Yoshinori Kitase is one of Square Enix's most decorated employees. Having originally started work on their SNES Final Fantasy games, Kitase was one of the key figures on Final Fantasy VII.
Since then, he's seen his role shift to that of Producer, a role which he recently fulfilled on Final Fantasy XIII and is currently fulfilling on The 3rd Birthday.
We got a chance to catch up with him at GamesCom and he was more than happy to take our questions:
GamingUnion.net: You said you want The 3rd Birthday to be a separate story, why did you decide to do that? Was it to make it easier for new players and were you worried about upsetting older players?
Yoshinori Kitase: Yes, it is a different story, different game and a different genre if you like. But, even in Parasite Eve 1 and 2 lots of fans loved it largely because of how attractive Aya Brea was as a protagonist. So obviously, that part hasn't changed.
Because it's been so many years since the last game we really wanted to mark a fresh start. It's not supposed to be a sequel as such, it's more like a new start for the whole franchise, but a new page of the IP as well. We wanted to start something new to be introduced to new gamers, new fans.
GU: Is that why the decision was made to remove Parasite Eve from the title?
Yoshinori Kitase: Yes, we wanted to show a new direction. In a way we're going to cut the cord from the past even though it has the same character and all the rest of it. We wanted to show that we are motivated to show something new.
GU: Does this mean that you see more games coming in the franchise?
Yoshinori Kitase: Obviously it largely depends on how successful this one turns out to be. But if it is a success we would love to take it as a step to develop it further on HD machines like the PS3, Xbox 360 or whatever in the future. So yes, we have that expectation.
GU: With regards to the PSP, there were stories about Dissidia being downloaded illegally over 5 million times. Did that ever make you consider moving The 3rd Birthday away from the PSP?
Yoshinori Kitase: You're absolutely right, that is a very annoying issue - we're very much aware of that. But on the other hand, most of the staff on this project [The 3rd Birthday] had previously worked on Crisis Core, for example, [Hajime] Tabata. They had quite ample experince developing games for the PSP so we wanted to mimic the use of it and their know-how. Also, because they were so familiar with developing games for the PSP, the entire process was much quicker as well.
So, those issues would have to be tackled separately anyway. You mentioned Dissidia, but also Crisis Core. Even in rather difficult situations like those illegal downloads those games have had quite good sales overseas and in Japan so we hope this is going to be the next big one.
GU: Does this mean that after The 3rd Birthday and Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep are out you'll continue to support the PSP?
Yoshinori Kitase: At the moment we're working on Final Fantasy Agito XIII, which is obviously coming out on the PSP. After that we will have to look at the situation in the global market, but we would definitely love to keep producing good games for the PSP in the future.
GU: Do you have any estimate as to when Versus and Agito might come out? Is it 2011 or even further back than that?
Yoshinori Kitase: We have no release date information to update. Unfortunately we can't say anything about that. We can't commit ourselves to 2011 either.
GU: Have you already started thinking about the next installment after Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XV?
Yoshinori Kitase: No, we can't say anything about that right now.
GU: Around the PSOne era, we had Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, Final Final Fantasy IX and Final Fantasy X and they all came out in the space of 4-5 years. However, since then we've only had Final Fantasy X-2, Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy XIII. The development cycles are a lot longer, what's happened to make them a lot longer?
Yoshinori Kitase: Obviously we now have consoles with much better specifications. The graphical quality we should target at is a lot higher, so it takes a long time to achieve that quality. And Final Fantasy XIII, for example, was the first ever numbered Final Fantasy for Xbox 360 and PS3, so we really wanted to make it absolutely perfect and it took a long time to make it perfect. But maybe next time around we need a much shorter time.
GU: Does that mean the next one will take less time?
Yoshinori Kitase: laughs Yes, yes, hopefully.
GU: There were some rumours about Final Fantasy XIII going on the Xbox 360 in Japan. Is there any comment about that?
Yoshinori Kitase: There's no information we can reveal, no new information sorry. We know that information has been looked at by many people, but we can't comment right now.