Yasumi Matsuno Is No Longer Working At Level-5

By Spencer . November 7, 2012 . 11:07pm

cdragonYasumi Matsuno is behind a bunch of Squaresoft’s hits like Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy Tactics. He left during Final Fantasy XII’s development cycle, but rejoined Square Enix to supervise the PSP remake of Tactics Ogre.


Matsuno joined Level-5 in June 2011 and his first game there was Crimson Shroud, which was part of Guild 01. Make that his only game with Level-5.


"I’d like to formally announce my departure from Level-5, effective last month. With my work done on the domestic and overseas version of my latest 3DSWare game, it was good timing for me to step down and take a short break in order to recharge for my next project. My deepest thanks to everyone at Level-5 and everyone playing our games for your continued support," Matsuno tweeted. Crimson Shroud will be released in North America and Europe with an English translation done by Alexander O. Smith.


What’s Matsuno doing now? It’s a secret!

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  • Looks like Yoichi Wada has finally caved in and begged Matsuno to come back to Square Enix and make a new game that will save the JRPG genre in the West against the almighty WRPGs.

    • KiTA

      At this point I’d be happy if he just saved Square Enix from Square Enix.

      Or specifically, since the Enix side seems to be doing just fine (DQ9 was a breakaway success, the monsters games are cleaning up, and DQX is on track), lets say I’d be happy if he saved Square Enix from Squaresoft.

      • xavier axol

        you are kidding, right? cause i like sarcasm, specially when saying that moving dragon quest to handheld and forgeting that it could had been better than dragon age or dragon dogma. that the fact square enix has let that brand slowing dying in the west. i can tell you that in the demographics, it shows you that it is not doing better with handheld like in japan. ask anyone how square enix is doing business wise and they’ll tell you the truth, japan has become a small market compare to the west and if a big company like square enix wants to stay afloat then they have to appeal the west audience (making handheld games only like they being doing for the past years is not gonna appeal to them).

        • Göran Isacson

          I don’t know about your statements that Dragon Quest could be better than Dragon Age, simply because those two games aim for very different audiences. Part of why DQ’s audience loves it is because it keeps it’s style, tone and general gameplay throughout the ages. Dragon Age and Dragon’s Dogma are marketed as being vary much what Dragon Quest is NOT. Dragon Quest is classic (with the exception of the modern online-based games) RPG turn-based adventures, and I don’t know if you can even compare them to Dogma and Age who aim for a very different audience.

          • xavier axol

             i was talking in general, there are some differences that both dragon quest have compared  to a game like dragon age or dragon dogma. and they do target a different audience, but my argument is that in keeping dragon quest on consoles  it could had keep more audiences than on handheld in the west and this is the thing, dragon quest audiences was much broader (which means that is wasn’t just younger but also had a mature audiences following it) when the ps2 dragon quest 8 came out. and if you looks closely you would see that in the west there’s a demand for open world games. just look at dishonor, dragon dogma, skyrim, dragon age I AND II, and even shooter are starting to have things that you would find in a open world rpg game like borderlands (which did pretty well both I and II). and i begin to image how awesome a dragon quest on current console would had looked, played, and felt. and is heartbreaking that square enix is playing safe and turn what level 5 created (dragon quest 8) and dismiss it, to just follow what capcom did with monster hunter brand. 

          • Mrgrgr and Unacceptable World

            The easiest reason for why DQ moves to the handhelds is because handheld is bigger than consoles in Japan. And seeing DQ series is much more known in Japan that the west, it is not surprising they chose to move to handheld. Not to mention the cost of developing one game on home consoles is also much bigger compared to handhelds.

            Your statements saying that SE is killing the brand by moving them to handheld is a bad statement there considering how SE already had FF series for consoles so, they are using DQ to control the handheld zones.

            And about DQ is console, isn’t DQ 10 is now on Wii and Wii U?(Even though it is online.) 

      • echokanon

        Too bad SE’s does not try much on the SRPG area… Its been very long time that they only focuses on main series like FF,KH and DQ, while neglecting others like mana, saga, ogre, star ocean  and etc…

        • りんごタルト@エスカのアトリエ

          Star Ocean isn’t even developed by Squeenix.

          • Tianyu Wei

            Well every SO game has been published by SE… and most tri-ace games are published by SE. And if iirc, SE was also partly responsible for SO4’s development.

            Also, Tri-Ace helped on FFXIII-2 too…

          • りんごタルト@エスカのアトリエ

            That’s doesn’t mean Squeenix holds tri-Ace in the balls. tri-Ace has already worked with Sega (Resonance of Fate) and Konami (Labyrinth no Kanata). They’re in no obligation to publish games under Squeenix unless they’re a Star Ocean or Valkyrie Profile game.

            Smart move for tri-Ace, if you ask me. Because those types of games won’t be published if they take it to Squeenix.

          • echokanon

            oww, i forgot SO is under Tri Ace instead of SE. somehow i only remembers valkyrie profile when i post the message.

            after i look up a little on the other series, seems that mana series is almost ended too after the creator Koichi has left… *sigh* I miss Legend of Mana…

        • LightZero

          Honestly I wish tri-Ace would fire the writers and hire someone competent. SO never had great stories to begin with. Anyway the only reason SE focus on KH, FF, and DQ is because they are guarantee money makers. These are tough economical times. You need to go for whatever makes you the most money. I would like to see other IPs get some attention though. I’m glad BD is doing well.

    •  almighty is a strong word lol

    • LightZero

      Good luck with that. Right now western titles are what considered cool. Back during the Snes and Genesis platforming was hip and cool. Then around the PS1 era jrpg were cool especially with anime getting over with the masses. Jrpgs will probably make a comeback one day once it’s consider cool again. It just how trends work. 

  • puchinri

    Hitoshi Sakimoto and everyone at Basiscape did a fantastic job with the music, so I’m really looking forward to enjoying the rest of the game. I hope to see Matsuno working on something again soonish.

  • ShinGundam

    Mark my word, he will work on a GREE game.

    • echokanon

      i hope not… its not like i dislike GREE game but I just hope he dont end up working on this area

      • Hidayat246

        remember, time tell himself even the legendary hironobu sakaguchi finally make iOS games because he cant make high budget console game anymore

        why do you think yasumi-sensei cant do that?????

        imagine tactic ogre social game lolololololo

  • Ethan_Twain

    Well that’s interesting.  I’m gratified to read that Mr. Matsuno is just recharging and does indeed intend to return to create further projects.  I’m a big fan of his work.  I will make certain to purchase Crimson Shroud, because I want to be sure that companies will want to fund and publish further Matsuno projects.

    One wonders just how many companies this guy could end up with though?  He’s sort of a specialist in doing RPGs, you know?  He’s got a great track record within that space, but not everyone can/wants to bet big on a big expensive RPG project.  He’s left Square Enix behind after some well publicized drama during FF XII’s development, and now he’s left Level 5 behind also.  What other publisher(s) have the funds to publish a Matsuno game, and the development talent experienced making such games?

    There’s Namco Bandai with Tales, but they have their own directors for that and it’s pretty stylistically different from Matsuno’s past work.

    There’s Atlus.  They’re pretty willing to make a bet on a new IP, even an RPG.  Again though, they really don’t need a talented director from the outside – their products have done quite well of late being made by their own internal talent.

    There’s Nintendo with Monolith Soft.  Nintendo’s shown an enthusiasm for working with a similar big name director when they collaborated with Mistwalker to make The Last Story.  I can see Nintendo giving Mr. Matsuno a team to work with there – it’s a very talented group of developers to be certain.

    And here’s the longshot:  Konami with Suikoden.  Konami’s shown with DS and PSP spinoffs that they aren’t ready to abandon the IP, but there doesn’t seem to be any particular plan for moving the brand forward and growing the audience.  Matsuno’s narrative style could fit the larger political bent of that franchise very well, and Konami doesn’t have any particular directors (we know of) that are obvious picks for such a project.  I think this could be really great, but the big “if” is whether Konami even wants to invest in a great big Suikoden game again.

    • My top guesses would be Nintendo, Square Enix, Grasshopper Manufacture, or possibly some American company (Epic? Bethesda?). Platinum Games is also a marginal possibility (he did do work on MadWorld as a favor for Atsushi Inaba, and they’ve published one RPG before). I can’t see him joining an ultra-corporate publisher like Konami or Capcom.

      Or, maybe he’ll go wherever Fumito Ueda’s going and create a new studio where each title has a 10-year development cycle. You never know.

  • Ladius

    Considering Matsuno was brought into Level 5 to create a full game, one can assume his premature departure means he was unsatisfied with how that company treated him, or felt it was uncompatible with his vision. Hino said he wanted Matsuno to create something different, if I remember correctly, and maybe his idea wasn’t as compatible with Matsuno’s interests as he thought at first.
    Still, it’s really a shame, this could have been a match made in heaven: Matsuno’s talent and Level 5’s budget could have created something wonderful. Now, let’s hope Matsuno doesn’t stay unemployed too long.

    • I think it might also be relevant that staying at Level 5 would have all but guaranteed that he would be working on small handheld titles for the foreseeable future.

  • MagiusNecros

    Obviously recharging for Vagrant Story/FF Tactics 2

    • Lexaus_the_Alchemist

      God, if only! I could die a happy man if he rejoined SE for those 2 projects.

    • MrTyrant

      and the next ogre saga game, you forgot about that. 

    • Hraesvelgr

      Vagrant Story’s poor sales are the reason Vaan and Penelo got put into Final Fantasy XII, so I wouldn’t expect a new one anytime soon or… ever, really. Shame.

  • りんごタルト@エスカのアトリエ

    It’s weird I always get those short responses. From the sounds of it, he’s up to something big. He recently did contractual work for Squeenix and it is possible that he might get hired again for something new.

    Squeenix needs all the outside help it can get.

    What he’s doing now? Apparently taking pictures of his cat.

    • In all fairness, that’s what he does most of the time.

  • Juliano C

    Hoping for a new ogre game

  • Joe S

     Please don’t develop social games.

    • Hidayat246

      is good for developer because social game is easy to make money
      but……….-_- is not good for gamer outside japan

  • Trotmeister

    I wonder what could make Matsuno leave Level-5. Sure, it’s kind of a meh company, but at least he was doing *something* there. If he goes freelance again, I doubt we’d hear of him again anytime soon.

    Personally, I hope it went kinda like this. Square Enix CEO Yoichi Wada crawled to Matsuno on his knees and begged him to return to the company and save Final Fantasy from its impending demise. And Matsuno, being kind and forgiving person that he is, agreed.

    • I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that he’s been wooed away by another company promising to put him at the reins of bigger projects. It’s certainly not unheard of for a popular industry figure to abruptly publicize their departure from a company, then announce soon after that they just happen to have found new employment at another one.

    • Given Matsuno’s history with health problems, I don’t think putting him charge of a series like Final Fantasy would be the wisest move, either for him or for Square Enix…

      • Trotmeister

        We don’t know what exactly happened back then, we probably never will. Was it really his health that made him leave, or was it something else? Corporate relations is a very muddy area, especially in a gigantic company like SE.

        Either way, he handled Tactics Ogre remake just fine. It was easily the best game I played in years. Clocked 300 hours. I am confident he can take on any challenge. Besided, if you consider what’s been happening with Final Fantasy in the last few years, do you think Matsuno could do any worse?

        • neo_firenze

           Yep, I’m also not sure I completely buy the “health issues” explanation either.  That’s a very corporate Japan style excuse to avoid discussing the actual issues and save face, and one that is especially suspicious when the individual in question soon emerges with a new company (just as I noted happened with Hiromichi Tanaka from FFXI/XIV in my other reply).

          Maybe Matsuno shows up alongside Tanaka in the rapidly growing GungHo.  It wouldn’t shock me.

          • I’ve heard rumors that the “health problems” were of the mental sort rather than physical (which is also something of a taboo subject in Japan, I believe). I don’t want to assume too much, since obviously I know nothing about the guy personally, but given his erratic career trajectory and striking reclusiveness compared to many of his colleagues, that does seem like a believable story.

  • theoriginaled

    Im not surprised. The man has wanderlust. He left ff12 in the middle of development. This wont be the last time it happens. Rumor is the Ultimate Hunt in ff12 is a direct reference to how the team felt abandoned by him when he left.
    read “etymology”

    take it or leave it. Its a shame someone like him cant find a home where he can stay and grow. The games he makes are brilliant but it seems to me that brilliance comes with a price. If he brings Ivlice back to life Ill be a very happy man. But I wont hold my breath.

    • LightZero

      It was said he fell ill during FFXII development. 

      • neo_firenze

        It was also said that Hiromichi Tanaka, former director of Final Fantasy XI and XIV, left Square Enix due to “illness” after being stripped of his FFXIV director duties and halfheartedly going back to FFXI for a short time.

        Conveniently enough, he popped back up with GungHo in very short order. 

        Me thinks illness is a pretty convenient excuse to save face.

        • Yerld_CK

          Apparently, Akitoshi Kawazu has taken a few shots at Matsuno on Twitter. Clearly, his opinion is that “illness” was an excuse to run away from a project that had spiralled out of control, which left others with a mess to clean up.

          Matsuno seems to be a polarizing figure at Square Enix. He’s revered for his incredible abilities as a creator but simultaneously reviled for a lack of responsibility.

          BTW, Tanaka didn’t join GungHo. He’s on board as a freelance advisor (for an upcoming MMORPG), but I’m not sure if he wants to develop something so big again. At the Square Enix event, he mentioned that his intention was to pursue smaller scale work, which could suit a slower paced lifestyle.

          • Joe S

             That doesn’t make a lot of sense. Where are the complaints about his handling of Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story? Or even as producer of Advance? All the quotes I’ve read from those who’ve worked most closely with him (Minagawa, Ito, Sakimoto, Sakaguchi, Yoshida) are filled with frequent praise for Matsuno.

          • Yerld_CK

            The complaints were regarding the development of FFXII, not his earlier games. From the view of some people, Matsuno bailed on them after getting the project into trouble, and that kind of reputation sticks.

            Bear in mind that most people on the FFXII team had never worked with Matsuno before, so they were experiencing a development style that they weren’t used to. Creative control was more centralized, and as Kawazu claims, the team broke up into cliques (essentially, there was a Matsuno/Minagawa/Yoshida faction that came off of the PlayOnline project, and  an opposing faction that previously worked for Sakaguchi and Kitase). Nevertheless, I suppose the biggest frustration was how protracted the dev cycle had become

            As far as I can tell, Sakaguchi never worked too closely with Matsuno and his team. Certain members (who claim to continue his work by requesting transfers to related projects, such as FFT-A2 and Tactics Ogre. Let’s just say that they’re an atypical and zealous bunch) have posted some unkind things on their blogs, so I suspect that there was some rivalry going on.

  • Wow, that certainly was short-lived.

    Not that I’m complaining, really.

  • Keyanf

    Prehaps related to SE’s “Ogre Battle” trademark a few months back (and hopefully that isn’t a social game…).


    As long as he is working on something, anything. His talents are too precious to squander doing nothing game related such as has been the case for the better part of a decade.

    • Yerld_CK

      I suspect that he lacks self-confidence after what happened on FFXII. Plus, it’s almost certain that a project (with Nintendo or AQI? Sakimoto had definitely been working with him on something) that was in development between FFXII and Tactics Ogre fell through.

      Most importantly, I hope he can sort out his own feelings and find something that makes him happy.

      • FFXII is one of my favourite FFs. Loved every moment of it. I only wish I had more things to kill, it was over too soon even after doing everything.

  • With the leak in regards to FFXV being that “The game design and battle system will be a major evolution of FFXII…” and “The battle system now allows you to target different parts of an enemy’s body like in Vagrant Story” what could this mean?? Hmmmmm… :D

  • revenent hell

    See im not to sure what to say here…I adore his FF tactics games but FFXII was such a dissapointment to me.It was more or less because of how confusing the story line was put together and the…ugley charecters barring Fran ….The gameplay I actually quite liked even if the ….”summons” where redundant.
    I do hope the best for him though he has a talent and I hope he can do well with it in his future.

    • Exkaiser

      Much of the mess in the final version of FFXII is due to Matsuno leaving during production.

      I like the character art, with the exception of Vaan and his airbrushed abs. Of course, Vaan is barely a character, so it doesn’t really bother me.

      • revenent hell

        Lol I forgot about that…I bought the collectors guide/artbook at the time and my lordy I laughed when I saw the picture they had of him….Thanks for making me remember that!

        On a side note though I quite enjoyed revenent wings and thought the charecters looked much improved for it being a DS game.

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