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Making Final Fantasy for a younger audience

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Hiroki Chiba has been working at Square since the mid-‘90s, and in that time has seen the Final Fantasy franchise go through many incarnations. In recent years, as the series has evolved, he’s been a bit worried that it’s outgrown its potential audience.

"A while back, when I spoke to the game’s producer, Mr. Hashimoto, we had the same concern, that from Final Fantasy 13 on, as the titles got more visually realistic, younger audiences were distancing themselves from the series," said Chiba in an interview with Polygon this week. "And we wanted to somehow bring them back into the franchise."

Enter World of Final Fantasy, a new title Chiba introduced this week at E3.

The game itself plays out as a relatively traditional Final Fantasy title, though Chiba refers to it as a "new IP" because of a new cast of characters and art style. The gameplay also centers around a new "stacking" feature that allows players to collect monsters and pile them on top of each other to create a tower. By mixing and matching the monsters in different ways, players can change their overall stats and abilities. Right now, the system allows players to stack three monsters, but Chiba said that might change.

"From Final Fantasy 13 on, as the titles got more visually realistic, younger audiences were distancing themselves from the series."

Chiba doesn’t have a specific demographic target in mind for the game. But since the original Final Fantasy released 28 years ago, he said many of the people who played the series when it first shipped are now parents, so he’s attempting to make a game parents can play with their kids.

Given the team’s stated goal of appealing to younger players, Chiba said it wasn’t an easy decision to develop it for PlayStation 4, as many younger fans today favor portable consoles and phones. He said there was a lot of debate back and forth deciding what hardware to target, and the team ended up going with PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita. Possible other platforms may come later, as the game’s announcement trailer included the line, "Play it first on PS4 and PS Vita."

"Ultimately I wanted to make a game where a lot of monsters appear, and to be able to befriend them all, and to be able to form whatever tower that you would want to form, so I just needed the power of the system," Chiba said.

He added that the Vita version will be the same game as the PS4 version, apart from graphical differences, and that he thinks having a portable version with a cross save function will allow younger players to play the way many prefer.

Square Enix is planning to release World of Final Fantasy in 2016.

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