This interview was part of the Final Fantasy XIII-2 Fan Day (more on that through this link). Questions were asked by various Final Fantasy fan sites to XIII-2 Producer Yoshinori Kitase and Art Director Isamu Kamikokuryou and interpreted via translator, Emi Bliss.
What do you feel are the biggest differences between Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2, and the biggest similarities? (Question provided by: EyesOnFF.com)
Final Fantasy XIII was very much a story driven game and the game play felt more linear due to the fact that the object of the game was to progress through the story. This time, in Final Fantasy XIII-2 we utilized a system called the Historia Crux. This allows the player to travel between different times and locations, and allows much more player choices to be made. That would probably be the biggest difference in XIII and XIII-2, whereas the similarity or elements that are carried over from XIII is the paradigm shift. The paradigm shift was popular among the players due to fast paced battles and this time we have also incorporated more than 150 monsters that can be incorporated into your party, this adds more dimension to the battles. It’s the new and improved paradigm shift.
What challenges has developing the sequel presented that weren’t there for its predecessor? (Question provided by: FinalFantasy-XIII.net)
The biggest challenge is to provide, especially the returning player, a new and exciting experience visually and in the game play. Reading the initial scenario for XIII-2, I noticed it was more serious, so we wanted to incorporate a darker tone versus the light that was seen in Final Fantasy XIII, so I think you will notice overall this has a darker feel.
What is gained by the scenes of sisterly love throughout both games? How is this love expressed differently through Serah rather than Lightning? (Question provided by: RPGSite.net)
As far as how the sisterly love is depicted, I think that you will have a better sense of it once you play the game. As far as the differences between how they express their affections for each other, in Final Fantasy XIII Serah was a Crystal and Lightning, as an older sister, was trying to save her. And Lightning has a military background and she is extremely strong so she, from the early stages of the game, is forced to make difficult decisions, like leaving Serah’s Crystal behind even though she is right there. She is forced into a situation being chased, that she has to leave her there.
Whereas Serah goes out looking for Lightning this time, who has mysteriously disappeared, it seems everyone has accepted the fact that she is gone, but she is determined to find Lightning and she has set off to go look for her. So you can tell that they are sisters, that they have similarities, strong determination and a strong core.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 will be a more player oriented game as opposed to the original which was more story oriented. Was this new focus inspired by feedback from western players or the entire fan base? (Question provided by: FinalFantasy.net)
Prior to releasing Final Fantasy XIII, we conducted an event almost like this one and we were already receiving feedback regarding the game play: linearity, etc that you probably already read about or heard about or felt yourself. We had taken that feedback and applied it to some of the new features in Final Fantasy XIII-2, but also during the development process we utilized field testing in various regions and incorporated the feedback from that as well into the development process.
Will there be any classic Final Fantasy bosses or monsters from the series that we will be able to recruit into our party? (Question provided by: FinalFantasy.net)
Yes there will be a few. One example as you may have heard already, is Omega, who will be available through DLC. Also, the Chocobo will be able to join your party as well. You have various options that will be very familiar to you.
In Final Fantasy XIII, the player did not acquire the remaining three roles in the paradigm shift system until they reached a fairly late point in the story. Then upon obtaining them, the player’s ability to use new roles was effectively heavily restricted until the player had essentially completed the game. How long will it take to obtain all the roles in Final Fantasy XIII-2 and will the player be able to freely develop every role they get upon obtaining them? (Question provided by: RPGSite.net)
The roles in Final Fantasy XIII were released along with the storyline making it slower for the roles to be released to the player. For Final Fantasy XIII-2, you start off with three roles, much like Final Fantasy XIII, but after you increase the Crystarium points and the Crystarium level rises, there will be bonuses granted to the player to release a new role or to gain a new ability. The choice is instantly up to the player where they want to allocate their bonuses, whether it be to release a new role or gain a new ability. That’s another way that expands your character’s development.
Because of these choices, it is difficult to say when you can actually perfect your role. You can essentially choose to only maintain those three roles and develop them fully, or you can choose to release those other roles and develop all of them equally. It is really up to the player how long it takes to gain them.
In Final Fantasy XIII, character growth through the Crystarium was limited depending on your story progress. Since the cap has been lifted off Crystarium growth, can character growth outpace the difficulty of the story’s encounters? (Question provided by: FinalFantasy.net)
I think this can be said for RPGs or games in general. There are certain players that may have a more difficult time progressing in the game, so they will choose to level grind before moving forward, making it easier for them in the long run. The Historia Crux system allows the player to go back as your stronger self and fight bosses that you were not able to defeat, or you can choose other ways of making the battle easier for yourself, such as making your enemies weaker. There are various options, but I don’t really think it is an issue.
What aspect of this game are you most proud of? (Question provided by: RPGSite.net)
With an extremely short development period of a year and a half, including developing new characters and new environments as well as revamping all the returning characters, to be able to create something so robust within a short time period is a huge accomplishment that we are really proud of.
Will all areas be available at all points in time in the Historia Crux or will certain ones be blocked off at certain time points? (Question provided by: FFandMore.com)
Due to limitations in development time, we would love to make a game where you can go anywhere at any time. The locations that are available are at a set time and place, which become privy to the story. The time travel utilizes the gates that are opened upon fulfilling certain requirements whether it is completing a quest or defeating a boss, whatever is required for that level. By opening these gates or finding the gates that are hidden, the path varies. The locations that you can visit can depend on how many of these quests that you are fulfilling or these hidden gates that you are discovering.
With several different character designers working on Final Fantasy XIII-2 in one way or another, how did they collaborate to create a cast of characters that felt natural to the game’s settings and atmosphere? (Question provided by: FinalFantasy.net)
For Final Fnatasy XIII-2, the main characters were designed by three artists which were involved with Final Fantasy VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XII, and XIII. Typically Tetsuya Nomura creates all the characters, but in this case we are multiple designers who collaborated in creating the designs for the characters. We took existing ideas and expanded on them, making sure they still fit within the world and environments that we had created previously. The two other artists I worked with were people I really looked up to and learned from, and I really enjoyed working with them. I think the end result was really something spectacular.
Will the Historia Crux allow players to replay chapters of the game even if they have not completed the main arc of the plot? What incentives will there be to replay previous chapters again? (Question provided by: FinalFantasy.net)
Up until now there were two ways for you to replay areas. One was to return to an old save data and play that segment over again. The downfall to that is that whatever levels or items you had collected in that time you lost, you were basically starting over from that section. Another system that was incorporated since Chrono Trigger was to replay the entire game with all the levels and skills you had acquired.
This time you are able to return to areas that you have already played. You can actually rewind time to replay segments you had not cleared before or you can just go through it again after you have cleared it so you are basically returning to find items or gates that you may have missed. You may have noticed in the sections you have played that there were extremely strong monsters that you were unable to defeat, that you die immediately. There are sub quests we can do with bosses. That’s one way to defeat it, while you are going through it in the progression of the story. But you can also use the Historia Crux to return to that area as your leveled character and defeat the boss that way as well.
Are the multiple endings affected by game completion like Final Fantasy X-2 or are they more oriented towards player choice? (Question provided by: FinalFantasyUnion.com)
With Final Fantasy X-2, it was more so that the more missions and quests that you completed, it was releasing more scenes – hidden endings. With Final Fantasy XIII-2, it is more varied with the endings, depending on the path you take on. Whether you are returning in time and defeating a boss that you were not able to before. It is basically more variation rather than hidden footage so to speak.
With the decision to focus on visible equipment and costumes in XIII-2, most of the game’s cut scenes are being rendered in real time. Does this mean that the only CG movies in XIII-2 are the opening and ending movies? Also will the Playstation 3 version contain 1080p video as XIII did and will audio remain uncompressed for that version? (Question provided by: RPGSite.net)
In Final Fantasy XIII, including obviously the CG movies which are pre-rendered movies, even the real time cut scenes were also placed into the game as movie files, so they were taking up a lot of data space. Whereas in XIII-2, although the pre-rendered movies are not limited to just the opening and ending, the real time scenes are treated so that it is not eating up a lot of data. You will notice the same amount of cut scenes, just as much as XIII, although they are treated differently, the way they are placed into the game itself.
Of course with having worked on the same engine creating Final Fantasy XIII, our skills have been refined through practice. We’ve been able to create scenes that we had not been able to express before in a higher resolution. You are going to notice that the quality is higher even though they are real time.
As far as the specs, they carry over from XIII. You are going to be hearing high quality audio and 1080p as well. I believe that it is formatted to fit into the game better, but it is not going to compromise the quality of the audio at all.
To add to that, previously you were able to change weapons but this time with DLC content including costumes, we wanted to make sure that that was reflected in the cut scenes, so therefore we are using real time versus pre-rendered.
There are a lot of new features in Final Fantasy XIII-2 that were not present in the first game. Were these features originally considered for Final Fantasy XIII but for some reason did not make it into the final cut? (Question provided by: FinalFantasy-XIII.net)
As far as the game play or scenarios are concerned, because XIII-2 was green lit after XIII was already launched, this was a whole new mission. There really was not necessarily anything missed in XIII that was not included in XIII-2. As far as graphically, there were definitely monsters and environments that we could not make possible in XIII that we were actually able to incorporate into XIII-2 that we are happy to get into the sequel.
One of the biggest features we were able to incorporate this time was a lot of the weather elements. We have much more variation. It is done in a much more detailed manner than we were able to before. Especially with the concept of traveling through time and place, these were really vital in expressing the differences in the locations you are visiting. It is important progress that we have made in XIII-2.
Another thing that was added into the game was jumping. Now, jumping was incorporated into XIII until towards the very end of the development process. It was removed because it was deceiving; it looked like you could jump over or jump on things when you could not. That had some negative feedback and we decided to remove it. This time we bought it back, and we kept in consideration while developing the maps as well, so that it actually worked for the functionality.
Another element that was not in XIII is the mini game style game play, like the Chocobo races, slot machines, and also puzzle elements that appear throughout the game. That is another new element that we were unable to incorporate into XIII but we did this time.
Thanks to Square Enix’s Emi Bliss for acting as a translator during the interview.