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Final Fantasy: Anniversary Interview

With the first 25 years of Final Fantasy completed, we asked some of the key people involved with the series about its future.

  • Text: Jonas Mäki
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With Final Fantasy having been around for 25 years, we wanted to ask Square Enix some questions about their successful franchise. They brought out Yoshinori Kitase (Producer), Shinji Hashimoto (Senior Executive Managing Officer), Naoki Yoshida (Producer/Director, Final Fantasy XIV), and Yoshihisa Hashimoto (CTO, Luminous Studio) to answer our questions.

From left to right: Yoshinori Kitase, Shinji Hashimoto, Naoki Yoshida, and Yoshihisa Hashimoto.

Will we ever see the return of true fantasy, black mages, castles, old airships and so on in a main Final Fantasy game?

Yoshinori Kitase: The atmosphere and world for each new FF title is built up along the themes that the creators want to push when the first plans are made. As seen with FF9 and what we are currently doing on FF14, there is always a chance of going with the classic, traditional fantasy style.

Final Fantasy X was the first game in the franchise to get a direct sequel. Final Fantasy X-2 was charming, very Japanese, and full of fan service.

It often feels that the Final Fantasy sequels like X-2 and XIII-2 are more playful and less serious than the main games, is this done on purpose and what are your thoughts about it?

Yoshinori Kitase: The concepts we were aiming for with the direct sequels to X and XIII were quite different. For X to X-2 the world had already been saved in the first game so for the sequel we aimed to depict what the world was like after peace had dawned. For that reason we chose to use a much lighter tone and attitude.

On the other hand, for XIII to XIII-2, even though the world had been saved from a crisis for the time being at the end of the first game, the cogs of fate bound up in the crystal legends were still very much turning and so we maintained the serious style and tone of the original in the sequel.

Do you ever consider making the ultimate remake; Final Fantasy VII? And what would it take for you to do it?

Yoshinori Kitase: 15 years ago FF7 had a massive influence on the gaming scene of the time, with its dramatic story rendered in full 3D CG. That is why the game is still loved by everyone, even today.

However, to remake FF7 it would be difficult to simply resurrect that world using the technology available now. We do not want a simple updated copy of the original and feel that the right time do do a remake will only be when, as creators, we have found a meaningful way to make FF7 a part of this era.

According to the original creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi, Final Fantasy IX is the best game in the series.

Today, everyone expects all Final Fantasy games to be released for both Playstation and Xbox, but do you ever consider doing the main games for PC as well, since PC is a huge deal in Europe?

Shinji Hashimoto: We very much understand how important PC gaming is in Europe although we are not considering this at present.

We had to wait a really long time, maybe even too long, to get a Final Fantasy game this generation. What are your thoughts about next generation development, will you try to be faster?

Shinji Hashimoto: There are some things which probably take us too much time but our development style of aiming to create software of the highest possible quality is still in place.

Final Fantasy games on Nintendo consoles have been separate entities from the main games, but with the Wii U, Nintendo are finally offering a more powerful option. What are your thoughts about future Final Fantasy games and Nintendos consoles?

Shinji Hashimoto: We are always looking into all available platforms for our games and do not want to limit ourselves to one specific one but we have not announced anything on Nintendo's new hardware yet.

Even if the Final Fantasy games aren't tied together there are some common things you can find throughout the series - including the Cactuar enemies (pictured), Tonberry, some benevolent person named Cid, airships, two friends called Biggs and Wedge (taken from the X-Wing pilots in Star Wars), and the overgrown chickens known as Chocobos.

Do you ever feel pressure from the competition of increasingly more popular western role playing games when creating Final Fantasy, and if so, tell us how?

Yoshinori Kitase: We have a unique style for our asthetics in the artistic fields of character and world design and in our style of dramatic presentation that sets our titles apart from the many European and American titles out there. We can bring out our individuality here so I have never really thought about it in terms of "competition".

However, there are many western titles wich have excellent systems of interaction between the player and the game world and we like to look at those systems and whether they can improve our own creations.

What are your main inspirations when creating Final Fantasy games?

Yoshinori Kitase: The inspirations behing the numbered FF games really are many and varied depending on the individual directors, scenario writers and art directors.
Sometimes the overall direction for a product is also decided from a marketing perspective, looking to the market of the time.

For example, at the time of development for FFX, the wider entertainment scene was experiencing a prelude to a wave of full on fantasy stories, with Hollywood in the process of making Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter etc. Accordingly, this led to FFX becoming more pure fantasy inspired than the more Sci fi styles of FF7 and FF8.

Many western fans that love Final Fantasy are also generally fans of Japanese culture and games. Do you ever consider including all the Japanese music and voiceovers as a choice in Western SKUs, instead of only the localised versions?

Yoshinori Kitase: Currently we cannot do this due to issues of balancing the storage capacity of the media with the needs of the product and the audience. However, I have heard this kind of desire expressed a lot since the release of FFXIII and we may well look into it once issues on the technical side have been cleared.

There was a big rumour recently that Final Fantasy Versus XIII would be cancelled. Is that true and if not, is it still a Playstation 3 exclusive?

Shinji Hashimoto: Development on Versus XIII is still currently in progress.

Did you ever consider including Kinect support in Final Fantasy games, or even making a game exclusively for Kinect?

Yoshinori Kitase: Personally I have played a lot of Kinect titles at home with my family, such as the sports and dancing type games. We have not introduced this kind of functionality into FF games yet as there has not been a system that fitted well with the gameplay of the series but it is clear that this type of interface is not just a passing fad.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn may see release on the next generation of consoles as well as PC and PS3.

What's the status on Final Fantasy XIV for Playstation 3 right now? Will it be out this year and can we expect it to move onto the next generation as well as you did with Final Fantasy XI that moved from Playstation 2 to Xbox 360?

Naoki Yoshida: We are continuing to closely develop FFXIV: ARR for PS3 alongside the PC version. At the moment, we are in the final stages of adjusting the PC version's graphics and will then move on to fine-tuning the PS3 version. We are working round the clock to further advance production on the PS3 version while testing all aspects of the game play, to stay on track for releasing both versions simultaneously.

If there's some sort of announcement to players about next gen hardware after we've successfully launched the PS3 version as promised, then of course we have every intention of considering a next gen release.

Is there any chance for Final Fantasy XIV to be released on Wii U or Xbox 360?

Naoki Yoshida: At first, we'd like to focus on our committed PS3 release, then we will be able to move on to the next step. However, at this point, I would not discount the possibility of development of FFXIV on other platforms in future.

Square Enix Luminous demo is probably the most impressive graphics we've seen this year. Can we actually expect Final Fantasy to look that good next year?

Yoshihisa Hashimoto: Because Agni's Philosophy is a tech demo which was inspired by the look and feel of the Final Fantasy series, we don't have anything to say about any specific game title. However, you can consider this a glimpse of the visual quality to come in Square Enix's games in the near future.

Thank you for taking your time with us. Could we round up with you telling us what you are most proud of with the Final Fantasy series?

Yoshinori Kitase: Even for titles that are described as "worldwide hits" there are always differences in sales between the different regions but the FF series has a similar number of fans throughout all of the territories of Japan, Europe, America and Asia. I am very proud of the fact that the worlds and stories we build have a certain universality to them and can touch people from many nations.

Shinji Hashimoto: FF currently has a great following from many people around the world. I would very much like to thank all our fans and find it an honour and a privilege to be associated with this series that is so warmly appreciated and supported by everyone.

The single best aspect of the Final Fantasy franchise has got to be the wonderful music. And in celebration of the music Square Enix released Theatrhythm Final Fantasy earlier this year.