KH3 Ultimania: Interview with Tai Yasue (Co-Director)
DISCLAIMER: This is only a tentative translation. It is possible there are mistakes.
Previously worked on: KH Re:CoM, KH BbS, KH Re:coded, KH3D, KH 2.8, Vagrant Story, Tetra Master, Brave Fencer Musashi 2: Blade Master
Q: When development began, what did director Tetsuya Nomura request?
A: "I want theme park attractions to be made" or "I want to play electronic handheld games" or "I want to pilot robots in the Toy Story world"; anyway, there were a lot of requests. Nomura often makes unexpected requests, but when I try to fulfill them, instead of feeling uncomfortable, I get wrapped up in the world of KH and excited about the game, so, believing in Nomura's vision, I made up my mind to dash forward.
Q: Was it difficult to develop the PS4 version, Xbox One version, and also the international version all at the same time?
A: Since there are differences in terms of the capability of the PS4 and Xbox One, and because each has their own superior model, in order to draw out the best performance and quality of each machine, the programmers and technical artist team decided on the means together and worked on the optimization. As for the international version, after Disney checked the translated scenarios, the English voices were recorded and facial animations that matched the English voices were made, but because [the international version] was being developed at the same time as the Japanese version, and short-term concentration was necessary, our nervousness continued right up until the end. In order not to have the quality drop, there were very heated debates over and over about what to do to finish about 10 hours worth of cutscenes, and we just barely made it.
Q: Please tell us if there were any elements in KH 0.2 that were used for KH3.
A: From KH 0.2, we got feedback on the workings of the situation commands and how to fit the actions of the player character together. In KH3, several limited-time commands like formchanges or grand magic appear, but the prototype system for that was verified in KH 0.2 and refined. Furthermore, we received opinions from players who wanted Aqua's actions to handle and react better in KH 0.2 and created [actions based on that]. More specifically, in order to make evasive actions after attacking or using Air Slide after jumping easier to continuously use, when you push the button you can quickly switch to the next action, and we made the best use of this kind of handling in KH3. As the actions in KH evolve, in the new games, the reaction when you push buttons is getting better.
Q: What was difficult about the back-and-forth with Disney and Pixar?
A: When giving opinions, instead of saying things in a roundabout way so as not to upset anyone, I think saying things straightforwardly head-on is a better way to quickly make a good product. With Disney, while exchanging positive opinions, development progressed, but on the other side, the creators, and we as well, are very serious, so there were times we differed. At those times, the things we wanted to do, and the things Disney thought were important, were talked about directly when we could, and when we couldn't, it was said back and forth through frank, straightforward emails. When I thought it was difficult to get my point across in the text of the email, I put the parts I wanted to emphasize in huge, red letters so that I could explain myself as easily as I could [laughs].
Q: What was the initial reason you put in the Keyblade transformations?
A: In KH2FM, the secret boss, Lingering Will, had a transforming Keyblade, so the idea to have Sora's Keyblade transform was born from that. The first thing to keep in mind was that it should be clearly understood that the Keyblade transformed, and that the fighting style would change with each Keyblade. In order to realize that, at the meetings we had once a week where we verified the character actions, with "make it gaudier, make it more dynamic" as the motto, we increased the number of actions that were available after transforming. Actually, because of this, an "inflation phenomenon" occurred; for example, because the movements of Favorite Deputy became more impressive, actions and effects were added to the just-finished Hero's Origin..... Additionally, when the Keyblade transformations were finished, next, we made it so that you could switch between three Keyblades with the directional button and connect combos, and we repeated the process of adding in new elements after things were completed. Ordinarily, doing it this way would upset me, but thanks to the big-hearted, optimistic staff working so hard, I think we were able to make something good.
Q: Olympus, which is the world that has appeared most in the series, appears this time as well; did you struggle to differentiate it from past works?
A: We thought to make it have a completely different, new play style from the Olympus that has appeared thus far, so I wasn't too worried. The map this time, apart from simply being wide, also has the concept of "widely high and low" (note: in the sense that it is also vertically large), so Mount Olympus, which has a god-tier feeling of scale, is the ideal stage. When development began, within the initial work on Olympus, things that make the best use of the vertical-ness, like the dive attack or free running, which allows you to climb up cliffs, were born.
Q: How did you choose the characters for Linking?
A: In the case of Links, during our conversations with Disney, it was decided that we wouldn't make it so that Sora could call friends from other worlds to the world he was currently in. However, in saying that, as we couldn't make the "Summon" ability from past games, we set it so that instead of truly calling his real friends, it was more like "depending on the connection to Sora's heart, and magic, friends could be brought forth". When thinking about how to make the biggest impact when matching up the friends and magic, we settled on matchups like "Simba + fire" or "Ariel + water".
Q: What kind of plan did you go with to create the greatly powered up gummi ship?
A: The concept was to go on an adventure anywhere in space, 360 degrees. In the past, the gummi ship had shooting game-type battles as its base, but in this game, importance was placed on not only battles, but also "exploration", so it has a completely different play style. Many elements like the gummi blocks you need to build the gummi ship, the blueprints, treasure, and gummi missions, were prepared, so you can fully dive in at your own pace. During the final stages of production, the staff played with the gummi ships for us over and over and filled out a questionnaire in order to adjust the balance or improve the quality, and there was someone who spent two weeks making different variations of a dog house-shaped gummi ship [laughs]. When we teased them about wasting their imagination and sense, the following week they made different variations of a bird's nest, so the strength of everyone's desire of "I want to make something I like" and the charm of having freedom to customize could really be felt.
Q: Please tell us the details of how the connection to the smartphone app, "KH Union Cross", was decided.
A: The proposed plan was, since we wanted make that particular scene in the Keyblade Graveyard thoroughly exciting, "to borrow the power of the players from KH Union Cross and, while wielding a great number of Keyblades, rush the Demon Tower". Also, since it's a huge compilation of situation commands, which is one of the great pillars of KH3, we wanted to put in so many commands that they surpassed the limits of the system. But, when the people in charge decided the means and direction and created it for real, it so greatly surpassed my expectations and excitement that I was surprised. Since we put such an extravagant scene in before the last world, I and the battle director were really troubled over how to deal with the finishing scene of Master Xehanort, the last boss. In the end, the concept in regards to Master Xehanort was made with a very different contrast, so I'd like you to enjoy that difference.
Q: What point of this production do you most want us to see?
A: Your eyes have a tendency to go towards the Keyblade transformations or Attraction Flow, as they are quite impressive elements, but there are also a lot of small details that were really closely paid attention to included as well. For example, small dialogues between characters, Lucky Emblems or ingredients in unexpected places, attack effects that aren't just simple explosions, but that express a greater worldview, and so on....I think that if you play while staying conscious of those kinds of points, the game will become more interesting.
Q: Were there any rejected ideas?
A: In the Flantastic Seven minigame, during the mission where you take pictures of the Orange Flans at crucial times, there are flans that make a beautiful dive from a tree, hit the ground and turn into pancakes. Actually, in the initial proposal, they were planned to turn into not pancakes, but monja-yaki (note: monja-yaki are a type of savory pancake-like food famous in the Tokyo area; kind of like a counterpart to Osaka's okonomiyaki). However, when we looked over the proposal again more calmly, we realized that if they changed into monja-yaki, they would just turn into a mess when they hit the ground, among other problems, so they were changed to pancakes with a yummy-looking fruit topping. The fact that the flans are kind of strange creatures didn't change, but having them become pancakes and giving them a connection to "dessert" made them more charming, I think.
Q: Please give a message to the fans.
A: Although the theme of the KH series is "the connection of hearts", after working on KH3, I truly felt the strength of my connections to various people in real life, not only in the game. Especially thanks to the fans, who always give me a lot of power from their warm encouragement, I think I was able to use my full power and dash forward from the start of development to the end. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!
BONUS! "A secret about the game only you know"
In order to test out the feeling of truly being on theme park rides for Attraction Flow, during the first stage of development, we put in a personal point-of-view camera mode. From the results of allowing different people to play it, its reputation was bad, so it was changed to a camera looking downwards from above, but actually, even now, if you press R3 while using Mad Tea Cups, Merry-Go-Round, or Splash Run, it will change to a personal point-of-view camera. For people who want to feel like they're really experiencing the ride themselves, please try it out, but beware of 3D motion sickness.....