Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions – 2007 Interview

FFT: War of the Lions – 2007 Developer Interview

This Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions interview was originally printed in Square-Enix’s Official Complete Guide. As one might expect, it focuses almost entirely on the additions to the PSP version, especially the new movies, jobs, and link play features. The team, who were all huge fans of the original, comes across as exceedingly thoughtful in the integration of their new features.

Akitoshi Kawazu – Exec. Producer
Takamasa Shiba – Producer
Shingo Kosuge – Co-Producer

—When did the development of the PSP version of FFT begin?

Kawazu: Let’s see… when exactly were we working on Valkyrie Profile: Lennus, again?

Shiba: That was released in March 2006. So probably, around the end of 2005.

Kawazu: That’s right. I believe the first discussions of FFT came on the heels of VP:Lennus. Once that port was looking good, we started to discuss what we should do next.

Shiba: And when we took into consideration the demographics of your average PSP user, and the timing of the release window, we decided to do FFT.

—Was the idea to add bonus content to FFT something you had in mind from the beginning, then?

Kawazu: Yeah. We wanted to add as much as was possible. The PSP has wireless connectivity, of course, so we knew we’d have to do something with that—without unbalancing the game, of course.

—When the idea of porting FFT first came up, what were your initial feelings?

Kawazu: I was somewhat worried about whether we’d be able to fit the massive amount of content of the Playstation version onto a UMD. (laughs) Also, to be honest, I was very skeptical about the idea of playing such a lengthy game on a handheld, where you’d have to keep holding the PSP in your hands for extended periods…

—There’s more than 100 hours of playtime in FFT, easily, if you really get into it.

Kawazu: Yeah. How many times are you gonna need to charge your PSP battery, you know? (laughs)

Shiba: I’d been a passionate fan of FFT since before I joined Square. So when I heard about the port, my feelings were conflicted: on the one hand, I was happy to be working on a series I personally loved, but on the other, I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate to add new content to the original like this. That was the big challenge for me, to create an FFT port that would satisfy both my older self (as a player) and my current self (as an employee of Square).

Akitoshi Kawazu

Kosuge: Being such a huge game, we tried to think of what more you could possibly add to it. Aside from the planned wireless connectivity, what else would players be happy to see? Magic, abilities, jobs… the original is already chock full of options there, and the same could be said about the sheer volume of text and dialogue as well. What could we even change…? The question vexed us, truly.

Shiba: Kosuge was chosen for this project because he said FFT was his favorite game. (laughs)

—You must have been very excited to have been chosen then!

Kosuge: I would say it was more “fear” than “excitement”. Throughout the development I felt anxious about whether we could meet the expectations of fans.

—In what ways did you try to address the needs of both long-time fans of the original and brand-new players?

Kawazu: Our basic premise was to not mess with the original’s game balance in any major way. Two elements that we could include along those lines were the extra movies and the wireless connectivity. The link missions and item trading from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance had been well-received, so we wanted players to enjoy that here too. To be honest with you, though, I was worried about how players would react to the movies.

—The movies lend a nice fresh touch to the game.

Shiba: With any PSP port we do, we take care to ensure the mood, vision, and world of the original are not harmed in any way. That said, a barebones port wouldn’t be very interesting either. In that sense stuff like the versus battles allow players who want more to go deeper, while the movies are there to supplement and strengthen that original vision.

—There’s a lot to sink your teeth into with FFT, especially compared with most games coming out now.

Kawazu: I think there’s room for dense, challenging games like FFT today, provided that density isn’t premised on a frustrating level of difficulty.

—For this remake, you’ve added the Onion Knight and Dark Knight jobs. Why did you decide to include them?

Shiba: For the Dark Knight, I remember I was the one who wanted to add him. As a fan of the Final Fantasy series, I think it’s the coolest job, and the one I most wanted to play as. With the Onion Knight there was certainly some influence from the recent FFIII DS release, but we also wanted to add some classic Final Fantasy flavor.

Kosuge: Originally were thinking about adding the Red Mage, Blue Mage, and other jobs too. (laughs)

Shiba: Yeah, but the problem, of course, is that if you add too many jobs it breaks the game balance. Out of all the candidates, we had the best feeling about these two. I think they most fulfilled our twin criteria of, what job do I really want to play as? and how does it stand out from all the other jobs?

Akihiko Yoshida’s illustrations for the new jobs. As he explains below, the Dark Knight used Cecil as a reference (with other things mixed in), and the Onion Knight was more-or-less carried over from FFIII DS.

—The Dark Knight job has a different personality from the others though, doesn’t it?

Kosuge: The Playstation version didn’t really have a self-sacrificing type of character.1

Shiba: With the Dark Knight it feels great to get the enemies all bundled up and then destroy them. His skills like Sanguine Blade are also quite easy for beginners to use. We really hope players try him out.

Kosuge: We created the new job abilities with the player-vs-player features in mind, to bring some diversity and variety to those battles. We didn’t want the Dark Knight to just be able to dominate every battle with area-of-effect attacks, and make every fight straightforward and boring. For the Onion Knight, they can equip gear that gives them permanent haste and regen, so I think there’s lots of room for different tactics in the PVP.

—How do you like the illustrations for the new jobs?

Shiba: The Dark Knight is great! I especially like the female model. It fits into our modern design while still retaining that classical Final Fantasy charm. Likewise with the Onion Knight. That fine balance of old and new is all owed to the talents Akihiko Yoshida.

—You mentioned wanting to add link play features from the outset. FFT:WotL has both a PVP battle mode and the Colosseum, but how did you end up making two modes?

Kawazu: Adding some kind of link play was basically a given, so the PVP mode was an obvious addition, and we also decided right away that some kind of co-op would be nice. I’ve heard people complaining that the co-op battles are too hard and they die instantly, but that level of difficulty wasn’t really set by our team. (laughs)

Kosuge: Leveling up your jobs and getting new abilities is what makes FFT so fun, but if you grind too much in the early part of the game, it can make the later fights, even the boss fights, completely trivial. In random battles the enemies scale with your level, so those fights can stil be satisfying, but the story battles are fixed and you never really get a chance to unleash your characters’ strength and test their full mettle. For that reason, we’ve prepared some very challenging co-op battles for those players who have invested a lot of time levelling up their party.

Co-Producer Kosuge Shingo (L) and Producer Shiba Takamasa (R).

—For the PVP battles, do you feel there are any “must-have” abilities that should always be equipped?

Kosuge: Awhile back we did some PVP battles here as part of our testing. I prepared a full party of ninjas, but the other team had a Time Mage and they just caste Hastega. I was winning in the beginning but once Hastega was cast my speed advantage was neutralized. In the Playstation version the Ninjas are possibly the strongest class (excluding Calculators), but we got destroyed in this fight.

Shiba: I don’t think there’s a “strongest job” for the link play PVP. I think party formation for PVP battles is kind of like building a deck in a card game. Maybe casting Hastega every battle might be the exception?

Kosuge: Yeah, just to give you more turns. But if the enemy casts it too, then it cancels out and returns to being about who has the better tactics. You’ll still need to strategize and think ahead.

—You banned Calculators from the PVP mode, right?

Kosuge: If we allowed calculators, party formation would always have to start from the question of “how can I avoid the calculators’ abilities?”, which would be annoying. As a variation or option I think it would be ok though.

Kawazu: Yeah, it would be rough if all your guys are at the same level and because of that you have no chance to win. Not being able to PVP just because your characters are at a divisible level (and thus vulnerable to Calculator skills) would suck.

Shiba: It’d be a fight without subtlety, or “wabi sabi”, if you will. (laughs)

—The link play mode also includes new items as rewards. Are there any you recommend to players specifically?

Kosuge: Well, it’s not something you can get through link play, but maybe the Tinker Rouge (Tynar Rouge) accessory, which you can get in Agrias’ new event. I shouldn’t say this here, but it originally appears in a different game. We weren’t trying to say that game and FFT are connected or anything though, it was just something we added for fun.

—It’s really hard to trigger the new event!

Kosuge: It would kind of suck the fun out of it, if it were too easy to solve. But there’s a lot of people who pour hours into FFT (beyond the main quest), so we figured those players would find it naturally enough in the course of their runs.

Storyboard for the church confrontation scene between Delita and Ramza, which Shiba explains below is his favorite movie scene.

—The movies have a very distinctive, unique touch to them. Why did you decide on this particular aesthetic?

Shiba: I liked Yoshida’s drawings, and thought it would look cool to see them animated. That was the main reason. The other reason was that I had my first experience creating animated movies for “Dragon Quest: Young Yangus and the Mysterious Dungeon.” I was initially worried whether animating Akira Toriyama’s art would look good, but it turned out quite pretty. So this time around, I wanted to see how it would look to animate taller, more naturally proportioned figures like Yoshida’s.

Kawazu: For my part, I thought the movies on Yangus were very well done, so when Shiba came to me asking to do the same for FFT, I gave the OK. The FFT:WotL movies lend a different flavor and atmosphere to the story, distinct from the pixel art of the original, I think. I knew it wouldn’t be easy converting Yoshida’s art to animation though, so I was worried how it would actually turn out. (laughs) But Yoshida himself said let’s do it, so… (laughs)

—You’ve created over 10 movies, but how did you decide which scenes to use?

Shiba: Our whole team is made of core FFT fans, so we discussed it together. As it turned out, we were almost entirely on the same page, when it came to which scenes we were enthusiastic about. (laughs) Seriously though, I think it was like 90% the same for everyone.

Kosuge: Ramza and Delita were the obvious ones, then there’s scenes with Agrias and the new characters. We decided on those first. There’s a lot of other great cool scenes worth animating, but somehow everyone picked the same ones—it’s still a mystery to me today.

—Can you explain why you chose not to include voice acting for the movies?

Kosuge: People who played the Playstation version have their own images of Delita and Ramza, so we felt no need to interject our vision of the characters’ voices there. It’s probably fine to let players continue to imagine them in their head I thought.

Shiba: In the beginning, we had planned to add them. It’s easy to do on the PSP, but once we came up with the idea of having subtitles (of the most important lines) in the black space beneath the movies, we then realized voices weren’t really necessary.

Kosuge: FFT was made for the Playstation and has that hardware’s level of presentation, so we were concerned that if we added voices just to these movies scenes, the rest of the game would feel barren by comparison. We wanted it to feel like a smooth transition coming in-and-out of the movies, so we decided against it.

—What would you say was the hardest part of creating the movies scenes?

Shiba: The big challenge for me was finding other ways to express feeling without voices. In their place, we tried to convey emotion by having clothing make different sounds, and environmental sounds that dynamically change in volume. I know a lot of people use headphones with their PSP, so hopefully that all comes through.

Storyboard for the memorable scene between Delita and Ovelia, who seems to have been a favorite among the staff (or Yoshida and Kosuge, at least).

Kosuge: For me, it was finding out how to convey emotion. We had Yoshida’s plain, unanimated pictures to work with, so we had to figure out how to make the characters cry, how their mouths should open, things like that. There’s the scene where Delita and Ovelia embrace, and Ovelia starts crying. I worked really hard on those tears. I wanted to make sure it wouldn’t look unnatural when she cried.

Shiba: I remember you were working on that foreverrrr.

Kosuge: Yeah, it took ages. I re-did them over and over. But when I finally got it right, it was hugely satisfying.

Shiba: That’s an amazing level of care you showed to Ovelia there. (laughs) Perhaps you feel the same as Delita did…?

Kosuge: Perhaps. (laughs)

—Which movie scenes are your favorite, Shiba?

Shiba: Me? Hmm… the church scene maybe. The one that’s almost 4 minutes, and mostly just dialogue. It’s a confrontation between Ramza and Delita’s worldviews, and a snapshot in miniature of the entire game’s themes. We did a lot of storyboarding for this scene too. It’s important for what comes in the latter half of the game, and it offered a good challenge to us as creators, to try and perfect the art of the “talking-only” movie scene. I think our efforts paid off though. We did a lot there, now that I think about it.

Kosuge: We did, yeah. Lots of little details, like the way the flickering of the candles will change according to the emotions of the characters.

—You also added a number of new scenes featuring Delita, which weren’t in the original. What was your intent there?

Kosuge: In the PSX version, Delita’s actions and whereabouts aren’t shown after the third chapter. The main story progresses from Ramza’s point-of-view, but in the true history of The War of The Lions, Delita is talked about as a hero, and there were a few places where I thought we could try and express that a little more. So we added those scenes which tell you something about what he was doing then, but without destroying the atmosphere of the original story. And of course, simply wanting to convey more of Delita’s emotions was another reason.

—Similarly, there’s some additional event scenes with Beowulf and Reis… what about those?

Shiba: Our director, as well as our younger staff, are all huge fans of FFT… but some of their favorite characters didn’t get any “close-up” scenes in the original.

Kosuge: The backstory has some notes about a romance long ago between Beowulf and Reis, but the story doesn’t go any further into it. That was something the developers were very enthusiastic about adding, and it resulted in the scenes you see here.

—Can you explain the new subtitle “War of the Lions”? Does it possibly mean you’re planning to tell more stories from Ivalice…?

Kosuge: In FFT, there’s reference to other conflicts like the Fifty Years War, but this game is all about The War of the Lions, so we went with that subtitle. Also, in keeping with our ambitions for the newly added features, it’s partly in reference to the new PVP link battles between friends, hence “War of the Lions”… it fits nicely doesn’t it!

Kawazu: I didn’t know it had that meaning. (laughs)

—And what about the guest characters like Luso and Balthier, why did you add them?

Kawazu: Well, it’s kind of a given, you know, adding these kinds of things to a re-release. It’s fun, and FFT already has a story, so they’re just a little extra bonus. Of course, there’s also the timing of FFT:A2’s release, which we wanted to do something for if possible.

—FFT:A2 isn’t out yet, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a main character get released as a guest character before his own game like this.

Kawazu: (laughs) It wasn’t easy but I’m glad we did it!

—By the same token, does this mean we’ll see Ramza and Delita appear as guests in future games…?

Kawazu: Well, they’re historical figures of Ivalice, so it would be hard to include them elsewhere.

—Doesn’t Ramza disappear from history at the end, also?

Kawazu: He does. If we can think of a way to present him in another game, maybe we will. So long as it can be done without angering the fans. (laughs)

The cover illustration that Yoshida describes below, titled “The Outbreak of War.” Now I can’t unsee the White Mage’s missing rod…!

—Do you have any secret stories from the development that you can share now that everything is done?

Kosuge: I had really wanted to include Heavenly Knight (Ramza’s father Balbanes’ class) as a job. Ramza is a Squire with no other inherent job class. And Heavenly Knight would have been cool as a sort of “ultimate swordsman” too. We tried several times to add him. But not being sure on what weapons and abilities he would use, we gave up.

—Please give a final message for the readers.

Kawazu: Well, your hands may get numb if you hold the PSP for too long… (laughs) but I hope you take your time enjoying the game.

Shiba: You’re probably familiar with the solitary joy of slowly leveling your characters, but playing FFT with your friends will bring a whole new dimension of fun. The PSP has become a great console for head-to-head and co-op play, so I think it’s a perfect fit. I hope you have fun!

Kosuge: I think the link play battles are so fun. Everyone can have their own uniquely formed parties. Playing indoors by yourself is fine, of course, but I think if you go outside and try a few games with friends I think you’ll love it. We put a great deal of care into the world of FFT too. Each of the Ivalice Alliance games has their own distinct identity and I hope you enjoy exploring them all.

Akihiko Yoshida – Illustrator Interview

originally featured in the FFT:WotL perfect guide

—What is the name of this picture?

Yoshida: Kaisen. (The Outbreak of War)

—As the package illustration, what were some things you paid attention to?

Yoshida: I wanted it to give a fresh impression to those who had experienced FFT ten years ago, so I tried to give it a background and setting that players had never seen in the original.

—I see the Time Mage, Oracle, Geomancer, White Mage, Black Mage… why so many magic users?

Yoshida: Yeah, I guess there are a lot, now that you mention it. In the rough drafts I had more characters sketched in, but I got tired of drawing so many so I reduced their number in the final version. It’s just by chance that these remained. (laughs)

—A lot of games will feature the protagonists most prominently; what made you go for an ensemble cast illustration here?

Yoshida: The truth is, I didn’t originally intend for this to be used as the cover illustration. I couldn’t come up with a good layout design that would fit the dimensions of both the PSP cart and our promotional posters, so the original plan was to use a plain white background with the game logo for the cover, and use this illustration for posters. It grieved me a bit to see Ramza’s lower torso cut off on the game cover, but it worked out ok in the end. It ends up making Agrias stand out more than Ramza though. (laughs)

—What are some of the key points you observe when arranging a big ensemble cast illustration like this?

Yoshida: The color balance, I’d say. The schedule was very tight this time and I was working right up to the deadline, and because of that I unfortunately discovered a number of mistakes, like places I forgot to add coloring, after it was submitted.

—Which characters and/or jobs do you like in this illustration?

Yoshida: The White Mage. I gave her a new robe design specifically for the pose here. Actually, she’s supposed to be holding a rod in her left hand, but I forgot to add it. (laughs)

Akihiko Yoshida

—The Dark Knight feels like the familiar Black Mage but with armor. Why did you draw the face that way?

Yoshida: I used Cecil from FFIV as my reference, but I mixed in a lot of other things.

—Fully clad in armor, it’s a bit difficult to distinguish between the male and female Dark Knight, but did you have the idea for the braids and skirt when you first started drawing?

Yoshida: No, I’ve been using skirts and braids like that for a long time.

—What are your favorite parts of the Dark Knight design?

Yoshida: I feel that the pose, or the silhouette, of the characters came out quite nicely, for both male and female.

—How about the Onion Knight? What were some things you heeded when drawing them?

Yoshida: The key point was that their helmet look onion-ish. I had just finished drawing the Onion Knights for the DS version of FFIII, and I tried to carry that over pretty much as-is.

—What parts of the design do you like?

Yoshida: Their sleepy eyes.

—What was the hardest part of drawing these new jobs?

Yoshida: Getting things like the proportions and the creases and shadows in the clothing to match my older style of drawing. Well, actually I gave up trying to make them match.

—How did you feel when you first saw the movies?

Yoshida: I was speechless! I immediately loved them. This goes for the hand-drawn styling as well, but I was very surprised at how closely the 3D modeling matched my vision.

—What’s your favorite movie scene?

Yoshida: All of the scenes with Ovelia.

Akihiko Yoshida: “The title of this illustration is ‘想い’ (‘Omoi’, Feeling). I was thinking about that scene towards the end with Delita and Ovelia. That was just a bit inspiration though—I created it as a totally imaginary scene.”

—How did you go about designing the characters in the original game?

Yoshida: It’s tough for me to remember what I was thinking 10 years ago. I do remember being aware that my drawings would be ultimately rendered in pixel art, and making sure the arrangement and color composition would facilitate that.

—I know it’s been over 10 years, but do you remember any of the travails and hardships you faced doing those illustrations?

Yoshida: I’m sorry, it was over a decade ago. I’ve forgotten. (laughs)

—Looking back now, how do you feel about the original Playstation illustrations?

Yoshida: When I look at them now, there’s lots of things I see that I’d like to fix and redraw. But I also see the effort and detail in them and can’t help but admire how hard 10-years-younger-Yoshida was working then, too.

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  1. This is probably a reference to his support ability, Vehemence, which increases both the damage you deal and the damage you receive.

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