It may be hard to believe but Square Enix's Theatrhythm Final Fantasy may have been perhaps the most emotional game at E3 this year. It's not everyday that a simple rhythm game has the capacity to move one so much - to strike up a sense of deep nostolgia in a single moment through something as basic as a song from years past. You might say that's exactly what the developers intended on.
We had a chance to chat with 1st Production Department Producer Ichiro Hazama, on all things localization, as well as the challenges of creating a rhythm/RPG hybrid for the 3DS before it launches come this July.
RPGSite: Why come up with a game like Theatrhythm? What was the idea behind the concept?
Hazama: I thought, at least for myself, when I played Final Fantasy games I have great memories of each scene associated with each tune of music. So I thought many players, especially fans of Final Fantasy games might have the same idea as me so I thought it might be great to create a new game centering on the music of Final Fantasy—that’s the concept of the game.
RPGSite: Was the game originally planned to be in development to coincide with the Final Fantasy 25th anniversary?
Hazama: It was not necessarily planned to develop the game in time for the 25th anniversary, it just happened to be good timing.
Of course rhythm games using a franchise aren’t possible with using just one or two games. Because of the long history the Final Fantasy franchise offers this game became possible. I don’t know if it needed to take 25 years.
Hazama: There’s actually no specific plans made yet in terms of DLC release timing and the content for the North American market.
RPGSite: Were the composers themselves, such as Uematsu-san involved in the project?
Hazama: We didn’t directly work with the composers of each title but we did of course give the proposal of this game and got approval from them before creating the game. As far as I know all of the composers are pleased with the results, which pleases me.
RPGSite: For the Final Fantasy 20th anniversary there were a lot of releases like Dissidia, FF I and II for PSP… Theatrhythm is currently the only announced one for the 25th anniversary, so do feel there’s sort of an increased importance on that title?
Hazama: It doesn’t actually mean the number of titles equals the amount of pressure we get. Working on any Final Fantasy title is a lot of pressure to create a great game. For example, and this is an extreme case, if there are hundreds of games that are available for the 25th anniversary, each game producer would probably get the same amount of pressure.
RPGSite: How do you find working with the Nintendo 3DS? Why was the 3DS chosen over other touch-based devices such as iOS or Android?
Hazama: I wonder… When I originally planned for this game I was originally focusing on the handheld consoles. I was not paying too much attention to phones or tablets, and now maybe it’s a different story but at that time I was more focused on handheld consoles. When we heard that the 3DS comes with a great capacity and great speaker system then I thought “Okay, this is it.”
Hazama: That’s actually not quite right. When the DS was available I did have the idea of making a music game, but I already knew that the capacity was not enough to contain all of the movies that I wanted to contain. It was already hard to start with, so we already gave up without even proposing anything. When the 3DS came available we started a brand new project planning so it was not shifted from DS to 3DS.
RPGSite: Going back to DLC… so far you’ve released just songs, but have you thought about releasing extra characters that didn’t make it into the main game but are still somewhat recognizable characters?
Hazama: It’s a great idea. We don’t have any plans yet, but again that’s such a great idea.
RPGSite: The game itself proved popular in Japan already. If it proves popular over here as well do you think there will be any other franchises that take advantage of the Theatrhythm formula?
Hazama: I wish I could, of course. You made a good point; it’s all up to customer satisfaction.
RPGSite: Is there anything you’d like to say to fans who maybe aren’t interested in the game now that would maybe make them change their mind?
Hazama: The reason to play it could be anything. It could be borrowing from your friends or anything, but just play once then you will know how fun it is.
Hazama: As you can imagine, it’s impossible to nail down one particular design that covers Final Fantasy through Final Fantasy XIII. It was difficult to pick just one, but before we had a mobile Kingdom Hearts title available and in that game we had Final Fantasy characters appearing as guest characters in that type of style. When I looked at that I thought they were really cute so I suggested they be used for Theatrhythm. Tetsuya Nomura agreed on it and then we finalized it.
RPGSite: Speaking of Nomura-san, could you maybe explain his role in the game as Creative Producer?
Hazama: He did many things, for example the title [Theatrhythm Final Fantasy] was chosen by him. Any decision related to art and design work were done by him.
[Interview Conducted in Collaboration with Nintendo Universe]