(Laughs) Speaking of France, I'm sure you've heard of Heavy Rain; I can't recommend it to you enough. I think that, if you're making a strong narrative-based game right now, you should probably play it.
MT: (Laughing) I'm so busy that I haven't been able to play it, but I'm really, really interested in it.
It's only about nine hours long, so you can pretty much demolish it if you can set aside a day, and I recommend it just because it's not just fascinating story-wise, it's not just fun to play, it's also really creative. So I think that all adds up to a good package.
MT: I agree; I'm really interested in it. It has kind of a dark storyline, but it provides some really interesting new style. But if we kind of take that and create a story that has a wider appeal, it might be interesting as well.
One thing that's interesting about Heavy Rain is that it's supposed to be set in America; but there's just something you can just tell it's made by French people. There's a certain, slight difference.
In Final Fantasy -- the characters are Western, but you can still feel a Japanese style. I think it's impossible to completely erase a cultural style no matter how hard you try, but I also personally feel that you should never try. You should just do what feels natural. So I was wondering if you had any thoughts about that.
MT: Yeah, as long as you know that we as Japanese developers are creating it, our style comes through; our Japaneseness comes through. So it's not something that's really ever going to go away.
Part of the reason that Final Fantasy is so iconic is particularly [Tetsuya] Nomura-san's character designs; they're something that would never, ever, ever come out of an American studio. They're very influenced by Tokyo street fashion, as well. I think that that's the kind of thing that, just on one level, is important to maintain because it actually makes the game so distinctive.
MT: Yeah, I agree that Nomura-san's character design is essential to the game.
With, of course, the increase in high definition consoles, everyone will be able to create pretty graphics and a pretty game, so we have to differentiate somewhere else. That's really in terms of the character and the originality. So how do we create characters that are really expressive, and how do we create that high quality, something that we always consider, and that's very important to us?
The art direction is really, really important to Final Fantasy. In fact, I feel like it's one and the same, that the experience of playing Final Fantasy is looking at Final Fantasy and drinking in the visuals. Do you feel the same way?
MT: Yes, our art team is amazing, and with the art they create, having an amazing graphic design team as well, taking that art and expressing it is what's very important for Final Fantasy and the series.
You just see things in this game, like the crystal Lake Bresha early on in the game, and it's the kind of thing where I'm like, "This is why I bought a PlayStation 3 in the first place." It's not just because it's technically impressive; it's because it's beautiful, but it's completely unexpected. I never would have anticipated it, as well.
MT: That body of water you were mentioning is crystallized, and technically it's very difficult to create something that's basically half see-through to bring that frozen effect. So it's not only that artistic vision, but it's also providing that technical expertise to create that; and that's something that really sets us apart from other developers. Other developers I don't think can really create that.
It's interesting that Final Fantasy, the first game in the series all the way back in 1987, was a quest for the crystals. You've still managed to retain -- even though that was a very simple game -- that whole idea that crystals always permeate through the series. Even as things get more complex and more humanistic, you have to hew to this sort of basic concept that was dreamt up in the '80s. What do you think about that, creatively, as a challenge?
MT: As I mentioned before, an element of the series is to continue changing, and so, frankly, for my games -- the games that I worked on -- the crystal did kind of go away a little bit. In VII and in X, there were elements of the world that took the part of the crystals, that had that kind of spirituality that the crystals previously had and that we used instead to express that kind of world vision.
It's not that we're necessarily set on crystals; however, with Final Fantasy XIII, the larger umbrella is the Fabula Nova Crystallis series, and so, because of that, for this game in particular we tried to include a lot of those crystal elements.
It's interesting that you use the word "spirituality" because I do think the games have a certain spirituality, particularly X's story. Even though there's not a specific religion that's addressed in the series, you can sense it throughout. Can you talk about that?
MT: Yeah, as you mentioned, there's not a specific religion; it's definitely kind of a broader spirituality -- and, in terms of Final Fantasy XIII, because it's part of the larger Fabula Nova Crystallis series, there's definitely a world origin type element that kind of goes beyond religion as part of the main core spirituality elements that are embedded in each of the characters. So we do feel that kind of spirituality is important in the vision of the world that we're trying to communicate.