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Final Fantasy XIII Devs Talk Battle System

Find out what Kitase and Toriyama have to say one week ahead of FFXIII's big release.

Expect to spend lots of time with the battle system for this latest FF game.

One day, we're going to look back with nostalgia on the Final Fantasy XIII developer interviews that periodically appeared in Famitsu. Today, the latest such interview hit with the latest Famitsu, now just one week before FFXIII sees release.

In the interview, producer Yoshinori Kitasei and director Motomu Toriyama discussed a few odds and ends about FFXIII's unique combat system, including roles, optimas, and summons.

The dialogue began with the very basics -- why use the term "role" instead of "job"? Toriyama explained that the essence of the role system differs from jobs in that here you're changing your character's role in battle. They thus decided to give the system the new "role" name.

Additionally, Toriyama added, each individual role has more extreme personalities than you'll find in past FF jobs, and so they did not want to make use of the names of current jobs.

Kitase noted that the borders between the roles are different from past jobs. For instance, an Attacker, as opposed to a Warrior class (Senshi), can fight with both swords and magic.

So why are there only six roles? Toriyama explained that when considering management of roles during battle, they narrowed down to these six. It may seem like few at a glance, but when you consider that each of the three battle party members can have a different role, you get a large number of Optimas combinations. He believes there is greater combat variation in FFXIII than in past FF titles.

While Toriyama touted the variations offered by giving each character a different role, you're actually a bit limited from the start. Initially, each character has access to just three roles. Work through the story, and the character will gain access to the other roles.

As the roles available to your characters increases, so too do your available Optimas, in order to match the newly available role groupings. The Famitsu interviewer suggested an example: if you have two characters with access to the Attacker role, and a third character unlocks the Attacker role, you'll gain the ability to use an optima that features three Attackers.

While Kitase said that this is the idea, he suggested that this particular grouping is not one that you'd actually use. You might use an Optima that consists of three Blasters, he said, but not one that consists of three Attackers.

The two shared their own patterns of Optima use.

Toriyama starts off his boss fights with a support type of Optima (an example would be a grouping of Attacker, Enhancer, and Jammer). Then, depending on the situation, he'll switch off to something else -- most often Rush Assault (an Attacker with two Blasters). When there are lots of enemies, he uses Defender.

Kitase said that his usage pattern mimics that of Toriyama. However, towards the second half of the game, as the enemies become stronger, he'll sometimes start off with support-style Optimas. He uses Defender when he thinks he's going to be pummeled by a powerful attack.

Toriayama also noted that most people will probably use the Rush Assault Optima. This was the initial Optima that was revealed for the game when the Optima system was first announced.

Outside of the role and Optima system, the interview touched upon the game's summon system. Different from past Final Fantasy games, FFXIII's summons are tied to individual characters. Each of the six main characters has a particular summon, which they can call out in battle.

Kitase explained the reasoning behind this as partially being due to story. They wanted to give the feeling of the character and summon being as one. So, they narrowed the number of summons and focused on just one per character. Driving mode, where the summon transforms into a vehicle and the character rides it, is also part of this desire to make the two seem like one unit.

The summons grow, both directly and indirectly. Their development as far as increasing HP goes, is tied in with your character's growth. Their finishing move level is tied with how much you use them.

The Tokyo Game Show demo was meant to show off the summon system, so it allowed players to summon all they wanted. In the final version, you'll be limited. Toriyama gave a rough figure of being able to call the summon once every ten battles, although this of course changes depending on play style.

While not directly related to battle, the two also discussed the game's recently unveiled mission system. As revealed a few weeks back, players can take on monster combat missions in Pulse by speaking to obelisks placed around the world.

Toriyama wouldn't give an exact figure for the number of missions, but did say that there are quite a few available. Some of the missions will put you against enemies that are stronger than the final boss! He said that those who work through the missions a good way and return to the story will feel that the last boss is weak.

The mission system is tied into the game's weapon upgrade system. To make a weapon reach its ultimate state, you'll have to build it up quite a considerable amount. In some cases, you'll be able to get the materials required to transform a weapon only by working through missions.

Outside of the interview, the magazine has a huge general article about FFXIII (in addition to a review, whose score is apparently causing a huge upspike in nerd rage). There are a bunch of little bits revealed in the mini interview blurbs in the gutters of the feature (Famitsu's FFXIII articles always have these):

FFXIII has support for Trophies. Players will be able to get all the Bronze Trophies just by working through the story. Gold will require special unspecified conditions.
Some Trophies make a "Special" option appear off the title screen. Click on the option, and you'll be able to download special Cross Media Bar themes. The conditions for getting these range form simple to difficult. The easiest, according to Toriyama, is one where you have to fight 100 of a certain type of enemy. Get this Trophy, and you'll gain access to a special theme for a certain character.
Toriyama revealed a connection between summons and roles. While you're free to change your character's role however you please, each character has a particular role which matches nicely with his or her summon. This special role is usually the role which the character specializes in from the start.
At any time (before reaching the battle result screen, of course) you're able to freely select to restart battle. Doing so takes you back to just before you encountered the enemy. You'll be able to change your equipment and Optima as you please before trying again. This works during Boss battles as well.
As with past FF games, battles in FFXIII progress in real time. The action will not stop even when you're selecting commands from the command menu. However, you can adjust speed in the config menu, Toriyama confirmed. The game offers two speeds: standard and slow.
Those who want to learn more about the game's background story, including such areas as Cocoon society, the fal'Cie, and Pulse, will be able to do so directly from the game by selecting an "Auto Clip" option from the main menu.

If you think FFXIII coverage is coming to an end now that the game is hitting retail next week, think again! In addition to the first of a series of FF books coming out on the 10th (that's today!), Famitsu promises not only a strategy guide next week, but more development commentary.

We'll probably be hearing about FFXIII long after its release.

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