Eyes on Final Fantasy had the opportunity to be invited to a Square Enix event regarding Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. In the first entry of our visit we detailed the demo and the trailer we saw. Not only that but we had the impressions from a skeptic reported on as well. In this entry, we'll be discussing the presentation as well as the exclusive Q&A with Lightning Returns Producer Yoshinori Kitase and Director Motomu Toriyama.
After showing us the trailer we were greeted with a presentation by Kitase on how they feel about Lightning Returns. A vivid world with rich history full of drama and intrigue, the Nova Crystallis series was made to be a bit different than other Final Fantasy games. Being painted as a strong and powerful female, Lightning is key to every entry. They wanted to showcase this in the newest title, which was part of the reason she was chosen as the only playable character.
Many people are curious with how Lightning Returns works with the creative vision from the players themselves. The vision of how they personally felt the series should go. Player feedback was extremely prevalent in the first two entries, and the LR team listened to that feedback and changed the entries based on it. In the first game the focus was on story and mostly that. Kitase commented, “It’s important to look back to the first title, which gave players a sense of speed through its use of cinematic cutscenes that wove through the story. FFXIII has been equated to that of a FPS because its goal was to move players quickly from one step to the next. Following its release, the development team received user feedback – most often in regards to the game’s linearity. As we moved on to the second and now third title, we thought of how to implement that user feedback.”
After heeding the feedback from fans, they tried to create Final Fantasy XIII-2 with a focus on the player's motivations. This led to the player's being in control of the story and the endings. Based on the choices you made in the game, you affected your own ending. Yet still feedback was received from the fans on what they didn't like. Again they've tried to mold Lightning Returns to these wishes.
This newest entry will focus on the world. By using the time management system, they have tried to give fans a reason to pay attention to the expansive world in front of them. Massive detail went into it and by giving you a time limit, you're focusing on the world and its inhabitants. As a result, you value your time spent in the world and with Lightning. Your actions are more heavily weighed upon as well as your interactions with the people you meet.
When asked how they came to the conclusion of using a countdown clock, Toriyama explained that the influence of the World Doomsday clock was their inspiration. When a country poses a threat to the world with nuclear weapons, the time on the Doomsday clock shortens. The more likely the countries are to send them off, the shorter the time is. A sense of urgency happens and the world goes into a panic. People start to think of their lives and how they might spend the time they have left. Using that as inspiration, Square Enix wanted a similar feel for Lightning Returns. They wanted you to feel a sense of urgency in your last remaining hours. Not only to feel it with Lightning herself, but you as a player as well. They wanted to give off the feel that you should cherish your time in the world. They wanted players to reflect not only on Lightning, but themselves. It may be Lightning's end of the world, but yours is still living.
While Square Enix loves Lightning as a character, they also love the world they created. From the beginning there was a plan for multiple entries. With novels, DLC, more games and the like, they wanted to do something they hadn't with the series before. “There are two major pillars to this decision,” said Kitase. “The first concerns the development of the concept for Final Fantasy XIII. Lightning was found to be a very attractive character, so we wanted to expand the story of her.”
User feedback was the biggest motivation for the series, which many fans don't realize. Kitase goes on to explain just that, “The second pillar is represented by the idea that every numbered Final Fantasy goes through massive revisions for each entry. Because the characters, systems, and world would have to be created from scratch, it would be difficult to implement player feedback. As such it might take two or more years between releases. With XIII it was a very rare but great opportunity for the team to take this character and take elements from the game like the battle system and evolve them through the trilogy. By considering user feedback through such a short development time, the player can see that those changes have been applied straight away.”
Many fans were not pleased with this series. When asked how this newest entry will bring them back, Toriyama looked surprised and possibly slightly offended at the question. Kitase jumped in with an explanation, “With the Lightning Saga having expanded to three games now, there is a risk that some players have been driven away from the series. At the same time, there might be this impression that people had to play the first two installments to enjoy the third and final installment. With Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII we wanted to focus on giving it a brand new feel – a brand new game that can be enjoyed regardless of prior knowledge of the series.”
He went on to explain how this is demonstrated by the movement from using the traditional Yoshitaka Amano's artwork in the title to a sleek logo. They wanted to move away from the typical Amano logo and show to the audience that this is a brand new feel to the game. Kitase went on to say they "wanted to convey to the audience that this is a new game that’s being brought to the table.”
In regards to the DLC that we were graced with in XIII-2, many people loved them, many hated them as well. Many people loved the Black and White Mage costumes from XIII-2 DLC but often complained there was a lack of stats to accompany them. This was used as an influence to the new outfits system. The fan reaction over the costumes was the primary reason to give Lightning the Ability to change her own outfits but to have those outfits include stat changes.
Episodes and story DLC wasn't received well, according to Kitase, and while some fans liked it, it was explained that Lightning Returns will have all story elements on the disc instead of through DLC. There will be no frustration and confusion this time with fans regarding story DLC.
The outfit changing itself is reminiscent to job changing in the previous entries. Although it's more enhanced than those systems of old. You are allowed more freedom with your "jobs". You can customize your outfits with different weapons and shields as well as spells and skills. You can even change everything down to the exact color you want. It's like the paradigm shift but with outfits to accompany them. Similar to the dressspheres used in Final Fantasy X-2 but again, more detailed and with more freedom. Toriyama explained, “The player can lean toward a more action-oriented style of battle with commands like Guard or Strike or Dodge-Roll. Or, for those more interested in a typical RPG style, you can customize Lightning to cast magic.”
Lightning Returns is touted as a brand new game taking on a completely different approach in a world already set up. Various new elements are being added as well as player feedback being heeded. Eyes on Final Fantasy was lucky enough to hear this excitement from the main men themselves. As an exclusive treat to us, they revealed the release date. Or well the release quarter at least.
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is slated for a Fall 2013 release. More details will be available soon, including the specific release date. But hey, we know we'll be getting it later this year!
What are your impressions from this exclusive look and discussion with Kitase and Toriyama? What questions would you have asked?