World of Final Fantasy Interview With Director Hiroki Chiba

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At PAX West, we had a chance to sit down and finally get our hands on World of Final Fantasy. Afterwards, we had the fortune of sitting down with the game’s Director, Hiroki Chiba to talk about the game.

Gamer Escape: One of the unique things about the game is the art style. How did you choose on this look for the game?

Chiba: Because Final Fantasy has a long history, and we’re going to be celebrating our 30th anniversary very soon, our players have grown up with the series and the series has grown up with the players. We feel our audience has matured. Our Producer, Shinji Hashimoto noticed that trend, and he really wanted to engage the younger audience that haven’t had a chance to come into contact with such a long history of Final Fantasy.

With that in mind, I talked with  the man who handles the art direction and the design of the smaller characters, the Lilikin, and asked if he could draw up some concept sketches using a sort of cute art style. We started with Cloud and Lightning and brought it back to Mr. Hashimoto and Tetsuya Nomura and we felt that we could try something new with this and use it to introduce a younger audience to the franchise.

Of course, we also want to make sure that long time fans are taken care of as well so we made sure that we have both spectrums co-exist- something that both parties can enjoy.

Gamer Escape: How do you decide which Final Fantasy characters make it into the game? Cloud and Lightning seem a bit obvious to include, but I believe I’ve also seen Shelke from Dirge of Cerberus who might not be as popular.

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Chiba: One of the elements that we made sure to think about and keep in mind when considering how to make the game “Final Fantasy-like” is, of course, the characters. That doesn’t involve just the main protagonists. There are a variety of characters throughout the franchise. When I was trying to decide which characters I wanted, I tried to fit in as many as I wanted and submitted it to the staff and they told me “No, there are way to many characters you’ve selected!” I submitted multiple times more than what ended up in the actual game. I had to narrow it down so that it makes sense in the game. The concept that all of these characters are residents of Grymoire, that helped set the parameters of who fits into the world. We would look at how the story was progressing or the situations the main characters were put in- which Final Fantasy character is more appropriate for that scene or situation. It wasn’t about what characters are popular, but making sure that the characters fit into the world. We definitely did consider some of the characters that are less recognized, or from spin off titles. You’ll see one of the characters from Crystal Chronicles, Sherlotta, we have Quistis from Final Fantasy VIII- so we have characters that not typically represented in titles such as Dissidia, but instead characters that make sense in the world of Grymoire.

Gamer Escape: Are there any characters from Final Fantasy XI or Final Fantasy XIV in the game?

Chiba: I’m afraid we can’t say much because it hasn’t been announced but for Final Fantasy XI… I can’t specify singular or plural but yes. In terms of FFXIV or FFXV there aren’t any characters and there’s a reason for that. Because Final Fantasy XIV is currently live, and content is still being made, we consider it an active title- the world is still evolving. We want the players to enjoy those characters in their own realm so to speak. Final Fantasy XV isn’t out yet and we hope that players get to know the characters in their original form before we create a sort of new iteration in this art style that could conflict with what the characters are actually supposed to be like.

That being said, if the fan reception to these characters is so great and fans voice their opinions about XIV and XV characters, we would love to hear feedback and that might sort of set the wheels in motion to make considerations for additional characters and such.

Gamer Escape: What kind of DLC plans are there for the game?

Chiba: At the moment, we don’t have any plans set in stone for post-launch DLC. In our day one edition however, we do have some bonuses and one of those is Sephiroth that you can summon, in addition to three mirages.

In terms of the game itself, system wise, the team has made it so that additional content could be added. So it’s something we can consider. Again, it also depends if the demand is high.

Gamer Escape: It looks like there are a lot of areas in the game from previous Final Fantasy titles. How is it that they’re all connected and part of Grymoire in World of Final Fantasy?

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Chiba: These worlds are connected within the realm of Grymoire. I think it’s better grasped if you have a chance to see the world map in the game. There are different lands or continents that are floating in the sky and you visit those different areas. At one point in the game, you’ll obtain an airship and be able to move around freely as well.

Gamer Escape: I was surprised to see that the game is releasing on Vita. I feel like not too many Vita games come out in North America anymore. Was there a reason for making the game on Vita, and for also bringing that version to North America?

Chiba: Yes, there definitely is a Vita version in North America! The reason it’s on Vita ties into the concept of the game. We have over 200 mirages that you can collect and make your ally. That’s something that requires a lot of playtime, and the volume of the content is quite large. We thought that having it on console, but also using a cross-save function on the Vita and taking it on the go to do a little monster catching matched really well with the PlayStation eco-system. There definitely is a trend in the decline of the Vita platform, but we didn’t want to exclude regions outside of Japan because of that and wanted to make sure that  everyone could also enjoy the game on Vita as well.

Gamer Escape: You mentioned cross-save between PlayStation 4 and Vita. Will the game offer cross-buy as well?

Chiba: We did consider the option for cross-buy, but due to certain circumstances we were unable too. We had to make the decision that you have to buy each seperately. Cross-save is definitely available though, so it will end up being the player’s choice depending on how they want to enjoy the game.

Because we weren’t able to do the cross-buy, we tried to make the pricing of the game itself reasonable for the players.

Gamer Escape: Were there any challenges in development since the game is available on both PlayStation 4 and Vita?

Chiba: When we were considering the two platforms, we wanted to make sure the feel of the gameplay was as close to equal as possible. When we decided on Vita, we wanted to make sure that some of the rendering like the shaders and transparencies were something that the Vita could handle so I consulted with the graphics teams to make sure we could accomodate for that. At the same time however, we didn’t want the PlayStation 4 version to be lower quality because we had to compenstate for the Vita version. As a Director I didn’t want that to happen so we had to work out how the data would be handled so there wouldn’t be a compromise for quality.

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Gamer Escape: I know sometimes you can tell that with the PlayStation 4 version of Vita games that they get watered down in a way. When I played it though, it does look really nice!

Chiba: Thank you for noticing!

Gamer Escape: The game is taking a lot of elements from previous Final Fantasy titles. I was curious if there was anything system-side that drew inspiration from previous titles as well?

Chiba: The battle mechanics are definitely something we used a classic Final Fantasy element as our inspiration. If you’re a long-time fan of Final Fantasy, I’m sure you’ll notice it’s very active time-battle based. We can even set it up in a classic mode where you have the menu show up and decide which action you want to take next. At the same time however, we made it so that players more used to modern games can use simple mode where each action is assigned to a single button.

Gamer Escape: You’ve worked on a lot of previous Final Fantasy titles. I’m curious what kind of impact that has had on your work with World of Final Fantasy?

Chiba: I’ve been with the franchise since Final Fantasy VI, and even back then, Hironobu Sakaguchi would tell me “if it’s not new it’s not Final Fantasy” and it’s very characteristic of the series to be a new game with each iteration that’s being put out. I believe that with any Final Fantasy game you want to bring to the players a new experience and a new game. With World of Final Fantasy we wanted to do that nostalgic feeling of a classic Final Fantasy but also have that new element. No matter which Final Fantasy title, there’s always some expectation from the players, but there is always some kind of new element being delivered. I feel the most modern pursuit for that experience, or what embodies that “newness” is Final Fantasy XV. With World of Final Fantasy, I wanted something unique but that’s still in good competition with Final Fantasy XV.

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