Welcome to part VI of Iwata Asks featuring Akitoshi Kawazu from Square Enix. We’ve finally reached the final page! If you’re just finding this, you can start with part I here. I also have a translations page for more translation goodness! Now on with the show.
Iwata Asks – Final Fantasy: The Crystal Bearers
6. Getting People Unskilled at Action Games to the Ending
Iwata: We talked about how you kept people who might be watching in the living room in mind, but the person actually playing the Wii may also not be familiar with RPGs. How do you want to show the appeal of this game to those people?
Kawazu: There are quite a few people who just hear ‘Final Fantasy’ and think that sounds wild… But maybe a little too wild for me. They also say things like it seems a little difficult, but it’s not like you’re going to be programming. (laughs)
Iwata: That’s definitely true. You’re not programming. You’re playing. (laughs)
Kawazu: I think there are a lot of people who just play Wii Fit or just play Wii Sports. With the Wii, there are a lot of ways to play so…
Iwata: That’s something I also want to convey. You went through the trouble of getting a Wii so just playing Wii Sports and Wii Fit is wasteful. (laughs)
Kawazu: Yeah, it is wasteful. (laughing) So with this title, we want people to know that there are various types of games. What we’ve done with Final Fantasy is depict drama through games. For example, going to the theater and enjoying the story or going to see a musical, we want people to know that type of experience can be enjoyed on the Wii as well.
Iwata: You can enjoy extravagant cutscenes along with interactive action.
Kawazu: That’s right. By powering on the Wii, you can enjoy fitness with Wii Fit, the sensation of bowling with Wii Sports, and we want people to taste something a little different through the extraordinary events depicted in this game.
Iwata: You’re saying that by powering on the Wii, you can go enter grand adventures and fantasy worlds, right?
Iwata: On the other hand, there are also FF fans who have been with the series since you started working on it. How do you want to introduce this title to those fans?
Kawazu: For longtime FF fans, we made an FF game that presents itself in a new way so while you may not think it’s your cup of tea, please give it a try because I think you’ll like it.
Iwata: You’re telling people this new way of expressing Final Fantasy that you challenged yourself to make may not be their cup of tea… But to your fans, that’s a good thing (laughs). From the start, the connection between the customer and the game is new.
Kawazu: We had people test play the game on-site and among them were people who like FF, but don’t really play action games. Even they were able to smoothly jump in.
Iwata: Just because there are action elements doesn’t mean people bad at action games can’t enjoy it because you made it so that it’s okay even for them?
Kawazu: That’s right. We thought hard about how to handle players that aren’t skilled at action games. Since the start, games have been constructed to have hurdles and if you can overcome them, you can advance.
Iwata: Yeah, with most games, when you clear a screen, complete a level, or beat a boss, you can progress forward.
Kawazu: This time we tried to quit that.
Iwata: Get rid of the hurdles?
Kawazu: Not get rid of the hurdles necessarily. You can fail when trying to overcome hurdles, right? And when you fail it usually results in a game over.
Iwata: And if you get a game over, you retry.
Kawazu: That’s what games are, right? (laughs) Every game is sure to have those kinds of rules, but this time, even if you fail, I wondered if it would be alright to not have a game over.
Iwata: But that’s an ambitious approach, isn’t it?
Kawazu: It is. When we entered the final stages of development and were making our final adjustments, I told the staff it wasn’t necessary to punish the player. Instead, decide on the overall balance and details with encouraging and supporting the player in mind.
Iwata: I see.
Kawazu: When you fail, having your character die is already a punishment isn’t it? And then having the game go back on top of that is punishment enough. Giving out even more punishment is like a bee stinging a crying child. (laughs)
Iwata: It’s just adding insult to injury. (laughing)
Kawazu: I’ve made a lot of games like that up to this point. And the way I would sting was pretty harsh. (laughing)
Iwata: Did you have some kind of self-revelation?! (laughs)
Kawazu: I don’t think we’re in that era anymore. They’re games and entertainment after all and people are paying money to play them. I decided to change my thinking this time.
Iwata: I see.
Kawazu: I’ll probably get told, ‘That’s not something you would say!’ (laughs)
Kawazu: So I conveyed to everyone that we weren’t making a game were only the chosen few can see the ending.
Iwata: Ah, that’s the same here. That was our line of thinking for New Super Mario Bros. Wii. You two haven’t talked about it so I’m a little surprised.
Kawazu: oh really?
Iwata: Miyamoto said that our challenge for New Super Mario Bros. on the Wii is that one way or another we want everyone to see the ending. Miyamoto’s team tried to support players when they met challenges they couldn’t overcome which is the same as your idea. In gaming, there are skilled and unskilled players so when only skilled players can see the ending, unskilled players who are paying the same amount of money don’t get to enjoy the entire game and tend to lose interest in playing. I also thought we needed a solution to this trend, so I think the challenge you’ve taken on is really important.
Kawazu: For that reason, even if you fail this time, it doesn’t matter. Or rather, we decided to make it so it’s fun even if you fail.
Iwata: How did you go about doing that?
Kawazu: To start, when everyone was watching someone play at the studio, there would be a ton of energy in the room when someone failed so you would think it’s fine. From there, if you fail and then have the same kind of failure after that, you’re then able to continue on ahead.
Iwata: If you can continue on even after failing, you can enjoy Final Fantasy’s legendary story and scenes all the way to the end.
Kawazu: That’s right. If possible, we want that to not just make things more enjoyable for the player, but everyone around watching as well.
Iwata: I see. I understand what your aim is, but do you think people who love games with find it a little unsatisfactory?
Kawazu: For those players, we’ve provided plenty of things to do. Completing it all will be extremely difficult.
Iwata: This game really had a lot of time and energy put into it, didn’t it. Like how you imagined gaming on the train and making SaGa, we can see that this Final Fantasy game was made by thinking about how players would be playing on the Wii. And it seems like there are also fans who have followed you since SaGa that expect you to do something different and wonder what you’ll come up with next.
Kawazu: I get a lot of, “You’re going to make something even your fans don’t understand.” (laughs).
Iwata: It looks like you’re going to betray fan’s expectations in a good way this time too (laughs). But now we understand the origins of your ideas when taking on new challenges so it feels good to finally have the mystery solved. Thank you so much for being here today.
Kawazu: And thank you for having me.
And that’s the final page of the discussion! Thanks for sticking with me while I got them posted. If you’re wanting to study Japanese yourself, you’re in the right place. Maybe try the Zero Experience Beginner’s Guide or Japanese Practice Through Games – a Beginner’s Guide to get started.