Press Clippings | Afterthoughts: Final Fantasy VII
Interivew with Yoshinori Kitase and Tetsuya Nomura from Electronic Gaming Monthly, issue #196, October 2005.
In light of all these new FFVII offshoots, we thought it would be interesting to look back at the groundbreaking original PS1 game that popularized the role-playing genre in the United States. We waxed nostalgic with two of FFVII's most integral team members: Director Yoshinori Kitase and character designer/battle director/coauthor Tetsuya Nomura.
EGM: What does Final Fantasy VII mean to you?
Yoshinori Kitase: FFVII was the first Final Fantasy for the PS1, and it was also the first 3D game in the series, so it determined the new direction that the franchise would take after the 16-bit Super Nintendo era. It's by far the most memorable and important title for me, and when I had the chance to expand any of the past games, I immediately chose Final Fantasy VII for the project. The ending of FFVII seemed to me to open up so many possibilities with its characters, more so than other games.
EGM: When you were working on FFVII eight years ago, could you conceive of how much the game would affect the RPG marketplace?
Tetsuya Nomura: When I look back, I remember having no concept of just how massive that project would go on to become. Of course, I'd been associated with the Final Fantasy franchise before FFVII, as I did monster designs on Final Fantasy V (Super NES). I remember that before we started FFVII, the characters from Final Fantasy IV were still very popular, despite the fact that FFV and FFVI had been released. I found this really frustrating. Why would people still be talking about those characters? So I made it my goal to create my own batch of characters that would be remembered and loved by the Final Fantasy fans. Also, starting with FFVII, I was far more deeply involved with the story and characters, so I was really extremely excited to work on that project.
EGM: FFVII was a departure from the Super NES titles… were you worried about fan reaction?
YK: I wasn't really worried about response to the graphical shift, as there were already several 3D games in America that were accepted by fans. My fear had been that the Final Fantasy franchise might be left behind if it didn't catch up to that trend, actually.
EGM: What did you think of Cloud as a hero when you were making FFVII?
YK: There wasn't really much controversy or criticism about having him as the hero from within Square, but he is definitely a mysterious character. That's one of the game's main themes, the fact that the protagonist has all these secrets to unravel. He isn't a straightforward hero like Superman; rather, he has lots of mysteries, self-doubts, and a real dark side. Mr. Nomura was also very good at designing a character like that.
EGM: We heard that the death of Aerith and the creation of Tifa both originated in a phone call between you two....
TN: It's funny, some magazine ran that story, but only the beginning and ending of it. People think that I wanted to kill off Aerith and replace her with Tifa as the main character! [Laughs] The actual conversation between Mr. Kitase and myself was very, very long. Originally, there were only going to be three characters in the entire game: Cloud, Barrett, and Aerith. Can you imagine that? And we knew even in the early concept stage that one character would have to die. But we only had three to choose from. I mean, Cloud's the main character, so you can't really kill him. And Barrett... well, that's maybe too obvious. But we had to pick between Aerith and Barrett. We debated this for a long time, but in the end decided to sacrifice Aerith.
EGM: Did you pick her to increase the drama?
TN: In the previous FF games, it became almost a signature theme for one character to sacrifice him or herself, and often it was a similar character type from game to game, kind of a brave, last-man-standing, Barrett-type character. So everyone expected that. And I think that death should be something sudden and unexpected, and Aerith's death seemed more natural and realistic. Now, when I reflect on Final Fantasy VII, the fact that fans were so offended by her sudden death probably means that we were successful with her character. If fans had simply accepted her death, that would have meant she wasn't an effective character.
EGM: Which female character in FFVII is your personal favorite?
TN: [Laughs] I'm not really interested in any superdeformed females.
EGM: Since Dirge of Cerberus is, chronologically speaking, the furthest game in the FFVII timeline, does it have a happy ending?
YK: AC and DC both have their own resolutions, so don't expect cliff-hangers there. Also, DC isn't the direct sequel to FFVII, Advent Children is. So we can't view DC as the ending to the whole big FFVII saga. Plus, FFVII definitely has so many diverse elements, and different fans have interest in different characters, so if, for example, one person is interested in Cloud, Tifa, and Aerith's relationship, then AC may provide some sort of answers for them. Somebody else might be interested in Vincent, so they might want to explore DC. It's not like this is going to complete the whole story, but it will satisfy fans who have strong attachments to individual characters.
EGM: At the very end of FFVII, we see the epilogue to the whole story that takes place 500 years later, so really, you still have another 497 years' worth of games and movies to fill in....
YK: Ha, maybe I'll try to do that. In a way, I consider that epilogue to be the true happy ending of FFVII. Well, it's a happy ending even though all the human beings are destroyed. [Laughs]