Square Enix Members Exclusive E3 Interview With Kitase and Toriyama

Check out the Square Enix Presents E3 2013 Livestream interview with Yoshinori Kitase and Motomu Toriyama!

Yesterday, Square Enix Presents sat down for an hour-long exclusive interview with Final Fantasy developers Yoshinori Kitase and Motomu Toriyama to discuss the latest details on their upcoming games for the series: Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster & Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.

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Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster

Why develop an HD version of X/X-2 and not any of the other titles in the series?

Toriyama & Kitase: Other titles in the series up to Final Fantasy IX are actually available to play on modern consoles like the PC, through the Playstation Network, or on Smartphones. However, when looking at Final Fantasy X/X-2, these are Playstation 2 only and cannot be played on current gen systems unless you own a first generation Playstation 3 with backwards compatibility. Because of this, we decided it was a perfect candidate for an HD remaster.

What have been your best experiences in remastering this story?

Toriyama: When I was working on the original Final Fantasy X, my first child was born. Ten years later, since the story is about a parent and child, I’ve been looking at it from a different perspective from the original making of the game, as a parent. Before I was looking at it through Tidus’s eyes, now I’m looking at it through Jecht’s eyes.

Which features benefit the most from the HD remaster?

Toriyama & Kitase: This HD remaster is based upon the International Version which was only released in Japan. There is a feature called Creature Create, this is the first time that European and North American audiences can experience this, you can modify monsters and have them join your party as an ally.

With the remastering process, it was unheard of 10 years ago to be able to play a game outside of a console, it has become more of a norm nowadays to be able to have these games on the go. Something which we were not able to do 10 years ago…it is a positive aspect of the remaster treatment.

 Are there any influential moments that have served as lessons in moving the Final Fantasy series forward?

Toriyama & Kitase: We definitely need to keep good backups of our data to remaster titles…back in the day, development was open and the planner could develop whatever he wanted. In modern game development, a lot of the process is tool based and the planner would not be able to put his own flavor into the game. We hope that we can merge the old ways with using new tools, while retaining a polished product.

 Are there any modern game mechanics/influences that you would have been interested to add to the FFX series?

Toriyama: Final Fantasy X’s concept was ‘Journey’–it would have been cool to depict the Lightning Returns 24-hour system to show the journey of Tidus and Yuna. Also, having a much more open world and the ability to explore the areas in any order the players likes would be very interesting.

Some popular questions were also asked from the community:

Have you ever considered remaking FFX into a movie?

Toriyama: When making the original title, our script writer Kazushige Nojima wrote a story so great that we thought there wouldn’t be anything greater in a game. We told Nojima, in order to value you any higher, you would have to win an academy award…he seemed to take it to heart and has left the company since.

Kitase: Scripts that Nojima writes have a quality like a movie, nowadays we have updated graphics, camera work, and 3D…all of this brings out our scripts completely and we were really able to express this in the HD remaster.

Have you ever considered making a prequel to FFX, much like Crisis Core?

Toriyama & Kitase: We were talking about a X-0 involving Braska, Jecht, and Auron…but it was just a party of men and did not seem to have that flare, so we went and created the all-female team (for FFX-2).

Have you ever considered making a Blitzball game into something like a mobile title?

Toriyama & Kitase: It’s a great idea…if we could tweak the interface for touch screen, we will put it into consideration.

How far along is the HD remastering process?

Toriyama & Kitase: We are still making tweaks, especially in character’s faces and attention to detail. We want to continue to polish it so we will not ruin the memories that fans have of the original titles.

Did you get a chance to work with the original voice actors (Japanese or English)?

Toriyama & Kitase: We did use the original voice cast to record a portion of the game…but it’s a secret to where it is.

Will fans overseas be able to use Japanese voice-over options?

Toriyama & Kitase: We receive requests like this all the time, but we are sorry we are not able to accommodate those requests. We have to consider the capacity of the systems and any issues of having this on the two platforms (Playstation 3 and Vita), so it will be in English only.

Were there any changes in difficulty in any parts of the game such as boss fights or celestial weapons?

Toriyama & Kitase: We are staying true to recreating the original for the most part. Any difficult fights will be the same, and players were able to clear them in the original, so we expect new players will too.

When is the game planned for release?

Toriyama & Kitase: We will be able to disclose this soon, but we will continue to tweak the title to bring out the best of the game while still retaining the original quality you remember. We cannot reveal the release date right now.

 Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

What was your vision for Lightning’s journey, and do you think it has been achieved?

Toriyama: We depicted Lightning as a strong woman right from the beginning, and with the first installment she is a soldier, this stoic person, hard on herself, hard on her sister, and kind of a hardened woman. In the second installment, she transcends beyond that human realm and gains an almost god-like strength, and it makes it kind of hard to approach her. So in the final installment, we want to depict her from more of a human perspective. How she got to being the strong woman that she is, what she’s struggling with, and trying to depict her in many different angles, so that we can see her coldness, or her beauty, maybe through her poignancy. Her sadness and sorrow as well so that we can show a lot more of Lightning’s human side.

What are you most proud of in Lightning Returns?

Toriyama: I’m happiest about being part of creating this very popular character who is Lightning, having to follow through these three installments and even changed the game mechanics per installment. I am very thankful for the power of the dev team and the strength that they held up through the development process. I also want to thank the fans for being patient as we follow through on this three-part series as well.

Kitase: I’m proud that our dev team was able to accomplish so much in such a short period of time. We’ve taken back all of the feedback we received from our fans and we evolved this title throughout the installments. So I’m really proud that our dev team grew to accommodate the requests and the fact that we do have such a strong, good development team.

Why is Lightning the character that gets the trilogy?

Kitase: Lightning’s Saga is part of the crystal mythos called the Fabula Nova Crystallis, and it has a very large, vast setting. We weren’t able to depict everything we wanted in just one installment, but we wanted to demonstrate more of the overall mythos. That’s why we expanded into the trilogy. In terms of Lightning herself, we’ve been with her since 2006. If you counted planning and pre-development, it would be even earlier than that so we wanted to continue being with her, wanted to bring her out and let her shine once again.

How does the “13 days” (time limit in the game) affect gameplay?

Toriyama: In terms of gameplay, we have thirteen days left before the world ends, but at the start of the game Lightning is given seven days to explore and go through her quests first. By completing these different quests she is able to prolong the life of the world. 

Can you expand on the new battle system?

Toriyama: In traditional battle we would think of the ATB (Active Time Battle) system. But with this game, we tried to keep that kind of strategy element in the battle system as well as improving and evolving the speed and the tempo of actual battles. So what we’ve done is incorporated a system what we call ‘Style Change’ but in the English version will be called ‘Schemata Change’, where Lightning has her equipment– her outfit, her weapon and shield- add to her different abilities and her attributes that are set. So you’ll be switching between three of those, and each of those Styles/Schema have an ATB Gauge assigned to it. You’re going to be strategically trying to pick which gauge and Schema is appropriate for that instance, when you want to put in the command. 

How many outfits are currently planned for the game, and maybe give us a few details about the ones Lightning will be wearing?

Toriyama: A lot. We have over 80 different types of outfit prepared for Lightning. You can definitely change her look, but her outfits are also going to link to her powers and abilities as well, kind of like the job system in typical Final Fantasy games. But not only do you have these different outfits, you’ll be able to customize each different part on her outfit, and change colors so you can make your very own Lightning. .

Will we be able to obtain her 2 previous outfits (from FFXIII and FFXIII-2)? Her armor as Etro’s Guardian is a very popular look with a lot of fans.

Toriyama: This is actually information we’re revealing here, at this broadcast booth. We actually have it set up where if you have save data from the previous two games, Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2, you will be able to obtain the outfit from the respective title. So, you are going to be able to use that in Lightning Returns.

 Are there going to be any other characters from the previous games returning to Lightning Returns?

Toriyama: With this installment, not only will Lightning’s chapter of the story end, but we’re going to have closure for many of the characters that have appeared in the previous installments. For example, I think you’ve seen Snow appear in some of the new information. He’s going to be in the game as well. He’s agonizing over the fact that he was not able to save Serah, and he has this very dark struggle in his heart. Lightning will try to approach him, and try to save him as well, but there may be a little bit of conflict there.

Are there any ‘Easter eggs’ in Lightning Returns?

Toriyama: This might be a little off from the actual question, but speaking of community we are going to be incorporating this new function in Lightning Returns…what we call the “Outworld Communication”. You’ll be able to post screenshots or messages on a community board via social networks. We hope our fans would take advantage of that, utilize it and kind of grow there in the Outworld of Lightning Returns.

Due to time constraints, only 2 questions were asked from the community:

Will Eidolons or summons make an appearance again?

Toriyama: The summons were created by the Goddess Etro in the world of Final Fantasy XIII, so at the end of XIII-2 when Etro lost her power, it means the summons lost their powers also. They won’t be able to appear as they would, in their original form.

Will there be Battle DLC after launch, and may we see some familiar characters in the Coliseum in Lightning Returns?

Kitase: In terms of DLC that would expand on the actual story of Lightning Returns, we’re not really planning for those episodic DLC nor are we thinking of doing extra ‘boss’ DLC. We are planning to have it 100% completable on its own. We do have more than 80 outfits that Lightning can equip, so we would like to take into consideration maybe costume DLCs. I know the Legacy Final Fantasy costumes, such as past titles like the White Mage or the Black Mage, those were really popular so if there’s a great enough demand for things like that, we might be able to put it into consideration. So unfortunately, no battle DLCs after the launch.

At the end of the interview, Kitase revealed another “possible” outfit that could be made available if there was enough demand, Yuna’s FFX outfit: 

 Toriyama and Kitase said they were developing it to bring out a sense of nostalgia in this new game.

Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster will be released on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation VITA with a release date to be announced. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is scheduled for release on PS3 and Xbox 360 in North America on February 11, 2014.


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Kaitlin Silver
I'm a Media Arts & Design graduate from the D.C. Metro area! I grew up on Nintendo and Playstation, and love games that allow co-operative play! Besides gaming, I also enjoy traveling, working with new media and technology, and music!