Hiroki Chiba has been working on the Final Fantasy series for a very long time. For the most part he’s served as a scenario and event writer during his 23 years employed at Square Enix, working on many games such as Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VII (even developing the character Vincent). However, with the announcement of World of Final Fantasy, Hiroki Chiba takes up the mantle of Director as he puts his biggest footprint on the Final Fantasy series.
The following is an interview taken on September 3rd at PAX 2016, where Chiba-san and I delved into what exactly his direction is while creating World of Final Fantasy.
Dan: What’s up PlayStation Insiders! My name is Dan, here with the one-and-only Hiroki Chiba, working on World of Final Fantasy. Please, tell us more about World of Final Fantasy.
Chiba: So with World of Final Fantasy, the Final Fantasy series is celebrating it’s 30 year anniversary. Our players have grown up with the series and our playerbase has become very mature. We’ve realized that today not very many children or the younger audience take Final Fantasy in their hands and play the games. It’s quite an unfortunate situation so the executive producer for Final Fantasy (Shinji Hashimoto) was a little bit concerned and approached me asking “What can we do to introduce the goodness of Final Fantasy to our younger audience and have them play and enjoy what we can offer in the franchise?”. That was the original concept of this project. After that we worked with the art-designer, Yasuhisa Izumisawa, who has worked on previous titles such as Crystal Chronicles–and had him create chibi (two-head length) characters. We showed those images to Mr. Hashimoto and Tetsuya Nomura as well, and then we came to the conclusion that we can use this to potentially create a new Final Fantasy IP that would appeal to a brand new audience.
Dan: You’ve mostly been a writer for Final Fantasy games, specifically a scenario-writer. How does it feel to be directing a headliner of the series?
Chiba: When I joined on my first Final Fantasy I was helping as an event planner, basically coming up with the different scenarios–structuring each cinematic that was in the game. It involved working with many different departments, including the sound team, graphics team and a lot more. So you could say I already had some experience leading the direction of a Final Fantasy. So when I’m asked, “Did anything change being a director of a game?” I don’t feel like there’s much of a significant change, and I don’t feel like it was too hard of a transition. In terms of scenario writing, or any sort of writing in general I feel as if you can’t be on your own when writing. You have to work with the other teams and make sure that you’re communicating with the many different people involved. Discussing which scenes would work in a scenario, what kind of wording is appropriate in situations, and staying on the same page with those involved on the different facets of a particular scene. Everything I did led to directorial work, so I feel very comfortable working in this position. And I feel as if the transition was relatively easy.
Of course since entering Square Enix, I’ve had many great mentors. Including Sakaguchi (Final Fantasy VI), Tanaka (Secret of Mana), and Kitase (Chrono Trigger), they taught me so many different things in terms of game design and creation. I feel that these men have contributed towards my experience and helped greatly with the transition towards becoming a director for World of Final Fantasy.
Dan: Many people appreciate Vincent from Final Fantasy VII, are there any characters that you’ve created for World of Final Fantasy?
Chiba: Of course World of Final Fantasy includes many Legendary Final Fantasy Characters, but there’s just as many characters that are new to the title as well. Including our protagonists, Reynn and Lann along with the enemies and allies that they meet along their journey. There are some new monsters that appear in World of Final Fantasy as well. I also wanted to mention Tama and Seraphe, they are mirages–categorized similarly as the monsters in the game but nothing of the sort. They’re important key-characters that are involved in the narrative, one of the many that are fleshed out greatly in the game.
Dan: This game seems to have a lighter tone than the usual heavy-handed Final Fantasy games. Judging by the aesthetics and story-beats shown in the trailer, can I ask if you were inspired by the somewhat lighter tone of games like Kingdom Hearts? Is there any sort of tonal shift you had to keep in mind while targeting a younger audience? Or are you trying to keep most of the story threads less complex while still remaining heavy-handed.
Chiba: Of course, there’s the concept that a fraction of our focus is targeting a younger audience that isn’t familiar with the Final Fantasy franchise. We want to make it a fun adventure that our players will be able to experience through the eyes of our protagonists. You would expect from the visual depictions that it’s going to be all cheerful and lighthearted, but not quite. We want to make sure that there will be scenes that are common with the Final Fantasy series and we made sure that these scenes will grab you and pull you into the narrative emotionally. For this reason, we look forward to the reactions of everyone who will play the game.
Dan: Thank you very much, when can we expect World of Final Fantasy on Vita and PS4?
Chiba: For North America, World of Final Fantasy will be arriving October 25th this year. A limited edition of the game can be bought that comes with an art-book if you order ahead of its release and play it the day it comes out.
Dan: It looks like you’re shaping World of Final Fantasy to be a great celebration of the Final Fantasy series ahead of the release of FFXV.
Thank you Chiba-san and Square Enix for the interview.
You can pick up World of Final Fantasy here.