Yoshinori Kitase and Motomu Toriyama have been working with Final Fantasy for a long time. Longtime FF visionary and lead Hironobu Sakaguchi stepped down and passed the director's baton to Kitase for Final Fantasy VI, considered by many fans to be the best in the series, and Kitase did the same for Toriyama on PS2 classic Final Fantasy X. It's safe to say that this pair is responsible for us even having Final Fantasy titles these past few console generations.
In an interview shortly before the Tokyo Game Show, Kitase and Toriyama talked about some of the choices that led to the production of Final Fantasy XIII-2 and its more unique aspects, as well as what the future of the series may hold.
Regarding the creation of FFXIII-2, and why it was a full game instead of a movie like Advent Children:
Kitase: "After XIII's worldwide release in March 2010, we have been enjoying its success. After its release, we decided (in April) to make a sequel."
Toriyama: "Making a film instead wasn't one of our options, because after the release of XIII, we got lots of feedback from Japanese gamers. We wanted to rectify those negative aspects about the game, so we were very keen to make a sequel in which we made the necessary changes."
Final Fantasy XIII-2 introduces the Live Trigger, which allows you to make dialogue choices more similar to a Western RPG, allowing for branching stories. When asked about it, Kitase said:
"We wanted to enable to player to express their own preferences and their preferences would tie in directly with the narrative. With Live Trigger, we are hoping to help the player get more involved with each conversation. By making a choice, the conversation develops in different ways. Even when the situation is quite serious, you can give a comedic response and change the tone. You can also change the depth of information you receive, based on your response."
Kitase already spoke about Final Fantasy XIII's FPS influence and the gradual move toward a more action-oriented RPG experience. When asked about what future FF games may be like gameplay-wise, he had a very thought-out response:
"No one can be that certain of the future of any game or IP, so there is always a possibility that we may end up with a first-person shooter FF. Having said that, XIII and XIII-2 are much faster action-adventure-inspired games. RPG elements, such as strategical actions, still need to be there, so we'd need to create a good fusion between these opposite elements. We can't predict how the FF experience will seek out such a fusion in the future. I can't visualize it being completely an FPS shooting game. The strategic element needs to be maintained in any future project, because otherwise, it wouldn't be FF anymore."
One of the highest-ranking things on many RPG fans' wish lists is a remake of Final Fantasy VII using modern graphics technology. While Kitase loved the world of XIII and has said in the past that he wanted to revisit and expand upon it, here's what he had to say about revisiting Cloud and company's story:
"If we are talking exclusively about VII, we made a film that was intended to be the sequel. At the moment, we have no specific plans for making any sequels to past FF titles. FFVII was made over 10 years ago, and there are lots of fans that love the game. In a way, they have created their own FFVII world individually, so if we were to make a sequel, we would have to be very careful not to disturb fans' own individual picture of that universe. It's a very delicate thing to do. We'd have to tip-toe around it. At the moment, we don't have any plans."
Inflammatory opinion time: barring a few rare exceptions, I almost universally dislike RPGs with stodgy menu-only battle systems with little to no sense of action or timing. I think it lacks finesse and isn't playing a game, it's selecting items from a menu to watch a game. What Kitase is saying here is a breath of fresh air and a great way to get somebody to enjoy Japanese role-playing games who otherwise wouldn't give them the time of day.
Final Fantasy has gone through a lot of changes since its debut on the PS2 with Final Fantasy X, going from an updated turn-based battle system with very minor action elements to a very MMO-inspired sorta real-time style in FFXI and FFXII, to a much faster-paced action-based system in FFXIII. Have the changes inspired by these two creators been for the better, or is Final Fantasy best left as a traditional role-playing game? What do you think?