With the success of Final Fantasy XIII, a sequel to the game was all but expected. While we managed to get a hands-on preview of the game last week that showcased a lot of the game's new features, we also snagged a chat with series producer Yoshinori Kitase and director Motomu Toriyama about the upcoming follow-up to the role-playing game hit.
GameSpot Asia: What will the story's theme be like this time around, considering that most sequels to mainstay Final Fantasy titles tend to be lighthearted like FFX-2?
Motomu Toriyama: The storyline of FFXIII had a serious tone. We're going for that kind of direction for the sequel, perhaps even darker and more mysterious.
GSA: How about the prequel's past linear structure? Will that be expanded for the sequel?
MT: XIII-2 is more options and decision driven, to the point where these actions will have in-game consequences. The game will have multiple endings depending on the choices you make along the way. We will elaborate more on this in TGS.
GSA: How many elements of Western role-playing games have been infused in this installment?
Yoshinori Kitase: We originally didn't intend to take inspirations from Western-made RPGs. Those RPGs are really open ended, but for FFXIII-2's case, we wanted to add in a little more freedom and exploration options. We didn't do this consciously, but we're trying to add in more options after hearing feedback from FFXIII players.
MT:One of the negative comments we got was about the lack of towns and cities to visit. Gamers can now interact in these areas for this sequel, have a conversation with a soldier wandering around the city, or even buy items from shops the traditional method. The moogle that Serah uses during combat will also be part of a search and exploration system we'll talk about later. We've even decided to revamp the save system to be much simpler via auto save, like how most Western games handle save data.
GSA: Concerning the game's battle system, what was the reason behind adding in more inputs and monster raising for cinematic attacks?
MT: The paradigm system has not changed and is still the pillar of Final Fantasy XIII, but we decided to add in a cinematic flair during "in-between" parts of battle as a way for players to get more involved. We wanted to add in a monster-character dynamic and progression for part two just to showcase the kind of variety players can have in their new party. There will be offensive and defensive monsters that come in different shapes and sizes, and they will be placed on the different types of paradigm shifts a player has.
YK: Players can also customize a monster's statistical parameters via leveling up and even equip them with accessories to further boost their powers. While monsters can be shifted out from current paradigm shifts, Serah and Noel will remain consistent party members. We also thought that the new mog clock encounter system and cinematic action will make battles shorter and keep the pace of the game flowing well. As a bonus, the in-game weather will also affect some battles.
GSA: Why focus on Serah this time around?
MT: We figured that it would be fun to turn around the driving force of FFXIII. Since Lightning has to cure Serah's crystal condition in the first game, we decided to have the younger sister take center stage. Lightning is still important in the story, as well as still being powerful (as evident with our closed-door surprise), but players will now have Serah as the main character to control and nurture.
GSA: What about Noel?
MT: We can't share too much about this new character, but he's a strong and determined character who is a "fish out of water" when it comes to Cocoon and Gran Pulse. We wanted to make a game where players who didn't quite follow FFXIII's story could get into the fresh perspective of a new character. A "cool monster hunter" type of character.
GSA: How about other mainstay characters in FFXIII?
MT: All of the main characters from the first game will make an appearance. We just can't give you specifics yet.
GSA: Who will be doing the soundtrack for the game?
MT: The main composer for FFXIII, Masashi Hamauzi, will make his return in part two. We currently don't have any information on the other artists yet, but we are going to take memorable themes of FFXIII and have a different composer from our stable take a different spin on it. Perhaps, we'll tell more at TGS.
GSA: How about the game's length, both for gameplay and cutscenes?
MT: We can't gauge how many hours the cinematics and gameplay portions will amount to, but we can tell you that a single play-through of the game will take players 40-plus hours. That's about the same as FFXIII, and that's not even factoring the multiple endings into account.
GSA: Will there be a "New Game +" option?
MT: We have something even better than that, but you'll have to be patient until we reveal other details.
GSA: How about the game's engine? Is it the same as Final Fantasy XIII?
YK: The first game used the Crystal Tools engine that's not only open ended from the development side but also makes it possible to be on multiple consoles without much compromise. While FFXIII was initially for the PS3, we had the opportunity to make the game on the Xbox 360 too during development.
For FF XIII-2, we decided to stick to this engine so that we can be clear from the beginning that the sequel will be developed for both consoles without any hassle and console bias whatsoever.
GSA: When will the game be out in Japan?
YK: FF XIII-2 will be out in Japan in December this year. The game will be out in Europe early next year.