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Tetsuya Nomura Talks Up Final Fantasy Versus XIII

Director shares lots of new details on Final Fantasy XIII sister project in Famitsu interview.

 
Noctis and Final Fantasy Versus XIII finally showed their true form in a trailer at Square Enix's 1st Production Department Premier event two weeks back. Now Tetsuya Nomura has filled in the details.

You've seen the recent Final Fantasy Versus XIII trailer. Now get some details on what you should be looking for straight from director Tetsuya Nomura himself.

Famitsu.com has posted a complete version of a Nomura interview that appeared in Weekly Famitsu last week. Nomura shared lots of intriguing new details on the long awaited Final Fantasy XIII sister project.

Much of the interview references the trailer, so you may want to view it here:

STORY AND CHARACTERS

The 1st Production Department Premier event trailer, which offered us our first true look at Versus XIII gameplay (ignoring the few seconds from the game's brief Tokyo Game Show trailer) was almost all in-game. The opening section, which showed Noctis and his driver driving down a freeway was CG (not live action footage, Famitsu confirmed), but everything from the conversation scene between Noctis and Stella was real time running on the PlayStation 3. This includes the flyby scene with the masses of buildings that precedes the combat part of the clip.

(Nomura didn't say this, but the end of the clip does appear to have a short CG sequence.)

The trailer, Famitsu noted, allows us to better get a grasp of the characters, as we get to first hear Noctis, and his allies. Furthermore, the ally clothing has been redone.

These areas appear to be final designs, although Nomura said that he's playing around with the hair a bit. Even the voices that you hear for the allies during the combat scenes is from final voice actors, chosen via auditions.

Regarding the voice actors, Nomura wouldn't confirm who they are, but he said some fans appear to have figured it out.

Nomura detailed a few of the character and story elements that were hinted at in the trailer.

Ignis, the ally with glasses and the only party member outside of Noctis whose name has been confirmed, was raised from childhood to be something akin to Noctis' military tactician. This is why his lines in the trailer sound like he's counseling Noctis. For the trailer, they selected scenes that would make the relationship between Noctis and Ignis clear.

As detailed in our summary of Dengeki's interview from last week (read it here!), Ignis and the scar-faced party member are childhood friends of Noctis. The blonde party member is a relatively new friend.

The story of Final Fantasy Versus XIII has the enemy kingdom of Niflheim invading Noctis' country, beginning an "escape drama" for Noctis and his friends. However, Noctis thinks of himself not as fleeing but as pursuing the enemy.

In the trailer, there's a scene (at the 2:09 mark) where we see Noctics' father, the king, saying to someone that he won't give up the throne and will be the final king. This dialogue is taken directly from the game, but it's actually used in a different scene. The identity of who the king is speaking to is a secret (it's not Noctis, as some thought at first).

Nomura also said that the throne the king is shown sitting in during that scene is different from the throne we see Noctis sitting in at the end of the trailer (around the 6:12 mark).

Noctis' father (foreground) in a confrontation with a mysterious white robed character.

During the trailer, there's a scene (at the 4:30 mark) set in a forest clearing in the evening showing someone walking towards the king. This scene looks like it's in first person. According to Nomura, this is an event scene that the player can control. The viewpoint is low because it's a scene from Noctis' youth.

Towards the end of the trailer (around the 6:00 mark) there's a scene showing Noctis' father in a standoff with a character in white robes. Famitsu noted that in a previous trailer, Noctis was seen in a standoff with a man in white robes. The two white robed men are different, Nomura said.

Both confrontations take place in the castle, but in different locations within the castle. The inside castle is being made large, said Nomura, and players will be able to move their character around in it.

Famitsu asked just one questions about the Fabula Nova Crystallis mythology. Will the l'Cie, who were depicted in Final Fantasy XIII as humans given the power to use magic and summons in exchange for being burdened with a mission, appear in Versus XIII? Nomura confirmed that as Versus XIII is based off the same mythology as FFXIII, the term l'Cie and other such terms will appear. However, going along with the modern look of the world, the language used in the conversation will also be modern. He didn't explain what this means precisely in terms of the use of the phrases.

BATTLE SYSTEM

Moving on to the battle system, Famitsu noted that the movement in the battle scenes looked faster than in the brief Tokyo Game Show trailer. As Nomura said in post-TGS Twitter updates, the TGS footage was actually slowed down to make it easier to see the motions. What we're seeing in the new trailer is the real deal as far as speed goes.

During combat, you an do all sorts of actions, like double jumps and so-forth. All the characters move with great speed.

Asked if the battle system is similar to Kingdom Hearts in that characters perform actions once you've selected commands, Nomura responded that it's close to that.

The icons and gauges we see in the battle scenes appear to be a mix of finalized and temporary. The commands are temporary (I'm not sure if Nomura is speaking about the names of the commands or just the way they're displayed). The gauges for HP and so-forth are final. They deleted the character names from the gauges shown in the lower right. All the screenshots you see of the game in magazines and at Famitsu.com also have the named removed.

There's an orange gauge to the right of the HP gauge. This is part of an original system for the game. Nomura did not elaborate.

The character faces above the HP and orange gauges are meant to be a window showing a closeup of the character's faces as they fight. This way, even if you're separated from a character, you can tell when he's having trouble.

One of the commands shown in the command palette is "SUMMON." Nomura confirmed that there will be summon elements in the game. As he's said in past interviews, he also confirmed that you'll be able to ride Magitek Armor mecha and Chocobos. He said we can think that all the familiar elements from the Final Fantasy series will be in the game.

Regarding magic, however, there's one major story-based consideration. All characters can use magic, but Noctis must be there. As part of the story setting, magic can be used because Noctis is there.

With this connection to Noctis, it does seem that magic will be tied closely to the story. But not in one way some might have speculated from past trailers. One of the earliest realtime scenes from the game (also shown in the latest trailer) showed Noctis and Stella speaking about the goddess Etro during a scene in the trailer (see details about the Fabula Nova Crystalls mythology here). They mention something about sharing the ability to see a certain "light." This power of light is different from the power of magic, said Nomura.

Versus XIII will have a job system -- but not for your player-controlled characters. Enemies come in such flavors as dragon knights and summoners. The dragon knight character seen doing some wild acrobatics through the air towards the end of the trailer (around the 5:43 mark) is a character from the enemy side (she's not Stella, as Nomura said in past interviews). She's part of a special group of people within the enemy army, and uses unconventional armor that differs from the army's standard issue.

As shown in the trailer, your party can have up to three members. The party members will initially be chosen for you as part of the story, in part because of tutorial considerations. As you advance in the game, you'll gain the ability to select your members. Howevr, Noctis is always a part of your party. In the Dengeki interview, Nomura said that if Noctis dies the game ends.

You're free to switch off between the three party members during battle. But this switching isn't necessary. You can play the game exclusively as Noctis if you like.

Each character has their own specialties, and they attack differently depending on the weapon. Nomura said that he wants players to discover their own strategy, as far as timing and situation goes, for switching between characters.

Noctis has access to a variety of weapons, like swords, axes, lances and guns. Looking at guns alone, you'll find such varieties as hand guns, machine guns, shot guns, rifles, bazookas and more. One area the development staff is placing a focus on is making the motions for when you use the various weapons look different.

Different from Noctis, the various party members outside will be able to use only certain weapons. Here's what the party members shown in the trailer can do:

Ignis
Specializes in support-style attacks. He's particularly strong with magic, but can also use throwable knives and other such weapons. The trailer also shows him wielding a katana blade.
Scarfaced Character
He'll fight bare handed and will also use large weapons like pile bunkers and broad swords.
Blonde Character
He's a gunner. Noctis can also also use guns of course, but when he does so he fires with auto aim. The blonde character, on the other hand, will display a targeting reticule, allowing you to aim for enemy weak points.

The blonde guys's aiming is particularly useful for larger monsters, who have weak points in various areas and can be targeted for positional damage.

Switching between weapons is part of the base action gameplay. For Noctis, you can go into the menu to set him with multiple weapons. These will automatically switch out as you fight. Depending on the weapons you've set, you'll get various combos.

One thing Versus XIII won't have is team-up attacks that has the three party members automatically group together for a super attack. However, Nomura noted that players can time their character switches to chain together multi-character attacks on their own. This can apparently be seen in the trailer, although Nomura said that most players probably might have not noticed it as it's super quick. Examples of using this system involve having Ignis use magic to send the enemy flying back, then switching out instantly to have another character come in for an attack.

FIELDS AND WORLDS

Final Fantasy Versus XIII will have a lot of freedom, Nomura noted. They're working on adding a variety of gimmicks. By "gimmick," Nomura means such things as how in the trailer we see a behemoth creature running to destroy an overhead walkway as Noctis crosses it (around the 4:25 mark, but the behemoth battle starts before this). If you don't make Noctis cross the bridge, the behemoth will not destroy it. These types of gimmicks are tough on the development side of things, noted Nomura.

Those behemoth beasts will be of different size depending on the situation. In the trailer scene, they made the creature big because the fight takes place amongst tall buildings and there wouldn't be as much impact if it was small. In the wild, the behemoths will be a bit smaller.

The city scene where Noctis is facing off against the behemoth is full of destroyable objects -- for instance, the trees and electricity poles. There's also a lot of interactivity, it seems. Following the sequence shown in the trailer, you'll end up fighting a behemoth on a three level freeway area. The road has been damaged, so you'll need to move around by jumping and so-forth. You can also make use of the buildings that line the road. The emergency stairwells of the buildings can can be entered and climbed to get to the roof, with Noctis pulling himself up to the very top via the air conditioner. Nomura was actually surprised to find this area when test playing the game.

With all the freedom, Nomura expects players to not be able to experience everything in one go.

The trailer shows just a section of the game's starting country -- that is, the kingdom ruled by Noctis' father. There are also other large kingdoms, and in between them you'll find villages. Even the villages are expansive. Nomura was once again surprised by the size when checking the game.

As indicated in the trailer, the fields have a day-night cycle. You'll encounter different beasts at different times of day. They sped up some of the time progression in the trailer to make it more easily seen.

OUR NEXT LOOK AT FF VERSUS XIII

Closing off the interview, Nomura hinted that there's still a lot that we haven't seen from Versus XIII. There will be character growth systems and other exclusive systems in the game, none of which is visible in the trailer.

The next time we can expect to see more of Versus XIII is at E3, which takes place June 7 to 9 in Los Angeles. However, an E3 showing has yet to be finalized, Nomura said.

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