Of the many titles at E3 this year, by far the one with the most charm, and perhaps potential, came from a quirky little spin-off overshadowed by its bigger mainline brothers. World of Final Fantasy - announced for both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita - is coming out next year, and looks to be bringing back a lot of traditional elements to the series along with some modern gameplay flair.
We had a chance to sit down with the game's director, Hiroki Chiba, at the show for a chat discussing the game's inception as well as what players can expect when they get their hands on it some time next year.
RPG Site: What kind of a game is this? We haven't seen much from the trailers.
Hiroki Chiba: So this game is about befriending monsters - creatures from the previous FF titles, and raising them.
RPG Site: How did you decide what platforms were suitable for this title?
Chiba: The concept of the game actually came first, and because the concept was about gathering all the different monsters that appear in the game, we wanted a system that could display as many as possible and as much information as possible. That's why we first decided on the PlayStation 4, but to gather, befriend, and collect all these different types of monsters... it does take a long time, so we wanted to give different types of play styles to player. That's why we decided to go with the PlayStation Vita as well, so you can take them outside to play too with the Vita.
RPG Site: What was the concept and motivation behind the creation of World of Final Fantasy?
Chiba: The first thing is we wanted to bring back the energy - the excitement - of the original Final Fantasy series from years ago. The second was because users are wanting more realistic graphics. Especially from XIII on, a lot of the core users are really into those more realistic visuals of the characters. That's what the main numbered series is doing, and Mr. Hashimoto was worried that new players may not be able to get into that world. That's when Mr. Hashimoto consulted with [me] that he wanted to bring new players to the franchise, and that is how they decided on a new approach, with a new visual design and graphics appeal that he's hoping will attract new players to play the game.
Chiba: We're trying to incorporate different elements from different Final Fantasy titles, so that it could appeal to different users. Because each user will feel they like a particular Final Fantasy for the elements it brings, it's tricky trying to incorporate different elements in from older Final Fantasy titles. Also for the battle system, users can actually play a classic play style or they can immerse themselves in the more modern play style that's offered at the beginning of the game. The battle system is very intuitive, and so players who have never played Final Fantasy before will be able to catch on quickly.
RPG Site: What was the inspiration behind the game's kind of cute style for the artwork?
Chiba: So when deciding on a character, we approached Mr. Izumisawa from Crystal Chronicles because he loved to draw cute characters. It's challenging to try and put a new visual style on an existing franchise. We went to Mr. Hashimoto to see what he would say or think, and Mr. Hashimoto really liked that design and new look for World of Final Fantasy and that's how we decided on it.
RPG Site: In the trailer, it looks like you can switch between very cute characters and the more realistic ones. Can you explain how we'll switch in game?
Chiba: Yes, you can switch between the smaller characters and a more realistic appearance whenever you like in the game. We decided to implement that into the game because if it was only the cute characters, existing fans of the franchise wouldn't be able to identify themselves with it at all. So, we went to Mr. Nomura to consult with him on the (more realistic) designs for the two main characters as seen in the trailer.
Chiba: It's just one button to change between the two sizes.
RPG Site: In Final Fantasy the story has always been important. Is this story more about those two characters, or more about the different Final Fantasy characters you meet throughout the game? Do you walk into their story, or do they come into your story?
Chiba: So the main protagonists that you saw in the trailer, they're actually siblings and they are going to be the center of the story. I have always been a fan of the series, so I want to keep that RPG play-style feel in the game. The scenario is going to be very similar the feel of previous Final Fantasy series games.
RPG Site: Since this game is on both Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita, is there going to be any kind of Cross Play or Cross Save element to go between for items, collected monsters, and things like that?
Chiba: So we're planning on implementing Cross Save for the save data, but I wasn't sure what you meant by items.
RPG Site: For multiplayer elements, like trading items and so on between players on PS4 or PS Vita.
Chiba: Item sharing and trading is still up for discussion, no decision has been made yet. In regards to creatures, they are trying to implement a feature where creatures can be shared between different players.
RPG Site: Will other Final Fantasy characters from throughout the series be making their appearance alongside characters like Cloud?
Chiba: As you saw in there trailer, there was Cloud from Final Fantasy VII and the Warrior of Light who was designed for Dissidia and you can definitely expect to see them in the game. Other characters can't be revealed at the moment, but I have personally selected a number of characters to appear in the game. It's a personal choice so it might be a bit different than what you'd expect, but there will be other characters in the game.
Chiba: As mentioned earlier you can switch between large characters and small characters, you can become bigger and have monsters go on top of you or you could shrink down and ride on the different monsters. Forming different towers or stacks of monsters and player will affect abilities you can use.
RPG Site: Now will just the main two characters be able to do that, or will the classic Final Fantasy characters be able to as well?
Chiba: The two protagonists actually came from a world of that larger size into a world called Grimoire, which is where the cute little characters live. That's why the two protagonists can switch sizes, but the other characters in that world are only that smaller size. As you can see from the trailer though there are different sizes still in that world, with some very small monsters and some bigger characters.
RPGSite: You mentioned different play types earlier, can you elaborate on that? And can we expect things such as mini games in World of Final Fantasy similar to the Gold Saucer or Tetra Master?
Chiba: Regarding the battle system I can't disclose too much in detail, but I can say that the users will be able to select between a simple classic game style or a more modern play style. As for mini games, I loved the previous Final Fantasy games - I was actually in charge of creating the Gold Saucer in FFVII - those elements are still in discussion so we're still deciding whether or not to put them in. On the battle system - the 'tower' that I mentioned earlier - the easiest explanation is that if three characters are stacked up in a tower that all have the Fire ability then that Fire will become Firaga.
RPG Site: Can you reveal any of the other staff who are working on this project?
Chiba: The core members are the producer Shinji Hashimoto, the creative producer is Tetsuya Nomura, and the main character designer is Yasuhisa Izumisawa. That is all I can disclose at this time, and of course I am the director.
Chiba: As a developer the first title that I was involved in was Final Fantasy VI so I have fond memories of that, but I do love Final Fantasy VII even though it is embarrassing to say because I did work on it. As a fan, I really do like the job systems in Final Fantasy III and also the airship - I can't forget that moment that I rode the airship. I just felt like the world was so big!
RPG Site: Will there be airships in World of Final Fantasy?
Chiba: It's in discussion right now but we'd really like to put it in.
RPG Site: Since you'd like to put it in, can we expect a big overworld in this game or will the world be divided into zones?
Chiba: It is a little separated but but you will be able to travel through the world.
RPG Site: So you worked on the original Final Fantasy VII - what were your thoughts when they finally decided to go ahead with a remake?
Chiba: It was the same as the users for me, I was like "Yes!"
RPG Site: Can we expect any classic music from the series or will World of FF have only all new music?
Chiba: We do have a lot of new songs but we are also arranging a few classic songs from the Final Fantasy series. Masashi Hamauzu is in charge of that. You can hear his music in the trailer.
RPG Site: Because you're calling this World of Final Fantasy, can we expect this to be something that expands over time like with downloadable content, new characters, new areas and things like that?
RPG Site: With DLC, will this be a disc-based game at retail or will it be a digital download only type of thing?
Chiba: We're thinking of both.
RPG Site: In the game world will you be free to move wherever or will be more linear and restricted on what you can do?
Chiba: Since the play style is similar to the older FF games you won't be able to go to new places on a whim but you can go back to previous towns whenever you want. To access new ones though, you'll need to go through the story.
RPG Site: Will the world map be big like in older FF games?
Chiba: I want to make it into a big world map.
RPG Site: How big will the focus be on the story versus the gameplay? What sort of balance are you aiming for there?
Chiba: The image of the game is of the previous Final Fantasy series so it is more story focused, but it really is up to the user if you want to go through the stories and get to the end as fast as possible or you could try and befriend creatures as much as possible so it really depends on the user.
RPG Site: Do you have any sort of message to say to the fans who may be hesitant to play because this isn't a numbered Final Fantasy title?
Chiba: Of course, World of Final Fantasy doesn't have realistic graphics like the recent numbered titles, but as a fan of the series myself I believe I've been able to put in the fun elements from the series that a lot of people will recognize so I feel that any FF fan will love the game.
RPG Site: Thank you for your time!