Hiroki Chiba Interview @ PAX West 2016
Hiroki Chiba began his career at Square Enix in 1993, where he assisted in the creation of FINAL FANTASY VI. He was also the Event Planner on the CHRONO TRIGGER and FINAL FANTASY series. After working on the development of the character Vincent from FINAL FANTASY VII, Chiba became the Scenario Writer and Event Director for DIRGE of CERBERUS -FINAL FANTASY VII-. Additionally, he has worked on the event scenes and the scenario for titles including FINAL FANTASY VII, FINAL FANTASY VIII, FINAL FANTASY X, FINAL FANTASY TYPE-0 and LIGHTNING RETURNS: FINAL FANTASY XIII. Since then, Chiba has continued to work on the overall direction and scenarios for many titles.
During PAX West 2016, we got the chance to sit down and speak with director Hiroki Chiba about his latest game: World of Final Fantasy.
Chiba: The World of Final Fantasy was first kicked off because we were celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Final Fantasy Franchise, and we wanted to sort of reintroduce the goodness of the Final Fantasy games to a younger audience, a new audience and we were trying to come up with an idea and that’s when Mr. Shinji Hashimoto, the producer of the game approached me. I went to Mr. Yasuhisa Izumi-san who helped design the smaller lilican characters and Mr. Izumi-san came up with some sketches of these characters and took those designs and showed them to Hashimoto and Mr. Tetsuya Nomura. They decided that’s when they could sort of take this as a starting point to create a new Final Fantasy IP.
Chiba: In terms of the content we wanted to make sure we brought out that sort of Final Fantasy-ness in terms of the feel of the gameplay as well as the volume of the gameplay. So, we kept that in mind, but at the same time we wanted to introduce Final Fantasy to new players and for them to enjoy the game as well. So it’s like nostalgic, but new. So, we can have our new players who can enjoy it, but also our long time fans as well. There are different monsters that appear. There is over 200 of those that player can potentially capture and add to their ally.
Chiba: Our protagonist can actually switch between our small size and large size. This is not just a visual aspect, but it actually ties into the gameplay mechanics in different aspects like in the battle and in the field and the player can actually toggle between the small and large size while they are traversing in the field. So, when our characters are in their large form or we call them giants, they are able to stack the little monsters on their head and when they are in the smaller form the lilican form, there able to mount some of the larger monsters. So, you have a tower that you set up in your party. Depending on what monsters you include in that tower combination, that sort of allows you to utilize different abilities and the stats would change as well.
T-ONO: What has your impression of PAX West been so far? Have there been any memorable moments?
Chiba: Yes, I did get a chance to walk around, this is actually my first time at PAX and actually my first time in Seattle. I got to see the show floor and I saw that the players were so excited and so passionate about games and I feel like I was able to sense that first hand the fans passion and I myself love video games. So, it’s really great to be amongst those people who are excited about games and it’s a lot fun.
T-ONO: Are there any specific games that you are playing right now that may have inspired you in any way?
So, because I have played so many various games, my mind is kind of scattered across many different games. So, I can’t really pinpoint on one specific one, but I definitely love the new games that come out and I am interested in many different types of games. That being said, do those games affect the way I approach game design? Again, I can’t pinpoint on a specific game, but definitely as I am playing the games and as I am enjoying certain elements of it I’m sure it sort of gets en grained in me and I think to myself, well how do I incorporate this into what I do and how do I make it interesting. So, I think that the kind of thought process that goes behind there, but in World of Final Fantasy we definitely wanted this to be something that brand new players can enjoy and experience as a new IP, but at the same time take care of the long time fans as well with the nostalgic elements kind of fuzed in together with the new elements as a sort of brand new package. So, if I were to say if any games have inspired me for my game creation? I believe all Final Fantasy games have been some sort of inspiration to me.
TONO: So, we are really close to the release of World of Final Fantasy. There has been many trailers shown and demo’s featured at Gamescom and here at PAX West. What’s the fan reaction been to what you have shown and are you optimistic that people are going to receive it well?
Chiba: If I were asked am I optimistic for the release? You could never be sure with the title of course. So, with any title I can’t say for certain I am optimistic for the result, but that being said the creators that worked on this game are all either fans of Final Fantasy or people who have worked with the franchise in the past and we all love the game and we all love Final Fantasy and we all packed in as much love into that game as possible. So, we really put a lot of effort to creating the game and I have also noticed that certain people are a little taken back by the visual aspect. Some might not sort of like the cute sort of art style, but I urge you try the game anyway. I’ve heard people that have been hesitant because of the looks, but once they got into the game they realize it’s actually really quite in depth and there is that really sort of substantial feel comparable to that of a numbered title. I encourage people to try it out.
T-ONO: Personally I enjoyed the chibi-art style of the game. What was the inspiration behind this?
Chiba: So, with every Final Fantasy and I think this can be said especially for numbered titles, we always want to push the limits on technology and with the advancement of our hardware and graphic depictions, visually we’ve been trying to push the envelope and see how photo realistic we can get, but for World of Final Fantasy we did try to keep in mind and consider the younger audience and the younger generation who may be more receptive to the cute art style, that’s something that might be appealing to our younger generation. So, when I approached Izumisawa and when we came up with some of the concepts sketches, that’s the direction we took in the cute lilican design, but not only that. We definitely wanted to pay our respects to the classic Final Fantasy. If you recall some of the Super Famicom or Super Nintendo era Final Fantasy games, you see the sketches where the character’s head is big and the body is small. That kind of depiction was the inspiration for Izumisawa’s design. So, we feel that his iteration of the lilican art style embodied that sort of new feeling, but also something that long time fans would find recognizable and it’s a really good match, though I feel that we have arrived to a really good solution in that look and design.
TONO: One of the great things about the Final Fantasy series is the different types of monsters they have. So, with World of Final Fantasy having over 200 different mirages which one was your favorite?
Chiba: So, of course amongst these mirages, we do have familiar monsters from previous Final Fantasy titles, but we also have many new mirages that are introduced in World of Final Fantasy and of course I do have different favorites and I do love all my mirages, but I would have to say while working with Izumisawa and the different staff members, we worked really hard and put in a lot of effort to create Tama, the white fox looking one with the big ears and the big tail and then Seraphi, the pink hair kind of fairy looking girl. Those two are definitely two that we put a lot of effort and struggled to create. So, we definitely love those two a lot. There are personal favorites that I have and kind of utilizing my powers as a scenario writer, I have made them have talking parts or I kinda made them apparent that they are my personal favorites. There’s a Cactaur and a Tonberry with speaking parts.
TONO: Can you tell us more about the characters Reynn and Lann?
Chiba: Reynn and Lann are twins. Reynn, being slightly older I mean they’re twins, but Reynn tends to want to say “why don’t you call me big sister” when she wants to be referred to as the older one and then Lann, the younger brother who’s a little bit ditzy, so to speak. So, their interactions during their adventure is something that’s very fun and interesting, but those two wake up in a town called Nine Wood Hills. They are in their Jiant form as we refer to it in their larger size and they realize they have amnesia. They do not know who they are, where they come from, and who their parents are. So, they are prompted to go into the world of Grymoire to find out about who they and what their past is.
TONO: Are there any plans for DLC? Could we possibly see any type of collaboration DLC from any future Final Fantasy titles?
Chiba: In terms of DLC, especially post launch, there’s nothing decided or it’s all TBD, but with that being said, we do have a day one edition of the game. It will come with Sephiroth champion as well as three additional mirages and those are technically considered downloadable content, but game system wise, it is setup so that future DLC could be added. So, we would like to see the reception from the fans to see how well this title is received and if there are demands from the fans on particular collaborations or characters. We would love to hear feedback and sort of see where it would go from there.
TONO: Lastly, Do you have any message to say to our American Fans?
Chiba: World of Final Fantasy is a game that we feel people who’ve never played Final Fantasy before can enjoy, but at the same time long time fans would be able to sort of re-experience and get a brand new look on their favorite characters and franchise as well. We feel that we’ve put in the effort to be able to cater to booth fans of the spectrum so that we don’t go against any sort of expectations. We believe that this is a title that any Final Fantasy fan of Final Fantasy or RPG fans would be able to enjoy. So, we encourage people to take it in their hands and try it out.