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Square Enix Releases New Character Screens And Stills From Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV

Square Enix updated the Japanese site for its upcoming film, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, today with new character information and stills. And they're gorgeous.

Information for seven of the film's characters has been updated with profiles — albeit in Japanese — and stills from the film. Announced in March, the film is expected to release before Final Fantasy launches on September 30 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The movie will fill in what's happening in Lucis while main character Noctis and friends are on their journey. Check out a gallery of the new screens below.

[Source: Square Enix]

 


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Total War: Warhammer Review – A Fantastic Fantasy Diversion

The Total War franchise has popped out all sorts of entries from various time periods and historical backdrops. Throwing history to the wind and embracing a classic fantasy franchise in Total War: Warhammer is an inspired effort, breathing new life into a series that was feeling weary under the weight of legions of axemen, spearmen, and trebuchets.  With a smorgasbord of diverse units and a magic system at the forefront of the classic economy-driven war for territory and control, the series has never felt so fun.

The more historically focused strategy fans may turn up their noses at the embrace of Warhammer factions, but it works out wonderfully for creating conflicts and strategies that wouldn’t work in the traditional human-versus-human confrontations. Insane flying creatures and units make their first appearance in the series, monstrous and terrifying beasts, and magical artillery do an excellent job shaking up the formula.  The various factions have considerable differences beyond legions of unique units, and play differently off the battlefield as well, taking advantage of things like underground travel, necromancy to fuel armies in an instant, or corrupting the very lands around their holdings. This is all handled with a pomp and zeal that doesn’t make sense in any sort of historical context; nothing beats laying waste to a settlement with terrorgheists, a Luminark of Hysh, or an Arachnarok Spider.

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Each campaign and skirmish differ significantly and allow for all kinds of new approaches to each situation, like using hordes of the dead to overwhelm opponents or casting magic to crumble armies in mere moments. Unique units, abilities, and mechanics add faction flavor and diversity – a major draw that keeps me coming back to master the four available factions.

Longtime fans of the franchise shouldn’t worry that things have been dumbed down or changed to facilitate the more fantastic approach. If anything, this entry has even more depth. Your management skills are continually put to the test with settlements and provinces, legendary lord and hero units, and technology trees. You must also keep the diplomacy engine running outside of the massive, series-defining battles and quest encounters.

With all kinds of faction-specific abilities, bonuses, and rules, keeping up with everything going on can feel slightly overwhelming, even if you’re already a seasoned strategy game veteran. However, an expansive advisor option keeps you in the know through your first campaign and beyond, if you still need assistance. While tons of new mechanics and important info is constantly thrown at you, the game does an incredible job keeping you informed, even if it feels a little off-putting at times to be halting the action and reading up on new things.

While the time-consuming campaigns can devolve into long slogs, they can be rewarding as well. Seeing things change over the course of time (Chaos faction units may even show up to rain on the party!) and taking over the world is always a pleasure. For those who want to get right into the mix, a nice variety of “instant action” quest battles are available outside of the campaign, loading you up with units and placing you in the thick of combat. Multiplayer bouts are also available, and a nice 1v1 or 2v2 is your best bet for a quick and dirty tactical battle.

In addition to nailing the function and flavor of the Warhammer fantasy, this is also one of the more technically sound Total War releases.  Sometimes it can take time after launch to iron out the quirks and glitches, but I experienced almost perfect performance during my approximately 40 hours with the title, with no crashes or major errors.

Total War: Warhammer is one of the best Total War games I’ve ever played, and fans of either franchise should find themselves with a winner here. Those looking for more historically rooted fare may find the fantasy over the top, but plenty of solid strategy lurks under the magic and mayhem.

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Blog: Final Fantasy X-2′s brilliant Job System (and a problem I have with it)

“It has so many clever innovations and ideas that I don’t see getting picked up or expanded upon. That makes me really sad because while I think this game’s job system does a lot right it still has a lot of room to grow.” …


Gamasutra News

Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster Out On Steam Today

After HD re-releases on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, PC gamers can finally revisit Spira. The Final Fantasy X double-pack is out today on PC via Steam.

In addition to updated visuals, the PC version sports a rearranged soundtrack and the content featured in the international editions. There’s also an auto-save feature that lightens the need to hit save points.

Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster also features the game booster found in other PC releases from the series. You can also completely turn off encounters.

You can pick it up now on Steam at a discounted price of $ 23.99. After May 19, the price goes up to $ 29.99.

 

Our Take
Having missed Final Fantasy X-2 on PS2 and a deep adoration for Final Fantasy X, this might be the time I finally put the trigger. The price seems fair for a duo of Final Fantasy games. 

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Watch Our Comprehensive, Five-Hour Analysis Of Final Fantasy VII

Back in January of this year, we announced our new plan to engage with the Game Informer community by playing through and discussing games in a format we called The GI Game Club. Each new discussion (incorporating a ton of community feedback) is posted in episodes of The Game Informer Show podcast, which you can subscribe to on iTunes or check out on YouTube. Over the course of a month or two, we played through all of the 1997 classic Final Fantasy VII and shared our thoughts and the community's input and questions along the way.

We've cut together all of the episodes and posted the full discussion of Final Fantasy VII below.

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Our next GI Game Club session will kick off on The Game Informer Show on May 26th, where we'll talk about Uncharted 4 up through Chapter 10. Join along and send feedback and questions to [email protected]. We look forward to playing through a new game with everybody!

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PICO-8 ‘fantasy console’ to become an actual handheld console — sort of

Lexaloffle Games’ PICO-8 “fantasy console” is going to get a physical, handheld version when it ships pre-installed (with a library of built-in games) on Next Thing’s $ 49 PocketCHIP handheld computer. …


Gamasutra News

Final Fantasy Masterminds Reminisce About Their Favorite Moments

The Final Fantasy series has been running for nearly 30 years, spanning 14 mainline entries and a slew of spinoffs. Come September 30, it will celebrate its long-awaited 15th entry, which we’ve been looking at all month alongside our May cover story. There’s no denying Final Fantasy’s legacy, and everybody has their favorite characters, summons, and moments that defined the series for them. While we were at Square Enix’s offices in Tokyo, we talked to many influential people who have worked on the franchise, from Takashi Tokita, who’s been with the series since its beginnings, to Yoshinori Kitase who’s had a hand in some of the most popular entries, like VI, VII, and X. With such a great opportunity, we asked various Final Fantasy developers to share their favorite aspects. Here are their responses.

Yoshinori Kitase
Current Project: Final Fantasy VII Remake producer
Known For: Director on Final Fantasy VI, VII, VIII, X

Favorite villain: “Considering that I am working on the re-make right now, if I had to bring someone up it’d be Sephiroth. When we were creating him originally, we wanted it to be kind of like a mystery novel. This entity that appears mysteriously, so it would create the impression of this big evil force. That was received well and he has been thought of that representative villain of the franchise. I really like that aspect of him, and also because we’re working on him and revisiting VII for the remake again, it makes me like him even more.”

Takashi Tokita
Current Project: Holy Dungeon (mobile title) writer
Known For: Lead designer on Final Fantasy IV, director on Chrono Trigger, Parasite Eve

Favorite characters: “IV is one of the most memorable projects that I’ve been involved in; my favorite would be the children Palom and Porom. In a world where the adults are always contemplating a bunch of things, the children still always remain positive and serve as a light in a dark story. They bring an energy to the situation. In terms of production, I was saved by those characters, so those would be my favorite characters. But they were only in the game for an instant and then they turned into stone. In the sequel we were able to give them more light, make them a little more grown up and put more focus on them.”

Favorite villain: “I like Golbez from IV, but also in terms of Sephiroth, there’s this whole story and drama as to why exactly he turned out the way he is, so I really understand why he’s so popular among fans.”

Favorite opening: “It was actually Final Fantasy I. It was very impactful when you cross the bridge and the adventure begins. You start off playing the game as is, then you cross the bridge and the adventure starts in this whole expansive universe. The opening just starts suddenly. It’s not the best graphics obviously, but the emotion and sentiment I got for getting into this deeper, expansive world, I really liked that. In terms of when Cecil and Kain (in IV) depart part ways in essence in the opening sequence it was partially in an homage to FF I.”

Hajime Tabata
Current Project: Final Fantasy XV director
Known For: Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core, Type-0

Favorite opening: “Final Fantasy VI, because as you start up the game you’re thrown into this world, which is completely different from what you expected, so it’s truly an unexpected entry type into the game. That part is where it stands out for me.”

Favorite character: “I have no idea why because I don't necessarily like him or not like him, but the one that came to mind was Vincent, but it's not Vincent. Rather than Vincent, I would like to bring up Zack, which is one that I created [for Crisis Core]. I don’t really know much otherwise.” 

Hiroki Chiba

Current Project: World of Final Fantasy director
Known For: Final Fantasy VII, VIII, X event planner, Final Fantasy Type-0 lead writer

Favorite moment: “I like quite a lot of moments. It’s so hard to choose, but what comes to mind is the scene from Final Fantasy VIII where Squall and Rinoa are in the space environment and they have this romantic moment with Fey Wong’s 'Eyes On Me' music in the background. It was a little embarrassing creating it because I was adjusting it frame by frame so that everything would match and be in sync with the track, so I listened to that Fey Wong song numerous times just so I could everything right. From a production standpoint as well, that scene comes to mind.”

Favorite villain: “If I say Sephiroth, I’m sure everyone else is saying that. The villains that stand in the way of the main character in their own unique fashion are always the ones that stay in the memories of the players. It’s hard to [pick] one particular villain, but in terms of impressionable villains, they always seem to be those villains that take away from what players are already emotionally attached to, so VI’s Kefka, VII’s Sephiroth, all of them share those characteristics.”

Naoki Yoshida
Current Project: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn director
Known For: Dragon Quest X

Favorite summon: "The Bahamut summons from VII and XIV. The design we used in Final Fantasy XIV where Bahamut came down and with his fire destroyed the old Final Fantasy XIV and created the new A Realm Reborn… We pretty much got that from the Final Fantasy VII summon, where he comes down in his meteor and megaflares. We took that and brought it directly into XIV."

Favorite villain: “Sephiroth. I want him to remain as he is. You look at someone like Cloud and back when he was released, he was a very catchy and unique character, so he had a lot of fans. Because of that, he’s been used in a lot different products since Final Fantasy VII, and his history didn’t end at VII; it’s continued on and he’s evolved. However, with Sephiroth, I don’t think he should change at all. You should keep him where he is, let me him be big and let him be just that. I love Sephiroth’s humanity. He wants to destroy the world like any villain, but he has his reasons for doing it and his reasons are very similar to the trauma regular people have and because of that humanity it made him a very unique type of villain. I also like that he looks very cool and he’s holding a Japanese Katana as well.”

Takeshi Nozue
Current Project: Kingsglaive director
Known For: Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children co-director, Final Fantasy XIII CG movie co-director

Favorite character: “It may be a little unfair because we’re working on it right now, but King Regis or Luna because I don’t think that characters have been depicted in this depth until now and it really depicts the human struggles and their determination.”

Akio Ofuji
Current Project: Brotherhood anime producer
Known For: Final Fantasy IX, Parasite Eve, Kingdom Hearts II publicist

Favorite character: “My favorite is Cloud from FF VII because of that moment where his identity essentially breaks. I was shocked that this type of thing would be depicted in a game in that given moment in time. It was also really interesting to see Cloud himself recover, rebuild, and regain his strength. But then thereafter through Advent Children, you still see his struggle with his inner self being depicted. So just overall, Cloud and the interesting character that he is, has always been impressionable to me.”

Takaharu Aono
Current Project: Final Fantasy XV lead technical animator
Known For: Dissidia: Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts II battle animator

Favorite summon: "Odin and the reason is really simple: He’s a knight on a horse. How cool is that? I’m not sure if you know of the XI Odin, but there was a game bug, so there was that instant-kill kind of attack, but you could avoid it by healing, so it was fun to dodge it."

 

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Behind The Scenes Of Final Fantasy VII’s Gold Saucer

Final Fantasy VII has many memorable and iconic moments, ranging from the silly to the serious. Though the Gold Saucer may not be as epic as the final confrontation between Cloud and Sephiroth, its mixture of goofy distractions and minigames holds a special place in fans’ hearts.

We talked among ourselves about the appeal of the Gold Saucer in the second episode of our Final Fantasy VII Game Club. However, during our visit to Square Enix for Final Fantasy XV, we were able to talk about it with the developers themselves, providing some additional insight and context to this strange and entertaining area.

Hiroki Chiba (now the director of World of Final Fantasy) was officially an event planner on Final Fantasy VII, but those duties included overseeing the entire Gold Saucer. “I actually ran free with Gold Saucer,” Chiba says. “They let me create it in the way I wanted to. Of course, I didn’t create everything myself. It’s not just my idea.”

In a game with heart-wrenching deaths and the threat of planetary annihilation, the Gold Saucer might seem like a light-hearted anomaly. That’s not an accident.

“In terms of how the idea developed, we were thinking of it from the adventure standpoint – what you see when you enter this desert area,” Chiba says. “And then, for some reason, we came up with amusement parks. Obviously, there are fun and weird events that happen in that area, but then moving forward, you start to go into the deeper and heavier story elements. So, we created it to give players a bit of a break. And if it was to be a break, we wanted players to enjoy it to the fullest, so we implemented different kinds of features that would fulfill that goal.”

Those different features come in all forms in the Gold Saucer: chocobo races, snowboarding, a battle arena, and more. “We tried to implement everything – all the ideas that popped up,” Chiba says. “Some people developed a minigame and brought it forth, and then we implemented it, and packaged it within the Gold Saucer. I don’t recall any of them being removed or rejected. I myself really wanted to do the chocobo game, so that’s what I pushed for.”

One of those minigames, Mog House, came from Square Enix’s Takashi Tokita (who has been working on the series since the original installment). He didn’t have an official role on Final Fantasy VII, but got roped into the project by chance. “I was actually working on Parasite Eve in Honolulu at the time, but I was coming back to Japan to renew my visa,” Tokita says. “I was just supposed to stay here for a week, but I got caught by the FF VII team and ended up helping for three months.”

Mog House was one of the many miscellaneous things Tokita worked on during his time on the project. In it, players feed a moogle in order to help him fly, which eventually leads to his having a family and a happy life. Think of it as a very simple Final Fantasy Tamagotchi pet – and it only came about because an artist made the background with no idea how it would be implemented in the final product. “At the time, the graphic designer had already created the visuals in advance, but they didn’t really think about what we would do with it,” Tokita says. “So, I thought it might be interesting to create this growth/nurture kind of game, where you feed the moogle and it would breed baby moogles.”

The development atmosphere that gave rise to the Gold Saucer was unique, because the area wasn’t carefully plotted in advance. Though Chiba is responsible for a majority of the area, various members of the team across multiple disciplines contributed ideas, making it easy to experiment. “At that time, it wasn’t like we had a rigid, set plan that we just followed,” Tokita says. “Mog House was a great accident, in essence, and one that wouldn’t have come about without that collaboration.”

That freedom and cooperation resulted in the Gold Saucer being one of the most memorable aspects of Final Fantasy VII. Sure, not all of the minigames and activities are fantastic, but the mere fact that they exist is part of what makes Final Fantasy VII so special; the team was able to play around, take chances, and be spontaneous. “Today, we have a more clear and proper pipeline in place,” Tokita says. “In terms of percentage chance of something like that happening, it’s lower than before. That said, it’s likely to happen in the initial concept stages, or at the end when we’re doing everything we can to make a product better. There are still people who think that way and want to do that; there are always interesting things that come about from not setting things in stone. That’s the fun of game development.”

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King’s Quest Chapter 3: Once Upon A Climb Review – The Fantasy Sweet

King Graham is in a funk. Now that he’s made good on his goal of ruling Daventry and proving he’s a capable leader, what else is left? Judging from the not-so-subtle hints from his guards, the answer is clear: a partner. A quick look at his throne room’s magic mirror confirms it, and he sets out to find the love of his life. As he (and the player) is about to find out, however, there are several complicated steps between meeting a maiden and living happily ever after.

Whether you’re known as Graham the brave, wise, or compassionate, your travels take you to a far-off tower to meet the love of your life. Unfortunately, the mirror only told part of the story. When Graham finally scales the structure, he discovers a pair of princesses. Vee is pragmatic and clever, while Neese is exuberant and compassionate. The tower is an equally complicated character of sorts, and without spoiling too much, Graham finds himself as trapped as the princesses he was hoping to rescue. Fortunately, there’s lemonade to be made from the otherwise sour situation, and the three seize the opportunity to get to know each other better.

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King’s Quest’s first chapter featured a sprawling kingdom, and the second followed it up with a sizeable subterranean network of goblin caves. The action in the Once Upon A Climb doesn’t take place on as large a stage, but the charming characters get a lot of use from a smallish hub section and a variety of single-screen locations. Given the mileage I’ve had to put on Graham’s boots over the first two chapters, I was frankly relieved to get a break from the back-and-forth traveling that seems necessary in adventure games.

Much of the action (and associated puzzles) revolve around the characters playing off each other. One highlight is an extended section around a board game called Moral Quarrel, where each of the three provides answers to a variety of ethical dilemmas, and they have to anticipate how other players will answer. You get to explore outside the tower via several one-on-one outings, where Graham and Vee or Neese have to (surprise!) solve puzzles. I got a weird feeling like I was on an episode of The Bachelor at times, especially when moments popped up where I could tell that my actions were being scrutinized. When a fierce-looking beast approaches, growling, should I feed it an arrow or take Vee’s advice to hold fire? Would Neese be more impressed by working through an obstacle using my puzzle-solving skills or brute strength? 

Actor Wallace Shawn reprises his role as Manny, but even if that weren’t the case, a Princess Bride vibe runs throughout Once Upon A Climb. The series continues to be charming and funny, and this chapter’s comparatively smaller scope results in more focused puzzles. I groaned at a solution after thinking about things too hard a couple of times, but overall it’s tricky but fair.

Moving forward, I’m curious to see how my choice of a partner is reflected in the game – especially since we know from the classic games that Graham’s eventual wife is named Valanice. Are Vee and Neese’s names simply clever wordplay to accommodate player choice, or is something else going to happen in the future? My playthrough of chapter two included a pair of deaths, but they were glossed over in the latest entry. To say that it was jarring to talk to these characters again as though nothing had happened would be an understatement. The Odd Gentlemen could have intended for the character departures to be a fake out, but it felt more like a copout. Even though I wasn’t happy that they died, it feels cheap to find out that, well, they didn’t. Dead people walking aside, the effects from chapter to chapter seem to be subtle overall. Characters refer to my compassion and occasional missteps, and that’s fine by me.

In addition to telling its own capsule story about how Graham got his groove on, Once Upon A Climb also continues to propel the narrative about Manny and his brother, which has been a continuing thread – along with old Graham’s failing health. Judging from Graham’s condition, it seems ever-so-likely that this tale will have a bittersweet ending. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the journey.

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The Art That Shaped Final Fantasy: Thoughts From Famed Artist Yoshitaka Amano

Many great artists have helped define Final Fantasy over the years, but Yoshitaka Amano’s work is the most recognizable, and has become closely associated with the series as a whole. Amano draws the iconic logo illustrations for every title, and is also responsible for the unique visual style that distinguishes many memorable monsters and characters. 

During our visit to Tokyo for our Final Fantasy XV coverage, we had the opportunity to visit Amano’s office and chat with the legendary artist (also known for his work on Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics) about his process, specific illustrations, and the significance of Final Fantasy in his personal artistic expression. Below are the thoughts Amano shared on this broad range of topics.

On beginning a new Final Fantasy illustration:
It’s in development when these requests come up, so there’s not much documentation to go by. But with the information we do have to work with, I take that and interpret that on my own and try to incorporate that and create an illustration out of it. Of course, main characters are very important. So even if we progress through development, not much of the important aspects would drift or change significantly.

On the Final Fantasy VI illustration:
I’m not quite sure if I’m the one who decided to move forward with Terra, or if it was a request to move forward with her. But what was memorable at the time was that she was one of the first female main characters in the series, and that kind of stood out on its own. Also at this time, it was just the silhouette that was being drawn; now you get actual faces and lines. Previously, it was more simplistic, and it gradually become more illustration-like over the years.

On creating art, not logos:
Because the title logo is monochrome to a certain degree, I don’t really illustrate because of the title logo. Moreso, I illustrate so that it will be a standalone piece of art. It won’t be fun unless we’re creating that art piece. So, regardless of the request, that is the one thing prominently in my mind when drawing these illustrations.

On the Final Fantasy VII and XI illustrations:
The most challenging logo illustration was Final Fantasy XI because there were so many characters. And it was on a huge piece of paper, so it was very tedious. But I also have to bring up Final Fantasy VII. It was based on Meteor, and when I looked at it, I wasn’t sure it would become the illustration – if it would become a piece of art. I drew a lot of different variations and concepts around that; there’s not a lot of instances where you’re drawing a lot of stone-like objects over and over again! I wasn’t quite sure if it was good or bad, so I said, “Here, you guys choose” in the end.

On working from text:
Rather than receiving visuals, it is more about receiving text-based information, like age and the role they play. I’m not a character designer, but an illustrator, so there are more instances where I’ve worked off of text I’ve gotten from the team.

This is going back to an example from something I created in the past, but there was a sci-fi novel written from the perspective of a robot, looking at humans and observing them. Written in that text was details about the humans. If you puncture them, they bleed. They have two eyes. Those kinds of details. And what was interesting was how they were depicted as weak living specimens, and that’s what you can draw from the text…Anything that’s written in text builds and expands your imagination. Whereas, when you have a visual asset to review or look at, that’s the end of it.

On the Final Fantasy XII illustration:
Between my office and the Square Enix office, there was quite a bit of distance at the time. Maybe about an hour or so. I drew up another piece while the Square representative was on the way to pick up the pieces – and the one I drew within that hour was the one that ended up being selected!

When we receive requests, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s best to do it formally or properly. It’s because we had that baseline of what was created properly that we were able to break it a little bit. At that time, we were creating in Japanese-style ink, and it was kind of like watercolor, so you have those brush marks. That’s the touch and style of that particular piece. It had this kind of forward-thinking brush effect, and that’s something that can only come about when it’s not calculated. That may have been what was necessary for XII at that time, and came across as something that was refreshing. So, there are moments when it’s not necessarily about following the request; sometimes things come about spontaneously.

On consistency within the Final Fantasy series:
Simply put, the Final Fantasy brand name and its history are what tie everything together. It’s kind of like a fashion brand; whoever the designer is, Louis Vuitton and Gucci are still Louis Vuitton and Gucci. Anyone who joins in on a Final Fantasy project joins in on that name, and it’s their duty to help it develop and grow. So they’re a part of continuing that history and helping it evolve. It’s the responsibility of the individuals that have the opportunity to be a part of it. So, Final Fantasy itself is kind of like a living entity.

On the Final Fantasy IV 3DS illustration:
This was created new for the port. It wasn’t a concept that pre-existed from the original. This illustration is one that I drew, but the designers at Square Enix put the image and logo together, every time I look I look at this, it looks so cool. The designer did a really good job merging it together. This was originally ink art, but it now has some red in it – those kinds of touches were done by the designer. The coloring is very cool. I personally like these dark, boss-like characters and tend to lean toward these types of illustrations. It’s a shape and form that I really like.

On his first reaction to the tweaked Final Fantasy XV illustration:
The impression I had was “Oh, it’s finally being realized after all this time.”


Amano (center right) meets with Square Enix about an illustration for the Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV event, including FF XV director Hajime Tabata (far right)

On Final Fantasy’s impact on his career:
First, it’s what made me famous! [laughs] I’ve done a lot of different types of work, but even in my personal works, it all comes back to me as an artist. When I think about what’s important to me as an artist, the pieces that I’ve worked on for Final Fantasy come back to me.

There’s an interesting book that puts together the modern art history of Japan, and one of my personal art pieces was placed in this book. You can see several familiar Final Fantasy characters and illustrations spread across the piece – they’re existing as Final Fantasy characters within the art as a piece of expression.

In that sense, Final Fantasy is very important to my career, not just in name, but also in terms of the visual pieces and art expression. When you look at Andy Warhol using Marilyn Monroe, for example, or other famous people as a piece of art – for me, these characters emerge as my own expression in my personal art form.

 

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