Kitase, Nomura, Naoi

Left: Yoshinori Kitase, the director of the upcoming masterpiece, Final Fantasy VIII. He also wrote the story and is designing the system.
Middle: Tetsuya Nomura, character and monster designer, as well as battle system. He also wrote the background story of the characters.
Right: Yuusuke Naoi, the art director and CG chief, in charge of the FMV and backgrounds. Here, they discuss with Famitsu Weekly what we can expect from Final Fantasy VIII.

Famitsu: This time, what will be FFVIII's theme and setting?
Kitase: Well, you can get an idea of the setting by looking at the screenshots. The moon in this screenshot is not big for the drama, it is a really big moon. What I want to put in VIII was a little reality, and combine it with unreality. By showing it through the eyes of normal people, it makes the game more real. I want to take care in that area. Naoi, please, (laughs)
Naoi: Yes that's right. In VII, we tried making it futuristic, and I think that was received well, so I am thinking of stretching from VII what seemed FF-esque.
Famitsu: Can you tell us something about the 'two worlds' you plan to create? It seems like they are deeply connected with the world of the main character.
Kitase: Well, it will be connected with the two main characters. But that doesn't goes as far as a theme - more of a guide to the game. How the two characters meet - that is the key, it is very important.
Famitsu: The characters look very mature. How is it to you, Mr Nomura? Were you conscious of this when you created them?
Nomura: Yes, that's right. Finally I could draw my own pictures… Not like the ones before. (laughs)
Kitase: The FFVII drawings weren't really his style (laughs)
Naoi: This is how he really draws.
Nomura: Yes. Parasite Eve helped, and I thought the audience would be used to it. I thought that as FMVs are evolving, there is a limit to how far we can show characters as deformed.
Kitase: In VII, the characters in the field were deformed. But we were wondering whether we should use deformed characters. See, as the technique of FMVs improved, there could be better visual presentation. When there was deformed characters in the field but not in FMVs, there was a feeling of inconsistency. So this time, we wanted to make real-sized characters in FMV, field and battle. We used a 8-head body size. (Ed - this refers to the number of heads that would fit stacked on each other in a body)
Famitsu: If you use this size, I am worried that chocobos or moogles will stand out too much.
Kitase: We're not really worried about that. When we'll make it, that size difference will disappear. We thought to ourselves - this is how it always should have been! (laughs) When we first made the 8-sized characters walk on the field, we felt somewhat hesitant. But once you start drawing in this way, you get used to it. We want to change how people think of the field. Sure, a world with deformed characters is still fine, but we believe with realistic size we can expand the FF world.
Famitsu: The gamers may be worried that because of this, chocobos will not make an appearance.
Kitase: There's no need to worry. The bottom line is, what we are making is a Final Fantasy title, and all the essential Final Fantasy elements will be there.
Famitsu: So what will the chocobos look like this time?
Nomura: Although they'll change a little bit, they'll still be just as cute.
Famitsu: I think that female gamers will fall for Laguna! (laughs)
Kitase: They're entranced by Nomura, hey? (laughs)
Famitsu: Did you draw it for the girls?
Nomura: This is my actual style of drawing - I didn't think of that at the time.
Kitase: Even so, it can be targeted. (laughs) We left Nomura totally in charge of character design. The first illustration of FFVIII was of the main character. We thought what kind of world would create this character, and worked from there.
Famitsu: From what screenshots you've released, there seems to be two towns.
Naoi: Actually, there's three - the fountain one, the building with the gold halo, and the port town.
Famitsu: The towns look very different.
Naoi: VII had a strong dark atmosphere, and I got bored of that. (laughs) This time, I made a 'bright, fresh Final Fantasy', though this is not totally true. (laughs)
Famitsu: It does seem to have a bright feel..
Naoi: The previous Final Fantasy games had images of light emerging from darkness - it was very beautiful, but this time we decided to turn it upside-down - 'shadows in light'. That's how we made the atmosphere. In VII, most of the staff were new to CG, but this time we will be ambitious because they are now used to it.The building with the gold halo reminds of Costa del Sol, or the Golden Saucer. We will continue making interesting visuals.
Famitsu: Did you make the image of the town as near future?
Kitase: This city is quite important in the game. There's a small design or relief. . . please imagine what it is. This place appears a lot in the game. A key point of the scenario, maybe.
Famitsu: Like Midgar?
Kitase: It is similar in its purpose but its connection is totally different. The main character is deeply involved with it.
Famitsu: You mean Squall?
Kitase: Not necessarily Squall, but it is very important to the main characters.
Famitsu: Will there be a world map this time?
Kitase: Yes, of course. A Final Fantasy without a world map isn't a Final Fantasy game.
Famitsu: What is the meaning of the man and woman in the title logo?
Kitase: Well, it's always like this, we expand the world from the character's design. But this time, the characters are bigger, and we're able to make facial expressions. Square, even from the time of the simplest sprites on the Famicom, we've used body language to express emotion. We have always tried to make as much expression as we can at that time. I think we can do this with today's technology, and if the character's faces are going to express emotion, let's let these emotions create the story. We wanted to show this in the logo.
Famitsu: Is it a story of Squall and an unknown woman?
Kitase: Well, I'll leave it to your imagination. (laughs) Our purpose of this logo was to make people think about it, because it might be an important part of the story.
Famitsu: How about Squall's scar?
Nomura: It is quite important.
Kitase: He doesn't have it at the beginning, it happens in the game.
Famitsu: There are rental cars and restrooms, things that exist in our world.
Naoi: It is easy to simply make the game futuristic, but we want to mix future, real life and fantasy.
Famitsu: Will VIII use a rental car?
Kitase: We don't know yet. In the FFVII opening movie, there were cars that didn't interact with the characters at all, that we were actually planning to use in the game. They were there to add more atmosphere.
Famitsu: There are three characters talking in one screenshot, will there be an organisation like Avalanche?
Nomura: It is not strictly an organisation, think of it as a kind of group.
Kitase: If we say it's an organisation, it'll seem too similar to VII.
Famitsu: The message window is different to before.
Naoi: That is preliminary.
Kitase: From VI and VII we used CG, the characters became larger, and the appearance changed greatly. So take sure it was a Final Fantasy game, we did not change the window. And, people who played VII, got used to new things from VII. So we thought there was no need to continue with the old window. We are changing it to a new style.
Famitsu: Will there be changes to the battle screen?
Kitase: There is a possilibility. This is still hypothesis, so it's only a possibility.
Famitsu:How about the actual battle system?
Nomura: We can't say anything about that now.
Famitsu: In one screenshot, it seems that there's a limit?
Nomura: We might tell you in the next interview.
Famitsu: How about the materia system?
Kitase: That is difficult to answer. I can't really tell you now. Like materia, there might be something that the player can think about and play around with. You can customise it if you want, or you don't have to if you don't want to. That is all we've thought of at the moment.
Famitsu: So materia will not appear?
Kitase: Materia was taken by Soukaigi, so... (laughs)
Nomura: Will that be put into the magazine? (laughs)
Kitase: Oops. (laughs)
Famitsu: Is the Gunblade an important part of the battle?
Nomura: It cannot be used by everyone. It takes a lot of training to master it.
Naoi: It's very heavy. (laughs)
Nomura: That Gunblade is Squall's.
Famitsu: How much has been made?
Kitase: Hmm… About 8%. (laughs) It's hard to say, because as so many people are working on different parts of the game, there are actually hardly any playable parts yet.
Famitsu: When did development start?
Kitase: When VII was translated into English. I can't remember when Nomura drew some designs.
Nomura: I remember when I was doing Parasite Eve, I got mail from a person in charge of scenario.
Famitsu: How many staff?
Kitase: About the same as FFVII.
Famitsu: Will FFVIII be compatible with the PDA?
Kitase: At the moment, it is not planned.
Famitsu: What's the release date?
Nomura: Winter.
Famitsu: Can you tell us something about the playable demo?
Kitase: It'll be packed with Musashiden. We are working very hard on it.
Naoi: VII's demo was from the opening, but VIII will be from a part of the game.
Kitase: Because it's a demo we had to choose the best part that shows FMV, battle, and field. There will also be a special demo-CD opening.
Famitsu: How much FMV will be used during the game?
Nomura: Like a movie, we don't plan and make the FMVs.
Kitase: We have to think what events will be appropriate for FMV.
Famitsu: How about mini-games?
Naoi: We can't answer that yet.
Kitase: The scenario is the most important so we will not needlessly include a minigame.
Famitsu: Please say some last words.
Naoi: I know that there is much anticipation surrounding the FMVs, but I am trying to make very good visuals outside the FMVs as well. So please look forward to those too.
Nomura: The screenshots are static so please look forward to the actual movement. I hope you will like the character designs.
Kitase: In VII, we were new at using CG, and that was very different from the previous Final Fantasy games, what with FMVs and polygons. This time, though, we have a lot of experience. I hope you will enjoy the drama and story.

[Interview translated by Sachi Coxon, taken from the June 5th issue of the Japanese magazine, Famitsu Weekly.]

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