Interview with Final Fantasy Producer, Hironobu Sakaguchi

Recently, RPGamer's Doug Hill had the chance to conduct a live interview with Final Fantasy producer Hironobu Sakaguchi about the future of the series and the feature film, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. The following is a transcript of that interview.

RPGamer: In the past, you have spoken of the difficulties of keeping the Final Fantasy series fresh. Did this influence the decision to make Final Fantasy: The Spirits within, and also the new animated Final Fantasy series that's coming out in Japan soon?

Sakaguchi: I'm not too sure if the idea behind these two projects is to keep Final Fantasy fresh, but it certainly is to keep presenting them and their creators with new challenges, and constantly push the envelope with every Final Fantasy title. Creating feature films as well as animated series does provide a lot of new challenges which eventually will help with the development of new Final Fantasy games as well.

RPGamer: Where did you draw your inspiration from the story of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within?

Sakaguchi: Actually, the idea for the story has been growing for ten years or so. The initial inspiration was the passing of my mother around that time. Since then I have had this idea and been thinking about it a lot.

RPGamer: Do you still believe digitally created actors have a place in the film industry?

Sakaguchi: Yes, they do have a place, but that is not to say that their place will be in place of live actors. Because computer graphics are just another form of visual presentation, I feel that these characters, as real as they are, can only exist in special artificial environments. So, there will be a place for them where those types of characters are needed, but they will never replace live actors.

RPGamer: Was there anything placed in the movie with the sole intent of being just a bonus for Final Fantasy fans who really studied the movie?

Sakaguchi: There are several hidden shots that fans of the game series might appreciate if you look at it carefully. For example, there are several scenes where we have Chocobos, those bird characters from our games, hidden somewhere in the scene in a couple of shots. Also, a cameo by myself in there as well.

RPGamer: Do you know when in the film that is?

Sakaguchi: You can see me for a split second where the entire council is gathered, and Dr. Cid and Aki are discussing the Gaia Theory. I am actually one of the council members. The Chocobo appears in a couple of places. The first is when Aki wakes up from her dream in the morning and rushes off to this council meeting, and you notice that she is wearing a white tee-shirt. If you look carefully, there is a sewn on Chocobo on her shirt. I think the other is during the panic when people are running around on top of a building, and the escape wall comes crashing down. In that particular scene is one man standing in the middle of the screen holding a briefcase. When he runs off, you can notice a little Chocobo on his briefcase.

RPGamer: If you had it to do all over again, would you still have chosen to make Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within?

Sakaguchi: The first time it was so hard that I wouldn't want to have to do it over again, but I am very happy with how it came out.

RPGamer: Would there be any possibility of working with another firm that wanted to create a movie if they were funding it?

Sakaguchi: I certainly don't mean I'd never be interested in making a feature film again. In terms of creating Final Fantasy, I had to start from scratch, building all these realistic characters and environments, but now that we've finished it, we have the technology so the same thing can be done fairly quickly and be more cost effective. So yes, if there was another company interested in creating a movie with our technology, we'd definitely be interested, but I'd never want to start from scratch again.

RPGamer: Moving on to the Final Fantasy games, with Final Fantasy X just finished and out in stores in Japan, the focus must be shifting to the next in the series, Final Fantasy XI. What is your primary goal in making Final Fantasy XI online, instead of a stand alone platform game?

Sakaguchi: As far as Final Fantasy XI is concerned, being fully online is something that is new to Square as well. But by it having the Final Fantasy title, the audiences are going to expect the level of quality that Square has given in past Final Fantasies, and this goes along with what I said before about constantly pushing the envelope and creating new challenges.

RPGamer: With Final Fantasy being an online game, constantly going on, how will you convey the storyline?

Sakaguchi: Being an online game, it will be constantly evolving and changing. We'll be concentrating more on creating a historical background for these characters rather than try to tell a story up front. But within that background and history, we will present different stories using the NPCs, or non-player characters, incorporating the kind of storytelling you're used to us doing in Final Fantasy titles.

RPGamer: You have stated that in order to succeed, Final Fantasy XI needs to be available on multiple platforms. Given recent events, like Sony buying a large chunk of Square, is it still possible that Final Fantasy XI might appear on next-generation platforms like the GameCube or X-Box?

Sakaguchi: While the agreement between Square and Sony was that as far as the online game goes, the platform will remain open, but the plan from before this happened was for us to release this for the PS2, Sony Playstation 2, and we're probably going to move forward with that at this point.

RPGamer: So, no word yet on other platforms?

Sakaguchi: When we initially started developing, we didn't plan for it, because we just didn't have the manpower to develop the game for multiple platforms, so for now it will just be the PC and PS2.

RPGamer: Can you tell us anything about Final Fantasy XII yet?

Sakaguchi: Not too much, only that it is in pre-production and I am working with the creators on developing the story right now.

RPGamer: In an interview just a few days ago with Famitsu, Square's president Hisashi Suzuki said that he wants to return Square to the glory days. What does that mean to you?

Sakaguchi: [laughs] He said that? My guess is that what he meant is for Square to return financially to where they were as a really big player in the industry, artistically, and being one of the forerunners of game developers.

RPGamer: In January at the Square Millennium Press Conference, you discussed remaking all of the existing Final Fantasy games. Are there still plans to remake Final Fantasy IV through IX?

Sakaguchi: On the Wonderswan, or in general?

RPGamer: Either. If I remember correctly, Final Fantasy IV through VI were planned to be on Gameboy Advance, and there was talk of remaking VII through IX for the Playstation 2.

Sakaguchi: I believe I mentioned that in that interview, but as of now there's no specific movement in that regard.

RPGamer: Out of all the Final Fantasy games, what is your favorite villain?

Sakaguchi: Garland, the villain from Final Fantasy I.

Special thanks Mr. Sakaguchi for taking time out of his busy schedule, during TGS to boot, and talking to us. Also thanks to Hiroshi Tanaka, CG Manager for translating, Yumi Ozaki, PR Manager, for fascilitating the interview, and Karen Penhale for setting up the interview with Mr. Sakaguchi.

by Doug Hill    
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