Lightning Returns: The Future Of Final Fantasy – Interview
We caught up Lightning Returns’ director Motomu Toriyama and series overseer Yoshinori Kitase to find out what makes Lightning Returns the boldest Final Fantasy game yet.
You can also read NowGamer’s preview and find out what’s changed in Lightning Returns.
You’ve created so many iconic lead Final Fantasy characters over the years. Why base a trilogy around Lightning?
Kitase: We made a decision that we were going to have a sole protagonist in the third instalment of the Final Fantasy XIII franchise since the very beginning, six years ago, possibly 2005, 2006, something like that.
[I] had a long conversation with Toriyama-San here and Tetsuya Nomura about which character we should use in the third instalment of the series, and they thought we were going to have to have a female one because we hadn’t had a female sole protagonist in the franchise before.
We had Terra before in Final Fantasy VI, but that was a different concept, because every party member was like a main character, and this is the only one. We just wanted to have a female character.
When players have completed Lightning Returns, what do you hope they’ll take away from the experience of playing through this trilogy?
Toriyama: Lightning is a very strong character, both physically and mentally, and she made her first appearance back in Final Fantasy XIII, where she was depicted as being really strong-minded and a physically strong character.
I would like it to be an opportunity for players to learn why Lightning is so strong – on the surface, anyway – so through that process, you will get to learn more about her and like her as a character.
This is a much more real time-oriented action RPG as opposed to previous instalments in the series. But Square Enix has been making a lot more action-centric games like Dissidia, Crisis Core and Kingdom Hearts, of course – do you think real-time action is the future of the JRPG?
Toriyama: Yes, I think when we talk about the visual side of the battles, if you think about the traditional RPG or JRPG, if you like, [driven] by command battle systems, you have to wait for your enemy to attack you, which is highly unrealistic.
In order to pursue a more realistic depiction of combat, I think this is the way – the mainstream way, anyway – in an RPG in general. But on the other hand, that strategic element and command battle elements, which were the case with Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2, is still there in this latest instalment.
In this game you can see three Active Time Battle bars on the screen and you can change into costumes for the best customisation possible, so it’s not entirely an action game, it’s not action game enough to be solely intuitive.
It’s more like you have to think about it – we believe that’s one of the great legacies from XIII and XIII-2 that were still sticking to.
I wanted to ask what Final Fantasy means to you personally – you have this series which touches players around the world, but in the context of your lives, what does Final Fantasy mean to you creatively?
Kitase: Obviously we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the franchise last year – 25 years ago I was an undergraduate, and obviously I was a keen game player back then.
But as a user as I was then, the Final Fantasy franchise meant exploring the maps, going to different locations, but what really stood out was the stories and drama.
I really liked it as a user. Now, 25 years on, as a creator, it’s the kind of tradition I wants to pass down to the next generation. There are a lot of games that can give you fun, but I want Final Fantasy to be more than that – I want it to be something that resonates with your mind, or moves you, or appeals to your emotions.
That’s the kind of game I want to create.
Would you be open to a Final Fantasy series entry that involved a collaboration with a Western developer? Obviously Square Enix is a very different, more international publisher than it was 15 years ago, and there are a lot of interesting products made by Square Enix developers across the world. Do you like the idea of a collaboration with one of those studios?
Kitase: Not sure about the future of the Final Fantasy franchise itself, but obviously there are a lot of great studios under the umbrella, and I myself have been communicating with creators in those studios, at the Montreal studio, and also Crystal Dynamics in America.
I’ve been very impressed that these developers are very enthusiastic about making great games in future, so from my point of view I would be [creatively] stimulated with or without a collaboration, so I would like to keep communicating with those studios in future.