Interview with Final Fantasy Type-0 and XV director Hajime Tabata

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Final Fantasy Type-0 is set to come out in the West in March, and from the little bit I’ve seen, it’s shaping to be a pretty exciting experience. Tabata-san’s been flying around the country promoting the game, and now we got the chance to pick his brain on the two games he’s been working on (both Type-0 and XV). I really admired his ability to be frank and personal about his responses and the pressure to meet to fan expectations hasn’t been easy.

Tabata spoke through a translator and for the sake of better flow and clarity, some of the translations were edited to reflect that.

NR: Hello and Nice to meet you Tabata-san!

Tabata: Nice to meet you! Before we start, I have a question. What’s that on your T-shirt?

Oh! This is Virtua Fighter. Do you know about it?

Tabata: Yeah, I was a big fan of the series and played from VF1 to 3! I don’t play it anymore, but I look at it now and everyone’s become really good at the game now.

Yeah, it’s become really popular to watch and they’ve held big tournaments for it too. Let’s start this interview off with an easy one. What’s your favorite Final Fantasy, and why?

Tabata: Final Fantasy I. It’s a shared sentiment between most Final Fantasy developers that there’s a moment as you progress through the game, the logo comes out and you’re really taken aback by it. I played the game when it first came out as a player; there were many things and lessons that I could draw from it, so personally it was a very important game for me. But for the industry as a whole, I would say Final Fantasy VII.

Type-0 came out on PSP about 4 years ago, but prior to that you worked on Crisis Core and 3rd Birthday. What did you learn developing those titles that you have brought into Type-0?

Tabata: Being able to previously develop a spin-off (referring to Crisis Core) of such a big title with such a huge fan base, I was able to understand the importance of the characters and what I could really expand and dig deeper into the story regarding those titles and their respective characters in order to create value for them. Crisis Core, which directly ties into the FF7 universe, was especially hard to tackle given there were so many fans across the globe that was looking forward to it.

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Just to add to the previous question, both of those titles focused primarily on one protagonist. However, for Type-0 you now have an entire class of characters to develop the story along. Was it difficult trying to make all of them important characters?

Tabata: So in a normal RPG, you can have anywhere from three to six characters at any given event scene. All those characters get some kind of dialogue and screen time. So it’s easier to draw out their individual characteristics. In the case of Type-0, fourteen characters is a lot so in order to showcase them and bring out their personality and motives, the traditional party system wouldn’t be for that. We would have to devise a new type of system to explore them.

Type-0 is really the first game were we approached this from a game mechanism point of view that we can breathe life into all these characters. So if you play through the game, we hope you can feel a sense of emotion that is derived from the system and the characters developing within it. The most important part was to ensure that players feel that the characters are living and breathing human beings.

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I was playing the game just before we started this interview and right from the beginning, Type-0 starts off with a much darker tone than what Final Fantasy fans have come to know.

Tabata: I wanted the player to feel the life in the characters. From the get go, I wanted to establish an emotional connection between the players and the characters they’ll be controlling. Especially with the opening scenes, I wanted to showcase that life is taken very seriously in this title. I felt that the oversea fans realized the steps forward we are trying to achieve in this title and listened to all their requests for a Western release.

The fans really appreciate it! This next one may be a bit hard, but out of the entire cast of characters in Type-0, who would be your favorites?

Tabata: Well, I’m a guy, first and foremost, so I really like female characters, but I guess that’s not the answer you looking for. [Laughs] In terms of who I like the most as a human being, that would be the character Nine because of his personality. He’s always holding his head up high no matter the situation and is always optimistic about the future. At any given moment, a team member can be concerned and having Nine on the team really bolsters their morale. Other than that, I really like Rem! During this past holiday, they sent out a card featuring Rem specifically because of that. (Laugh)

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Now that Type-0’s about to come out in the West, hypothetically speaking, if you had the chance to give another title an HD remake, which title would it be?

Tabata: Any title?

Another Square Enix title.

Tabata: There are some titles I would like to see remade in HD, even if it wasn’t me helming it. Hmm… what would I want to see remade. Since I’m in the middle of developing Final Fantasy XV at the moment I don’t really have much of a desire to do another title at the moment. I did mention FF1 and FF7 before; however, coming as a fan, I was really drawn into FF6.

Right on! That’s something I’d like to see.

That would be a really interesting project to see a remake with all the available technology we have now.

(The moderator reassured me that this was in no way a confirmation or announcement of any new titles)

Was it difficult to juggle both doing Type-0 HD and FFXV at the same time?

Tabata: It wasn’t really difficult since most of my time is currently being spent on FFXV, as Type-0 was mainly a technological update. The real struggle right now is, as we’re getting closer to locking in the Type-0 master and the FFXV demo so we’re really trying to polish everything as much as we can.

Now that FFXV has gone from originally a PS3 to now a PS4 and Xbox One title, how has the development changed with the shift in new hardware?

Tabata: Specifically going from Versus XIII to XV, it wasn’t exactly a direct change in hardware. It’s more as a restarting of the development towards the PS4 and Xbox One. It was garnering new technology and implementing that towards the next-gen consoles. From now, we’re developing the game as a if it was for PS4 and Xbox native game so we’re not actually reusing any of the assets that were going to be used for Versus XIII. Rather than simply port what we’ve done, it‘s about answering and understanding the sentiments of the people that were looking forward to Versus. Vice versa, it’s about having them understand what we are trying to achieve with XV.

Speaking about what we’ve seen so far in XV, there’s very road-trip like aspect to the game.

Tabata: So everything that has been shown post-E3 is planned to be explorable, though we haven’t shown too many places yet. In the FFXV demo, you’ll really be able to experience the world by foot. Originally, when we had planned for the demo, we had planned for the area to be explorable with the car for people to grasp how expansive the world really is.

Would you be concerned that players would simply spend their time exploring the world rather than progressing along the main story?

Tabata: We received a lot of questions from the fans and media about the specifics of the gameplay.  Post-TGS (Tokyo Game Show), we decided to start off by having the players experience the world on foot and getting a sense of the world firsthand and that’s currently the focus of the demo we’re trying to create and later introduce the car. So instead of easily progressing through the game, we’d love for the players to explore the world on foot. In doing so, by walking around the world I feel you’ll find this real connection to the in-game clock and the weather system and also the monsters that inhabit the environment and realize it’s a fundamentally different experience.

Yeah, I really do like the new method of transportation.

Tabata: I went to New York for the first time to showcase Type-0 at a media event. I only knew a little bit about the city beforehand. After the media interviews, I had the chance to walk around the city such as visiting Ground Zero to Battery Park to Statue of Liberty to Time Square and I really got a sense for the first time what New York was really like. That’s why with this upcoming demo, we’ve restricted it to walk around on foot.

And you will bring those experiences back with you to incorporate into the development of FFXV?

Tabata: Definitely. It’s something as simple as the weather in Los Angeles is warm while in New York it is cold, but you can’t really grasp that concept until you experience it firsthand.

We’re running short on time, so I’ll end it with this: if you were to take a road trip across the country, who would you bring with you?

Tabata: Just FFXV?

Any FF characters.

Tabata: (Pauses to think) There’s so many to choose from! Well if I were to pick any three to come along for the ride, I would probably take out Noctis and replace him with myself. Since I know the personalities of his companion, I feel good knowing how likable and reliable they would be on the road. (Referring to Ignis, Gladioulus, and Prompto).

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That would be something. [Laugh] Thank you for the interview. Looking forward to Type-0 and good luck with the rest of FFXV!

Tabata: Thank you!

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Hokan Lo
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Hokan Lo is a contributing writer and photographer for Nerd Reactor. He likes Pizza Butts and Mello Yellow. You can contact him on twitter @colorinlive. <a href="http://nerdreactor.com/about/">Meet the Nerd Reactor Team</a>