Love it or hate it, there's something to be admired in Square Enix's recent Final Fantasy release on Nintendo DS. Titled The 4 Heroes of Light (reviewed here), it's a modern day adaptation of a familiar tale to RPG veterans - band together to save your homeland from a ever-looming evil.
It makes sense that a game like this gets made under the guidance of a director who has seen the games industry landscape change since the late 80s and the days of Famicom fantasy adventures.
Having directed Chrono Trigger
in the past among others for Square Enix, Takashi Tokita speaks to SPOnG in this interesting Q&A on modernising the classic role playing game and whether today's audiences are ready for it.
SPOnG: What specific inspirations did you have in mind when developing Final Fantasy: 4 Heroes of Light?
The project was kicked off with our desire to create a new RPG from creators of Final Fantasy III
on the Nintendo DS. After producing a number of remakes, we came up with the concept of “old-school adventures with the latest technology”.
SPOnG: The art style seems different to that of the classic RPG games that they appear to pay homage to. Why did you go with this particular style?
Akihiko Yoshida, our art director, suggested the new artistic style as he had taken inspirations from Russian fantasy paintings and so forth. This particular style has been expressed by staff at Matrix, who developed the “toon shader” technique for Final Fantasy IV
on the DS. Again, this is about the latest technology employed for a popular-line universe.
SPOnG: Why did you decide to go with the 'Charge' command instead of traditional magic points for combat?
In this game, you can collect various abilities, not only magical spells, as you switch between many different jobs. These abilities are treated equally as spells and other basic commands and contribute to a simple system and strategic game play where you need to make selections. Also, it requires forethoughts to play well and this facilitates faster game play.
SPOnG: 4 Heroes of Light appears to use a classic fantasy RPG structure, and that's interesting because this is considered a spinoff from the core series of games. Do you think the main Final Fantasy series has lost its RPG focus over the last couple of years?
The latest game consoles have made it possible to create high-quality CGI and, following this, it has become mainstream that the player can “feel” reality in all consumer games, not necessarily in RPGs.
There used to be the notion that RPG is the genre which requires the player to think a lot. However, as I see it, more focus has been placed on the “empathy” elements in recent years and even such games tend not to depend too heavily on the player’s imagination.
I nonetheless believe that RPG still does evoke imaginative thoughts whilst bravely trying to present a novel strain of fun game play every time a new tile is released.
SPOnG: How do you compare games from the Famicom era with those of today, in terms of gameplay experiences? Do you think games are more diverse now than they were back then, or do you feel a lot of originality and diversity has been lost since the Famicom?
Actually, I think that what we see is on-going INCREASE in originality and diversity, as we have a wider variety of platforms and outputs these days.
Having said that, it is true that the increase has been causing counter effects resulting in a situation where little attention is paid to something that is not readily comprehensible or something novel, whereas something easily understandable and serialised titles get the most spotlights. I proudly believe that, with this game, we have ventured new measures to accommodate accessibilities of the current times whilst maintaining a classic air around the title.
SPOnG: This game was released in Fall 2009 in Japan. How well did it perform at retail? Does its performance make you feel confident about making another type of game like this?
Thanks to your support, we have managed to attain some positive results despite the tough market situation in the year-end shopping season. This has made me rediscover the fact that the nature of fun is universal even when it appears that the entertainment in general, not only games, is getting more and more diversified.
When I talk about our own products like Final Fantasy IV: The After Years
on WiiWare, and the mobile phone game Final Fantasy Legend: Warriors of Light and Darkness
which we launched in September... these have been delivered to users in such ways as to go along at the time and are consequently winning great popularity even though they are all “classic” titles.
SPOnG: With the average consumer looking for more casual, simple games to jump into - particularly with handhelds such as the iPhone - do you think there will continue to be a market for games of this size on portables like Nintendo DS?
In view of making games easy to play and easy to “pick up”, hand-held machines such as iPhone are indeed less hard to call on. The new portable console, Nintendo 3DS, will soon be available with a new charm and I am personally looking forward to seeing how well it does when it comes out.
Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light is available now on Nintendo DS. You can read SPOnG's review of the game here.