This week, Final Fantasy XIII-2 for PS3 is hitting stores across Japan with critical praise, garnering perfect scores from respected gaming magazines Famitsu and Dengeki PlayStation. Granted, the original FFXIII is the best-selling PS3 title in Japan by a wide margin, but this direct sequel isn’t resting on the laurels of its predecessor. For starters, it will offer a dynamic narrative, addressing one of the main complaints about FFXIII – linearity. The new game also has a darker and more serious tone, in line with the conclusion of the previous game, putting the glitter and glam of FFX-2.
When FFXIII-2 reaches US stores on January 31st, making it the fastest localization cycle among numbered episodes of the franchise – it will also deliver an improved combat system, an area full of mini games, branched dialogue trees with NPCs, and even multiple endings based on your time-traveling journey. To learn more about how Square Enix plans to “exceed Final Fantasy XIII in every aspect,” we reached out to Motomu Toriyama, who is reprising his role as director for Final Fantasy XIII-2. Read on for more details about Serah’s quest to find out what happened to her sister Lightning.
PlayStation.Blog: Of course, the Final Fantasy series was always known for its rich storylines, but Final Fantasy XIII had an unusually heavy focus on a linear narrative. Does Final Fantasy XIII-2 offer more opportunities for players to stray from the main narrative path this time?
Motomu Toriyama, Director, Final Fantasy XIII-2: In Final Fantasy XIII, our concept was to be story-driven and so the game had a very linear development. In XIII-2, we changed the concept to being player-driven and so we’ve prepared story options based on the area and time period the player chooses with plenty of side quests. We have changed it so that the player can enjoy just the main story, or progress in the game while straying from the main narrative path.
PSB: Square Enix typically does not utilize play testing for its Final Fantasy titles during development, but FFXIII-2 is reportedly incorporating user feedback from focus groups into its development process. How has this improved the game? Did users pinpoint any particular issues you did not expect?
Toriyama-san: During the development stage, we conducted numerous play testing and focus group interviews in Japan, North America, and Europe. By incorporating user feedback before the game was complete, we were able to analyze the level of completion objectively, which in turn polished not only the UI but the gameplay elements as a whole. In terms of elements that the users found positive, the US audience enjoyed the Cinematic Action, which is one of the action elements, and the Japanese audience liked the Live Trigger, which gives choices in dialogue. It was a great experience for us, and it let us know what the different sensibilities are between users of the different countries.
PSB: Final Fantasy XIII-2 will feature time travel elements and multiple endings. Will it work in a similar way to Chrono Trigger? How many different endings will we have?
Toriyama-san: We have introduced a new system called “Historia Crux”, which is a portal menu that allows time travel. To best describe it, it’s as if you’re browsing videos on YouTube to get a preview of one part of the story, then the game progresses when you choose which time and area to go to next. It’s a system that’s geared towards busy adult users of this age. Plus, if you want to go back to work on a particular part of the game, you can always rewind the time of that area and try again as many times as you like. It’s designed to be an RPG style of the new generation, different from that of “Chrono Trigger.” We hope you enjoy your journey with this interface with which you can freely travel through history. In terms of how many different endings we will have, I recommend playing the game and checking it out on your own.
PSB: Considering the different phases of its development process, Final Fantasy XIII took more than five years to be concluded. Now, this sequel comes about two years after the original. What contributed to speed up the development process?
Toriyama-san: In the previous installment, we had to start with developing a new engine intended for a next-generation console from scratch, that’s why it took so much time. In this installment, the foundation engine is that of XIII, and so we were able to devote more time to development of the new game, which in turn shortened the development period. Of course, since we were able to use our time to build the game, we were able to make the game better than the previous installment.
PSB: Although there were plans for DLC in the original Final Fantasy XIII, these plans were eventually put on hold. Are you considering DLC for Final Fantasy XIII-2?
Toriyama-san: We were aiming for the previous installment to be in its ultimate form as a packaged software, so DLC in the form of later additions didn’t come to fruition. For this installment, we have designed and planned for content including DLC that would expand on the world of XIII-2 since the beginning of its development, and so I’m sure you will be able to continue playing the game long after its release. In terms of a lineup of specific DLC, please stand by for more information.
PSB: Are there any special treats reserved for those who are holding on to their Final Fantasy XIII save files? Can you share any details on how that will work?
Toriyama-san: If you have any save files from XIII, they will be recognized upon the start of XIII-2, and you can get extras. Some of the bonuses include adornments for monsters that can be used in-game, and a bonus that can be obtained from the title screen. You don’t necessarily have to have save data of the finished game; you can still get something even if you’ve only played a little.
PSB: The most prominent Moogle from the series, Mog, makes a return as a companion to main character Serah. Can we expect more references to the series’ recurring elements?
Toriyama-san: We weren’t able to showcase the Moogle in XIII, and so in this installment we’ve made the Moogle much more prominent, like a mascot. The Chocobo will make its appearance throughout this installment as well, so if you’re a fan, I hope you look forward to it.
PSB: When will we finally be able to play Final Fantasy Versus XIII? You know, the game has been in development for eons. Do you have anything to share at this time? Anything!
Toriyama-san: First, please enjoy XIII-2 while you wait for additional information.