As part of E3 2019, Game Informer conducted an in-depth, one-on-one interview with Yosuke Matsuda, President of Square Enix. In addition to talking about a possible subscription service and the issues with preserving and sharing their massive back catalog, Matsuda also talked about the company’s last mainline Final Fantasy title and their goals for remaking older favorites on current hardware.
One of the first things that the player sees when booting up Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XV is the message, “A Final Fantasy for fans and first-timers,” and this is the main mission the development team was on while crafting this entry in the series. The game is pretty different from Final Fantasy titles before it, featuring an open-world environment and combat that’s way more action-oriented.
Game Informer interviewed the game’s director Hajime Tabata before the game’s release, and Tabata said it was a “make or break” time for Final Fantasy, as the IP was beginning to “lack brand recognition” by 2016.
Final Fantasy XV was the company’s fastest selling game at launch, but took a few stumbles into its life cycle with the departure of the game’s director and the cancellation of the bulk of its planned DLC.
For E3 2019, Matsuda was asked if he felt that Final Fantasy XV managed to succeed in revitalizing the franchise.
“Yes, I think it did do that because we tried lots of different things with [Final Fantasy XV]. Among the titles in that series, I think it was quite unique. And I also understand that not just the fans from back in the day, but also lots of new, young players also played it. In that sense, I think it had a really significant contribution in that context,” Matsuda said.
Talking about Square Enix’s powerhouse franchises in general, Matsuda expressed the importance of innovation. “You have to always imbue them with whatever is the latest or the most innovative that matches that particular era, or else they’re going to die.”
[Square Enix believes] that franchises and IP are really living creatures.
Matsuda clarified that “individual developers all approach this differently,” but the main goal is always keeping Square Enix’s big franchises from going stale over time. “If we don’t do that, then we’ll see the popularity of these games drop off, and so we always want to take on new challenges,” Matsuda explained.
Matsuda also talked about Square Enix’s recent undertakings, remastering and in some instances completely remaking their most popular games for modern consoles and modern audiences. Matsuda expressed his excitement about “re-releas[ing] as many older games as possible.”
If it’s a popular series, we want to revive the whole series regardless of what the profitability looks like on individual titles.
“We’d rather put the whole series out there so it can be played again,” Matsuda said.
Matsuda also expressed how seriously Square Enix is taking the process of remaking classic titles. Which games to remake is a question that requires careful consideration , and the team want to make remakes for the “right reasons.”
“Remakes are harder [than remasters or re-releases], more challenging than you might think. Just by nature of being a remake, it means that there was an original and I believe that you have to be able to surpass the original.”
Again, the necessity of new blood is important when working on remaking nostalgic games. “It’s not enough to do just straight reprints of the old ones because you also want to get the new fans to be able to enjoy it.” Matsuda added, “It’s quite challenging.”
There are old fans who know the old game, and at the same time, you want new people to enjoy it.
On the topic of the upcoming Final Fantasy VII Remake, Matsuda said he let a lot of decisions up to the development team on how to bring the game forward in time. He added that this is part of why the games will be released in installments.
“The development team would have had a variety of discussions about how they should go about taking such a famous game as a Final Fantasy VII and remaking that for the modern day. I believe that this [episodic] style of releasing it like this is something that was born of those discussions,” Matsuda explained.
Expanding on the installments model of Final Fantasy VII Remake, Matsuda encouraged fans to “think of [each part] as something you can play as a standalone […] I think they will be worth playing in that way.”
In addition to Final Fantasy VII Remake, Square Enix also announced a remake of the never before seen (officially) in the West Action-RPG Trials of Mana, as well as remasters of Final Fantasy VIII and The Last Remnant.