The round table Q&A interview session that follows our gargantuan hands-on with the English language version of Final Fantasy XIII is strange. Normally in these things, questions centre on game mechanics, features, future plans, downloadable content and the like. But this one's different.
Most of the questions put to producer Yoshinori Kitase and director Motomu Toriyama ask, essentially, why FFXIII is so linear, why you can only control one character during combat, and why it doesn't have loads of villages to visit and NPCs to talk to. The result is that Kitase and Toriyama spend most of their time defending the game they've created, rather than explaining what it's about. But they do so with a smile - the development legends have clearly been asked these questions before.
"As you know, the battle system of this game is brand new, even though it is based loosely on the Active Time Battle - as has been the case for years - but it's like an evolved version." Kitase explains.
"Because of the newness of the system, we wanted to allow each player the time to adapt to the new system so that they can learn how the game works and what you can do, in a more natural way. That's the intention behind this criticism of it being linear.
"In the second half of the story, once you get down to Gran Pulse [chapter 11], it's more open field gameplay. So you need to be patient, really."
Patient, huh? That's not a quality you'd normally associate with gamers. Well, maybe we can be patient, if, at the end of the first half of the game, it breaks free from its shackles and evolves into the GREATEST JRPG OF ALL TIME! And by that we mean, there will be loads of villages to explore and NPCs to talk to, right? RIGHT?
This time, it's Toriyama's turn. "The world of Gran Pulse; basically there are several towns and lots of NPCs there, but not that many, so quite a small number of towns. But the main attraction of Gran Pulse is the missions; there are quite a few missions available there. And in many of them you have to take on a boss which is more powerful than the last boss of the main story, so it's quite challenging."