A recent issue of Famitsu magazine included an article on Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, and included in this article was an article with the game's director, Tetsuya Nomura. Here, he discusses the command battle system, the way the game will work with three stories, and reveals the English name of the Unbirths. Kingdom Hearts Insider have translated this interview, and thanks to them, you can read it below.
-- About controlling each of the three characters: how does that work?
Nomura: At the start you'll choose who you want to control, and you'll use that one character until you clear their story. Depending on which character you play with, you'll uncover facts that you can't learn with the other characters. Each world has scenarios for all three, each has different bosses, so it's like there are three separate games included. If you play alongside a friend, the contents the way the story advances will be different depending on the character you choose, so watch out for spoilers.
-- I see. So how long is the play time for each character?
Nomura: According to our current estimates, about 15 hours. Customising your deck will also take up time, so if you play with all three characters the game's length may exceed 50 hours.
-- The three characters move about completely separately?
Nomura: Usually, yes, but occasionally two or three of them will have a scene together. There's Ven looking for clues about Master Xehanort and chasing after him, and also Aqua who's looking for Ven but worried about Terra. On top of the main storyline, each one's timeline is different.
-- Not much information has been released about Aqua so far. What kind of person is she?
Nomura: She's incredibly serious. She's a strict honour student. She's a little bit shy about some things that she's done. She puts up a cold front, but she's kind to her friends. She's the most level-headed of the three.
-- Aqua has some movements a little like floating or gliding, and some characteristic moves in battle, too.
Nomura: Her movements are that of a so-called "magician girl" (laughs)
-- I think fans of the series are wondering about the true nature of Ven, who resembles Roxas, and what lies in Terra's future...
Nomura: We've given a lot of hints in that area, so I think there are some people who can figure it out. As usual there are a lot of riddles in this game, but all the fine details will be explained. Ven has bits of Roxas, and the traditional protagonist Sora in him. His positive personality is close to Sora's, but Sora doesn't usually worry about anything, whereas Ven can be serious. So maybe he's half Sora and half Roxas. But because of things like the way he holds his Keyblade, it will be a different feeling to play him compared to Sora or Roxas.
-- What can you tell us about the "Unversed"?
Nomura: The English name will be "Unversed". The meaning is "those that are not well-versed in existence/life" and they grow out of negative emotions. You'll understand the meaning of this when you play the game.
Great expectations for new worlds
-- Two new worlds have appeared.
Nomura: This time, we're weaving a more complicated story than before. Not just for the story of "Birth by Sleep"; there will also be deeper connections to the stories of the Disney titles.
-- In "Cinderella" you're even delving into the scene with the glass slipper.
Nomura: We particularly wanted to include that event. When you say "Cinderella" you think of the glass slipper, right? (laughs) Also, like with Ven and Jack, this isn't the whole story, but there are scenes where you follow sub-characters too.
-- And the "Lilo and Stitch" world is something you can be satisfied with, too.
Nomura: It's a story from before he was called Stitch, so this time instead of Hawaii the spaceship will be the main setting. He's a very popular character, and setting it in a spaceship should make things interesting.
-- And we'll also learn about the origins of the "seven princesses"...?
Nomura: It's connected to the idea of "hearts of light, without darkness". But this isn't about the princesses' birth, it's to do with "something" that awakens in people who have hearts where light resides. It's a condition the three protagonists are investigating.
Exhilirating battles that can be played without thinking
-- What about the battle concept?
Nomura: More than "358/2 Days" or "coded", "Birth by Sleep" is an evolution of "Kingdom Hearts". Each of the protagonists has very individual movements, so it will feel totally different to playing as Sora. This game might just be the most exhilirating in the whole series. The new battle system with its Deck Commands and Shoot Lock really adds to the exhiliration.
-- What are the characteristics of a battle using Deck Commands?
Nomura: I think that rather than thinking very carefully while fighting, it's more about fighting using your reflexes. I think you'll be able to sense when to press buttons, that your body will naturally learn to go "triangle next".
-- So you can set up the Commands in your Deck yourself?
Nomura: That's right. So that you don't have to manage complex things during battle, you customise various things beforehand. Like "Chain of Memories", you construct your Deck beforehand, and during battles just use techniques one after another. They don't run out like cards, but you need to charge them. With the inclusion of Decks, the system of growth has more or less turned into a system of change. Maybe a bit like a minigame... it's very different.
-- It's something we haven't seen in the series so far.
Nomura: I wonder if we went too far (laughs). It's a system we've been preparing up for some time now, and from now on we'll be putting out constant information, so look forward to it.
-- Can you change the the Command style into whatever style you want?
Nomura: For techniques that can change style, each has a specific set of conditions that must be met. So once you understand that system you'll be able to get the style you want. However, the aim was so that people don't have generally have to think too hard when playing.
-- So with styles, it's easier to use a walkthrough for the ones that change?
Nomura: Of course, there are walkthroughs that will tell you certain enemies are weak to fire, and about increasing damage. But changing styles also make it easy to have fun using lots of different attacks.
-- The Finish Commands can also evolve, making for rich variety in battles, right?
Nomura: There really are all sorts of conditions that change commands, and you can connect them to the "D-LINK" system that we haven't released much information about yet. "Kingdom Hearts" doesn't really aim for difficult action; there are a lot of users who play by mashing the same button. That's what this is based on. Things won't get boring if you mash the same button, it's a system that changes to stay fun. You can use a Command with just one button, and even playing simply it's an action game where you can enjoy a wealth of variety. The only thing is that by incorporating too much of this new system, the three protagonists are too strong and the importance of tricks to defeat bosses has faded a bit (laughs). We're going to work on balancing that out.
And the next game that everyone's wondering about!?
-- The Tokyo Game Show is coming up, will there be any demos?
Nomura: At the moment we're giving priority to development in order of release dates, so there won't be anything big, just a small space for demos. We can't show videos in a closed megatheatre every year. For those who play the "Birth by Sleep" or "Final Fantasy XIII" demos, we plan to have a small screen with special trailers for those two titles and "Dissidia FF Universal Tuning". That's the company's plan at the moment, and we probably won't prepare any new trailers for "FF Versus XIII", "FF Agito XIII" or "The Third Birthday".
-- So, what about the release date for this title?
Nomura: We're trying to adjust it in relation to the release date of "FF XIII". In terms of actual development "FF XIII" has proceeded further, so "FF XIII" might be first. But I think we'll be able to let you play it without making you wait too long.
-- Do you think people will want to replay the first title after clearing this one?
Nomura: Hmmm, I think there are a lot of puzzling elements, so maybe they'll want to play the next game... and there'll be a secret movie too.
-- The next game!? Do you mean "III"!?
Nomura: The next game will be the next game (laughs)