This week marks the 30th anniversary of Final Fantasy, the critically acclaimed franchise that changed the RPG landscape forever. In honor of this momentous occasion, I asked Final Fantasy IV lead designer and Chrono Trigger director Tokita Takashi to share his thoughts on the series’ epic journey, what he thinks would make a cool Final Fantasy VR experience, and (while I was at it) if we’ll ever see another Chrono Trigger game.
IGN: It’s been 30 years since Final Fantasy was first released, and you’ve worked on the series from pretty much the beginning. Did you have any inkling that the series would be this popular for this long?
Tokita: When I was working on the first title in the series depicting monsters in pixels, I never imagined the series would be popular for this long. I think there was a firm belief that the game would turn into a series when it continued onto the third installment, and with the fourth installment, there was a sense of pressure, though it all felt worth accomplishing. That said, never in my dreams did I think we would be celebrating its 30th anniversary, nor did I think I would have been able to continue developing games for this many years.
IGN: What do you think is the secret to Final Fantasy’s long success?
Tokita: Perhaps the fact that it’s a title that stations itself within the ever-evolving field of games in terms of platform and gameplay style, as well as the fact that the younger generation who once played those titles are now becoming game creators themselves, and introducing new Final Fantasy experiences to the world. Following manga and anime, I feel like it’s evident that RPGs have turned into a form of Japanese culture.
IGN: Square Enix just released Final Fantasy: XV Monster of the Deep on PSVR. Would you ever consider doing a VR experience for one of the classic Final Fantasy games? Maybe walk around the moon in FFIV, or other contents from FFI to FFIV?
Tokita: That sounds awesome! It would be fun if we’d be able to experience different Final Fantasy worlds within a theme park, something along the lines of an “FF VR World”. For FFIV, something like an adventure that involves landing on the moon aboard the Lunar Whale, or traveling to Feymarch after being swallowed by Leviathan; those are two experiences I would like to try out myself. I suppose with other titles in the series…For FFI, an experience that spans over 2000 years. For FFII perhaps heading into the cyclone on a Wind Drake. For FF6, perhaps marching through the snowfields aboard the magitek armor.
IGN: Final Fantasy IV was the series’ first big breakout. What about that game do you think makes it so special?
Tokita: Thank you! After the first three title releases on the Famicon (NES equivalent), it was the first Final Fantasy released for the Super Famicon (SNES equivalent). Moreover, given that the game was to be released on the platform before our rival Dragon Quest, the entire dev team was so fired up during the game’s development; every one of us gave it our all.
Tokita: Personally, I wanted to make Final Fantasy IV a culmination of the preceding titles, keeping all the great features from FFI, FFII, and FFIII. Golbez as a reflection of the four fiends from FFI, the focus on the meeting and parting of friends and the story driven nature of FFII, the characters and abilities that follow the jobs introduced in FFIII, these are just some of the wonderful aspects. Furthermore, we expressed a sense of scale that was unprecedented through its visuals, heading deep underground all the way to the moon, and we feel like this helped shape the image of Final Fantasy as we see it today.
IGN: From a gameplay standpoint, FFIV did a lot of innovative things: it was the first game to introduce the Active Time Battle system, as well as use SNES Mode 7 technology. It’s also the first 16-bit game in the series. What were some of the challenges involved with trying to implement these new mechanics?
Tokita: The Active Time Battle was truly a result of repeated trial and error. In actuality, we were unable to envision, in the slightest, which characters would take action after input based on the initial conditions in which the order of character speed, and wait time between actions were set. As a result, we omitted the wait time associated with direct attacks, and lengthened the wait time for things such as powerful magic, adjusting the specifications so that the behavior that follows an input would be more imaginable. The number of colors available for graphics also increased versus the Famicon, but even so, the overall size of the ROM itself was 8 Mbit and quite small, so it required us to get creative, such as holding back on the color count on features aside from the airship and main characters. Furthermore, we had to cut down the scenario to a quarter of its original length, so we focused on changing the pacing, and placed utmost importance on the tempo for areas other than the standout moments. Personally, it became a really good learning experience when it comes to scenario production.
IGN: Let’s switch gears for a second. You also worked on Chrono Trigger, which IGN recently voted as the best RPG of all time. What about Chrono Trigger makes you the most proud?
Tokita: Thank you! I was extremely happy to see the game being recognized by IGN! What about Chrono Trigger makes me the most proud? There are many aspects, but perhaps the fact that we were able to create a new form of RPG that transcends both Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. I believe in some ways, Chrono Trigger led the way for RPGs that command a visual sense of scale through 3D and camerawork that became prominent from PlayStation and onwards. But, when it comes down to it, I think it’s everyone’s love for the title. This includes everyone across the world, from the American staff I worked with on Parasite Eve, as well as the younger generation of this day!