The classic Super Nintendo RPG, Final Fantasy VI, celebrated its 25th anniversary earlier this month. In a special 25th anniversary interview with Famtisu, key staff from the original game shared stories about its development and how their rivalry with then-Enix’s Dragon Quest series was instrumental in the growth of Final Fantasy.
Famitsu: It was on April 2, 1994 that Final Fantasy VI released, and according to my calculation, development was completed by January or February, correct?
Minoru Akao, Sound Programmer: “Right, right, I just remembered. So the sound team was located in a room separate from the other staff, so when Final Fantasy VI went gold, all the other staff went home but the sound team was never notified, and we all ended up staying [laughs].”
Eiji Nakamura, Sound Engineer: “Yeah, yeah! It was really quiet, so when we went to go check on the development team it was like, ‘Huh… wait a second, does it mean it went gold…?’ [laughs].”
That must have been a surprise [laughs]. About how long did it take from the start of development until it went gold?
Hironobu Sakaguchi, Producer: “It was about a year.”
Kazuko Shibya, Graphic Director: “Development started immediately after work on Final Fantasy V completed, so it was actually about a little less than a year.”
Was it a year of hard work?
Eiji Nakamura: “I was a newcomer, and it was so busy, I can’t remember most of the details, but we were desperate. When making sound effects, for example, when thinking ‘What kind of weapons will this character be attacking with?’ we needed to see the game, so we ended up playing it while also working on debugging. So it was rather normal for us to stay the night at work.”
Hironobu Sakaguchi: “I was the guy that would crash out using a desk chair as a bed [laughs].”
Yoshinori Kitase, Director: “I used to bring in a sleeping bag.”
Minoru Akao: “I had a futon mattress!”
Everyone: “A futon mattress!?”
Minoru Akao: “Yeah, I had a small one that I would spread out [laughs].”
That’s certainly a memory you could only have from those days [laughs]. So you guys were so committed to creating something of high-quality, even if it meant spending the night.
Hironobu Sakaguchi: “A lot of it was influenced by Dragon Quest. Dragon Quest just had this unique vibe about it, along with a spectacular scenario from Yuji Horii-san. We were mostly fired up with a rival mentality, thinking ‘We must surpass them!’ rather than thinking ‘We’ll make something top-class!’”
Yoshinori Kitase: “Back in the days of Final Fantasy V, Sakaguchi-san, I remember you saying ‘We’ll at least beat ‘em (Dragon Quest) in the amount of main-numbered titles!’”
Hironobu Sakaguchi: “I figured we couldn’t beat them head on when it came to the games themselves, so yeah [laughs]. However, ever since the very first Final Fantasy, I always felt that we wouldn’t lose when it came down to graphics. Of course we did put in effort into systems and scenarios, but that was one part I used to be confident we could beat Dragon Quest in. Oh, speaking of Dragon Quest, wasn’t there some event that Kitase rejected?”
Yoshinori Kitase: “Huh? What was that again?”
Hironobu Sakaguchi: “No matter how many party members you have in Final Fantasy, you can only move one lead character on the map, right? So when you get members, they kind of fuse into the one representative party member. So the event that was rejected involved a part where four party members attempt to “fuse” into one lead, but then it was like ‘Huh!? We can’t fuse!?’ and had four of them line up instead, kind of a reference to Dragon Quest [laughs].”
Yoshinori Kitase: “Ahh, as expected, I remember saying ‘Okay, now you’re messing around too much!’ and rejected it [laughs].”
[Laughs]. Okay, last question. Is there anything you noticed again since you started playing Final Fantasy VI from the opening for the live stream?
Hironobu Sakaguchi: “It might sound like I’m patting myself on the back, but for an older game, Final Fantasy VI is honestly still a very fun game today. From here video games entered a world of 3D, and the scale of video games kept growing, but I felt that this in its own way is still a game that can be enjoyed today. That, and [I learned] that the bird on the beach only got in the way [laughs].”
Yoshinori Kitase: “I’m sorry [laughs].”
From left to right: Eiji Nakamura, Kazuko Shibuya, Hironobu Sakaguchi, Yoshinori Kitase, and Minoru Akao.
Final Fantasy VI first released for the Super Famicom in Japan on April 1994. It released as Final Fantasy III in North America in October 1994. The game was ported to PlayStation in 1999 in Japan and North America, and Europe in March 2002. Final Fantasy VI has also released on Game Boy Advance, iOS, Android, and PC.