WE INTERRUPT OUR REGULAR “LET’S PLAY FINAL FANTASY” for a special feature!
Square-Enix had a livestream interview at E3 today with producers Kitase and Toriyama.
Because Final Fantasy X/X-2 (yes both) are my favorite in the series, I’ve typed out a complete transcription below. FAN TRANSCRIPTION, totally unofficial, so there may be mistakes. Apologies for the commentary that I couldn’t resist adding.
[Transcriber’s notes: there was a translator offscreen providing live translation. I’ve skipped some of her mid-line translation corrections and deleted a morass of “kind ofs” in one chunk of the interview that seemed to be placeholders for “um.” My own comments are inserted in brackets. I only know about ten words of Japanese, but I think the translation wasn’t always word-for-word; there was at least one long windy speech by Kitase in which he mentioned Final Fantasy X by name, and it was absent from the translation.
QUESTIONS NOT ANSWERED IN THIS INTERVIEW: (1) RELEASE DATE (2) WHETHER THEY’RE INCLUDING LAST MISSION.]
Interviewer: Welcome back, everyone! We have another special Square-Enix members exclusive interview. Today we’re going to be interviewing two legendary Square-Enix developers, Yoshinori Kitase, producer of Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster and Lightning Returns Final Fantasy XIII, and also Motomu Toriyama, director of the same titles. So thank you both so much for being here today.
Interviewer: So without further ado, we’re going to get started with some X/X-2 remaster questions. Why develop a high-definition remaster of the Final Fantasy X series, instead of some of the other titles in the Final Fantasy franchise?
Kitase: So titles up to Final Fantasy IX can actually be played on modern equipment. You can play it through the Playstation Archives, or some of them have been ported to the smartphone. [transcriber’s note: as of June 2013, that’s I-V on iOS, and they’re being ported to Android as I type]. However, when we were looking at Final Fantasy X and X-2, which were on the PS2… now these titles, they can be played on our current-gen system if you have like, the first generation Playstation 3 which is back-compatible [I have an old PS3 for this very reason, but it freezes up now and then], but you can’t really play that game any other way, so that’s why [we] decided that this would be an appropriate candidate for HD remastering treatment.
Interviewer: Great! And what have been some of your best experiences in the remastering process, in regards to returning to this story at a different time?
Translator: Toriyama-san’s answer: Right when he was working on the original Final Fantasy X, his first — uh, his child was born at that time, so ten years later, looking back at it, since Final Fantasy X is a story about parent and child [and] family, he was looking at it in a different perspective from the original making of the game where he was looking at it through Tidus’ eyes [pronounced Teedus, by the way] and now, ten years later, he is now looking at it from the parent Jecht’s perspective.
Interviewer: Very cool. A bit of a paradigm shift there [*mashes L1 button*]. In your opinions, which features are most benefitting from the high definition remastering?
Toriyama: So in this HD remaster version, this is based on the International version, which was only available in Japan. And especially on Final Fantasy X-2, there’s a feature called “Creature Create,” so that will be a first for our North American and European audience, so we hope [they’ll] enjoy that. You’re going to be able to recruit monsters and have them join your party as allies. [Transcriber’s note: I think this may include npcs like Lucil, Elma, Isaaru plus FFX party characters dueled in the International Version’s Coliseum, but I’m not 100% certain].
Interviewer: I like the sound of that. So, in revisiting the Final Fantasy X series, have there been any influential moments that, um— oh? I’m sorry, did you have an answer to that also? I’m so sorry.
Kitase: So, in terms of this game in the remastering process, playing a game with this quality of Final Fantasy X outside of a console was totally unheard-of ten years ago. But nowadays, since we have the smartphones and the portable handheld devices, it’s becoming more of the norm to have these games on the go. So we’re excited since we are going to have these two games on the PS Vita as well. So this is something that we weren’t able to do ten years ago but can do now, so I that’s one of the positives of having this remaster treatment.
Interviewer: I agree… being able to take it with you. So as I was saying, in revisiting the Final Fantasy X series, have there been any influential moments that have served as lessons that will influence development in [the] Final Fantasy series moving forward?
Toriyama: Okay, so, this might be something really simple, but I think we will need to keep good backups of our data just in case there’s a situation where we decide to have our titles remastered. But what was educational for this process is that back in the day, development method was very … the planner would be able to use his own discretion in building the game, like event scenes and minigames and what not. But with the current gen HD games, a lot of the portion of the process has been shifted over to tool-based building, so everything is polished of course, but the planner wouldn’t be able to put his own flavor into the games. But we’re hoping that we can merge together the old and good way of building the games plus incorporating it plus being able to use the tools and have a polished product.
Interviewer: Okay, we’ll move forward. All right. Are there any gameplay features in the current generation of RPGs that you guys would’ve found an interesting addition to Final Fantasy X/X2?
Translator: This is going to be answered by both Toriyama-san and Kitase-san, but I’m going to translate Toriyama-san’s answer first.
Toriyama: So, the game concept of Final Fantasy X was “Journey,” so for example, if we were able to add 24 hour time, like in Lighting Returns, and incorporate that passage of time, it would’ve been cool to depict the story of Tidus and Yuna in a realtime kind of experience, [and] expand the breadth of their journey.
Kitase: So, this is kind of similar to what Toriyama-san was saying, but if it were like Lightning Returns, not only the time element but also, in Lightning Returns, we have a more opened-up world, where you can go exploring freely in what order that you want to go in. So if that kind of system were incorporated into the world of Final Fantasy X and X-2, where they can explore the world of Spira, in the player’s own discretion, and aim for Zanarkand in how the player would want to explore it, that would be cool.
[Transcriber’s note: this fits the pattern. FFVII, X and XIII were the most linear of the FFs, each one breaking ground on a new console; once Squeenix had mastered the new platform, succeeding games allowed for more wandering off and exploration, particularly X-2 and XIII-2 where each plot point opened up multiple optional places and events to jump into.]
Interviewer: Yes, I would love that, open exploring of Spira. We have some community questions, and these ones I think are fantastic. Have you ever considered remaking it into a movie to expand the world to a broader audience?
Translator: This question will be answered by both Toriyama-san and Kitase-san.
Toriyama-san’s answer first: He actually recalls when they were making the original Final Fantasy X, they had their scriptwriter, Mr. Kazushige Nojima, and the story was so great, the quality of it was really, really great that Toriyama-san felt that we wouldn’t have a game any better than this in the history of video games; he was so confident in the quality of Nojima-san’s work that he jokingly told him “in order for me to value you any higher, I will have to have you win an Academy Award for best scriptwriting.” He took that a little bit too hard, I guess, and he left the company since.
Kitase-san’s answer: I thought that the scripts that Nojima-san writes have a quality which is close to a full-blown movie. It was just the other elements that are incorporated into the game, like the graphics and the characters — those were the elements that were restricting it from us being able to express it in a more movie-like way. But nowadays, we have the upgraded graphics, and camera work, and we’ve got 3D, and all the elements were coming together to be able to bring out the best in the script’s potential completely, so I think we were able to express that in this HD remaster version.
Interviewer: That’s good to hear. This is another community question: have you ever wanted to consider a prequel to Final Fantasy X in the vein of Crisis Core that focuses on Braska’s pilgrimage, alongside Jecht and Auron?
Toriyama: So when we were kicking off the production of Final Fantasy X-2, and about to work on creating the prologue, “The Eternal Calm,” which is like a drama scene, we were actually talking about doing something like a so-called X-0, where we involved Braska and Jecht and Auron, but then we were thinking about it: it’s a party of just men, and it didn’t have the flare, so something completely the opposite which is X-2, where we have the story of Yuna, and the all-girl party came to be.
[Transcriber: Leaving legions of FFX fans to write the prequel as fanfiction. I will yet again shamelessly plug Justira’s “Clarion“: HEADCANON ACCEPTED.]
Interviewer: I’ve actually heard this one many times. Were there any considerations for developing the Blitzball sidegame into something stand-alone, perhaps for mobile?
Translator: He [Kitase] says that’s a great idea. I’d like to put that into consideration, actually. Maybe if we can tweak the interface so that it’s touchscreen-based, it might actually be a good fit so… he definitely likes the idea.
Interviewer: I know a lot of people who would enjoy it.
[MEEEEEEEEEEEEE *clutches iPad with FFI-V on it*]
Interviewer: So, we actually have the game out here on the show floor, and it’s looking beautiful. How far along is the HD remastering process?
Kitase: So we’re still actually making tweaks. I think, the characters, especially their faces, are what the developers and the fans alike pay particular attention to. So we want to continue to tweak it and polish it so that we won’t ruin the memories of your — the fans had when they were playing the original titles.
Interviewer: Okay. And speaking of the original titles, did you have the opportunity to work with any of the original voice actors? Did you have a need to revisit working with them in this process, either the Japanese or English voice actors?
Kitase: So there is a portion where they did use the original voice cast to record. We’re keeping it a secret where it actually is in the game, but it is in there.
[Transcriber’s note: I have a pretty good ear, and I’ve been paying careful attention to the trailers. So far, while the sound quality has improved, all lines of dialog appear to me to be the original soundfiles remastered. None of the trailers included badly-voiced clips like ‘WithYunaAtMySide’ or Hedy Buress’ unfortunate attempts at lip-synching in FFX, so I’m not sure whether they’ve tried to fix the timing issues. I’m guessing Kitase is hinting at a bonus cutscene, rather than any tinkering with existing lines, because their focus seems to be on faithfulness to the original rather than improving/tweaking it lest fans yell at them for “ruining their memories”.]
Interviewer: We’ll have to look forward to that. And this is another question that a lot of hardcore Square-Enix fans ask especially: will North American fans have the option to play with the Japanese VO?
Kitase: We do receive requests like this all the time, and we’re sorry, we’re not able to accommodate that request. This time, we have the PS3 version [and] PSVita versions coming, and we want to make both platform versions at the same quality, so if we were to match the Vita to the PS3’s level, we would have to consider the capacity of the ROMs, and we’d have to consider the different issues that relate to having these two platforms, so I’m afraid that the voiceovers are, more than likely, going to be in English only.
Interviewer: Well, we appreciate the answer regardless. And have there been any tweaks or changes made to the difficulty in parts of the game [BUTTERFLIES DIE DIE DIE] such as Boss fights or those Celestial Weapons?
Kitase: So for the most part we are staying true to recreating the originals, so the difficulty level will be staying true to the original Final Fantasy X and X-2. There may be some really tough bosses that you encounter [Translation: Dark Aeons, Penance from International Version] but the people who played the original versions did clear them, so we’re hoping that the players who play the remaster HD version will get through them as well.
Interviewer: I expect they’ll be able to. Okay, so we’re going to sum up this portion of the interview. Can you tell us when this is planned for release?
Kitase [reading VERY carefully from his notes]: I’m sure we’ll be able to disclose this very soon, but we are planning to take the time to bring out the best in these games, and try not to alter it too much from how you remember playing the original games. And so we will continue to tweak the titles. So I’m afraid we can’t really tell when the actual release date is going to be. But we do want to utilize events and bring out the game and have our fans be able to put their hands on it before we release the game. So we would appreciate the patience. So…when it’s ready.
[I hope those fans at E3 told them LAST MISSION! And fix Tidus’ eyes and Yuna’s mouth. — your opinionated transcriber.
There’s actually more after this: the Lightning Returns portion of the interview starts at 05:39. But I’ll leave that for some other obsessive fan to transcribe. For the record, I like XIII and am looking forward to LR as well.
PLEASE, IF YOU’D LIKE TO ‘PAY IT FORWARD’ FOR THIS TRANSCRIPTION, CONTACT SQUEENIX AND TELL THEM TO INCLUDE LAST MISSION, WHICH WAS STILL “UNDECIDED” AS OF MAY 10. I AM ON A ONE-FAN MISSION TO PESTER THEM INTO DOING IT. WE’RE PROBABLY NEVER GONNA GET ANOTHER REMASTER SO BY GOLLY I WANT ALL THE CONTENT INCLUDED IN THE INTERNATIONAL VERSION.]