Today at Square Enix's Tokyo office we spoke with key members of the Final Fantasy X-2 development team. Producer Yoshinori Kitase, director Motomu Toriyama, and scenarist Kazushige Nojima were on hand to answer questions about the first-ever true sequel to a Final Fantasy game. Though much has already been written about the game itself, we picked the developers' brains about less tangible subjects applicable to the development of what's become a very highly anticipated sequel.
Much of the conversation during the question-and-answer session focused on the radically different tone of FFX-2 from its predecessor. The story in FFX was decidedly somber and a bit melancholy at times, but its sequel sees a shift to a strange melange of everything from wacky J-pop to Charlie's Angels-style action. Producer Kitase said that fan demand following the release of FFX International, which included a short epilogue set after the end of the game, was the biggest impetus behind the decision to create a sequel to FFX. Once the project began, his first order was for the designers to make something as different from FFX as possible. That freedom of creativity brought about changes like the garment grid system (known in the Japanese version as the dress-up system), which allows Yuna and her cohorts to change their flamboyant outfits mid-battle to enable new abilities. The game's designers admitted that at times they realized they were going beyond what was expected from a Final Fantasy game but opted to push the unspoken limits of the series in order to keep things fresh. They noted that as they worked on the project they realized that many of the unspoken guidelines and expectations of what a Final Fantasy game should be had been created by the longtime fans of the series. As a result, they all felt strongly that they should push the boundaries of those expectations to help keep the series fresh.
When we asked whether the character of Yuna was rewritten for the new game, we were told that the changes were the result of the slight redesign by character designer Tetsuya Nomura that provided Yuna with pistols and hot pants. Furthermore, though Yuna is sporting new weapons and a new attitude, deep down she's the same Yuna, and that will be reflected in the storyline. In the end, though Final Fantasy X-2 is an ostensibly lighthearted affair, the developers assured us that overall the game will maintain the key aspects of Final Fantasy, in terms of both dramatic storyline and rewarding RPG gameplay, that have made previous series entries so beloved.
In terms of changes to the American version of the game, we were told that much of the lip synching is being tweaked to match the English voice acting. As the game features an already improved facial animation system, this will be a welcome addition. Unfortunately, the new content in the forthcoming Japanese "International" version of the game, which consists of a new bonus mission and a new outfit, won't be included in the American release due to Square Enix's desire to get the game to US players as soon as possible. The localization leads on FFX-2 also lead the translation efforts on FFX, so fans of that game can look forward to a similar quality of dialogue and voice acting. In fact, many of the key actors from FFX will reprise their roles in its sequel.
Although Square Enix officials didn't commit to a specific date for the game's release, they did say it will definitely be out in early December. We're looking forward to getting our hands on the final version of the game, and we'll bring you more coverage in the coming weeks.