Eurogamer: This game changes the Final Fantasy series quite a lot. Are these changes designed to appeal to people who didn't like previous games in the series? Do you hope to reach a wider audience with it?
Hiroshi Minagawa: Well, up until now all of our battle systems have been based on inputting commands from menus, and we simply felt that at this point in time it made sense to change that, and to move to a system which felt more natural to play.
It's not just the battle system, though. Previous games in the series have been very focused on the characters and their relationships, whereas in FFXII, you've made a story which is much more about politics, empires and war than about the individuals involved. Is that simply a reflection of the kinds of stories you're more interested in telling?
Akitoshi Kawazu: Matsuno-san, who was the original creator of Final Fantasy XII, had a tendency to try and blend real historical events with fiction; mixing together a lot of events from the same time period to tell a story. Because of his influence, there's definitely a strong tendency towards that in the game. However, we don't create our games based on political messages. Players may take away certain messages from the game, but those depend on the player. We didn't place any political significance on the game we were making.
So while there's a prominent influence in the game from Middle Eastern culture in terms of the art design, and I suppose there may be some influence on the story from the political situation in that region...well, I'm not sure. Only the original creator of the story would know that.
Eurogamer: Did you intend that Revenant Wings, the DS follow-up title, would be part of the game from the outset, or was it conceived after the original project was finished, when you saw the success of the game?
Akitoshi Kawazu: We decided to create Revenant Wings in the very late stages of FFXII, but we needed to finish the original game first. So, work on it really only started after that.
Eurogamer: What do you make of the fandom around Final Fantasy games: the costumes, hundreds of people lining up for your autograph... Is it something you really think about when you're designing a game?
Hiroshi Minagawa: Well, I work in the design division of the development team, and I wouldn't say we really take any inspiration from the fan base. But, that said, this is the first time I've actually come out and met the game's fans, and seen the reaction. I'm really surprised at how enthusiastic everyone is. It's been a great experience. After seeing this, I'm wondering if I should think about the motivation of the fans when I'm working on future games.
Eurogamer: As a creator, if you were to pick the one single thing which makes Final Fantasy into an exciting franchise to work on, what would that be?
Hiroshi Minagawa: With Final Fantasy, I was a fan of the game, a player. I really enjoyed playing the games. When I'm creating games, then, I really want to create something which other people can enjoy in the same way, can love and play for a long time. That's my motivation in working on the Final Fantasy series.
Eurogamer: What games do you actually play yourself, aside from Final Fantasy?
Akitoshi Kawazu: Right now? [smiles] Gears of War.
Eurogamer: Final Fantasy XII is a return to the world of Ivalice - which we previously saw in Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story. FFT is coming to the PlayStation Portable this year, but what about Vagrant Story? Any chance we'll see that game revived in future?
Hiroshi Minagawa: [laughs] Hmm, I wonder!
Akitoshi Kawazu: [also laughing] I wonder!
Hiroshi Minagawa: Give me a little more time to make a decision on that. [both men laugh]
Final Fantasy XII is out now on PS2. Read Rob's review here.