We recently sat down with both director Motomu Toriyama and producer Yoshinori Kitase to discuss the upcoming Final Fantasy XIII-2 in a round-table interview. Although we only had around 30 minutes with the staff, we were able to get some interesting information, and hopefully answer some burning questions that fans may have.
RPGSite: The battles seem much more dynamic with set pieces going on… could you talk about this approach?
Kitase: We actually didn’t take any inspiration from any western RPGs. Not cautiously anyway. On the other hand, the Paradigm Shift system from Final Fantasy XIII was quite popular but most people liked it so we actually carried it over to make it a different version—not completely the same. Two examples, in XIII-2, you can actually recruit monsters and make them work for you, and there are more than 150 types of monsters there for you to capture, and they can help you. They progress the same as characters do in any RPG. Second, you’ve got one called Cinematic Action, so like in a big battle against a boss character the Cinematic Action element is put in so it’s more dynamic. And in every single way we want to make sure the player has some kind of interaction with the gameplay.
RPGSite: Do you feel that fans were disappointed with the original Final Fantasy XIII? Are there any features in Final Fantasy XIII-2 that were direct actions based on fan feedback and fans of the original?
Kitase: I think that XIII was criticized by other people we think because it was meant to be story-driven. But it was so much so, that people thought it was quite linear, which people didn’t like. So before we started making XIII-2, we decided that we were determined to take all the negative comments seriously, and rectify every single one of them fairly and properly. So this new game is more player driven, than story driven, so that the player will have very active involvement. There’s a lot more things you can do and explore, like towns and other things, and also you can choose what you want to say to a NPC.
RPGSite: One of the deepest criticisms that has been made was the lack of the traditional Final Fantasy town. In response in interviews, it was said by someone in the development team that making towns on a high definition system is actually quite difficult. So is that something that has finally gotten easier now? Have they developed ways to make it a quicker process? To make it a more painless process? Or can we still expect the towns to be smaller than what you would have found in games like Final Fantasy VII-IX.
Toriyama: Like Kitase said earlier, we did take it seriously that there was a huge criticism over no towns—we know people didn’t like it and so we took that and have towns in the new one. And you can explore the town and you can talk to all the people, and that will lead to other situations. Shops, as well now in XIII-2 you can find certain characters you can talk to and they can sell things to you and you can make purchases. I think if we created towns in the same way as we did for Final Fantasy VII-IX, it would be quite boring, and so it is very difficult. So with that we put an AI in every single person living in the town so they can do their own things. They may sit down and chat, or they may talk to their family members, or somebody they want to talk to, so they do their own actions. In that sense, it’s a quite different type of town you would find in a Final Fantasy [game].
RPGSite: At point did you decide to make Final Fantasy XIII-2, and what was the reason behind it?
Kitase: We actually made the decision to make a sequel right after the worldwide launch of Final Fantasy XIII. Around the time we were visiting the United States and other European countries on the promotion tour, we actually got a lot of positive reactions from the fans, and also obviously Final Fantasy XIII was luckily a commercial success with 5 millions units sold around the world—over 6 million. But we just felt generally that people wanted a sequel anyway, and while making Final Fantasy XIII we thought that the characters and the universe had more potential, not just squeezed into one title.
RPGSite: Will Final Fantasy XIII-2 be using a chapter based system, as far as story progression goes, because that was in Final Fantasy XIII, people thought that system made it too linear… will XIII-2 similar in that sense?
Toriyama: There isn’t an awful lot I can tell you on this subject, but we have changed that structure, because obviously people didn’t like it—there is a new one. For details on that, we’ll have to wait until TGS, but one thing I can tell you is that for the first time in the Final Fantasy series, XIII-2 will have multiple endings.
RPGSite: Could you explain why you went back to the Paradigm System for the battling? Was it because it’s a direct follow up from Final Fantasy XIII? Or do you guys feel like you’ve found the perfect balance in a battle system for the series?
Kitase: We decided to carry it over into the new game for of course the reason you just mentioned. Because it’s a sequel, it just seems, you know, the right thing to do, so we stuck to the same system. Also, it was quite popular in XIII, so we thought it was the best battle system to incorporate it into this game as well.
Having said that, it’s not just that we’re implementing the same battle system, but actually like I told you a bit earlier, you can capture and recruit over 150 different types of monsters, so that is a great addition and also more acutely strategic gameplay you can enjoy It compared to XIII.
RPGSite: Is there a common theme between XIII-2 and XIII? For instance, I noticed that in XIII-2 we have rap music going on when you’re exploring areas in town, and the whole introduction was this J-pop spectacle, so can you elaborate on this? Difference similar like those between X and X-2?
Kitase: It’s a different case than X to X-2 was, than in XIII to XIII-2. When we made X-2 we wanted to change absolutely everything, including music and the taste. X was more of an asian atmosphere, while X-2 was more pop style, so it was a total departure. Opposed to that, XIII to XIII-2, the seriousness of their universe and the way the story unfolds will remain unchanged. We just wanted to add some new elements, but the basic ideas have not changed much. It’s not like X to X-2 were it was a completely different thing. XIII to XIII-2 is an actual sequel. When it comes to music, in XIII Masashi Hamauzu did the music and he was quite popular which had an orchestral feel to it and that will actually be maintained as well, but with new elements.
What do you think of the music in XIII-2?
RPGSite: Unexpected. It reminded me of Persona… which that stuff can be brilliant depending on the situation.
Kitase: Obviously we want to make adjustments, because, like you say, if we stick the same kind of music all the way through, it might sound a bit out of place, or be a bit strange. We made it so every thing has an appropriate tune.
RPGSite: My proper question is about side quests, and the end game. One problem that a lot of people had with the original XIII and some of the other recent Final Fantasy titles is that once you finish them, there really isn’t that much to do. In XIII there were side quests, but they were all these monster hunt quests—there was nothing else. So I’m wondering if they’re looking at post game content stuff to do after the game is over, and if they’re looking at more variety of side quests during the game as well.
Toriyama: We mentioned the multi endings earlier, so it’s in relation to that so we can’t tell you very much about it. For people who have already cleared the game once, from the second playthrough on there are replay values attached to it. It’s a lot like New Game+, it’s the same system, so there are items and features than can entice you to keep playing. As far as side missions, there are more side missions a bit like in Red Dead Redemption. So it’s not just the hunts, it’s the other types of missions as well. One of the criticisms we received about Final Fantasy XIII was there was not enough mini games, and people want to see more of them, so that’s some of the things we added as well.
RPGSite: I had some questions about some of the new elements you’re throwing into the battle sequences. For example, you mentioned monster collecting earlier on… how do you exactly collect monsters in battle, and on a side note, what specific thing triggers the Cinematic Actions? Are they automatic? Or do you have to fill certain conditions for them to play out?
Kitase: Firstly, how to collect monsters. At first you have to defeat the monster, and when you meet certain conditions, at some certain rate obviously, it will enter you party and start working for you. You can mix them like if you play a card game and make a deck—it’s a bit like that. When it comes to the Cinematic Actions, there are two types: first is the one you saw in the demo against Atlas. When you take on a really big boss, when a certain level of damage has been inflicted on the boss, then it happens. Another thing with the Cinematic Action is, with some of the monsters you can collect, capture and make work for you, some of them can trigger those Actions.
RPGSite: You talked a little about Red Dead Redemption. Can you explain how that influenced you?
Toriyama: Among the millions of games that came out last year, Red Dead Redemption was adored by a lot of Japanese developers, including ourselves. Our game is not as open-field as that game, obviously. We did take some inspirations, however. For example, missions can happen anywhere rather than having to go to a certain shrine, or base or something, and that’s from them. In this game you see lots and lots of chocobos and you can ride them. The kind of feeling you get as you ride the chocobo, it’s a bit like the way you ride a horse. It’s a really refreshing feel good experience, and that’s one thing we learned from the game.
RPGSite: With Final Fantasy XIII, a lot of people felt that the Xbox 360 version was not as good as the PlayStation 3 version. What are you going to do to make sure the 360 version of XIII-2 is at least as close as it can be to the PlayStation 3 version?
Kitase: What we believe is even with Final Fantasy XIII there wasn’t an awful lot of difference when it comes to real time graphics. It’s about the same. When it comes to actual movie files, which was very heavy, the compression capacity of the two consoles was quite visible. In the meantime, we are now capable of event scenes/drama scenes as real time graphics rather than movies. The real problem that was causing so much difference between two versions, is a relatively small amount… it only makes up a small percentage of the entire graphical elements in XIII-2, so it’s not going to be a very big issue anyway.
RPGSite: Thank you for your time.