Archives for posts with tag: Hironobu Sakaguchi


Now that Hallowe’en is over, and with it our month-long Month of Horror, we’ve started a new series over on A Game with Chums. If you’re a fan of Final Fantasy, as we are, you’ll know that 2017 marks the thirtieth anniversary of Square’s storied RPG franchise, and we couldn’t let the year go by without celebrating that in some way.

We’ve raided our game shelves to make a collection of videos showcasing the first hour of every mainline entry in the series, all the way up to last year’s Final Fantasy XV, and we’ll be putting them up on Wednesdays and Fridays, starting today with the original Final Fantasy (well, kind of the original; we played the Origins version). You can watch it below, and please leave us a comment if you enjoyed it.

We’ll be back with Final Fantasy II this Friday, and we hope you’ll come with us on this journey. If all goes to plan and the technical gremlins leave us alone for a bit, we expect the final video to go up on December 20th, which is just two days after the original Final Fantasy was released in Japan back in 1987. It’s almost like we planned it.

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One of the Xbox 360’s most beloved titles has finally made its way to the current generation, as Mistwalker’s Lost Odyssey launches today for Xbox One’s backward compatibility programme.

Directed by ex-Squaresoft legend Hironobu Sakaguchi – the father of Final Fantasy – with music by fellow Final Fantasy icon Nobuo Uematsu, Lost Odyssey is something of a rare breed: a jRPG exclusive to a Microsoft platform. It stars the immortal warrior Kaim Argonar, who has wandered the world for a thousand years, yet remembers little of it thanks to a bout of jRPG amnesia. It’s an incredibly traditional example of the genre, complete with a turn-based battle system – albeit with a dynamic touch thanks to a timed ring-matching system – that many fans hold up as being truer to Final Fantasy‘s legacy than the last decade of titles in the series that effectively spawned it. Also of note are the ‘Thousand Years of Dreams’, lost memories of Kaim’s that you can find throughout the adventure which contain some of the best writing you’ll find in the genre.

LIRUM ;____;

Lirum!!! ;____;

Lost Odyssey has been one of the most wanted games for Microsoft’s backward compatibility programme since it was announced back at last year’s E3 conference, though the lack of support for multi-disc games (Lost Odyssey comes on four of them) held up its availability. Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director’s Cut was the first multi-disc game to launch for the programme earlier this year, so it had been assumed that it was simply a matter of time until Mistwalker’s game saw release.

Lost Odyssey will remain a strictly physical release, as a Games on Demand version does not exist on the Xbox storefront, so you’ll need a copy of the game if you wish to play it on your Xbox One. Inserting disc 1 will prompt a 22GB file to download and, according to a post on NeoGAF, the game is only playable with that first disc in the drive; discs 2, 3 or 4 simply will not work. While this sounds a bit odd, it also means you will no longer need to switch discs while playing, which can only be a good thing.

LO-Battle

Also announced for backward compatibility today are Disney’s Toy Story 3 and Guwange, a Muromachi Period-set vertical shoot ’em up from genre legends Cave. They come hot on the heels of the addition of Call of Duty 3, World at War and Sega’s Virtua Figher 5: Final Showdown and it’s excellent to see continued support with more big name, much-loved titles making the generational jump. There are now more than 250 Xbox 360 titles available to play on Microsoft’s current machine, and apart from the benefit to end users, it’s a great way to ensure some degree of preservation for games otherwise locked on old systems.

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Though GameSpot managed to spill the beans mere hours before Square Enix’s Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV event in Los Angeles last night, spoiling the upcoming title’s release date in a since-removed YouTube video, they certainly didn’t manage to ruin all the surprises. Square Enix’s social media accounts had promised that fans of the long-running Final Fantasy saga should tune in regardless, promising they’d be missing out if they didn’t watch. And, as it turns out, they were absolutely spot on, as Uncovered featured a bevy of reveals, announcements and surprises, the first of which was Hironobu Sakaguchi, the father of Final Fantasy, opening the show.

Taking the stage to rapturous applause, Sakaguchi-san talked about how he views the series as his child, and much like a child, a parent often wonders whether they are on the right path or not – a not so veiled reference to the franchise’s recent struggles that sent some ripples of laughter through the 6,000-strong audience, and set a playful, self-assured tone for the rest of the night. Though he hasn’t been involved with Final Fantasy for quite some time now, leaving Square Enix over a decade ago, he spoke about how he had a chance to sit down with Final Fantasy XV director Hajime Tabata, who told him that he planned to take the series back to its ‘challenger’ roots. This reassured Sakaguchi, who had always thought of Final Fantasy as something that always sought out new challenges, and it certainly looks like that’s what the team are hoping to do with Final Fantasy XV.

The main takeaway from Uncovered is that Square Enix seem to be incredibly bullish about Final Fantasy XV‘s chances at recapturing the public’s imagination. They’re going all out with this property, treating fans to a lavish event streamed around the world, with Final Fantasy royalty in the house – as well as Sakaguchi-san, long-standing series artist Yoshitaka Amano, FFXV composer Yoko Shimomura and director Hajime Tabata were all in attendance. Last night’s event wasn’t just to generate hype for the new game, which we now know will be launching worldwide on September 30th (yes, this year); it was also to announce that Final Fantasy XV will be accompanied by its very own compilation of expanded material. Years after Final Fantasy VII’s release, with its legacy already assured, Square Enix began the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII. With Final Fantasy XV, they’re establishing it as its very own metaseries right now.

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In an astonishing display of confidence, last night Square Enix, via presenters Greg Miller and Tim Gettys of Kinda Funny Games, announced that Final Fantasy XV will be getting a five-part anime prequel series, a feature-length CG movie, and a mobile app minigame. They’re going all-in with this, turning Final Fantasy XV into a complete cross-media sub-franchise of its own, so let’s talk about each of those in a bit more detail. Brotherhood, the anime prequel, stars the game’s four main characters – Noctis, Ignis, Gladio and Prompto – and serves as a direct prequel to the game, promising to elaborate on the history and bonds between our heroes. Made by A-1 Pictures, the animation house behind the likes of Sword Art Online, the five episodes will be free to watch on Square Enix’s YouTube page, and the first one is already available to watch now. I’ll be writing about that in more depth in a separate piece.

Kingsglaive is the name of the CG movie, a feature-length film in the vein of 2005’s Final Fantasy VII sequel Advent Children, and it focuses on the characters of Noctis’ father King Regis of Lucis, Noctis’ betrothed, Lunafreya Nox Fleuret, and the soldier Nyx, a member of the titular Kingsglaive, an elite unit commanded by King Regis as they try to push back Niflheim’s imperial army. In another show of confidence, the film will feature an all-star cast, with Sean Bean, Lena Headey and Aaron Paul starring as Regis, Luna and Nyx respectively, though it’s not yet clear whether these same actors will reprise their roles in the game itself (or whether Nyx will even appear in-game). It certainly doesn’t seem to be the case, going by the game’s latest trailer, in which Regis sports an American accent, but time will tell. Kingsglaive will be available to stream and download worldwide sometime this year, and you can see the trailer below.

And then there’s Justice Monsters Five, a minigame that appears and is playable within Final Fantasy XV. Existing within the game’s fiction – we see our heroes excitedly come across a table in a diner – Justice Monsters Five appears to be some kind of pinball/battling hybrid featuring iconic Final Fantasy monsters. Leading up to its unveiling, names like Tetra Master, Triple Triad, Blitzball and Chocobo Racing were bandied about, so we can assume that Justice Monsters Five will be the main minigame in Final Fantasy XV. But it won’t just exist inside the game of course, as it will be coming to iOS, Android and Windows 10 as a standalone app, so you can get your Justice Monsters Five fix on the go.

While there was quite a focus on the supplemental, expanded universe content during the Uncovered event, that’s not to say we didn’t get a good look at the game itself. Viewers were treated to a few short gameplay clips featuring things such as chocobo riding (chocobos can jump, glide, and even drift around corners), and driving in the party’s car, the Regalia. Of course, an open world game with driving wouldn’t be complete without radio stations, and Final Fantasy XV doesn’t disappoint here, offering a selection of classic Final Fantasy songs from across the franchise’s entire history to cruise along to – we heard short snippets of the overworld theme from the first Final Fantasy game, as well as Sunleth Waterscape from XIII. As a huge fan of Final Fantasy music this is something that will make me very happy indeed, and I can imagine driving around the world for hours just listening and humming along to some classic FF tunes.

While driving around, we also see a car stopped at the side of the road, its occupants trying to flag down help, and it’s suggested that this is an example of some of the side content we’ll be seeing in the full game. Following that was a short clip of the party in battle, mostly showing off stuff that you’ll be familiar with if you played Episode Duscae last spring, with the addition of a short look at magic as we see Noctis manage to scare off an enormous Behemoth by casting Blizzara. Then we’re treated to a brief glimpse of an absolutely titanic Titan, and at this point it’s worth remembering that the summons in this game are going to be insane. We also saw a clip showcasing some of the beautiful, sprawling environments that we’ll be visiting throughout the world of Final Fantasy XV, including our first in-game look at the gorgeous, Venice-inspired city of Altissia. Final Fantasy XV has long been billed as “a Fantasy based on Reality’, but fans of the fantastical need not worry that the game will appear mundane; there seems to be plenty of fantastical elements and environments in there to justify the name, and you can see the clip shown last night below, courtesy of Youtuber YongYea. Honestly, it’s worth watching for the music alone, which is stunningly beautiful.

Before our final surprise of the night, there was time for a couple more announcements. First heard in the opening trailer, the theme song for Final Fantasy XV is a lush, orchestral reimagining of Ben E. King’s Stand by Me, performed by Florence and the Machine. I must admit that I thought it sounded incredibly out of place when it suddenly began, halfway through that trailer, even if does seem like an obvious song choice for a story about four friends heading out on an uncertain journey. But I think it’s going to grow on me. Florence Welch’s powerful vocal performance certainly sells the emotion of the piece, and as the trailer goes on it seems to fit more and more. If Square Enix must insist on this kind of thing, at least it’s a much better choice than Leona Lewis’ My Hands was for Final Fantasy XIII.

Perhaps most exciting of all, however, was the announcement of a new demo. This one isn’t tied to a purchase, unlike the Episode Duscae demo that accompanied Final Fantasy Type-0 HD last year, so it’s available for everyone to try on both PS4 and Xbox One. Titled the ‘Platinum Demo’, it begins with a strange premise; you control kid Noctis as he journeys through a dream, guided by Carbuncle as he makes his way to the royal citadel, armed only with a toy sword and a squeaky hammer. It sounds odd, but the good thing is you don’t have to wait to find out just how weird it is, as the demo is live on both storefronts right now. I haven’t yet had a chance to play it myself, so, like with the Brotherhood anime, I’ll be writing up some impressions, complete with video, a little later, much like I did last year with Episode Duscae.

And so we were coming to the end of the Uncovered event, with Director Hajime Tabata taking to the stage to announce the release date that we all already knew. This didn’t mean the stream ended without a surprise, however; Tabata had recently teased that the team had determined how to include airship travel in the game, a core FF motif that has been essentially missing from the last few main series titles that fans really want back. At the very end of an epic, extended trailer, we see the party’s flash car sprout wings and take to the skies. If I’m being honest, I found it to be a little goofy, as the car begins to transform and a pair of wings fold out before it rather quickly takes off. Hopefully it’s just one method of transport – the same trailer shows the boys speeding across the water in a yacht, for instance.

Still, the thought of driving, boating and flying around this massive world is tantalising, and with all of last night’s announcements still ringing in the ears, today is a good day to be a Final Fantasy fan. Square Enix seem hugely confident about the prospects of this long-in-development epic and its chances at winning back the limelight and returning to the enormous, world-conquering franchise it used to be. And I for one cannot wait to dive right in and experience it. I’ll have to wait until September of course, but what’s another six months when you’ve been dreaming of it for ten years?

See the epic extended trailer for Final Fantasy XV, complete with flying transformer car, below.

Last Friday, Distant Worlds returned to the Royal Albert Hall. This time, however, the show differed from previous incarnations; it’s 2012, and that means it’s Final Fantasy’s 25th anniversary. That’s a milestone worth celebrating for both Square-Enix and its massive legion of fans, and with that in mind, Friday’s set-list was indeed a celebration of the series’ history.

The show kicked off with the iconic ‘Prelude’, before a few spotlights pointed out that we in the audience were in illustrious company – in attendance were composers Nobuo Uematsu and Masashi Hamauzu, along with father of Final Fantasy Hironobu Sakaguchi. Sakaguchi was here, in the same room as us! That certainly got the crowd in the right mood.

Next up was ‘Medley 2002’, a collection of pieces of music drawn from the first three Final Fantasies, and afterward Arnie Roth, occupying the conductor’s rostrum as always, set expectations for the night; being a celebration of the series’ history, we would be treated to a chronological trip through Final Fantasy music, and next up was Final Fantasy IV’s ‘Battle with the Four Fiends’. Maestro Roth told us we’d be hearing a mixture of Distant Worlds favourites, new arrangements and pieces of music that hadn’t been played before.

With that, we got to hear the first live renditions of the ‘Main Theme of Final Fantasy V’ and from Final Fantasy VI, ‘The Phantom Forest’, before Roth attempted to recruit the audience into the choir for Final Fantasy VII’s ‘One Winged Angel’. Unfortunately, the majority were terribly British about it all and remained quiet throughout, but that didn’t prevent the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and the London Voices choir from a rousing performance of Sephiroth’s signature piece.

Final Fantasy VIII’s battle theme, ‘Don’t be Afraid’ came next, and was followed by ‘You’re Not Alone’ from Final Fantasy IX. Then came one of my favourite pieces of Final Fantasy music, ‘To Zanarkand’ from Final Fantasy X. All of these performances were accompanied by cutscenes and video excerpts from the games on a huge screen above the choir, and X’s was particularly beautiful, ending with the iconic scene of Yuna performing the sending at Kilika.

One song remained before the intermission, and we were treated to a new rendition of the Chocobo theme, and this one was even more upbeat than usual, with the screen showing a medley of Chocobo footage, including Dajh’s chick popping out of Sazh’s afro as the choir chanted “Hey!”, before they called out the letters spelling out ‘chocobo’. It was a very entertaining way to lead into the intermission, and the crowd responded with plenty of laughs.

Once we’d returned to our seats, it was back to our chronological musical journey through Final Fantasy, and next up was ‘Vana’diel March’ from the series’ first foray into the MMO space. If anything, I felt this song dragged a little, but then I never played Final Fantasy XI, so I don’t have any emotional attachment to the game’s music. That said, it was still an enjoyable performance, and the next piece, Final Fantasy XII’s ‘Dalmasca Estersand’, was a wonderfully intricate, layered composition beautifully delivered.

Rounding out the retrospective were Final Fantasy XIII’s battle theme, ‘Blinded by Light’, and an absolutely stunning rendition of the signature track from Square’s second MMO entry, Final Fantasy XIV. Titled ‘Answers’, the song’s main vocal was performed by Susan Calloway (who should be no stranger to fans of Final Fantasy music), who absolutely blew the attending audience away with her powerful voice.

With our whistle-stop tour of Final Fantasy past and present complete, we were into the portion of the show that remained shrouded in mystery. We’d been promised some heavy hitters, something new, and another special guest or two, and the first piece we were treated to was Final Fantasy IV’s gorgeous ‘Theme of Love’. This was a real treat for me, a massive fan of FFIV, and it was a beautiful rendition that kicked off a more emotionally-led tangent of the show. Following in that vein, next on the agenda was a trip back to Final Fantasy VIII, as we got to experience an excellent performance of ‘Eyes on Me’, sung by Japanese recording artist Crystal Kay, and her vocals, along with the scenes of Rinoa and Squall on the big screen, really got emotions bubbling under.

What really got them soaring, however, was the utterly incredible ‘Opera – Mario & Draco’. This was a new version, with an extended battle scene embedded in the middle, composed by Uematsu specially for the ‘Celebration’ tour. We again had some guests on stage – three solo vocalists taking the parts of Maria, Draco and Prince Ralse, and a narrator to relate the story to the audience. The latter was a little underused, but was still a nice addition to help along those that might not have played Final Fantasy VI. The Opera must have run for at least fifteen minutes, but I was completely transfixed; it was easily my highlight of the entire show. It was an incredibly powerful performance that threatened to leave me breathless.

We had one final piece of music to go, and this one signalled a step up into more upbeat territory. It was another medley, and another fresh one at that; a brand-new battle medley, consisting of FFV’s ‘Battle at the Big Bridge’, FFX’s ‘Fight with Seymour’ and FFVII’s ‘Those Who Fight’. It was an excellently put-together medley, though I’d have liked to have heard each one in full as they’re all among my favourite battle themes. Having said that, at least we got an orchestrated version of ‘Those Who Fight’ (however short), rather than the bizarre jazz-piano style version featured on the Returning Home DVD.

With that, the performers exited the stage, leaving the audience to nervously await their return. Surely there’d be an encore, right? We hadn’t had ‘Aeris’ Theme’, nor Terra’s. Maybe we’d get to hear the ‘Main Theme of Final Fantasy VII’ or Liberi Fatali? Well, the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, the London Voices and Arnie Roth did indeed re-take the stage, with Roth telling us that they just couldn’t leave without playing one final piece of music, one song that was absolutely vital in the history of the jRPG series. The audience held its collective breath; surely he meant ‘Aeris’ Theme’..?

And so, as the orchestra launched into the warm tones of the ‘Main Theme of Final Fantasy’, the groans were audible (seriously – you can hear it in my video). They quickly gave way to applause as we all immediately got over the (admittedly mild) disappointment to enjoy the piece of music that started it all, and in retrospect, it was the perfect way to end a night celebrating 25 years of excellent music. At the end, all the performers that had taken the stage throughout the evening were joined by Uematsu and Hamauzu and were all given a much-deserved standing ovation from the five-thousand or so Final Fantasy diehards in attendance.

With that, we were thrust back into the cold London night, contemplating one thing: will they be back next year? I can only say this – if they will, I will.

I’ve been thinking about Mistwalker’s The Last Story recently. Mostly because I’ve yet to play it and it’s been gnawing at me that I really should get around to it, but also because a couple of friends have also been asking me about it recently.

With the pedigree that the game has (directed by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, scored by longtime companion Nobuo Uematsu), I was always going to be ordering the limited edition as soon as it was available. Which is exactly what I did. Unfortunately, a ridiculous backlog has so far foiled my intentions to immerse myself in its world. So consider today’s MM piece both an attempt to highlight some fantastic music, as well as give myself a kick up the rear!

My beautiful, beautiful limited edition… that I haven’t played.

Both Uematsu and Sakaguchi have described the creation of their Wii exclusive as something of a challenge to create a fresh experience; in gameplay terms for Sakaguchi (such as injecting third person elements in battle), and for Uematsu, in creating something that stands apart from his work on the Final Fantasy series.

Indeed, the composer’s original drafts for The Last Story were so typical of his work that Sakaguchi rejected them out of hand, calling them “completely useless”. The pair did not speak for a month, until Uematsu sent a file to the director, adding, “If this is not okay, I’ll quit.” It’s safe to say that Sakaguchi liked what he heard.

The music that makes up the soundtrack still bears Uematsu’s ear for a beautiful melody, of course, and one track in particular, ‘Toberu Mono’, reminds me, in broad strokes at least, of Final Fantasy IV‘s ‘Theme of Love’. But it’s so much more powerful than that, almost heartbreaking in its delicacy, before erupting into a triumphant crescendo.

The main theme lies on the other side of the musical coin. It’s epic, foreboding and its melodies conjure something closer to The Lord of the Rings in the mind’s eye. It’s noticeably different from much of the composer’s previous work, throwing in unexpected tempo changes to break up the otherwise-relentless forward momentum. That signature Uematsu melody style is in there, tying it all together, but it’s set in a darker style – it almost gives me a sense of a Western musical style with Japanese melodic sensibilities.

My favourite piece might just be ‘Chitsujo to Konton to’. I’m guessing it’s a battle theme, as it’s a very high-energy piece, mixing orchestrated elements, electronic beats and grinding guitar chugging away in the background. Halfway through, a soaring, brass and string-led tempo change drops back into a synth-heavy gallop that leads into a chanting crescendo. I can fully imagine the blood pumping in the heat of battle, keeping me on my toes as I try to outwit my foes (ooh, that rhymes).

While it’s certain that aspects of Uematsu’s trademark sound are in effect throughout the soundtrack of The Last Story, it does genuinely sound like a fresh take on what has come before from the now-legendary composer. Considering it made the cut, we can only assume Hironobu Sakaguchi would wholeheartedly agree.

Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of the massive, influential jRPG series Final Fantasy, has taken to Twitter to share a screenshot of his new game.

The Mistwalker founder is not working on a new epic RPG, though. Instead, his current project is a mobile surfing platform game called Party Wave.

Sakaguchi has previously announced that he was working on three titles for iOS devices, and Party Wave was inspired by his love of surfing. I can’t say I’m not disappointed that the creator of one of my favourite franchises is now making iPhone games, but he’s not alone, as other high-profile industry developers have taken to working on non-traditional forms of gaming; most recently Peter Molyneux, who left Lionhead for social gaming outfit 22cans.

Mistwalker’s latest title, Wii RPG The Last Story, is still sitting untouched on my shelf.  Hopefully by the time I get around to it, its creator will be looking to get back to what he does best.