It’s a well known fact among fans that our current beloved leader of Morning Musume is a hardcore Final Fantasy fan. Through numerous magazine interviews, fan blogs, and this amazing youtube video of her fangirl-ing over Sephiroth’s voice actor, it’s all very true :]
Here’s a recent magazine interview of Ai-Chan and Final Fantasy. Credits go to Estrea and Fenrir. She even gets to play the latest Final Fantasy 13!~
Q: Your first experience with video games was FF, right?
A: That’s right. My parents played FF on the Super Famicon (Super Nintendo), so I grew up watching them play. But at that time, there were only 3-4 save spots and my parents hated to have a saved game written over, so they would always warn me not to touch it.
Q: So when was the first time you played?
A: FFVII. This was on the PS and you can save many times on the memory card, so that’s why I think they let me play (laughs). But, I was still little, so it was hard. The submarine event was the hardest part. The first game that I beat was FFIX. My father bought it and let me play first. I finished sooner than expected and he praised me saying, “That’s amazing.”
Q: Is that when you became a fan?
A: Yes. The characters were so cute! I played FFVIII on the PS after that and I remember it was harder than FFIX. “Zonbinoiru… Nozonomachi?” I like that place a lot and always played it over and over. Even now I play FFVIII sometimes.
Q: Playing the games in reverse sequence, you played FFIV or FFV after that?
A: No, I was very into FFX. It was before I joined Morning Musume and I brought the game with me to Tokyo to play, but soon I got busier and busier. Because there was less and less sleeping time, I played little by little in my spare time. Recently, I’ve been playing FF Dissidia on the PSP.
Q: So, you can play whenever then.
A: When we’re traveling and if we’re riding the shinkansen, I would immediately start!
Q: What’s your play style?
A: I’m the type that likes to level up, and take detours from the main quest. I explore the map from one end to the other, and I hate it if I’m unable to open every single treasure chest in the game. I usually leave my PS2 connected to the power outlet, and just switch it on automatically once I get home. Also, sometimes I level up too much and I defeat the boss too easily. Usually I like fighting from an advantage, so I’m like “If I get this strong, everything should be alright.”
Q: Isn’t it tough leveling up?
A: I like leveling up gradually. That’s why in FFX, I always walk around a lot in the Calm Lands to collect monsters.
Q: Which scene in the series left the deepest impression on you?
A: Hm, that’s difficult, there are quite a lot… The one I like best is probably from FFX? After fighting this jelly-like boss, there was a scene where they (Yuna and Tidus) were in Macalania Lake. The boss was pretty difficult, I had to try several times before I beat it to see the scene. It really remained in my heart. Also, another unforgettable part was FFX’s Seymour. Even though I trusted him, he betrayed us halfway through the game. “What the hell, who’s this ruthless person?”, is what I thought. When we fought in Gagazet, it was a really tough battle and I was like “Why you…!” while I was beating him up.
Q: You really get emotionally involved while playing. So, who are your favorite characters?
A: I have a lot for this too. For FFVI, it’s Edgar. The way he shows off his machines is really cool. If it’s FFIX it has to be Kuja. He’s cute even though he’s the enemy. But I really like Vivi too since he’s so tiny…
Q: All of those aren’t the protagonists…
A: I like the enemies too, probably. Kefka’s great too, like his “kekeke” laugh. Ah, of course I do like the allied characters too, but I prefer the more unusual characters. For FFX, if not Yuna, then Lulu or Rikku. My mom was watching me play FFVII, and we both thought Tifa was good.
Q: Do you talk to the other Morning Musume members about games?
A: Lately although everyone is into female-oriented games on the DS, sadly I don’t. But previously I was playing Final Fantasy Tactics on GBA at the same time with Yaguchi Mari, so whenever we met up we would ask “Did you play yesterday?” and go on from there. At that time, I was the first to clear the game, you know?
Q: Where do you check for information on games?
A: I usually just go to the stores and pick them personally. It’s usually there where I find out “Such games are coming out too?”. Also, I sometimes also buy strategy guides. But I try not to rely on them too much, and use my own strength to complete them the first time, before referring to the guide on the second play through. I then do it all over again while reading the guide.
Q: Incidentally, your parents who introduced you to the FF series, do they still play games?
A: My father just finished FFX lately. He said it was interesting. But he’s really slow, don’t you think? *laughs* I’m from Fukui, and my dad normally lives in Fukui, but when he comes to Tokyo to visit me, he brings his memory card along to play. Well I understand his feelings though. My liking for games has certainly been inherited from my parents.
Q: What are your thoughts after watching the video for FFXIII?
A: It’s practically a movie, isn’t it? It looks so real that I felt sucked in. I was really moved when I saw FFX for the first time, but this was even more moving than before.
Q: You’ve played the trial version and really got into it, eh?
A: The battles, especially “summoning”, were really beautiful! I only summoned Shiva and Odin, but I already liked Shiva from before and I was really happy. I really want to see Bahamut, actually I want to see everything!
Q: You’ve given high marks for the battles. Which item do would you rate the highest in it?
A: Ah, that’s what has to be taken into account isn’t it? I personally like the command battle system. Doing actions while watching the movie was really cool, so even though I was wondering how the controls worked during it, being able to pick the skills used was fun.
Q: For FFXIII, the level system is different from usual, and the characters level and grow separately in each preset role (character classes).
A: Eh?! Is it similar to the Sphere Grid from FFX? I really enjoyed filling that up… Even though it took a lot of time. I’ll work hard!
Q: There are a lot of characters who appear in the movie, can you tell us which character you are paying the most attention to?
A: That girl with the black hair…there was a scene where they fought as enemies, but afterwords she joined as an ally, yes?
Q: Indeed that was a hidden character. To be able to notice that from a short viewing, you have good observation skills!
A: Well she was very pretty so it got my attention. But I was thinking earlier that she probably won’t be a key person. So she’s really a key character? Yay!
Q: You seem to be more interested in the sub-characters than the protagonist.
A: Ah, but that girl who was going to get married…Sera, was it? The protagonist’s sister. She said “Protect me…”. How will it turn out?
Q: Right now we’re drawing the character models one by one, it sort of feels like the development of a drama.
A: Really? I can’t wait! It’ll be great to have voices for them too. I saw on TV that there were going to be seiyuu (voice actors), and I think it makes it easier to be more involved with the story this way.
Q: How did you feel after going through a test play today?
A: Actually I’ve already seen the trailer from the official site, I felt betrayed, but in a good way. “We’re going this far?! Awesome!!!”, that’s how I felt. *laughs* The visuals and battles have all improved. When the sphere grid from FFX appeared, even though I felt like it has changed, it was more like it evolved. As expected of the Final Fantasy series.
Q: So what do you think is the charm of the FF series?
A: The story. I am surprised by it every single time, and I end up getting emotionally involved with it. I end up crying with the characters and stuff like that. Also, I like the battles. To fight, and level up. Even though there are other games that are similar, I still prefer FF… The story and protagonists change every time, I always think “this is it, this is the world I want to see”. Also, I love the music. It draws you into the game.
Q: That’s some high praise. What does FF mean to you then, Takahashi-san?
A: Speaking from the heart, I feel like “I want to be here”, and it’s a soothing place for me. I love fantasy worlds like Harry Potter too. Putting myself where the characters are and enjoy the ride is the best.
Q: With FFXIII releasing soon, tell us what you are hoping for.
A: I want more “betrayals.” Because I was only able to play a little bit today, I want to feel more and cry. It’ll probably end up like that.
Q: Lastly, please tell us your goal.
A: For Morning Musume, Kusumi Koharu will be graduating on December 6th. It will be a new start with 8 members, so I want to do my best. Also, this year we went to Los Angeles for Anime Expo 2009. Last year we had an Asia tour and there were lots of fans overseas cheering for us, so I want to go meet those people. I want to let people in various countries to know about us.
Q: Which particular country do you want to go to?
A: Right now we have two Chinese members, Junjun and Linlin, so I want to go to China more. Those two left their homes and came to Japan. They only see their parents about once or twice a year, so I think they are pretty lonely. So if we have more chances to go to China, I think that loneliness will decrease. I want to see their happy faces.
Q: Caring about the other members, you really a leader.
A: I also came to Tokyo from Fukui, but when I want to go home, I can always go home and see my parents. But when it’s a different country and a different language… we can converse really well now, but I still think it’s pretty hard for them. When we first started to advance overseas, that’s when I first realized it. So, right now we want to be able to speak Chinese and learning from those two.
Q: And how are the results?
A: Even though I remember the words, the intonation is different, so I can’t convey it. I truly understand the difficulties those two faced.
Q: You also debuted solo in a drama this year.
A: Yes. It was a wonderful experience. I learned a lot of things that I wouldn’t have been able to learn in Morning Musume. Because of that experience my activities in Morning Musume also changed. The expressions I learned from the drama were reflected in the promotional videos. At least within myself (laughs). It would great if there were more chances like that, so I have to do my best in Morning Musume and put all effort into it.
Q: What are you private goals?
A: I like English. We go overseas through work, but personally, I also want to be able speak it. So, please also release the FFXIII International version soon too. I think that would be the best way to learn it (laughs).
Born and raised in Singapore, MJ earns his keep by pushing pixels around as a media designer. Other jobs include getting paid taking pictures, as well as being a full time fanboy for all things cool & kawaii. MJ shoots with a Canon 5DmkII.