From the mouth – or rather, the keyboard – of Hironobu Sakaguchi.
If you're a fan of the Final Fantasy series, you've heard of him. The man's blood and tears are in the genes of the game series, and while he no longer works at Square Enix, his influence remains.
In a Weekly Famitsu interview between Sakaguchi and current Final Fantasy helmsman, Yoshinori Kitase, the two titans of the JRPG world talked about their past, working together on Final Fantasy, and just what it is.
Sakaguchi and Kitase first worked together on Final Fantasy V, a game that initially never got a western release. Recalled Kitase, "Mr. Sakaguchi and I worked on [the game's] events in a relay, so when we would go to work, the first thing we'd do is check the data the other had put up to check the continuity. We'd see each other's work and think 'I'll make something even better!' in a sort of competition."
The friendly rivalry between the two creators let had vastly different styles in their development on the game, with Sakaguchi focusing on drama and Kitase going for awe-inspiring spectacle. Said Sakaguchi, "Kitase was talented at making events that played out in a spectacle, like the avalanche event. I realised, I can't beat him there, so I went for the 'make you cry' direction. I figured I'd have to fight with emotional drama."
Kitase took on the role of director after Final Fantasy V, creating Final Fantasy VI, VII, and VIII, before settling in the producer's chair. It was during the development of Final Fantasy XIII when out of the blue, he reached out to Sakaguchi asking just what this series that Sakaguchi had created was. "I was talking with director Toriyama about 'what is Final Fantasy?'" Kitase said. "He said, 'With Disney, they have the words of Walt Disney that the modern animators still carry on. For Final Fantasy, shouldn't those words be Mr. Sakaguchi's?'"
"Final Fantasy is Final Fantasy if it has a blue window with text in it."
Very few members of the staff working on Final Fantasy XIII had ever worked alongside Sakaguchi, and Kitase thought some words of inspiration from the series creator would help. The two men had dinner, during which Kitase posed the question to Sakaguchi. Sakaguchi's initial response was "Final Fantasy is Final Fantasy if it has a blue window with text in it." This initial response was more or a knee-jerk reaction brought on by alcohol. "At the time, I was really drunk and just rattled off a response." Sakaguchi laughed. "But I regretted it the next day and wrote a proper response that I sent by email."
Sakaguchi's official answer was much more eloquent.
Say it's "what is born after those who live intensely, run across a multitude of unbeaten paths to reach the same goal in the end." After all, we've always strived to do new things, and I'd like it if we kept doing that.
Looking back, Sakaguchi mused, "With Final Fantasy V, Kitase and I tried to change Final Fantasy and didn't hold back on our ideas. Even if we emptied ourselves, we'd pour out as many ideas as we could the next time around and change everything. Basically, 'so long as the blue window is there, you can do anything you want.'"