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Final Fantasy IX Sakaguchi Interview: Page II

Famitsu: Will characters have jobs (classes)?

Sakaguchi: Jobs...

Famitsu: Well, the black mage and the knight...

Sakaguchi: In that sense, the concept of jobs will be near to FF6, where they are predetermined. And he (Zidane) is a bandit...

Famitsu: Ah, the bandit.

Sakaguchi: The gameplay system will have a lot of customization. I cannot tell you in detail, but it will be a lot of fun...

Famitsu: I feel it to be a lot like FF6.

Sakaguchi: Ito is the director. He made the active time battle, and after that, made several things, including the job change system.

Famitsu: I see.

Sakaguchi: The gameplay system has developed quite a lot, too.

Famitsu: In FF9, I feel that there will be quite a developed battle system too.

Sakaguchi: Yes.

Famitsu: Ah-huh. So, Zidane has a tail?

Sakaguchi: Yes.

Famitsu: Ah, so you say.

Sakaguchi: Yes.

Famitsu: Ah-huh.

Sakaguchi: There is a reason...

Famitsu: What kind?

Sakaguchi: [laughing it off, and without answering, he points at the black mage] Vivi is quite important.

Famitsu: This black mage?

Sakaguchi: Yes. Quite important.

Famitsu: I see.

Sakaguchi: Vivi's existence becomes quite closely examined from the middle of the story.

Famitsu: I see.

Sakaguchi: Vivi is the story's core.

Famitsu: Really?

Sakaguchi: Actually... [while saying this, Sakaguchi looks at the Square Publicity person] Too risky? (laughs)

Famitsu: (laughs) That's new. In the FF series, the black mage has never been closely examined as a main character.

Sakaguchi: And he (Vivi) has no self confidence.

Famitsu: He's a weak human?

Sakaguchi: More than just weakness, he thinks he doesn't exist in this world, that he doesn't have the sense of living.

Famitsu: Ahh.

Sakaguchi: He has anxiety. He's a weak guy.

Famitsu: See this phrase. In the explanation of this screenshot, Vivi says, "I..give up...I'm gonna die here."

Sakaguchi: He's hopeless. (laughs)

Famitsu: (laughs) He has no self confidence and is hopeless? It seems there are many essences of the character hidden.

Sakaguchi: Yes.

Famitsu: Oh that's right, it seems the graphics seem to have a Disney feel, or something.

Sakaguchi: The colors, right?

Famitsu: Yes. FF7 and 8 had colder colors.

Sakaguchi: That's right.

Famitsu: Overall there were lots of blues and greens.

Sakaguchi: Yes.

Famitsu: In FF9, I get a strong impression of reds and oranges.

Sakaguchi: You're right. Especially the first town. The roofs lined up in the town are orange...

Famitsu: I feel that this game seems warmer.

Sakaguchi: These are colors Minaba likes. I also like his colors.

Famitsu: Minaba-san was with Final Fantasy Tactics (from hereon FFT), was he not?

Sakaguchi: Yes, he was with FFT too but I worked with him for the first time on FF3.

Famitsu: The characters are full of personality, I feel.

Sakaguchi: We thought it was a bit of an adventure to not have Nomura (FF7 and 8 character designer) as character designer.

Famitsu: As I can see, the character design for FF9 is not Nomura-san but Amano-san.

Sakaguchi: When Amano-san had a personal exhibition at New York, we talked about various things, including bringing the crytal into the logo and also going back to the roots of FF.

Famitsu: I see.

Sakaguchi: We are thinking of using a lot of Amano-san's work.

Famitsu: This, although quite grotesque, is an airship, right? [looking at an artwork design of airship, by Yoshitaka Amano]
Sakaguchi: Yes.

Famitsu: As there will be lots of art by Amano-san this time, in that sense, there will be a strong feeling of works before FF4. Even words that don't appear in FF these days, such as "princess" and "castle" are coming back...Talking about castles, what are these white wings protecting a castle from a black dragon?

Sakaguchi: It's from the middle of the story, I can't really tell you further. (laughs) However, it's a really good scene.

Famitsu: It's protecting a Crystal Tower, right?

Sakaguchi: No comment. (laughs)

Famitsu: Overall, there seems to be a lot of dragons.

Sakaguchi: Yes. But, it's not a story about dragons too much. Anyway, it is a fantasy, so they will make appearances here and there.

Famitsu: In the movie shown at Square Millenium, there were lots of white dragons shown...

Sakaguchi: That's the scene of shooting down the dragons. That's just a scene where that happens.

Famitsu: What are things you are going to focus on in FF9?

Sakaguchi: We want it to be very detailed.

Famitsu: Story-wise?

Sakaguchi: Yes, that too, but also things that happen outside the main story.

Famitsu: Like special events?

Sakaguchi: Yes. It could be item events or things in battles, but we want to try our best at this more than before.

Famitsu: I feel you are putting a lot of effort into this. The movie we saw at Millenium also was of very high quality.

Sakaguchi: We are trying hard with the movies too.

Famitsu: When I watch that, it's not just realistic, but also realistic in a fantasy way. It's an 'unreal reality', and it looks very cool.

Sakaguchi: There are things Ito wants to do: The places where we cut to a FMV, and also how we do that. In other words, what part of the story should we make a cinema out of. It's a little different from before.

Famitsu: I see. Before, an FMV would start with a certain event...

Sakaguchi: In FF9, we are planning to even change the way we use cinemas for dramatic presentation.

Famitsu: Will the players realize this while playing? Like how it's different.

Sakaguchi: It's a little difficult to answer because the presentation of the FMV is so subtle. The way the player will feel will change, for sure. It's not overly different, but, we will take a lot of care making this.

Famitsu: This time, it seems from looking at the screenshots that each character has a separate agenda.

Sakaguchi: The way they first meet is all different. At first they might be against each other.

Famitsu: I see. So, the knight is on a journey to save the princess, and Vivi is looking for himself?

Sakaguchi: That's right.

Famitsu: And Zidane?

Sakaguchi: Zidane likes girls.

Famitsu: Likes girls?

Sakaguchi: Yes, he does.

Famitsu: With such a cute face?

Sakaguchi: We want to make him like girls.

Famitsu: You want to?

Sakaguchi: Well, he likes girls and doesn't care for much. He has no objective, and lives carefree. But he will be a key character. And of course, the black mage will become a key from the middle. Actually, we don't want much strategy hints to come out. What I'm saying to Ito is you should check the difficulty balance and the way you reveal information so that even without strategy guides, the player can think, "Yes! That's why it was so much fun."

Famitsu: Right.

Sakaguchi: Because he understands that, it will be like playing a game in the old days. We want people to play games like in those days where there wasn't much walkthrough information.

Famitsu: I see.

Sakaguchi: We'll try not to have places where the player can't progress because there isn't enough information. And, we want to increase the way we simply play. My favorite event is the chickenknife/braveblade choosing event which Ito made in FF5. I really want him to put in that kind of thing too. After all, Ito made that, and as I'm asking him, I think that kind of event will be in FF9.

Famitsu: In FF9, will you be able to cleverly put that kind of thing in?

Sakaguchi: Yes. Ito said he has a lot of confidence.

Famitsu: We are starting to get a vague idea. It's going back to the roots, it's in a fantasy world, and in some ways it has the atmosphere of a pre-FF6 game, but each character has been created with care. When I hear your story, there's a lot of background story, and I feel as a story it has become something very deep.

Sakaguchi: It's not good just simply going back in the way we present the game, and so we want to surpass FF7 and 8. And when we have done that we want to go back to the roots in the setting of the world and the gameplay.

Famitsu: Is the battle something like FF6?

Sakaguchi: The four-party battle has returned. When it's three characters, one is chosen as the healer. However, when there are four people, the assigning of things becomes a little complex. There will be more things to choose from in a turn for the player.

Famitsu: Yes, yes.

Sakaguchi: But, as there are more people and there will surely be more action, we are trying to speed up the battle, even though the effect of fighting will be somewhat restrained.

Famitsu: I see.

Sakaguchi: Instead, we want to improve the sense of accomplishment and battle strategy.

Famitsu: So there will be lots of different ways of enjoying the battle.

Sakaguchi: Because there are four people, we want to spread the battles well, and progress smoothly.

Famitsu: There will be summons too right?
Sakaguchi: There will.

Famitsu: There are some shown in the screenshots this time, but will you show the summons spectacularly in cinemas too?

Sakaguchi: Well, of course. For what needs to be shown, we will take our time properly.

Famitsu: In FF8, because the way you get summons were by quests, it didn't feel familiar. What will it be like in FF9 now that it's fantasy?

Sakaguchi: Because they are an existence to protect yourself, you would want to feel something like body heat. Because it's a fantasy world, coexistence is not unusual.

Famitsu: There are several fantasy elements nostalgically appearing, but is this bringing them all together as a homage, or is there some aim?

Sakaguchi: Basically, it's a story which focuses on two to three elements. They exist as cores to the story.

Famitsu: Right.

Sakaguchi: Although it's not a story with a collection of different elements, what it is I cannot say yet.

Famitsu: With each Final Fantasy, it uses an original system, is there something other than just the complexity of the battle strategy by having returned four people parties?

Sakaguchi: Even I don't know what name they made for it but, yes, there is. It's a data-heavy, combination-like system. It will change depending on the way people play. It's pretty cool. That's why I think people will have fun.

Click here to go back to page I of the Final Fantasy 9 Interview with Sakaguchi.

Thanks to Famitsu Magazine (sorry, only available in Japan) for the interview. Thanks to RPGamer for the translation.

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