Toshirou Tsuchida is a name some may recognize from games such as Front Mission and Final Fantasy X. Now Final Fantasy XIII can be added to the list. Tsuchida has taken charge of the upcoming game's battle system and discussed it in the latest issue of Ge-maga magazine.
When recruited to design the battle system for Final Fantasy X, Tsuchida originally suggested doing away with the traditional ATB (Active Time Battle) system, a mainstay of the Final Fantasy series. In light of this, it is perhaps not surprising that when Square Enix wanted to create an entirely new battle system for Final Fantasy XIII they turned to Tsuchida. Square Enix wanted the game to have a fast-paced battle system much like those in action games, but one which would also allow players to input commands.
In order to merge these requirements - the need for fast-paced action and for player control over these actions - the way commands are inputted has been changed. The ATB system remains intact: time still flows based on player commands; however attacks can be blended together e.g. the player has the option of selecting a slash attack or, instead, a charge-slash combination. The new animation system will then blend player selections into a seamless motion.
The encounter system, too, will be something never before seen in the Final Fantasy series. Though it will not be the traditional random encounter system and will more closely resemble that of Final Fantasy XII, Tsuchida points out that encounters in Final Fantasy XIII will not be as seamless as those of its predecessor. Instead, the game will feature a new way of taking on enemies and players will have some ability to modify battle conditions.
Tsuchida was less than forthcoming when it came to details of the battle system, including the question of how much control players would have of other characters in the party, though he did refer to a "party battle system." He also stressed the need for the party members to remain in-character during battles, which, based on his comments, seems to be a key point. Similarly, he desires to have battles be more tied in to the game's setting and story, so enemies will be more appropriate for the setting. Tsuchida's example describes a scene in which players are moving through an area where military forces are present. The enemies encounters in this areas will match the setting, and characters may even be shot at. Enemies will also change based on the setting and some enemies will not be the typical "monsters" or "fiends" of past games. Foes, whether monsters or not, will also have much more well-defined characters than in past games. Yoshinori Kitase, producer of Final Fantasy XIII, pointed out that, for example, enemy battalions will be made up of individual soldiers, each with his own history and character.
There was also some discussion of the role of the "White Engine" being used to develop Final Fantasy XIII. Developed by Square Enix itself, the engine was originally meant to appear on PlayStation 2 games, but was then moved up for PlayStation 3 development. Its key role is its ability to render animated sequences in real-time, thus allowing for the merging of fast-paced and command-based battles discussed by Tsuchida. Kitase suggested that even though Square Enix has recently licenced the Unreal Engine 3, the White Engine may still be used for future games.