Final Fantasy XIII is out in Japan, and has been tearing up the charts. With the North American release looming, we sat down with a few of the key creatives behind Square Enix’s role-playing juggernaut to get more details about the new summons and revamped battle system. We also learned where all the towns went, and why getting rid of them helps make XIII the most film-y Final Fantasy to date.
Above: Meet Yuji Abe (Battle Director), Yoshinori Kitase (Producer) and Motomu Toriyama (Director). They work on a little franchise called Final Fantasy
GamesRadar: First off, we'd like to congratulate you on the successful launch of Final Fantasy XIII in Japan. There’s a lot of anticipation over here for the English version, which leads us to our first question. What do you think makes Final Fantasy so popular with Western gamers?
Yoshinori Kitase: The quality of the visuals in Final Fantasy games has always had a great impact with our audience overseas, I think that's one thing that really draws in players from around the world. The team is always striving to make top quality graphics in Final Fantasy games. Another thing is that there are a lot of very realistic, very attractive characters that are present in the Final Fantasy series and rich stories filled with human drama and relationships.
GR: Can you tell us a bit about how the battle system has changed from previous Final Fantasy games?
Yuji Abe: The main concepts behind the battle system for Final Fantasy XIII are that it's speedy and tactical. The team was striving to create an experience where the speed could keep up with the high quality graphics on the high-def machines but also keeps the strategic element alive and strong. What makes it very different from past Final Fantasy titles is that there's much less micromanaging of different characters in your party. In Final Fantasy XIII the focus is more on the overall flow and how players can adapt to the changing tides within each battle.
GR: To that end, you've changed the way Summons operate as well.
YA: In Final Fantasy XIII each character is tied to a single Summon, and there's this combination act that happens during battle. A Summon will fight along side you as a party member, and then there's a Gestalt mode where the Summon transforms into a ride for the player. It really heightens the action, turns it into an action-oriented game where pushing buttons translates directly into attacks so it's really exciting for the player and there's a lot of movement.
GR: You've also added two new Summons. Can you tell us about the inspiration for their design and where their names come from?
Motomu Toriyama: The character Sazh summons Brynhildr, who transforms into a car. Design-wise, the transformation aspect was the key. Once we knew she was going to transform into a car, that affected the design of her more human form as well. Brynhildr was inspired by a female goddess from Viking mythology. The other new summon is Hecatoncheir. He’s inspired by a Greek god who has a thousand hands. In Gestalt mode he transforms into a Magitek armor-like ride for Vanille.