TOKYO--Today at TGS, we had the opportunity to sit down for an interview with a few of the big brains behind Final Fantasy XII, the latest edition in the long-running role-playing game series. Sitting on the couch opposite us were Hiroshi Kanazu, producer on the game, Hideo Minaba, art director, and Akihiko Yoshida, character designer and graphical director.
We started off by getting some general information on the game, which takes place in the same world that was featured in Final Fantasy Tactics back for the original Playstation. Although the two games share the same world, Ivalice, they're quite different in the setting, thanks to the games taking place in different eras. While Final Fantasy Tactics involved very little technology, the world of Final Fantasy XII is highly technological since it takes place many years past the events of that game. That said, you can expect to see a few familiar faces as you play through Final Fantasy XII, that is, if you happened to have completed Final Fantasy Tactics.
When asked about the game's controversial Gambit system, which sees you explore the world in real time and engage in fully real-time combat with artificial intelligence teammates, the team responded that their drive to create the system was as a result of their desire to create a completely seamless world. Since a seamless transition between combat and exploration would already require seeing all the enemies on the main exploration map, it was decided to take the system to full real-time combat, as well.
In addition, they responded to the criticism that some have leveled at the game by pointing out that the Final Fantasy series has always been about change, and that many purists were upset when they transitioned to full 3D environments in Final Fantasy X. They said that they weren't as worried as they might have otherwise been about the combat system were it not for the massively multiplayer Final Fantasy XI having already incorporated combat taking place in real time. Thus, they felt that their fans had already been softened up for the inclusion of a similar system in Final Fantasy XII. In addition, they admitted that the hardcore purists were usually going to be impossible to please, but that they wanted to attempt to create a system so fun to use that even those purists would come around.
When asked about major changes to the game for the American edition, the developers were reticent to admit too much, simply stating that there is now a 16x9 wide-screen mode added to the game, and that some event scenes that were cut from the Japanese version have been added to the US edition. The substance of these additions remains to be seen, but it doesn't sound like anything dramatic has been included. They did state, however, that they feel that the English voice work for the game is even better than the Japanese tracks, and that in many ways, it fits the game even better than the original voices, since many of the games cinemas were inspired by films from the West.
We wound down the interview by asking what the team felt like, knowing that a project that they'd been working on for almost six years was about to come to an end. It turns out that Kawazu still has a good amount of work to do on the game, as he prepares it for its eventual European release. Minaba said that he was a bit frightened to be without such a long-term project, although he smiled while saying so, so we figure he'll enjoy whatever break he manages to take. Yoshida says that the graphical work on the game was finished some time ago, which has let him begin research on graphics for the next-gen consoles. He says that most of what he's come up with has made him wish he had had next-gen technology while developing Final Fantasy XII.
All in all, the team behind Final Fantasy XII seems relaxed and confident about the quality of their game. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more information on the title as it approaches its American launch date.