BT:We’re ten years on now and there’s been multiple Final Fantasy games since VII and yet between Dirge of Cerebus, Advent Children and Crisis Core, you’ve always returned to Final Fantasy VII. What is it about VII that you think makes it so popular and special?
YK: Well, Final Fantasy VII came out a time in a time of transition when the PlayStation 1 allowed for a whole new realm of games with improved audio and graphics. Also, at the time I was a much younger man. Ten years younger in fact – though don’t count me out just yet!
It was a time when I had all this enthusiasm and as a young creator I wanted to try and challenge the idea of what an RPG could be. Combine with that the hardware and these new realms of possibility for creators. That combination seems to have worked because although it was hard to say how successful we were at the time, ten years later the game is still being talked about and I think we really did set a new standard.
We really have a soft spot in our hearts for Final Fantasy VII because that was when we tried to change things. It was just the right time for it.
BT:You have changed things this time around though and you’ve changed the turn-based combat in for an action approach in Crisis Core – why did you choose to change it at all?
HI: The new battle system isn’t the only difference and that’s important because we’ve also got rid of the old party-based system. Crisis Core is a game that is all about Zack and the problem with that is that if you use a battle system made for parties in a game with just one character then it just doesn’t work very well. The flow is wrong you’re left forever waiting.
So, what we did was take some elements from the turn-based structure and incorporate some new ones. You can still cast spells and select weapons, but the new DMW battle system combines with the old Materia mechanic to keep things fresh.
It was just an obvious evolution for us based on how you keep the best bits of Final Fantasy VII while still keeping the game fresh at all times. At the same time, we wanted to take Zack, who is an incredibly elite solider, and show how he becomes more powerful as time progresses. The idea of the control system is to be direct and convey the raw power of Zack.
BT:Can you tell us more about the Digital MindWave system (DMW) and how it works? Are power-ups based utterly on chance?
HI: The concept came from us wanting to have an uncontrollable twist of fate as a core element of the game. So, you might fight a boss character twice and the first time you lose, but the second time you win because the DMW powers you up. The DMW is very random, but it can give you effects like restoring all of your HP. We really wanted to use luck to make things exciting.
At the same time though, it isn’t completely random. The levelling system ties into the DMW, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to stay at Level One just because you’re unlucky. There’s an internal XP counter that ticks up over time and tilts the DMW system in your favour. You might level up twice very quickly or once very slowly, but you can’t get stuck with it.
Also, we give players access to different Materia to use which are linked to the DMW and can be used to manipulate it.
One of the concepts I originally put forward myself, but was rejected was that…well, the number four is very unlucky in Japan. It is pronounced as Shi, which is also the word for Death. I originally put forward the idea that if four fours came up on the DMW slow system then the player would actually lose a level. As it was though, the concept was rejected and the DMW system is much fairer as a result.