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Friday, 25th October, we're invited by Square Enix for an interview with Motomu Toriyama and Yuji Abe.
Finaland : To put an end to the Lightning saga, you decided to launch a pushy communication campaign, and you took the risk to unveil a lot of important details. In fact, this began with Final Fantasy XIII-2, during the campaign of which a lot of informations were provided. Aren’t you afraid of revealing too much details and thus spoil the surprises provided by the plot twists ?
Toriyama : I think there are many different opinions and ideas when it comes to publicity. I can't say much about here, but I can talk about the situation in Japan. Sometimes, if you want to appeal to a broad range of users, core or casual, you sometimes have to reveal as much information as possible so that somebody will find something that catches their attention. I think sometimes it is necessary.
FFWorld : I think the FFXIII series is primarily based on "concepts" (world driven, judge & response), so my feeling is that it is too abstract for players and it could be one of the reasons why they didn't like FFXIII for example.
Abe : I always have to start working on a new project with concepts. Without them, I wouldn't know where to start. I don't quite understand the idea that it would be too conceptualized.
Toriyama : With the next generation, if you want to implement something into a game, it's very expensive. So in that kind of situation, you have to prioritize your main focus points. When you design the game, you have to have a concept in order to prioritize the process. The concepts are always necessary. On the other hand, if you are making games for smartphones, more casual platform, you still need a concept, because the expression capacity. In order to be edgy, you have to be different from other games.
FFWorld : Precisely, in the case of LR, the first time they unveiled the game, it was only concepts, no screenshots. I think this is too abstract for players who want to see the actual game.
Toriyama : You may be referring to the first presentation. The first time in the FF history we talked a lot about the concepts and how it's going to be different from the other games. And there was a reason for that. We would have wanted to show more gameplay, but because of the visual specifics of the FF franchise, it always takes a lot of time until we get to the point we can present from decent images or screenshots. When we made this game, we of course used the engine we made for the last games, but then we had to add some extra functions, like matching the visuals with the 24-hour time progression. There was an early stage when we didn't have much to show in terms of gameplay. It's not that it was too conceptualized. It's just that at this time, we didn't actually to show basically.
Finaland : You also did communicate a lot about Lightning’s outfits. Besides, you clearly wanted to pay a tribute to some of the older Final Fantasies. But not all the fans did appreciate this choice. Some of them even got the impression that the very character of Lightning was altered. How do you explain this controversial choice?
Toriyama : That's not true. There are so many different costumes available in Lightning Returns. We did that because we wanted to give each player the freedom to costum make Lightning. If you really like Lightning as somebody really strong and cool and stylish, maybe you can stick to the same outfit all the way through. That's your choice as well. On the other hand, that sort of fan wouldn't probably very keen so seen her dressy, with a robe. That wouldn't be their first choice. On the other hand, there are some other visual styles that fans of other Final Fantasy games would really like. But it wouldn't be the same appeal to fans of the FFXIII series. It's all about choice and how you make use of it.
Finaland : Lightning is a very charismatic character who made her way to become one of the most loved heroines in the Final Fantasy history. Don’t you fear that she might lose her identity through wearing this many outfits?
Toriyama : As well as outfit selection, you can also get to see the sides of Lightning you haven't seen before. For example, if you play some of the sidequests, you can see how she behaves in these quests. And that would sometimes make you feel: "Oh, I didn't think she had that side to her". I thought she was like that, but she has got that side as well. Sometimes, when you interact with children, animals, maybe you can see something you have never seen before in the way she behaves. In a same way, there are lots of different layers and sides to her. You can see which one is your favorite. For example, if you want to stay with a strong side of character that she has been in XIII and XIII-2, there are outfits from these games available in LR so maybe you can just use them, to keep that dimension of Lightning.
Finaland : Aside from Cloud Strife, you also picked a second character from Final Fantasy VII: Aerith Gainsborough. Why did you choose to pick a second character from this Final Fantasy instead of featuring another Final Fantasy?
Toriyama : I have got the got the opportunity to go outside of Japan, taking part in community events, and it was great to actually go in contact with the fans of Final Fantasy games. It's from those experiences that I gathered that Final Fantasy VII is probably the most popular FF game in the history. Don't forget there are also outfits from FFX and XIV available, but because VII is particularly popular among the Western fans, we thought it would be appropriate to choose two characters and not just one. Also, the voice artist who provided voice for Aerith, Maaya Sakamoto, is now doing Lightning's voice as well.
Finaland : With the new gameplay of Lightning Returns, it’s like a rollback to the 2006’s trailer with the first game of the Lightning Saga. Have you been inspired by the gameplay prototype ?
Toriyama : You are talking about what we call the prototype from 2006. At that time, the current gen just came in and we wanted to create real time battle and make another step forward from the traditional FF battle system. We used Paradigm Shift to create something more strategic, speedy and strategic. We achieved that next step, but this time around, in Lightning Returns, we wanted to take a step even further. It's going to be a direct control over action during the battle, and you can enjoy a lot of different abilities, different executional attacking skills from Lightning as well. Also, during the E3 2006 trailer, there was a section where you stopped time. This is now embodied in what we call Overclock in Lightning Returns. So I think we have answered most of the promises of that trailer.
This interview was conducted in collaboration with FFWorld. Big thanks to Jérémie for his help.
Kudos to Square Enix France, Square Enix Europe and Square Enix Japan for the event. Thanks to Motomu Toriyama and Yuji Abe for their kindness and their availability.
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