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When two generations of Final Fantasy devs meet: Sakaguchi and Tabata speak

A Famitsu interview with Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi and Final Fantasy XV director Hajime Tabata offers insight into how 2 different generations of FF devs think about game design.
"Both FFIII and FFIV were finished around the break of dawn, and I couldn't help striking victory poses on my way home alone. I still remember those moments as the most enjoyable and fulfilling moments of my life."

- Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, sharing his memories of working on the series with Final Fantasy XV director Hajime Tabata.

Back in May, Square Enix held a fan event in San Francisco to celebrate the impending release of Final Fantasy XV, which has been in development for over a decade.

To please the crowd it brought original Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi (who left the company to found Mistwalker in 2004) onstage to make a surprise appearance, after which he was drawn into a Famitsu interview alongside current Final Fantasy XV director Hajime Tabata.

Famitsu later published an English translation of that interview to its website, and even months later it's worth reading to get a sense of how two different generations of Final Fantasy developers think about game design -- and what it is about the production process of a Final Fantasy game that makes the series so enduring.

"From the very beginning Final Fantasy was the fruit of a team effort. To compete with games like Dragon Quest or Mario Bros., both of which clearly show the presence of highly talented individuals, I realized we’d need to aggregate the energies of multiple people. Maybe this team approach has grown into a tradition of sorts," Sakaguchi said. "It was because we were working as a team that we were able to incorporate CG into the games. If Final Fantasy had been more of a solo effort, the series might have looked quite different now."

A good bit of the interview involves Sakaguchi and Tabata either swapping stories or bantering with each other, in the process shedding light on how the changing of the guard at Squuare Enix has changed the nature of the Final Fantasy games.

"Up until FFXIII, the games were made by members originally from Square, including Kitase, so FFXIV and onwards constitute a new generation of Final Fantasy. Although calling them a 'new generation' may be a stretch, I do feel that the series is evolving into something new," said Sakaguchi.

That apparently coincides with an evolution in company's philosophy of Final Fantasy design; later in the interview Tabata mentions that -- based on player feedback -- the team is considering implementing some sort of "Easy Mode", a common practice in game development that's nonetheless foreign to mainline Final Fantasy games. Sakaguchi appeares to be all about it. 

"Tabata-san was worried because there's never been a numbered FF which allows the user to select difficulty," he said. "Personally, I think it should be fine if that’s the solution they arrived at through thinking about the current generation of users."

"Sakaguchi-san told me 'there’s no need to stick to tradition as long as you’re doing it for the fans,'" Tabata added.

The conversation between Tabata and Sakaguchi is worth reading in full over on Famitsu.

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