combat, items around in the environment can be used to hurt monsters, though some things can backfire and hurt you. Attacking people in town with the environment will not hurt them, though.
RPGSite: Outside of the linear story, is there much else to do?
Toshiyuki Itahana: There are going to be side missions – it’s not really a quest oriented game, but there are side games – townsfolk asking you for favors or to run errands, so you can do those things – it’s really up to the player if they opt to do it or not, though.
RPGSite: If a player were to just stick to the storyline and do the bare minimum, how long would you say the game is?
Toshiyuki Itahana: Around 15 hours.
RPGSite: The art style seems similar to the FF:CC series but a little bit more grown up – what was the reason for this change?
Toshiyuki Itahana: There are mainly two elements involved in this decision – the first would be we wanted to go for a broader audience. We wanted to involve perhaps parents or grandparents in the game rather than just kids. Also, with this being a more action-oriented game, we wanted taller, older looking characters – when they’re fighting in real time, it just looks cooler.
RPGSite: Can we expect to see all the traditional FF elements in this game?
Toshiyuki Itahana: The team of this game has many staff members who worked on FF9, and you can also expect to see some familiar faces and elements.
RPGSite: So when you say familiar faces, can we expect some cameos from other FF series’, or just Crystal Chronicles characters?
Toshiyuki Itahana: There are some characters who will be just cameos and some who will have larger roles in the game including characters from past Crystal Chronicles titles.
RPGSite: Where does this take place in the FF:CC Universe?
Toshiyuki Itahana: Time wise this is the latest entry in the FF:CC series, taking place quite some time after all the other entries
RPGSite: You’ve mentioned different modes – shooting mode, exploration mode etc. How many modes are there?
Toshiyuki Itahana: We can’t say how many exactly, but there are several we can mention – you can ride a chocobo, shoot, fly, run away from monsters, or even enjoy social dancing.
RPGSite: If you could sum up this game in a few words, what would they be?
Toshiyuki Itahana: [laughs]Difficult question! It’s more than a few words, but I’d say “Traditional FF narrative – Tight storyline with Open, Free Action.”
RPGSite: If this is a success, could you see more single-player story driven titles in the FF:CC universe?
Toshiyuki Itahana: Yes, we are going to keep making Crystal Chronicles titles. If this one does well, we would like to make one in a similar style alongside new multiplayer FF:CC games as well.
RPGSite: Is there any message you’d like to get out there to FF fans?
Toshiyuki Itahana: It is our very first Final Fantasy title for Wii – it will be a new experience, and we hope you will all enjoy it!
RPGSite: Thanks for your time! We really appreciate it!
Toshiyuki Itahana: No problem!
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