Square Enix designer, director, and creative producer Tetsuya Nomura is known for designing characters in the Final Fantasy series and also as the man behind the Kingdom Hearts series. Not much is known about the man himself, though. However, this week’s Famitsu magazine takes him down memory lane to talk about how his career began.
While Nomura has been involved in various projects for Square Enix as a director and creative producer, Famitsu points out that he’s probably most known for his character designs. They ask if he’s been drawing since he was little.
“The oldest drawing I still have is a drawing of a lion I did on my third birthday, on the back of a lid from a paper box,” shares Nomura. “I often drew a lot after returning home from preschool. Since then, I’ve always loved drawing.”
Famitsu asks if that means he often stayed home when he was a child.
“No, actually, I played baseball out on the rice fields, made fortresses out in the fields, went swimming and fishing at the rivers and beach; I pretty much did everything there was to do at that age,” says Nomura with a laugh.
Now that we know a little about Nomura’s childhood, Famitsu asks about his first experience playing games.
“What comes to mind aren’t video games… but board games; Sugoroku to be specific,” responds Nomura. “Sugoroku is quite a simple game that involes rolling a dice and going from start to end, it’s really easy to understand. However, the ones my father made had various barriers on the route, and there was a rule that required you to pass them in order to reach the goal.”
“During my elementary school days, that was really fun. I remember making them myself and playing together with friends.”
Famitsu mentions that having another person enjoy something that he created must have been like a starting point to his work.
“I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, but now that I think of it, that was the first time that happened,” says Nomura. “Speaking of being influenced by my father, that’s also how I picked up an interest in drawing.”
He continues, “He didn’t do it out of interest, but he would make little drawings for me, or he’d help me out with arts and crafts. When I was in middle school, it was also my father who said ‘we’re entering an era of computers,’ then went ahead and bought me a computer.”
Next, Famitsu asks if that’s when he entered the world of computers, back in his middle school days.
“Yes, it was in the dawn of spring. Using a book as reference, I used basic programming and made games,” explains Nomura. “Also, I played Tennis and Ping Pong on the Color TV-Game, and I also have plenty of memories of playing Legends of Stararthur Planet Mephius (pictured above) on PC. I believe I was able to play video games at a relatively early time because of that. However, I never bought the Famicom when it was released when I was in middle school, but I played it after borrowing it in high school.”
If you’re curious about what Nomura’s favourite game was at the time, he was questioned along those lines as well.
“That would be Dragon Quest,” answers Nomura. “I was shocked and thought, ‘Wow, these kind of games exist!’. Back then, most game characteristics had you get the game over screen after dying three times, but I was surprised to see something with story elements.”
Famitsu wonders if that’s how he decided to make it his goal to work in the games industry.
“No, actually, I never even thought about joining a game company,” says Nomura. “At the time, I wanted to become a manga artist, and drew manga in the middle of class during high school, then showed it my friends during break.”
“I didn’t pay any attention whatsoever,” shares Nomura with a laugh when asked about his classes. He adds with a laugh, “However, I thought it would be impossible for me to become a manga artist, so I entered a vocational school related to advertisement in order to find employment. I thought it’d be nice to find an advertising job at a publishing company, but I didn’t have enough attendance days (at vocational school) so I often had to take supplementary lessons.”
So, Tetsuya Nomura led a fairly normal life growing up. But how did he end up working for Square?
“I was looking at an employment magazine, and saw that [Square] were recruiting,” says Nomura. “There was one of [Yoshitaka] Amano’s drawings in there, and it caught my attention. Back in my high school days, my high school art teacher actually said ‘I think you’d like this guy’s drawings,’ and told me about him.”
Famitsu exclaims that it’s almost as if it were destiny that brought him to join the company. They ask if that’s when he decided to make games.
“I just wanted a job where I could ‘make’ something while being able to draw,” states Nomura. “At the same time, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do anything on my own. So, that’s when I thought of making games. I couldn’t think of any other choices.”