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Final Fantasy XV will retain the feeling of an “old school” Final Fantasy By Erren Van Duine on July 24, 2013 at 3:08 PM

Last month at E3, Square Enix not only surprised the world by revealing the title now known as Final Fantasy XV, but also used the event to reveal the long-anticipated Kingdom Hearts III. While we’ve learned much about both games in the weeks prior, many have started to wonder if director Tetsuya Nomura would be able to keep his promises from interviews past. Though Nomura himself is one of few words, Final Fantasy World had a chance to catch up with him at Japan Expo to discuss both titles while fielding some unique questions.

Although Nomura has been apart of the company since his twenties, Kingdom Hearts was actually the first game he served on as director. Obviously it’s been ten years since the original game released, but Nomura doesn’t feel like the game is very old at all. “It still feels fresh and new. Back then, all the staff I worked with, included myself, had a rich passion about this game. That’s why I still don’t think it’s dated at all, even after 10 years.”

Ten years is a long time and given that sort of time gap, it’s not unusual for some developers to update their games beyond visuals and controls. In the case of Kingdom Hearts HD, there was actually a lot more ambition to it than what ended up in the final product. “The one thing I probably should mention was 358/2 Days,” said Nomura. “Obviously in this one there were only cinematics, the HD movie. I wanted to put the full playable in 358/2 Days in HD 1.5 if we could, but obviously we couldn’t – because we had to prioritize the KHIII development instead – which the fans have been waiting for such a long time. We prioritized that over the addition of elements in the HD version.

“The elements of the original version, like the systems and everything, were okay back then because of the balance of the original game. There were a lot of new systems I created over the past 10 years, but if I wanted to put these new things in the original KH1, I don’t think the balance of the game would really work. The original version is set on the system I put on it. If we’re going to do a remake, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can put in additional features.”

Of course, it’s no secret by now that Nomura is eying the next set of Kingdom Hearts HD remasters. Based on the end credits for HD 1.5, it appears Kingdom Hearts II, Birth by Sleep and Re:coded will be bundled together for the next high definition outing. Further information – including an official announcement – has yet to be made on that project.

With the announcement of Kingdom Hearts III, it was revealed that the core Kingdom Hearts team would be shifting duties to Square Enix Osaka – the team who previously worked on titles such as Birth by Sleep, Dream Drop Distance and even the recent HD Remaster. Aside from HD 1.5, the Osaka studio hasn’t actually developed any original Kingdom Hearts titles for console from scratch, and so for KHIII the team has done a lot of prep work – testing various situations and the like. “I feel like the preparations are actually done, so we are good to go for the development,” Nomura replied.

The proximity of both studios – Square Enix Tokyo and Square Enix Osaka – isn’t exactly near, so how does Nomura interact with each team? “In the Osaka studio there is actually the co-director Tai Yasue and the producer Rie Nishi,” he explained. “They are core members of the Kingdom Hearts project and when they actually have a lot of topics to discuss with myself, they always come to Tokyo.” This process is typical for Kingdom Hearts, however, with the relocation of Square Enix’s offices in Shinjuku, things have become a lot easier for the team. They now have access to a TV conference system, so if Yasue or Nishi send out a document or proposal in advance, Nomura can add his own comments and show it to them on video.

In a sense, Nomura has become more of a supervisor to the Osaka team – especially with KHIII as both Yasue and Nishi propose their own ideas and Nomura then discusses whether they will implement them or not. “Of course there are a lot of good and interesting ideas coming from the team. Obviously, the more the merrier, so if we have more people to think about something it’s always better than thinking all by myself.”

Within its ten years of existence, the Kingdom Hearts series has gained its own identity, even though it’s sort of this mash-up between Square and Disney. The question is then, at this point will Final Fantasy characters be a necessary inclusion in KHIII? There is still that possibility, according to Nomura. “It’s not something like, because the KH series is already established we don’t need more FF characters. But it’s more like we have been releasing a lot of KH handheld spinoffs over the past few years. Because of handheld space capacity and limitations, the story volume was quite limited. For KHIII obviously the disc space is going to be bigger, so we can include a lot of in-depth story. It depends on the volume of the game itself – there is a possibility that we are going to insert a lot of FF characters into KHIII as well.”

On the subject of Final Fantasy XV, the soundtrack will be composed by Yoko Shimomura – the same composer who also works on the Kingdom Hearts series. Although she will be helming the score for both of Square Enix’s next generation games, Nomura assured that he is guiding her on different directions for each title. “In the case of KH, I usually ask Shimomura to create music scene by scene, so that different scenes have different kinds of themes or requests. But for FFXV, I gave her the overall image of everything from the beginning already, as well as some examples of what types of music to use.”

The project originally known as Final Fantasy Versus XIII has been in development for the better part of seven years – a project with a lofty goal of recreating the feeling of old school FF games despite its unique name. Now with the direction change to that of a mainline title, one has to wonder if Nomura’s vision had changed. Nomura admitted, “Yes, I probably mentioned the old school Final Fantasy feeling [when talking about] FFXV. If you see the trailer you might actually think it’s very action based – especially compared to the previous FFs. We wanted to create like an action-based FF this time because we wanted to create a dynamic feeling between the story and the game itself. Of course, we are going to put many FF elements into it, because otherwise there is no point calling Final Fantasy XV. Naturally, we still think we should have some old school FF feeling to the game.”

On that same subject, Nomura had promised over two years ago that the real-time cutscenes in Versus XIII would all be playable. Much like other untouched elements, it seems this one will be making its way into FFXV. “Yeah, I would like to achieve that as much as I can,” said Nomura. “Our goal is to ensure that the player never actually stops playing. This is the reason behind it and it will be great if we can achieve that.” Naturally, the power of the new consoles will help make this a reality.

Following the announcement of Final Fantasy XV, Nomura has revealed that he would be assisted by Crisis Core: FFVII and Final Fantasy Type-0 director Hajime Tabata – in which he seems to have placed a lot of confidence. “He’s been doing a great job already,” explained Nomura. “Meeting with the team on a daily basis to discuss development and everything – he is extremely passionate about this project.” Nomura did not elaborate fully on Tabata’s involvement, but Tabata himself will have the chance to express himself fully in interviews with both the Japanese and Western press.

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  • Jack Ashley Benn

    Ok newcomer or poor taste – same category in my eyes. And I don’t ask for too much – I just ask for the right thing… Cheers.

  • Jack Ashley Benn

    Character development??! What character development???!! You should go check a dictionary and learn what development means. Just because she is douchy in different situations like “douche x-solder” “douche goddess” and “douche girl saving the would in 13 days” doesn’t mean it’s character development. There is more character development in Jersey Shore!!

    But I am happy that it satisfies someone… :)

  • Panos Dek

    It seems like you are totally incapable to accept others’ opinions! I guess it’s your way to see and judge things. Good luck arguing with others and whining about everything around SE! Welcome to Nova Crystallis though, because I still appreciate your opinion, even if it’s totally against mine! :)

  • Panos Dek

    I am pretty sure what “development” means and I hereby don’t need any kind of dictionary. Just because you are unable to accept or even read my opinion doesn’t give you the right to be offensive. Just to make it clear… I can’t take part in a conversation with anyone who is absolute with his own point of view. Sorry “bothering” you man… Won’t happen again, that’s for sure! :D

  • John Sotomayor

    Actually, the last we heard, the playable cutscenes will constitute about 70% of all of the cutscenes, with the other 30% of the cutscenes being fully rendered videos. Those numbers may or may not be different now.

    As for the rest of the game beyond cutscenes: so far we’ve seen a fast-paced, real-time battle system with party interaction, complete control over our party from the start, the ability to switch characters from the start, the most dynamic and creative system for Noctis I’ve ever seen (the floating, invisible weapons that encircle him, acting as both weapons AND a defensive shield, along with the warp capabilities), an intense story that focuses not only on the relations Noctis has with others (himself, Stella, his group of friends, Cor Leonis, his father, his enemies) but also on him being a prince/the future king, possible connections to the Shakespearean play Hamlet (possibly the best work of literature in the English language), a heavy emphasis on death and transformation, and promised elements that will include a large, traversable world map along with chocobos, moogles, and airships.

    The game is being worked on by a number of significant people. These include Tetsuya Nomura (whose work directing the KH series alone should prove himself as capable of creating fantastic games), scenario writer Kazushige Nojima (who wrote the scenario for FFs VII, VIII, X, and so many other great Square games), and composer Yoko Shimomura, who is most famous for her amazing work in the KH series but is also well-known for a variety of other gaming projects, including the score to Super Mario Bros. RPG.

    How is ANY of this superficial? More importantly, how is any of it bullshit? It’s possible for all of these people to create works that are less than stellar, of course, but I think they have an excellent collective track record and all signs point to XV being a wonderful experience. I honestly do not understand how some people can look at the same trailers I’ve viewed and read the same interviews I’ve read and come away with something like “superficial bullshit.”

  • Unknown

    They are heavily shifting towards mobile gaming, and that will become a heavy focus for them. Their console gaming (PS36) output this gen was abysmal, and that looks to stay this way for some time.

    Hopefully it ain’t the case, and this plan of theirs backfires and they go back to trying to innovate and creating new IPs. Their new plans basically kills of that idea, and anything new will be put on mobile/tablet games.

  • Erren Van Duine

    Their console output has been absolutely dreadful this generation compared to years past. They fell behind quite a bit coming into the HD era, and while they made up for it with some great handheld games, that too seems to be at an end.

  • Erren Van Duine

    I too am hoping their big mobile focus backfires in their face. While all the other big companies are focusing on the next generation, SE seems to be going backwards.

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  • Unknown

    I honestly don’t think it will backfire though, it would be to good to be true. This SE is here to stay, with 1 or 2 (if we are lucky) AAA games after 4 years… and the rest mobile games.

  • Stealth

    would you be ok with 3ds and vita games?

  • Stealth

    There portable output was amazing, but even that seems to be ending

  • Stealth

    I agree

  • Stealth

    Its so sad. even 3ds games look great but we wont get them

  • AuronZanark

    You have been blinded by the nostalgia factor, just like a lot of other fans I encountered. You are unwilling to accept change. Those who complained about Final Fantasy XIII were blinded by nostalgia. Please, set nostalgia factor aside. I’m a huge fan of Final Fantasy XIII, especially the soundtrack and gameplay, because I’ve managed to avoid being blinded by nostalgia.

  • DKsaNn

    Prepare for the will of the last king because this fantasy is based on reality.

  • frumpus

    I doubt there will be much of any semblance to previous FF games in this title. Maybe a moogle or a chocobo or wedge/biggs/cid but thats about it. FFXV is nothing more than Nomura’s sausagefest fantasy.

  • frumpus

    XV doesn’t have many RPG staples in it either. I suspect you will be highly disappointed by it.
    What really disappoints me is that before Versus became XV, they were planning XV to be an open world RPG similar to Elder Scrolls/Fallout. Maybe XVI will be that.

  • frumpus

    You have terrible taste if you didn’t enjoy XII’s gameplay or story

  • Panos Dek

    Just because I didn’t get so excited playing XII that doesn’t mean I don’t have a good taste. It’s something entirely subjective! It’s your opinion and I respect that, and I have mine… Deal with it! :)

  • Clio Canticle

    Actually, i believe they’re bringing back the Overworld, complete with pilotable airships and even drivable cars a la FFVIII. That’s a huuuuuge callback to the older games, and one I’m very excited for. There’s also Magitek armor and other things, like espers you have to find and battle to control. Actually, so far, I’d say the only non-traditional things we’ve seen so far is the battle system and playable cutscenes.

  • Clio Canticle

    So here is how I see it. FFXIII was a decent game. As a stand-alone title, it probably would have faired much better both in critical reviews and in fans eyes, although I doubt the difference would have ratcheted up the ratings too much because of the aforementioned issues. But it’s not a stand-alone, it’s a main series installment. Rather than seeing this as people being blinded by nostalgia, try seeing it this way: the name Final Fantasy has always stood for quality. The series has been top rated in almost every title it has ever released. XIII was a good game sure, but it wasn’t a perfect game, it had many flaws that kept it from reaching the standard set by its peers. It wasn’t a Final Fantasy like we’d come to expect, continuing the spirit of highest quality all the time. And that is why many fans show so much vitriol toward it, because they fear that its the final sign of their favorite franchise slipping away from its tradition of standard and perfection.

  • Ehren Rivers

    I’m sorry, but that’s a load of balls. Final Fantasy XIII had GREAT critical reception, to start with, and the only common complaint was the linear nature of the game’s environments. The battle system was praised, and the story was given good marks even though it was a little complicated for some people. XIII is a high-quality game that lead to a divided fan reaction, and older games are NO DIFFERENT. Every single Final Fantasy in my memory since VII has had a large, loud group of people that have actively disliked it. VIII-XV (not even released yet, which should tell you how insane this is), every numbered game has been met with a pocket of fans that scream “This isn’t a real Final Fantasy”, or that the series is declining.

    And NONE of the Final Fantasy games have ever been perfect. Every game comes with its own healthy share of flaws, and XIII had no more than the standard.

  • Rich Pea

    i want old skool FF!!!!! If there is more to it than the cutscene action trailer, THANK GOD. I want the RPG put back into the FF series. That’s what it was about…that and bad ass spells/skills/bosses. FF7-9 should be blueprint to expand from, but FF10 and on felt so different that I lost interest in the newer style they decided to stick with.

  • Rich Pea

    smoke and mirrors? i actually thought ff9 was best. but thats just me.

  • Rich Pea

    I think its a COD takeover. LOL. All these fast-action players want that to be incorporated into EVERY single game made…but that’s not what RPGs are. The furthest I’ll go with fast-action battle-systems is Mana style or Tomb Raider. SOME fight scenes outside the customary FF turn-based battle-system, but the game should have as its basis the ORIGINAL functionality of FF games with the additional graphics and extra bells and whistles layered over that. Is that too much to ask? Its been how many releases now since FF9 that the entire system was changed and not once have they gone back to FF roots. Or did I miss one somewhere that resembles FF7 or FF9? Hell, even something like FF Tactics. Why not just port 7, 8 or 9 to nextgen with an upgrade in textures and playability PLUS release XV?

  • Rich Pea

    Dragon’s Lair, Cliffhanger….games that felt like one long cut-scene or movie/cartoon.

  • Davetiger

    ME TOO rich pea… I’m sick of this action bull crap … Final Fantasy was a game I could play and enjoy… If I couldn’t beat a boss I just went and leveled so more.. the “better players” could kill him at 15 … that’s cool I kill him at 20 and still enjoyed every minute. this new battle system is complete crap I actually liked X and even X2 the battle system and the side games were great for “time out”. but the new ones are all I’m going to keep you in game by making every second count? really? the old games had take turns and I could think about what i wanted to do next .. and those kept me more involved than the current games… I find myself bored with the battles and lack of leveling.. and lightning returns is now all about you have 6 days to complete? what is that crap I want to explore and enjoy the art, not be racing to my next goal because I don’t have time to explore

  • Davetiger

    The gameplay was awesome didn’t care for the tiny characters though.. but all in all LOVED IT

  • Brandon Schlosser

    BRING BACK THE TRADITIONAL RPG!!! The turn-based battle systems and control of more than just the main character in those battles need to return, just because they are turn-based doesn’t make them boring, they are easily made exciting. Also visiting many towns and being able to revisit them if desired needs to return as well. The new FF games all look great, sure, but the desire to re-play them is dwindling with each current-gen release because of the very linear feel. I have heard that some aspects may be returning to FF-XV but it still has that overall action look/feel. Also from what I have read the majority of the masses want a return to the way it was yet we all seem to be ignored, which doesn’t make much sense in my eyes. Granted I have enjoyed all that I have played, but the newer ones have left a lot to be desired. Maybe when FFXVI rolls around they will get that it’s not all about action/flash.