Last week, the SMU Guildhall campus in Plano hosted Final Fantasy art director Yusuke Naora from Square Enix in Japan. He's worked on a large number of Square games, including the iconic Final Fantasy VII, but this is the first time a Square employee has come to America for this kind of event.
Naora was there in part to promote Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, which is coming to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One later this month, but he also spoke to students, met with other local developers and even did some art on stage.
Before all that, I had the opportunity to talk to him briefly (through a translator) about the decision to come to SMU specifically, his favorite game in the Final Fantasy series and more.
Why did you decide to come to the U.S., and SMU specifically, for this lecture?
First and foremost, a lot of the Square-Enix Final Fantasy team, whenever we come to the states it's often for events like E3 in LA or New York or Comic Con. It's kind of skewed to either side of the country. So we were looking to come to the central US as well as try a different approach. It's also PR-related, yes, but it's more about being able to communicate with consumers as well as the developers in the area. We wanted to get the opportunity to do that.
Specifically with SMU, we had heard about their curriculum and what a great environment it is for game development and learning about game development, so we wanted to see that first-hand as well and see what kind of curriculum they had at SMU.
What are your thoughts about the differences between American and Japanese game development? Can the two learn from each other?
Definitely. I believe there's a lot to learn. And SMU was nice enough to set up a meeting session with some of the local developers from the Dallas area, so we're very excited for that opportunity and hope to be stimulated by this meet-and-greet session. I hope to both inspire and get inspired.
There have been cases where a Japanese series has seen an entry developed in America (Metroid Prime, made in Austin, is a good example). Could you see a Final Fantasy game developed outside of Japan?
We always have our antennas up, essentially. Within the Square-Enix group we have a lot of developers from Canada and the United States and Europe, so we're always looking out for those kinds of opportunities. Maybe in the future, that may be a possibility.
We fans tend to have big internet arguments over the question of what the best Final Fantasy game is. What's your personal favorite game in the series?
Just on a personal level, Final Fantasy VII had a large impact on my career.
And this is really not a marketing statement, but while making Type-0 and [Final Fantasy] XV I was really excited about being involved in the title. So those are two other titles that I like very much. There are many instances where I got goosebumps while creating those two titles.
We American Final Fantasy fans are very excited to finally play Type-0, since we never got it on the PSP. Are you excited that it's finally leaving Japan?
It's something we wanted to do [a long time ago], and the director of the game had mentioned this previously, but really a big factor for bringing this game to Western markets were the demands and the voices of the fans. So in that sense we want to express our appreciation, because that was a factor in bringing it over. We're excited, because it's something we also wanted to do. It's a really rare thing in our company that things have come to life in that form.
The first demo for the long-awaited Final Fantasy XV is attached to Type-0. Is the demo release nerve-wracking for you?
I've been involved with the title ever since it was switched over to XV a couple of years ago [Editor's note: the game was originally announced back in 2006 as Final Fantasy Versus XIII and was going to be a XIII spin-off. It was renamed to Final Fantasy XV in 2013], and it's been awhile since I've worked on a numbered Final Fantasy title, so there are some nerves that go along with that. It is just a trial, a demo, but the fact that fans we will be able to release it for the first time, we're very elated and nervous. We'd love to hear your feedback on the demo.
Final Fantasy Type-0 launches on March 17 for the PS4 and Xbox One, and Day One editions of the game come with a demo for Final Fantasy XV.