Hironobu Sakaguchi is the creator of the Final Fantasy series, and was its director until Final Fantasy VI. After this, he became the executive producer of Final Fantasy VII and will assume a similar role in the already much-anticipated Final Fantasy VIII. Here, he discusses with Famitsu Weekly what we can expect from Final Fantasy VIII, the upcoming Final Fantasy movie, and also the changing roles of CG and dramatic presentation in modern gaming.
Famitsu: Mr. Sakaguchi, from the beginning, you held the position of director and producer – from the Famicom's FFI to FFIII, and the big leap that was the Super Famicom's FFIV. From I to IV, how was your role changed with the Final Fantasy series?
Hironobu Sakaguchi: In the beginning, I was the main planner, but when the production team increased, a director was needed, so I took that role as well. Basically, I was responsible for the story, events, in otherwords the tale, up to FFVI.
Famitsu: When you say up to VI, I know that Mr Kitase came to light from VII, correct?
Sakaguchi: Well, with FFV, I worked with Kitase, and we also did VI together. And after that, Chrono Trigger, too. In FFVII, there was the need for CG movies, and we did not have the skill for that. At the time, we had only worked with the Super Famicom, so our knowledge of CG implementation was near to zero. However, there were many things that only the PlayStation could do that we wanted to try, and there were many techniques we needed to learn. There was enormous work to be done in the producing aspect, so I went in that direction, and I left Kitase in charge of the main aspect.
Famitsu: From my point of view, I get a feeling that the Final Fantasy series pushes the available technology of the time to its limits. When it first came to Super Famicom with IV, the scene where the airship flies into the air had a great impact. I feel that you are very involved with the game's presentation and technology.
Sakaguchi: Well, I was a programmer, in the beginning.
Famitsu: Oh, is that right? (laughs)
Sakaguchi: Yes this was at the time of the early PCs, and when Square was established I was programming PC games. In that respect, I was concerned about how the hardware works, and how the algorithms in game programming and software worked. By discerning the limit of the hardware, that is how we decide on the game system. I try to present as best as I can with the limit of the hardware. But of course, you cannot make a good game simply because of technology or its hardware.
Famitsu: Even in the days of the Super Famicom, your presentation impressed many people. I suppose the PlayStation provided many possibilities in how it could be presented.
Sakaguchi: Yes, apart from the move from 2D to 3D, we were able to implement FMV, thanks to CDROM media.
Famitsu: What I see and feel in your work with FMVs, is your deep interest in cinema. That greatly influences you in your games, I think. Not just the games themselves, I think it greatly influences you in not only the games but as a creator.
Sakaguchi: I want to tell a story. The characters are like real people, crying and laughing, and because of that I am interested in dramatic presentation and visuals. Whether a movie or an interactive game, your sense of direction does not differ.
Famitsu: I see.
Sakaguchi: Of course there are many games that can move you emotionally without relying on visuals. But, in a time where the hardware develops so quickly, I want to take great advantage of this to make something that will move people's feelings even more. The visuals that can be used depends on the development of hardware, so I want to push it to the highest possible limit.
Famitsu: Because the PlayStation has opened up more possiblities, I think that you are beginning to see what you wanted to make.
Sakaguchi: Yes. I think it is nearly there. But, there is still much that can be learned.
Famitsu: You have cooperated with staff from Hollywood. Does this have a big impact on you as creator?
Sakaguchi: It is not simply Hollywood, but working with people who have lived in the world of cinematography has an impact on me. They think about this a lot and produce great films. It makes me think that it is a different level from the visuals of games.
Famitsu: Yes, I see.
Sakaguchi: I would like to combine games with their technique in film production, and many of the staff who have been with me are very talented; so I believe that we can improve aspects of visuals and presentation by cooperating with Hollywood Staff. We already have the know-how for interactivity so I believe we can make something great by adding knowledge of presentation and projection.
Famitsu: So you are concerned with how to present a game more dramatically, by acquiring the technique of Hollywood staff. But how will FF evolve, and your role in VIII change?
Sakaguchi: In VIII, I am purely the producer. The production is in Hawaii and Tokyo. Like VII, Kitase will completely direct.
Famitsu: You're creating the Final Fantasy movie at the moment, right?
Sakaguchi: Yes, in Hawaii, I am mainly working on the movie.
Famitsu: So which is more fun, making movies or games?
Sakaguchi: (laughs) That is hard to say! There is a lot of things I have not experienced yet in the field of movies.
Famitsu: Oh, I see. Final Fantasy VIII and the movie is being worked on simultaneously, and the FF world will be greatly widened. Can I say that in that time a new FF will be made with the know-how acquired from movie-making?
Sakaguchi: There are still many hurdles in the production of CG. To overcome these hurdles, and to make people feel emotion with its projection, is what we're aiming to achieve in making this movie. Perhaps, there will be in this, character and expressions that isn't felt in today's CG. In the end, I want to merge this with games. I want to make a game so good that if I taped it and showed it to someone, that person will feel moved. But first we must perfect the technologies of CG projection.
Famitsu: And how long do you think it'll take for this to come about?
Sakaguchi: Around 4 to 5 years, I think. The movie will be released in 2 years, so I think that, as much after that, I believe there will be true emotion in games.
Famitsu: So after VIII is the movie, and after the movie a game will come out two years after that?
Sakaguchi: Well, between them, FFIX and X will be announced. And this new style of CG will arise with X or XI.
Famitsu: This is a personal feeling but, I believe after you have acquired the skill from movies, you, as creator, will have a much wider knowledge of presentation. So more than the development of this new style of CG, I am looking forward to the future Final Fantasy games more.
Sakaguchi: Well, I'll have to try my hardest to please you. (laughs)
Famitsu: I can't wait! (laughs) Lastly, a comment for FFVIII, please?
Sakaguchi: If there is reasonable development from VII to VIII, in many respects, VIII will go beyond all that is expected. So, please look forward to it!
[Interview translated by Sachi Coxon, taken from the June 5th issue of the Japanese magazine, Famitsu Weekly.]