RPGamer and several other media outlets today got the opportunity to meet with Square Enix executive producer Akitoshi Kawazu, producer Kiyoko Maeda, and director Mitsuru Kamiyama. The three were very eager to discuss their upcoming games, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates for DS and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers for the Wii. Here we present a summary of this roundtable interview.
In Ring of Fates, there are five character classes in addition to the returning race division. Mr. Kamiyama stated that there were few differences between the races in the original game, but here each one has their own way of fighting and so it's possible that different races will be better at different classes. Another thing that has changed is the infamous bucket. In the first Crystal Chronicles, this forced the players to stay very close to each other. In Ring of Fates, however, there is no miasma and hence no need for a bucket. In multiplayer, characters can split apart and move out of view of each other as long as they remain in the same room. The only drawback is that characters do need to be close together to combine magic spells.
One point continually stressed throughout the interview was that though Ring of Fates will continue with a heavy multiplayer component, which the developers feel is a key element of Crystal Chronicles, there will be a much greater focus on single player gaming as well this time. Mr. Kamiyama stated that the single player mode has a very deep story, and while playing through this the player will be assisted by three AI-controlled teammates. They felt that the original Crystal Chronicles got too lonely in single player with the hero accompanied just by his moogle companion. In terms of the overall story of the series, all three Crystal Chronicles games take place in the same world. However, there's enough of a time gap between the three titles that each will feel like a fresh story so new players don't need to be too concerned if they haven't played the other games. The chronological order is Ring of Fates, the original Crystal Chronicles, and lastly The Crystal Bearers.
The multiplayer mode will be a different entity entirely, a unique way of enjoying the game that does not take place within the same story. In fact, the team explained, it doesn't really have its own set story -- it's designed so that the players can build the story at their own pace. But once the player advances to certain points in single player, additional features will be added to the multiplayer mode. When we asked if the balance between cooperative and competitive gameplay (one of the defining features of the original) would be carried over in Ring of Fates, Mr. Kamiyama explained that there's both a free-playing multiplayer mode as well as over 100 quests you can go on. Those can be either cooperative or competitive. The developers laughed when they said that sometimes when the team plays the game, the sessions aren't quite as cooperative as they should be.
We were all curious about the lack of online WiFi Connection support for multiplayer, and the team was eager to explain its absence. While it's true that they like the idea of bringing friends together in the same room to have a more enjoyable experience, there are deeper gameplay reasons as well. For one thing, the game is so action-driven that they feared lag and latency could cause issues with the play. Additionally, there are cooperative and timing elements in Ring of Fates that make this a difficult prospect, from timing magic spells to jumping on other teammates as a platform. Despite the lack of online play, the team seemed confident and pleased with the multiplayer mode they have created, and they said that they were able to add in some features that they wanted to do in the original Crystal Chronicles but weren't able to do.
To touch on the aural aspects of the game, Mr. Kamiyama explained that though not every line will have voice acting, principal cutscenes in the game will. These scenes will be dubbed for the English version. He was also able to confirm the return of Kumi Tanioka, the original game's composer, for both Ring of Fates and The Crystal Bearers.
The developers seemed very excited by a lot of Ring's new features, as well as returning features from the first game. One popular element of the original was the interplay with the moogles. That has been carried over to the prequel, and expanded upon: players will be able to design moogles with the stylus and trade them over WiFi. One feature Ms. Maeda liked is the amount of equipment available in the game, and she confirmed that different equipment will alter the characters' appearance. There will be over 300 pieces, some of which the player will be able to make himself. Some equipment differs based on the tribe, so even if two things share the same name, they may look different. The producer appreciated the amount of customization this brings to the game. Another new feature Mr. Kamiyama was pleased to share was the fact that this time around, enemies can combine magic spells as well. This, he said, should create some interesting battles.
There wasn't a lot of time to talk about the Wii game, The Crystal Bearers, but Mr. Kawazu did say that though nothing was at E3, the team is very much hoping to have something playable this fall, perhaps for the Tokyo Game Show. When asked about the appearance of the game's characters, which may seem a bit different from the characters in Crystal Chronicles and Ring of Fates, the developers said that though the characters are all from the same tribes, they may look a bit different because the goal was to take advantage of the Wii hardware by making characters look more lifelike.
The executive producer was also asked about future titles in the series. Though Nintendo published the original game worldwide, Square Enix seems to be going it alone on Ring of Fates and The Crystal Bearers. When asked if this meant that future Crystal Chronicles games may not be Nintendo-exlcusive, but could appear on Sony or Microsoft platforms, Mr. Kawazu laughed and said that his thoughts are they should continue to publish the games on Nintendo hardware.
Finally, two things the developers weren't able to discuss were rumors about the characters aging through the progression of the story and whether or not summons, like Bahamut, might appear in the game.