Features & News

Interview: Adrian Arnese (Final Fantasy Brand Manager)

November 2, 2011, Author: Ray Willmott

Some games should never have a series. Some aren’t even worth pushing past the initial instalment. Yet there are some that continue to churn out quality titles years down the line, spanning generations and platforms.

Whether you love or hate it, Final Fantasy has continued to move with the times, reinventing itself at almost every interval, yet rarely creating direct sequels to the standout titles which have continued to define it. So, on the rare occasion Square Enix allow a direct sequel to a Final Fantasy game; it’s definitely going to create a lot of buzz.

Yet, it’s with mixed emotions we come to FFXIII-2, since FFXIII, from a critical standpoint, is one of the worst received games in the series. Speaking with the European Brand Manager for Final Fantasy, Adrian Arnese, at Eurogamer, James O’Leary and I found out exactly why Square were inspired to work on FFXIII-2 and why we should be excited this time around.

RW: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

“My pleasure”

RW: You’ve been very selective about which Final Fantasy games you create direct sequels to, with only FFX-2 appearing prior to this. Why have you chosen to create a sequel to FFXIII? What inspired this decision?

“From a creative point of view, the team working on FFXIII felt that there was such a rich universe available for them to tap into. You may be aware of the Fabula Nova Crystallis Mythology which underpins FFXIII, FF Versus-XIII and FF-Type-0. This is pretty deep and packed with material. So, because of this, because of the great characters, and a lot of the fan feedback we received wanting more of Lightning, Snow and the others, wanting to know what happened next, we decided to push forward with Final Fantasy XIII-2.

Certainly, there is a strong business incentive to creating Final Fantasy XIII-2. Final Fantasy XIII sold 6 million copies worldwide. As such, there is already a large user base available to us for a sequel. Also, with many of the leads who worked on Final Fantasy X and X-2 being associated with the game, such as the director, game animator, producer and so forth, there is a lot of motivation within the team for them to work on a sequel.

That said, before completing Final Fantasy XIII, there was no set-plan to create a sequel, but with a combination of the mythology, the game’s success rate, and the production pedigree of Final Fantasy XIII, there seemed to be a lot of reasons for them to move forward with one.”

RW: I’ve had a chance to try FFXIII-2 on the show floor, and while this and FFXIII have a very similar feel, I’ve noticed several big changes between them. One of the key changes is that characters are now able to jump while traversing the world. This is something very new for the series. Can you tell us a bit more about why this has been included?

“There were several underlying themes in the design of FFXIII-2. Two of the keywords which drove development of game were freedom and choice. There are many ways in which you can explore in FFXIII-2 and how the game delivers that for the player. One of these is the ability to jump, which will allow the player to explore the world in greater detail, and gives the player more control over their surroundings. We wanted the player to see the world in new ways, enabling them to find cool new items and explore the scenery as never before.”

RW: Another notable change is the addition of Quick-Time-Events to cut-scenes, which will definitely be a surprise for some old-school Final Fantasy fans. Do these events happen throughout the game?

“There are events which appear during key big cinematic sequences that will add another level of variety to the gameplay. One of the key things about Final Fantasy is that it’s like a chocolate box of different gameplay experiences, and we, the team, wanted to explore that further with FFXIII-2, and one of the ways to do that was to let the player interact with and control their battles. We wanted the whole experience to be interactive, and fortunately, we had a team of very talented artists within the studio who have created some awesome looking cinematography and visual effects.”

Yay! Lightning is back, but unfortunately so is Vanille...

J’OL: I actually wanted to compliment you on the visual effects. I think they’re good, if not better visuals than in FFXIII. That brings me onto my question. When considering the hardware of both 360 and PS3 and the differences between them, is it difficult for the developers to get that right balance, so one console doesn’t have to sacrifice some of the quality?

“Without being a member of the team who works on the programming day-to-day, I couldn’t honestly say how difficult it is. What I do know is that the team are working as hard as they possibly can to deliver equal experiences to players on either Xbox 360 or Playstation 3. We understand that there are multiple technical challenges on the way, and, as you rightly say, the hardware of both machines is different, but I think the team have done an excellent job in keeping the game equally designed between the two formats. There is a lot of hard work being done behind the scenes.”

J’OL: One of the major points to make about FFXIII is its length, as the game is very large. Would you say that XIII-2 is of comparable length to XIII?

“We think FFXIII-2 is of comparable length to FFXIII. Obviously, this will depend on the player. Some may finish it quicker, some may finish it slower. One of the key things to mention about FFXIII-2 is that we’ve really tried to encourage multiple playthroughs, and replays of the game.

There’s a New Game Plus type of system, and the historia crux system which allows for time travel. These systems provide opportunities for the player to see various different endings, experience different events and pick up new items. There is a lot of content for people to get their teeth into. This is definitely not just an add-on; this a fully fleshed out sequel.”

RW: You’ve obviously got FFXIII-2 coming out, but can you talk a bit more about the other games coming from the XIII universe, whether you’ve announced them or ones you may not have announced as yet? Can we expect more from this universe?

“We haven’t announced any plans for any future products that may, or may not, use the mythology of FFXIII, aside from FFXIII- Versus and Type Zero. For now, the team are working hard on FFXIII-2 and focusing all of their efforts and energy on that product. Depending on the success of FFXIII-2 and many other factors, such as team availability, it’s something we may consider. However, at this time, we’re not in a place where we can confirm anything other than that.”

J’OL: Do you have any planned DLC for FFXIII-2? Can you tell us a bit about that?

“We do plan to release DLC for FFXIII-2. We recently made a formal announcement regarding that at the Tokyo Game Show. At the moment, we’re still working on details and schedules, and so, for the time being, it is impossible for me to go into details. However, we can confirm that it is coming, outside of what is already a very full box. We recognise that fans want more content once they’ve finished their game, and we are in a position to provide that.”

RW: Switching back to FFX for a moment, Square have recently announced a remake for Final Fantasy X for Vita and Playstation 3. I wanted to ask you if that will that be a direct port, or will you be adding new features such as more Blitzball, or updated visuals?

“We’re not in a position to talk about that as this re-release is not confirmed for release in Europe, and we have no comment on whether we’re going to release it in Europe. However, if we get any more information, we will share this with you.”

J’OL: Enjoy the rest of your weekend.
RW: Thank you very much for your time.

“My pleasure. Enjoy the weekend, guys.”