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goldpanner has translated Co-Director Tai Yasue's interview from the KINGDOM HEARTS 3 Ultimania!
Q: When development began, what kinds of requests did you receive from director Tetsuya Nomura?
A: "I want you to make theme part attractions," and "I want to play LCD handheld games," and "I want to pilot robots in the Toy Story world," and the like. He had a lot of requests. Nomura often comes out with completely unexpected requests, but once we actually try making them, they fit perfectly into the world of KH and make the game all the more exciting. So, I put my faith in his vision and hit the ground running without second guessing.
Q: Did you find the simultaneous release of the the PS4 version, Xbox One version, and international versions tough?
A: The PS4 and Xbox One perform differently, plus top of the range models exist for both, so in order to bring out the best performance and quality on each machine, the programming and technical artist teams worked together to decide on specs and optimization. For the international version, once Disney had checked the translated scenario, English voice work needed to be recorded and English facial animations needed to be made. But since progress was simultaneous with the Japanese version, we only had a very short time to focus on it. It was stressful right up to the end. There were many passionate discussions about how to finish about ten hours of cutscenes without a drop in quality. We finished it just in time.
Q: Were there any elements from KH0.2 that you used in the production of KH3?
A: From KH0.2, we got feedback about the situation command implementation and the way the player characters actions connect. In KH3, we implemented several kinds of commands with time limits, such as the Form Changes and Grand Magic. The prototype of that system was something we trialled and worked on for KH0.2. Then, we also received feedback from some KH0.2 players who wanted us to improve Aqua's responsiveness. In practical terms, we made it easier to dodge after attacking or using Air Slide after jumping and other such chain moves by having a button to press to instantly move into the next action. We brought the feel of those controls to KH3. The action in the KH series is continuously evolving: the responsiveness of button presses get better with every new title.
Q: What was the hardest thing about your dealings with Disney and Pixar?
A: I think you can make something good much quicker if you can speak openly rather than sugarcoat your opinions. During development we had positive exchanges of opinion with Disney, but as both we and the creators on their side are very serious about our craft, sometimes we had different ways of thinking. Whenever this happened, I would take what we wanted to do and what we knew Disney thought was important, and I would go directly to them to talk in frank and concrete terms, or send an email if that wasn't possible. If I felt I was having a hard time expressing my feelings via text in an email, I'd put the parts I wanted to emphasize in big red letters, trying to make it as easy to understand as possible (laughs).
Q: What led you to add Keyblade transformations?
A: Lingering Will, the KHIIFM secret boss, transformed his Keyblade, and that was what gave birth to the idea of Sora changing the shape of his. First, we felt it was very important to make the transformations easy to see, and to make the battle game play for each transformation obviously different. So, the motto of our weekly character action test meetings was "more flashy, more dynamic," which led us to add more action to the transformations. However, this would cause our workload to inflate. For example, when the movement of Favorite Deputy became more powerful than we had expected, we had to go back to the already finished Hero's Origin and boost its action and effects too… Plus, once we'd finish work on a Keyblade transformation, next we'd have to make it so you could switch through three of them using the direction pad during a combo, and other new factors that kept being added. It happened over and over. Usually that way of working is extremely aggravating, but our staff had open hearts and positive minds and did their very best for me. Thanks to that we were able to make something good in the end.
Q: The most-used world in the series, Olympus, appears here again. Did you stress over differentiating it from past iterations?
A: I wanted to add some gameplay that would be brand new for that world, but I didn't really stress about it. The concept for the maps this time was "spacious vertically, not just horizontally," so the god-tier sense of scale on Mt Olympus was an ideal setting. When development began and we started work on the Olympus world, that was the birth of several gameplay features that made use of verticality, such as dive attacks and wall running.
Q: How did you select the characters for links?
A: Regarding links: During talks with Disney, we were asked to stop calling characters from other worlds into whichever world Sora was currently in. But, that meant we wouldn't be able to make a summon technique like past titles. So, we went with the premise that a connection with Sora's heart calls the characters forth as magic. I thought combining them with magic would have the most impact, so we settled on having "Simba+Fire" and "Ariel+Water" and the like.
Q: What policies did you have working on the Gummi ship, which received a massive power up?
A: The concept was being able to adventure anywhere in 360 degrees in space. The Gummi ship in past titles mainly involved shooting game style battles, but this time we wanted to emphasize exploration too, not just battling, which changed the gameplay completely. We put so many different features in: Gummi blocks you can use to build your own ship, blueprints, treasure, Gummi missions. You can explore it all thoroughly at your own pace. In the late stages of development, we had staff play the Gummi ship over for us a few times, and we did a survey to help us adjust the balance and improve the quality. There was someone who spent two weeks making various dog kennel Gummi ships (laughs). I teased them saying it was a waste of their creativity and artistic sense, so they spent the next week making various bird nests. I felt the strength of everyone's desire to make what they wanted, and the magic of the freedom of customization.
Q: Tell us how you decided on the plan to connect to the smartphone game KH Union Cross.
A: I wanted the scenes in the Keyblade Graveyard to be one exciting development after another, so I proposed a plan to borrow strength from KH Union Cross players and shoot a massive number of Keyblades at the Devil's Wave. Part of it was also that I wanted to create a huge command that surpassed the very limits of the system, as the culmination of the situation commands that were so integral to KH3. But when the staff in charge decided on the system and the direction and actually made it, I was shocked. It was even more exciting than I had imagined. The battle director and I just put our heads in our hands. If we put something so flashy before the final world, then what on earth were we going to do for the finishing scene of final boss Master Xehanort? In the end we went with something completely different for Master Xehanort to contrast it. I hope you enjoy the difference.
Q: What would you like players to see in this game?
A: It's the big powerful features that tend to draw the eye, like Keyblade transformations and Attraction Flow. But the truth is, we have packed even tiny things with careful detail. For example: little conversations between characters, lucky emblems and ingredients hidden in unexpected spots, the way attack effects aren't simple explosions but actually change to fit the aesthetic of each world… I think if you pay attention to those kinds of things as you play, the game will be even more interesting.
Q: Were there any ideas that didn't work out?
A: In the Flantastic Seven mini game where you try to snap photos of the Orange Flan at the right time, there's a flan who makes a brilliant dive from a tree and splats onto the ground, transforming into a pancake. Actually, in our first plan, that flan was going to be a monjayaki (TN: a savory, pan-fried batter) rather than a pancake. But as we calmly reviewed the plan, we realized making the flan smoosh apart on the ground to turn into the monjayaki would cause a lot of issues, so we changed it into a delicious looking pancake topped with fruit. The flan is still a weird creature, but I think perhaps it is more charming turning into a dessert pancake.
Q: A message for the fans, please.
A: The theme of the KH series is "connections of the heart." During work on KHIII, I felt the strength that comes from connecting with all kinds of people - not just inside the game, but in real life. The warm support I have received from fans especially gives me energy, and I believe it's thanks to that that I was able to run at full strength from the beginning to the end of development. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!
Secret of this title that only he knows:
To make Attraction Flows really feel like you're on a theme park ride, in the early stages of development we used a first person camera view. We had a few different people play it, and it was poorly received. So, we changed it to a camera looking down from above. However, actually, even now if you press R3 on the spinning cop, merry go round or splash mountain, you can switch to first person view. If you want to experience it, please by all means check it out. But be careful of motion sickness…