While many may consider Final Fantasy VII to be Kingdom Hearts creator Tetsuya Nomura’s early career-defining title, the designer said to Famitsu magazine in a recent interview that he believes that it was actually his work on Final Fantasy V that helped put him where he is today.
Famitsu starts out by mentioning that Nomura joined Square as a designer.
“Yes, but at the time it was near the development deadline for Final Fantasy IV, and it seemed like nobody had time for a new guy like me. When I asked ‘what can I do to help,’ they would tell me ‘just go ahead and work on the debugging with the kids,’ so there I was, helping out on the debugs while wearing a suit,” reminisces Nomura with a laugh.
“It was my first day on the job, and I decided to wear one, just in case,” he adds with another laugh. “After that, I still helped out with debugging and got more training. My work as a designer didn’t start until Final Fantasy V. “[Hironobu] Sakaguchi then said, ‘we’re going to divide into teams!’ and the names of staff members were written on a whiteboard, along with the three titles of Final Fantasy, SaGa, and Mana.”
“My name was written under the Final Fantasy team, and I was taught the basics by Tetsuya Takahashi [Xenogears director, current head of Monolith Soft].”
Famitsu asks if he has any more memories he could share from that time, and if there were any influences that still have an impact on him today.
“Hiroyuki Ito who was in charge of the battle system taught me the basics of making your own game,” answers Nomura. “This wasn’t used for the game, but he told me things like ‘just make magic spells easily obtainable through money,’ or ‘it’s okay to just allow enemies to all be hit by pressing a single button’ and ‘don’t stick to existing concepts, but it’s okay to use some ideas from them’.”
While on the subject, Famitsu asks if Sakaguchi and [Yoshinori] Kitase often communicated with the other creators in a similar manner.
“Since I was like a minion, Sakaguchi was like a godly figure to me,” Nomura recalls. “Kitase was part of a section that handled events, so he didn’t have much to do with the design team, but he did talk to us frequently. During the development of Final Fantasy V, I would go to his desk and have him listen to a bunch of my ideas.” Nomura adds with a laugh, “I think he may have thought that I was a little annoying.”
Now that Nomura is part of the core of Square Enix’s present day Final Fantasy titles, Famitsu asks if he feels that he has inherited the series from the earlier days.
“Personally, I think that it was Kitase who ‘inherited’ Final Fantasy from Sakaguchi,” comments Nomura. “I think I can say so, since I’ve been watching them from those days. So, if anything, it’s safe to say that [Final Fantasy] is inside Kitase.”
Nomura then goes on to talk about how it was actually Final Fantasy V that he considers to be the turning-point of his career. The reason being, the production style at the time had Hironobu Sakaguchi decide the main point, while everyone else carried around their ideas in their own plan books. Using his own plan book, Nomura was able to better introduce himself to Sakaguchi and Kitase.
Famitsu asks what kind of things he had in his book.
Nomura shares, “There were a lot of things, but for example, in the planning book for what kind of jobs I had in mind for Final Fantasy V, there were things like a ninja with a dog, a gambler who fought with dice and cards, and other illustrations. Everyone else used computers to type things out for their main plan books, but in order to have more impact, I wrote all the notes by hand and included plenty of drawings.”
“I believe that having studied advertisement also worked out in a positive way,” he continues. “After a while, whenever it was time to turn in our plan books, Sakaguchi and Kitase would say ‘Where’s Tetsu’s plan book?’ as they started looking forward to it each time.”
Famitsu notes that his past interest in drawing manga during his days as a schoolboy may have played a big role in making things turn out the way they did.
“Perhaps so. However, in the end, those ideas weren’t used for Final Fantasy V, but when we started on Final Fantasy VI, they were used for Shadow and Setzer. After that, it was a great experience for me, to have something I arranged go out there in the world. I believe that being in that position is what may have led my being appointed to Final Fantasy VII.