Challenging, huh? How can that be, when you only get to control one character during combat? Doesn't that mean the player will get bored, especially at the beginning of the game where you've only got low level characters with only a few skills available? Aren't you worried players may get bored before they reach the good bits? WELL?
Kitase takes this one. "If somebody quickly understands the basic rules of the gameplay, he or she might be rather bored because they would like to make the best of the functions; pushing the limit of what you can do at where you are.
"What we're hoping that the player would be able to acquire during the first half of the story is not just simply understanding the battle system - that actually could be achieved in quite a short space of time - but then on top of that we would like them to learn through lots and lots of battles what strategy would be the best for each situation. That takes quite a lot of time. So, considering that, we believe this is the right pace, the right amount of time it requires for them to reach the point where they can start enjoying themselves with more freedom.
"The last thing we wanted to see happening is we give them too much information to digest so they get all confused. Before they understand the options they have and what they can do, they are overloaded with all the information and don't know what to do with it. Rather than seeing that happening, it's better to see some people be a little bit bored."
Wow. Did Yoshinori Kitase just admit that some people will be bored while playing FFXIII? Maybe we're misinterpreting the translator's words. Maybe the translator is mistranslating Kitase's words. But we doubt it. We reckon he's just being honest.
We don't feel too bad about our line of questioning, because we are in the unique position of talking to a developer about a game that is already out in Japan. It doesn't happen often these days, but when it does, it provides us game hacks with ammunition to fire at creators. Ammunition that is, essentially, criticism of the game from those who have imported, played and finished it, and then posted impressions online.
That's why in this preview we aren't going into detail about how the game works. You probably already know that it's set in a floating utopia called Cocoon. You probably already know that below Cocoon lies the feared and detested lowerworld of Pulse. You probably already know that there are characters with names like Lightning, Snow, and Hope, who wield big swords and have spiky hair. You probably already know that the new Battle System (which is great, by the way), is like the love child of Final Fantasy XII's freeform system and Final Fantasy VII's ATB system. You probably already know, well… everything. There are guides to the Japanese version of the game on the internet, for pity's sake.
Here are the important facts: for much of the early part of the game, FFXIII is a straight road, with hardly any opportunity to deviate from the path Square Enix has laid before you. But, and this is a big but, eventually the game opens up, allowing freedom for exploration and control over the characters that make up your party. The question you need to answer is: am I bothered? Am I bothered that FFXIII holds my hand longer than it's done in the past? Do I have the patience to wait until it lets go?