We picked the minds of the upcoming JRPG's composers and art director about their contributions and thought processes.
After play-testing what seemed to be almost an entire day's worth of Final Fantasy XIII-2 last September, GameSpot also attended a roundtable discussion in Square Enix's Tokyo office in Japan. The targets for our inquisition were all involved with the aesthetics of the game; art director Isamu Kamikokuryo, and composers Mitsuko Suzuki and Naoshi Mizuta.
From our preview, it may be easy to presume that the game uses different types of art styles that could potentially look like a mess, but Kamikokuryu said otherwise. He said that even with Cocoon falling, and the world close to ruin after the events of FF XIII, he was very careful in expressing the very serious tone of the story and the world when compared to the prequel's beautiful but manufactured setting.
Kamikokuryu said that the character designs are built from the scenario and setting. Specifically, both the new designs for Lightning and for Serah are reflected within the environments that they begin their journey, while, at the same time, the art team is making it as over-the-top beautiful, cute, and cool as possible. For Serah, he said that she was cute and girly in the prequel, but now she is a little more tough and battle-ready.
Even so, he said that the balance between making a female character appealing for both genders of gamers was tough for him and his team. "We don't necessarily go into the design wondering what would appeal to both male and female gamers," he said, "but more of what design would end up the most memorable in their eyes and mindset. With Serah being more active in FF XIII-2, we wanted to maintain her natural feminine qualities, while still making sure that she looks like she can go into battle."
Gamers might recall from trailers and in-game footage that purple and pink have been used extensively as the main colours in the game. Kamikokuryo recalled that at the beginning, when he, Tetsuya Nomura, and the rest of the team were figuring out the main colour scheme of the game's art style, the word "pink" was used a lot. As far as purple goes, he had learned recently how to use it in a good way, and how to express it onscreen.
From there, the art team came to the conclusion that the colours fit very well with the environments and atmosphere. "There are instances where the line is blurred, because these characters are not meant to be hyper-realistic, and have a mysterious appeal to them," said Kamikokuryo. "The characters were meant to be a mix between realism and fantasy. If the end product is distinct from other titles, we've succeeded."
When asked about the possible problem of music styles clashing, Suzuki and Mizuta said that the direction given by director Motomu Toriyama was to craft something different with their team. This led to the decision of having three main composers creating the game's soundtrack together. They couldn't reveal how many songs from the prequel will be in FF XIII-2, but the majority of them will be in the game. The vocal tracks used weren't intentional, at first, by the music team--but, when looking at the project overview, there was a lot of direction to insert verbal tracks into various areas of the game. This resulted in them being a little more creative, and in this way including a lot of their ideas into the game.
Speaking on behalf of composer Masashi Hamauzu, Suzuki said that his specialty is doing orchestra sounds that instil grandness. To make that work alongside his free-flowing style and Mizuta's structured and calculative style, he said that they had to balance and incorporate the soundtrack styles into each of the game's scenarios, but without coming off as a jumbled cacophony of sound. He felt that the collaboration had been quite natural.
When asked whether there was a set process in creating different Final Fantasy titles while maintaining the core elements of the series, Kamikokuryo, Suzuki, and Mizuta said that the direction that their respective teams went for was to create something brand new. "If anything, it was one of the titles where we didn't have to worry about what we've done in the prior series."
Of course, the big elephant in the roundtable room was the inclusion of Chocolina in the game, being either a stroke of genius or a fluke on the developer's part. Kamikokuryo said that the inclusion of the scantily clad vendor was nonchalant and harmless, but, once she was integrated into the game, she was a stark contrast to the game's tone. "If gamers were to find it surprising and shocking, then it was a job well done on our part." Speaking of chocobos, Suzuki teased that there will be one specific chocobo that is classified as "off the wall", and gamers will be shocked to hear its theme music.
Despite the potentially clashing ideals of the game's aesthetics, the developers seem to have done an admirable job so far in making it all work for FF XIII-2. Time will tell if fans will feel the same way, though, when the game comes out in Japan on December 15, and in North America on January 31, 2012.