As a longtime producer and director of Final Fantasy games, Yoshinori Kitase is one of the main contributors to Square Enix's most important RPG. Gamae informer spoke to Kitase about how he runs the franchise, oversees ambitious developers, and redecorates classics like Final Fantasy VII.
Is Square Enix the only game company you've worked for?
Yes. I was in the animation studio a year before I came here.
How did you get into the company?
I came here in 1990 when we were switching from Nintendo to Super Nintendo. Obviously, the graphics were nowhere near what they are today, but when I started thinking that I wanted to move from the world of animation to the world of games, I really wanted to go where I could work on story projects. That is why I decided to go to work here.
What made you leave cinema and animation and look towards games?
I've always liked video games; I played with them and was interested in them. But when I was studying, I was focused on cinema and ideas that I wanted to reproduce in animation. The company I worked for did mostly advertisements and short videos. But I really wanted to start building bigger things.
I played many games as a hobby. Around that time, it was a really great time - I played Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, and I realized that games are a very great medium to tell big, long stories. I thought, "This is the future."
You are the producer of the Final Fantasy VII remake you previously worked on. How are you trying to reimagine past experiences for a new audience?
When we made the first game, we had complete freedom. We could do whatever we wanted. This time around, we have to take fans of the original game into account. We have to satisfy them to a certain extent, which is correct, but also very difficult.
Over the past 20 years, people who have played all the games have built clear character images in their heads, such as Cloud. And it's a clear idea of what Final Fantasy VII is and who its heroes are. So when making Final Fantasy VII Remake, we had to think, "Maybe we should rewrite Cloud a little?" But then people are more likely to say, “No, this isn't Cloud. He wouldn't act like that.
How do you control your own urge to do something creatively interesting while trying to stay on familiar ground?
I don't think it's just me - I'm sure everyone here wants to do something new. It's a really great opportunity to have a game that you've been working on and has become so loved by so many people. Even when we were on a tour in support of Final Fantasy XIII, people kept asking, "When is the Final Fantasy VII remake coming out?" I want people to be able to see something new. But I also think that wanting to experience something beautiful again is one of the reasons I decided to go for a remake.
For example, I really love cinema. Star Wars Episode IV was a part of my youth. It has been almost 50 years since this film was released, and even looking at it today, I still find many of the special effects quite impressive. But that's not the case for people my son's age, he looks at it and says, “Looks like they just have a bunch of toys to play with.”
I realized that even if the old game looks like something cool to me, it doesn't look that way in the eyes of those who are used to the newest and best computer graphics. I really think anyone can go back and play the original Final Fantasy VII, and it will still be fun, but I want to be able to bring people something new, fresh, and those who are not familiar with the original.
Does Square Enix have a council that guides Final Fantasy as a brand?
Yes, it is. It still exists. [Laughs] He's obviously pretty famous? How did the Jedi advise their Master Yoda?
Yes, exactly! Is that so?
[Laughs] Mr. [Shinji] Hashimoto is a brand manager, so I think he's a kind of Yoda.
What are these meetings like? Final Fantasy producers gather to talk about the future - what ideas are and are not suitable for the series?
Final Fantasy is a series of games that has a long and complex legacy. So basically the committee does its best to ensure that the features that make up the story and image of the series are preserved. But these people don't really say, “You can't do this or that.”
The committee exists to make sure, for example, characters such as Cloud, whether he will be in a separate ad, just as the committee may decide that “No, Cloud would not do that.”
But when it comes to new ideas, I believe the committee should not restrict people. We want to create a very open and welcoming base for the producers and directors of any new Final Fantasy games so they can create whatever they want. There are no accusations like, "Animals like Chocobos have always been like this, so you can't do that to them." This has never happened.
Of course, everyone on the committee has different opinions. This is only mine. There will still be people who will say, “No, no. Chocobos were never what you suggest. Why should they become like this now? " But my personal attitude is: “Just because Chocobo has never been as suggested does not mean that he cannot be. Why not show people a new side of Chocobo?
When you're working on a game, to what extent are you free to create exactly what you want to do? Should I focus on competitors' titles?
Whenever new games come out, while we're in the process of developing something, like Spider-Man - we buy a copy of the game, and everyone plays it in the big hall to see what technologies, the elements and graphics they use. There have been many times when these games try to achieve something similar to what we are trying to achieve. This is how we can find tips for ourselves.
But if we constantly look at these games and say: "We want our graphics to be better than this", or "We want this feature to be better than this", if we continue to do so, new features will all appear, and the release date will move away. It's just endless.
For this reason, it is very important to have a general idea of what kind of story you want to tell and what things you want to show your audience. Of course, many of these games have very nice elements to add to your project, but it's important to have a core idea that can't be influenced. Because if you don't stand up for it, it will very quickly turn into, “What if we add this? What if we add this? "And thereby lose the core of your game.
Nowadays it is rare to find someone like you who has been working for the same company for a long time and only deals with one game. What work do you find most interesting and challenging?
I've been in the Final Fantasy series since Final Fantasy V; I through IV before me were Mr. Akitoshi Kawazu and Mr. Hironobu Sakaguchi. Sometimes I'll pretend I'm going to entrust the episode to someone else. We already have a pretender Mr. [Naoki] Yoshida working on Final Fantasy XIV - and I'm not saying this will happen right now or tomorrow or something like that. But the process of creating Final Fantasy as a series that will continue to evolve and attract a new generation of fans, and entrust this series to the next generation of creators, is one of the challenges that I look forward to in the future.
Also read our translation of Game Informer's first interview with Yoshinori Kitase, where he talks behind the scenes of Final Fantasy VIII
The Topic of Article: Square Enix Jedi Council: Interview with Final Fantasy Chief Yoshinori Kitase.