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Thread: Kitase talks about his history with Final Fantasy

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    Kitase talks about his history with Final Fantasy

    Recently 1Up has done a week long special of Final Fantasy with the release of Final Fantasy XIII just around the corner. For one of their days they talk to Kitase about time with the Final Fantasy series all the way up to Final Fantasy VII. Here is the conversation - my thoughts will follow:

    1UP: Thanks for making time for, Mr. Kitase. What exactly is your history with the Final Fantasy series?

    Yoshinori Kitase: I've been with Square Enix about 20 years now. The first Final Fantasy title I was involved in was FFV, although FFIV was still in development when I joined -- it was near the end of development. Since then, I've been involved in FFVI, FFVII, FFVIII, FFX, and now FFXIII.

    1UP: Before coming to Square, were you familiar with the Final Fantasy series?

    YK: Yes, FFI-III I played as just a normal consumer.

    1UP: The original Final Fantasy came out in Japan back in 1987. What were your thoughts on the game, playing it just as a fan?

    YK: At the time when FF first came out, the most popular RPG was Dragon Quest. With DQ the play style was very different, because the main character doesn't have any dialogue -- he never speaks at all. You get the story from townspeople by speaking to them. So, the main character of DQ is really just another form of yourself. But in FF, the characters have their own personalities -- they're more of separate entities that players can look to. I felt that was a different style of play, and the way the characters were portrayed meant there was a lot of drama to it.

    1UP: Had you played RPGs before Dragon Quest? Any PC RPGs like Wizardry or The Black Onyx?

    YK: The first RPG I played was Dragon Quest. PC RPGs like Wizardry I learned about afterwards, and gave them a try later.

    1UP: So how did Final Fantasy stand apart from those earlier PC RPGs for you?

    YK: With games like DQ and Wizardry, when you go into the battle scene it essentially becomes like a first-person shooter where you can't see the characters anymore, just a view of the monsters. FF had a third-person view where monsters and characters stood side-by-side and you could see the actions play out on-screen, which was a refreshing change.

    1UP: Final Fantasy II was a very different game from the first FF in many ways. What did you think of it and its changes?

    YK: Storywise, FFII was something I could really get into because I'm a big fan of movies -- Star Wars is one of my favorites. That idea of having this rebellious group fighting against a larger force is one of my favorite type of story. So, I really enjoyed that about FFII. I felt that the direction the FF series was moving, with its heavy storytelling elements and creating a realistic relationship dynamic between its characters, was first present in FFII and has really evolved from there.

    Battle system wise, FFII was very unique. Personally, I didn't really go the intended route for battles, because a lot of times I went about attacking my own party members and increasing their parameters that way instead of by more normal methods.

    1UP: I think that was the case for a lot of people. Have you ever considered incorporating any of the mechanics from FFII into other Final Fantasy games? Or are those best left in FFII?

    YK: (laughs) I don't particularly think this system could never be revived again -- maybe not so much the aspect of damaging your own allies, but there was a side of the battle system in which the more you used your skills, the more they became developed. That's something that we might be able to implement into future titles. Lately, Final Fantasy games haven't been big on developing individual skills, but it's not outdated in any way.

    1UP: Final Fantasy III was the last Famicom FF game, and it didn't come to the U.S. until just a couple of years ago. But, of course, you played it when it was new. What were your thoughts on it then?

    YK: FFIII was the last FF I played as a consumer, and it was a game that left quite an impression on me because the balancing of the last dungeon was quite harsh. It was so long, yet there were no save points along the way. I could put in two or three hours of gameplay and then, if I couldn't beat the boss, I'd lose everything and have to start all over from scratch. Games lately... you don't really see this type of balancing in games these days. They're more user-friendly, and you see a lot of save points and a more measured pace. So they're not as challenging in that sense. I really remember working hard to try to beat this last boss -- it definitely left an impression.

    1UP: With FFIV, you'd just joined Square. Did you approach the game as a consumer or as a creator?

    YK: Since I wasn't directly involved in the development of FFIV and had just started at the company, I guess I did still have that consumer perspective when I played it.

    1UP: What did you think of the game? It was the first 16-bit FF, so it was different in many ways to what had come before.

    YK: Even though I said I played it as a consumer, it was the development side of it that left an impression on me. I wasn't directly involved, but I was sitting next to the development staff and saw a lot of what they were working on. Since FFIV was the first FF for SNES, it was the first FF where the field map had depth -- there was a sense of perspective to it. When the team was first working on it, it was still a flat 2D field as with previous FFs. What happened was that the director, Hironobu Sakaguchi, came in and said, "We really have to strengthen the visual aspect of the series and impress the player." I remember that the programmers were all scrambling to make these changes to the final product, and since then I've really carried the belief that the visual and graphical quality of Final Fantasy is a key aspect to the series.

    1UP: Now, in America, we didn't actually get Final Fantasy V during the SNES days -- we got Mystic Quest, Final Fantasy USA. Did you ever play it?

    YK: (laughs) Actually, I didn't play the final product, but my colleague was working on its development. So, I did play through a part of it while it was in development, but I didn't complete the game.

    1UP: But you did work on FFV, the first one you were really involved in. Can you talk a bit about your work and objectives with the game?

    YK: With FFV, I was involved in creating what would be referred to as cutscenes -- we referred to them as event scenes -- and also the scenario text. Up until then, one person had always been responsible for this aspect of the games, but with FFV the amount of work involved in the storytelling and scenario really grew exponentially, so it was too much for one person to handle alone. So, I worked with Sakaguchi to take this task upon ourselves.

    1UP: FFV was much funnier than previous games, with a lot of comedy elements in the cutscenes. Was that your doing?

    YK: Sakaguchi was in charge of the overall plot, and because FFV was a relatively serious story, I wanted to be sure to inject spots with a little bit of comic relief and humor.

    1UP: From there, you took a much bigger role with FFVI. Can you talk about what you wanted to accomplish with this game?

    YK: With FFVI, my role was similar to what it had been with FFV, except that the volume of the game grew once again exponentially. So the team of people working on the event scenes and scenario side grew to about four or five. And, of course, Sakaguchi was the director and had primary control overseeing those aspects of the game as well. But he'd also become very busy at that time after becoming vice-president of the company and had a lot of other projects going on. He couldn't put 100% into FFVI, so I took charge of more of those event scenes.

    1UP: I know a lot of people who consider FFVI not only their favorite Final Fantasy, but their favorite game of all time. What do you think it is about the game that makes it so enduring and so beloved?

    YK: There are two things I can think of that draws fans into FFVI. First of all, the main concept behind the game was that I wanted to create many characters that could all stand up to be main characters. We weren't creating one main character that the story would revolve around, but rather each and every character had something to show and bring to the table. I think that made it so that players could relate to at least one, maybe several characters within the game -- and they were very memorable characters as well.

    Another thing is that in FFVI, there were a lot of dramatic scenes for the first time in a Final Fantasy, and a lot of players had a strong emotional reaction to them. The Opera House scene is one that I personally worked on the script and how the actions played out in the scene. That's something I think has stuck in players' minds. Also, the scene at Daryl's grave... these kinds of dramatic cutscenes really left an impression on players.

    1UP: Personally speaking, which is your favorite character in FFVI?

    YK: From a creator's standpoint, not as a player's standpoint, my favorite was Celes. When she was first created, Sakaguchi didn't intend for her to have many spots to shine within the game. But, because I liked the character so much, as we worked on the script, she had more and more parts that really stood out. One of these scenes was when the world comes to an end, and Celes is left on a deserted island. This scene didn't really exist in the original script, but since I wanted to showcase this character, there was more and more of a bigger role for her.

    1UP: That is one of the most memorable scenes in the game... especially if you don't catch enough fish.

    YK: (laughs) That scene originally wasn't there at all, but in creating this character I just got so excited and had so many ideas that I had to include it.

    1UP: Then came Final Fantasy VII, which was really the first RPG that many Americans played. Why do you think the game was such a hit internationally?

    YK: I think the impact of transitioning from the 2D sprite world to this realistic, 3D, CG world left a really big impression on a lot of players. This is something I had a really serious and lengthy discussion about, with Sakaguchi, in considering which direction to take this next Final Fantasy now that it was going to PlayStation. We did discuss taking the series into something that was still 2D but with more of a manga and anime-style graphics, since that's where a lot of RPGs were evolving to. It was a viable option. The other direction we were thinking was realistic 3D animation type of look. We'd still keep that distinct Japanese anime look to it, but visually it would have more impact.

    When thinking about the global market, we felt that the major form of entertainment is Hollywood movies. In order to create a dramatic cast of realistic characters that people could really relate to, we felt that visually we had to take Final Fantasy a step further. That's where we went with FFVII, and it's a major factor in its success.

    1UP: It was a very big game, with a lot of content, cutting-edge technology, great graphics, a complex story. What was the most challenging aspect of the game for you?

    YK: The most challenging aspect of the game had to be putting together the visual style, just because all the way from FFI to FFVI we had this sort of format we were working with, and the visuals never really changed. There was a certain formula for what the world maps looked like, the towns, how the battles would look, the top-down view, and so forth. We had to rebuild everything from scratch and try to come up with how to show the game visually when we came upon this 3D CG technology. Trying to convey that accurately to the team, trying to create something we were comfortable with and satisfied with, was a big challenge.

    One of the things I had really found awkward and really wanted to change in past Final Fantasies is that there were these different views depending on what kind of scene the character was in -- top-down for the world maps, a side-to-side perspective in battle. With FFVII, I really wanted to make the view consistent and give the players a sense that they were watching a movie so that there would be a very smooth flow and transition from different scenes in the game all the way into the battle system. That was difficult, but I'm happy that we were able to realize it.

    1UP: Everyone always asks you when you're going remake FFVII....

    YK: (laughs)

    1UP: I won't ask you that. Instead, I want to ask -- why do you think so many people want a FFVII remake?

    YK: I think there's such a strong voice out there for the FFVII remake because with FFVII, when it first came out, the characters were really the core of the game. The CG 3D technology enabled us to create characters that seemed more relatable and more real in every way. They were more life-like than in any other FF title. But now, technology has evolved so far; in FFXIII, we're able to breathe more life into the characters. I think people really want to see the characters they love in a more realistic form. There were no voices back then, for instance. I think adding all these new layers to the characters is something fans really would like to see.

    I laughed a bit when Kitase said that he too hit his own characters in Final Fantasy II to increase their paramaters as a lot of people who have playd Final Fantasy II have done that as well. As to seeing a different version of the growth system in Final Fantasy II my thoughts are very similiar to Kitase's as we wouldn't want to see a way to be able to damage your characters to make them stronger but instead have their characters' skills increase in strength with use. That is something would be interesting to see in another interation of the Final Fantasy series.

    I find it very revealing that it was during the 16-bit era (Final Fantasy IV) that the visual and graphical quality of Final Fantasy became a key aspect of the series at the behest of Hironobu Sakaguchi. I think that counters any "haters" view that the visual and graphical aspects of the series weren't important till Final Fantasy VII and that since Final Fantasy VII the series has been all about "flashy" graphics.

    In part due to translation I don't think Kitase came up with the comic relief in Final Fantasy V that was seen in the English versions of the game but since it was he who injected the humour into the game I love him for that because I find Final Fantasy V to be the funniest game in the series. I greatly appreciate his input into the game so that when it came to the States the humour would have to translated and more culturally relevant. Kitase I give you props.

    As to Kitase's involvement with Final Fantasy VI he tells that he was in charge of a lot since Sakaguchi was too busy and that Kitase has too be given credit for his work in FFVI. While he doesn't go into detail as to what exactly he put in a very interesting note is his work on Celes Chere. In the original script Celes was not that important but since Kitase liked her as a character he made her what she is; so everyone who likes/loves Celes give their thanks to Kitase for creating the character as she is - especially if "you" are a hater of Kitase.

    The part where he says "When thinking about the global market, we felt that the major form of entertainment is Hollywood movies" really comes into full fruition with Final Fantasy XIII but that is another topic from a different source that I'll be creating a thread for later when I get it all organized. But the series as been flirting with the interactive movie form since Final Fantasy VII and in Final Fantasy XIII it probably a good description of the game though most cut-scenes aren't longer than five minutes there are just a lot injected into the game.

    So mortals share your thoughts on this Kitase interview. Was it interesting and revealing? Did something Kitase say surprise you? Give this thread your thoughts.

    Main series FFs Beaten - FF: 3x, FFII: 3x, FFIII: 3x, FFIV: 3x, FFV: 3x, FFVI: 4x, FFVII: 5x, FFVIII: 5x, FFIX: 2x, FFX: 4x, FFXII: 3x, FFXIII: 2x, FFXV: 1x

  2. #2
    Registered User Kitase talks about his history with Final Fantasy
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    Re: Kitase talks about his history with Final Fantasy

    I thought it was interesting to read that Kitase went through the same trouble with FF III that I did. Glad to see that I'm not alone. That last dungeon is damn hard, and it doesn't help that there are absolutely NO SAVE POINTS in the place before you face off against CoD. I've already ranted about that though. ;p

    I wish the interview would have went on to focus on the other games in the series that he participated in, namely FF VIII and FF X, but it was cool to read about his thoughts on the first few games that he was a part of and also actually played.
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