It's a turn-based game, still, and it seems like turn-based games on major consoles are getting less and less prevalent. I think that's interesting. Is that because it's important to a core tenet of the game? Is it what the audience wants? Is it just fun? Because you did a very good job of making it a fast turn-based system that, actually, I think people could really enjoy, but in this day and age...
MT: The concept for the game was to have speed and have it be tactical, so those are the two items -- and, in terms of that, Final Fantasy is known for turn-based battles. We felt that was a good aspect for players to be able to play out their strategy, and we didn't want to eliminate them.
But, you know, usually, in turn-based games, characters spend a lot of time kind of standing around and waiting for their turn, and so we did want to make it speedier and get rid of some of those aspects and improve upon it.
In the future, if someone were to ask, "Would we return to a complete turn-based game?" -- probably not. But what's important to me is to have a combat system that offers players the ability to be strategic and to really think about their next move and use their brain in order to proceed in the game.
Final Fantasy XIII really, really gradually introduces the gameplay and really gradually introduces new elements over the course of a long period of time, and I was interested in why you went with a design that is structured that way.
MT: Because the game is extremely story-driven, and because the battle system is really all-new from the previous games, we wanted to create a step-by-step process to introduce people to it that would allow them to really delve deeper into the strategic components of the gameplay. We wanted the players to experience each character's role in battle very well so that, after they experience that, they get a little bit more freedom going on.
You are getting complaints, though, from people who feel like it takes too long to get to that sort of level of freedom, especially from experienced users. What do you think about that balance? Is it more important to guide less experienced users or to satisfy the experienced gamers?
MT: The game itself offers two worlds, Cocoon and Gran Pulse, and we divided the gameplay between those two worlds. It's true, as you mentioned, until you get to Gran Pulse, the story is long; but, when it really comes down to it, that open world gameplay that you receive at Gran Pulse is about the same amount of time. It's about 50/50 in terms of the actual gameplay. The game is story-driven, but that is one element that we do have some kind of hindsight looking backwards that's kind of like a learning point.
It's very rare for a high-profile game to get a wide range of scores from reviewers. Usually, they're all up at the top. With Final Fantasy XIII, we've got tens out of ten; we've also got, from mainstream reviewers, five out of ten. Are you surprised to see a huge disparity? It's a polarizing kind of game.
MT: Because we created a completely new style, and because the game is so different from XII, if you were expecting that [game], then yeah, it was probably a little bit of a let down or was different from what you had hoped for. But the challenge for us is to create something new. I don't really mind that the reviews are kind of all over the place, in particular since, in North America and in Europe, the reviews have probably actually been better than in Japan. I found that to be a nice surprise.
One of the things I think is really interesting about Final Fantasy is that, when you eliminate Nintendo from the question, there are very, very, very few games that sell equally well in Japan and the Western markets, and Final Fantasy is one of them. That's got to be difficult, right? To create a game that can do that.
MT: Final Fantasy VII is what really changed our thoughts for the game when it succeeded worldwide; before that, we didn't really think globally. It was mostly domestic. But with that kind of success, the games became bigger worldwide, and the thought was natural to us to begin to think more about the world.
It's not that we purposely changed anything that we wanted to do or that we were doing; the idea just began to permeate among the team that it is a global phenomenon, a global game. Because that concept exists, that's why I feel that the game sells so well worldwide.
In particular, the recent news of the huge lines in France and people waiting to buy FFXIII was really amazing and incredible news. It was very emotional; it was the first time in a long time that I've felt that, and I don't want to forget about that. I know that we need to continue that feeling for the future.
I always feel like Japan and France have some sort of special cultural connection. When you go to Japan, there's so much French culture and French food particularly, and I feel like there's almost a meeting of the minds there, culturally. Do you have a similar feeling?
MT: I think it's that the French really appreciate Japanese culture: they love our films, and they love our anime, and our games as well. They've always been very positive in their reception towards Japanese things. The long lines I had mentioned in France, again, were very emotional for me and made me very happy because it's something that we didn't even see in Japan -- all the cosplayers who were there, and everything. So I was very happy. (Laughing) When I'm here now, there's GDC, and I have all this work; I wish I were in France.