Tjark Michael Wewetzer, am 27.08.2014, Seite 2 von 2
German | English
Planet3DS: Hi! Nice to meet you! First things first: Can you please introduce yourself to our readers and tell them your role in the production of the game?
Ichiro Hazama, Square Enix: Hello! My name is Ichiro Hazama, I work at Square Enix and I'm the producer of Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy – Curtain Call.
Planet3DS: Let's start off with a more general question: What exactly did you put into Theatrhythm: Curtain Call that improves over the original game and how do you think this will enhance the player experience?
Ichiro Hazama: There's three main ways in which we improved the game. The first of those is the volume of content that we were to put in the game. In the previous title you had just under 100 songs available. This time around we've really added more. There is 221 songs available in the basic package. We made sure to take those very evenly from across all of the different titles in the Final Fantasy series. I mean, in the original game you had just from the numbered mainline Final Fantasy games, from I up to XIII but this time around we go all up from I to XIV and we also included a lot of the spin-offs like Crystal Chronicles or the CG movie Advent Children. So there really is a lot more content this time around.
Another one of the improvements we made is a new mode called Quest Medley Mode which makes use of the communication features like internet and StreetPass. It's got very classic RPG-type gameplay in there. The idea is that you have a map and go along through different stages, completing each of the music stages in a quest as a little self-contained adventure thing. Each quest is set out as a map and there is lots of these different maps to collect and swap with people. Each of these maps has different features and different things in it. Some of them for example will give you a lot more experience points, others will have really rare items. There is a lot of fun to be had in swapping them with other people and trying to find all the cool little things the maps contain.
But perhaps the biggest new feature people will notice is the Versus Mode we've added this time. So players can now compete against each other head to head on the music stages. And you can play both local Wi-Fi and across the internet to play against anyone you'd like to.
Those are just the three main features, though. We added others as well. The main thing we tried to achieve with these changes is, first, to increase the volume of the game so there's a lot more there to play. The second one is to make it more easier and accessible to play and the third one is to encourage communication and interaction between players. With these new features we've come up with a very strong title that let's the people play the game for a very, very long time and have a lot of fun with that. So those were the ideas we had when we tried to improve on the original title.
Another Interviewer: Do you find gamers today demand more of a social connected experience than they're used to? Especially with features like StreetPass and multiplayer.
Ichiro Hazama: From my own personal view, I really like Final Fantasy and the Final Fantasy music and I really want to enjoy oppurtunities to meet with other people, discuss that and share those kinds of interest. Obviously things like our Distant Worlds concerts are a great opportunity for this. I wanted to add more of these kinds of things and allow more of that through this game. So using the Versus Mode and the internet communication functions is, just purely from my point of view, to increase the availability for people to play, make friends and share common interests. That's where I'm coming from, really.
Planet3DS: You said at one point in the past that Theatrhythm: Curtain Call is supposed to be a closure to the Final Fantasy spin-off series and that it will be the definitive version of Theatrhythm. But where there still any features you thought about putting in but decided against due to time constraints or other factors?
Ichiro Hazama: During the development process we basically managed to do everything we thought of and really wanted to do, so we had a complete product when we finished it. After its release and looking back on the game there's one small area where I perhaps had liked to add more to and that's using some of the 3DS' more interesting social features to add more to the game. For example, there's the Nintendo Zone functionality the 3DS allows where you go to a specific place, like a shop or a restaurant somewhere, and when you log your 3DS in you can maybe get a special song or a piece of game content you can only get there or special download codes to give away songs or presents. It's a bit strange to talk about what we could have done with the game, seeing as it hasn't come out over here yet although it's out in Japan but I think it would have been nice to put those kind of functions in.
Planet3DS: Where do you think you'll go with the Theatrhythm franchise from here on out if you ever plan to continue it? Maybe branch off to another Square Enix franchise like Dragon Quest, Kingdom Hearts or Drakengard?
Ichiro Hazama: From my personal view, I really like what we've created here – the Threatrhythm series and the type of game. And yes, even though this is the end of Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy, I really don't want to bring the Theatrhythm series as a whole to an end. Obviously I don't have anything we can announce at the moment but we really would like to move out and go into other titles. So you can certainly expect something from Theatrhythm like that in the future.
Another Interviewer: Do you think there's a balance to be found between paying homage to beloved games and also having a bit of fun with them and maybe poke fun at them a little? Considersing how, for the most part, Theatrhythm is quite cute and cartoony.
Ichiro Hazama: It's very interesting you ask about this very cute design of the characters we have. The main reason we decided on this style is interesting because, obviously, we wanted the game to cover all of the Final Fantasy series – from right at the beginning up until the recent ones. Within the games they've got vastly different graphicaly styles originally. The early ones are kept in old-style pixel graphics and the latest ones have these new really beautiful CG poylgon HD graphics. At the time when we decided how to get them all to fit under a unified style we though: "Okay, we could possibly make them all like the original ones in old pixel graphics" or "It wouldn't be impossible to do them all as modern HD stuff." But in the end we thought in order to get a good balance over the whole thing we should go for these size-deformed cute little characters. The reason we thought this would be a good fit for the game is because it's a music game and we really wanted the music to stand out and be the main focus of the game. In a way, really cool graphics could maybe detract from that. We thought this would be a really good fit for a game where the music takes center stage. So that sort of explains how we decided on this quite lighthearted cartoony style.
Another Interviewer: I think it says a lot for how iconic the characters are that even with this graphics style you take a glance and know exactly who they are.
Ichiro Hazama: It really speaks volumes of how the original designers and the skill they did in designing the characters, they created them so iconically. With modern HD-built polygon characters you can't really have a character where when you're looking at him from a really great distance you can't really tell who he is or what they are. These [Final Fantasy] characters, whatever direction you're looking at them from, you can immediately say "I know who that is!" The designers back then really thought about that even when they had to work with deformed polygon models, much less detail and less bits to play with to make them very distinctive. Full credit goes to the original designers for that.
Planet3DS: I think the cute character design gives it a unique look that fits really well into for example the trailers shown that are very reminiscent of stage plays or concerts.
Ichiro Hazama: Now that you mention it, it's also interesting how this style came about. The subtitle of the game, Curtain Call, was thought up by our creative producer Tetsuya Nomura. When the character designer, a famous designer known by the name of Monster Octopus, heard the name Curtain Call he said this [points at a poster of the game] is how we have to present the game, so he came up with the whole idea. It's a very organic way how that came out.
Another Interviewer: When I played the game, I thought it looks very simple, it shouldn't be too hard to play and then very quickly it became very difficult so I didn't do as well as I expected to. Do you think there is a hunger in the gaming public for more challenging and difficult games that don't take people by the hands?
Ichiro Hazama: I think there is a range of what people want from games. There is some people who want the hard stuff, some who want it easier and looking at Theatrhythm, we try to do that. Rhythm games are traditionally very hard and there are people who are looking for that as a pure challenge rhythm game. It's got a very basic control scheme: You have the touch, the directional inputs and the holds. But there's still a serious challenge in there just getting it right. The people who enjoy that can play it as a really challenging kind of game and can aim for high scores. But also there a lot of other people who like the game because it's Final Fantasy, people who really like RPGs. That's one of the reasons why we put a lot of RPG elements in there. So if you're for example not really good at rhythm games and not interested in doing it perfectly, you can level your characters up and get special items which will make the rhythm game a lot easier and more forgiving. For those players who don't really want to go into the hardcore score attack, they want to see the game, they want to see the ending and just have a nice bit of fun with it and enjoy the songs. In either way it's a challenge. What we have done with Theatrhythm is not saying "We're gonna take you by the hand and show you absolutely everything" and make it too easy, on the other we also don't necessarily say "Here, you just do it yourself, we don't wanna know." The approach we took with that is "Look, here's all these things you can do with the game. Now you can approach it in your own way and play it the way you want to." We aimed for a balanced experience because we're aiming for a broad audience for this game, so we try to include bits from all of it there.
Planet3DS: Is that also the reason why you included the new control scheme which utilized the 3DS' buttons and circle pad? From playing the demo on the showfloor I got the impression that the game was a lot easier to manage this way compared to the stylus controls.
Ichiro Hazama: That's part of the reason we did it, yes. Although I have to say that from what we heard, when you get to the really difficult songs apparently a lot of people say the pen is actually a lot easier to them so I guess it depends on the song. But another big reason we included the button controls now is to allow people to play the game in a few more places than they did before. For example, people playing it on the train find it difficult to hold the pen in one hand and the 3DS in the other – it's a lot easier for them to hold the system in both hands and play with the buttons there. Or I personally like lying in bed on my back and holding the 3DS over my head while playing it and that's hard with the touchpen controls. So yeah, it's there to make it easier on some stages for some people but also to make it easily playable in any kind of position which was the main idea behind the button controls.
Planet3DS: Maybe the demo here doesn't show off the right songs for this then. Or maybe it's because I played "Answers" all the time. (laughs)
Ichiro Hazama: There's actually a third control scheme available where you can play with one hand. You hold the 3DS in the left hand, use the Circle Pad to control and press the L button for any touch commands. In a way that's a very advanced level control scheme for high-skill players.
Planet3DS: Now I'm curios. I'll definitely try that out when I get back to your booth on the showfloor!
Ichiro Hazama: I can't really recommend it if you want to have fun. (laughs) The reason we included this is because one of our development partners in creating the game had a brilliant idea that among the high-ranking players there should be a way to differentiate some of them as an even higher level. Let's say you just played against someone and he really thrashed you, you've been beaten really badly. Then you exchange profile cards, you look at the card and go "Whoa! That guy just beat me one-handed! That's amazing!" To have that extra level for super-elite players, we thought it would be a fun thing to include.
Planet3DS: This may be a bit tough to pin down considering how many there are but what's your personal favorite song in the entire Final Fantasy series?
Ichiro Hazama: There is actually one specific song which was part of the inspiration about how I decided to make the Theatrhythm games in the first place. It's the opening scene of Final Fantasy VI with the Magitek armor walking across the snowfield where you can hear Terra's theme song in the background. I really love that song.
Planet3DS: I can definitely see why. It IS a really memorable scene.
Ichiro Hazama: That's a very memorable scene for me but I think everyone who has played Final Fantasy and loves the series is gonna have their own little moments from all the games and the scenes they remember. That may be not the same for every person so we wanted to provide a game where you had the opprotunity to experience your favorite scenes in that way and the characters you love to remember from those games and to make it so that everyone could be happy and see the things that they like. That's one of the main inspirations behind the game.
Planet3DS: Is that also why you put in the Event Music Stages where clips from the respective games are shown while a key song is being played?
Ichiro Hazama: The very first idea I had when first creating the game were actually the Event Music Stages (EMS) and the whole game would be based around them. But when we discussed the game with the development partner company and the creative producer Tetsuya Nomura, we came up with the idea that there are lots of different types of music and lots of different stages we could have and differenty ways to enjoy them within the game. That's how we broadened it, having the Battle and the Field Stages as well, but it originally started with the idea for the EMS. That was the core of the game, if you like.
Planet3DS: While we're on the topic of Event Music Stages: From what I've seen on the official website, songs that were presented as EMS in the original game are now repurposed as regular Battle or Field Music Stages in Curtain Call with only new games like Lightning Returns and Final Fantasy XIV receiving Event Stages. Have you considered bringing all EMS to the new game or maybe create all new event scenes for games that already had an EMS in the previous installment?
Ichiro Hazama: One of the things we wanted to do with Theatrhythm is to create a sequel to the game rather than a complete version of the original game, so we didn't want to replace all the content in the original so much. And obviously there are a lot of loyal fans who bought the original and they don't want to have that made obsolete by the second game. There is also the issue of the amount of content we can put in the games, too. There is over twice as many songs in the new game but there is still a limit on the amount you can fit in there. The first game was pretty much full of content but the new one as well. We really wanted to be able to show off the spin-off titles in the new game and all the videos for them properly rather than having to have that cut down because we want to include the old stuff, too. We wanted to add something new so that you can enjoy the first and second game rather than only needing the second one.
Planet3DS: While playing the song "Answers" from Final Fantasy XIV, which is featured in the demo, I noticed that the way you cut the video footage created a wholly different atmosphere compared to the original video. When creating the Event Music Stages, what kind of emotions are you trying to evoke? How does it affect the chosen scenes and music?
Ichiro Hazama: The one for XIV is a bit of an exception to the others. It's because when we released Curtain Call originally, it was pretty much just about the same time as A Realm Reborn was coming out. So what we really wanted to do with the XIV one is to show off the new game and the new changes. Obviously the version of the song we use in Curtain Call is a lot shorter than the one in the full trailer video, so we had to adapt it and change it for that. But the idea was to show off that the game has been "reborn" and changed and getting that across. Though when you're talking about the EMS from the other games in the series, the objective there was to bring up the emotions and try to bring back the feelings people had when they played through the scenes features from the original games – for example, we talked about Final Fantasy VI and the Magitek armor going through the snowfield scene. The idea there was when people play this, look at the video and hear the music they'll think "Ah, I remember Final Fantasy VI, it's this kinda game! And this happened, and this happened… Yeah, I remember that. Wasn't that great?" We wanted to bring back these emotions and remind people what was so great about the featured scenes in the original games. And that's also how we approached the editing.
Planet3DS: Since we were talking about
Ichiro Hazama: It goes back to last year. There was a campaign we ran in Japan called the "[Final Fantasy] Go There" campaign which featured a lot of different Final Fantasy games that were released around that time. It was a very big cross-promotion event with special features and special things to cross different Final Fantasy games and worlds. You had all the producers involved, there were a lot of discussions which were televised and events going on there. We thought "What could we do for Theatrhythm?" The descision was, because we've got a Versus Mode now, we'd like to have some versus battles and show that off. That's where it really came from, it started as part of that campaign.
Planet3DS: To wrap our interview up, do you have anything left to say for our readers and fans of the Final Fantasy series?
Ichiro Hazama: We put as much love into Curtain Call as we could and we are very confident we gave everything we had into the new one so rest assured you'll have a lot of fun with it. I hope you'll enjoy the game.
Planet3DS: All right. Thank you very much for the interview!
The interview was held by Tjark Michael Wewetzer [Alanar] for Planet3DS.de.