Hironobu Sakaguchi, and Nobuo Uematsu are names that need no introduction for long time Final Fantasy fans. After leaving SquareEnix in 2004, Sakaguchi founded his own studio Mistwalker, and big console games like Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey, and The Last Story quickly followed.
Still, no Mistwalker game would find the success that Sakaguchi’s previous creation – the Final Fantasy Series – did. The commercial, and critical struggles of his big console JRPGs can be attributed to the decline in popularity of the genre, and maybe, to the fact that the games weren’t as good as his best Final Fantasy entries.
We haven’t heard much from Mistwalker in recent years, as the company has focused its efforts on its mobile game franchise Terra Battle. While the first title was a moderate success with 2 million downloads. Its sequel plummeted and was quickly taken out of all store fronts.
Sakaguchi Might Have Been Born to Make Final Fantasy Games
With an 80 Metacritic score, The Last Story (Wii) is the last (no pun intended) good AAA JRPG game made by Sakaguchi and company. He hasn’t been able to get his game making ‘mojo’ back when away from his Final Fantasy series. It has been a decade since the Last Story arrived on the Wii, and sold 680,000 copies.
Ironically, Sakaguchi, the man who ushered the JRPG genre into the mainstream consciousness of gamers everywhere with his Final Fantasy Series and other RPGs in the 1990s. Has been one of the high profile victims of the genre’s steep decline in popularity over the last decade and half.
Quite simply, with less interest, and demand of AAA console JRPGs, the opportunities for titles such as the Last Story are sharply reduced. Nintendo refused to bring the game to the States, as they had their own Xenoblade Chronicles title in the JRPG race.
Xseed, a publisher known for bringing over niche Japanese games finally released it state side. Compared to Xenoblade’s 960,000 units sold, The Last Story fell short, and thus Sakaguchi was forced into the more profitable mobile space. A space that many other JRPG developers have flocked to. The ease, and low costs of game development for mobile platforms have made this market an attractive one for niche genres, and lower budget titles.
As I stated before, Sakaguchi would go on to experience mild successes (and big failures) on mobile platforms. He has refused to work on another Final Fantasy, which has prompted questions about the split from the company that he helped usher into a dominant publisher, and conversely, also almost ruined with his Final Fantasy Spirits Within box office flop.
When asked by Rolling Stone Magazine about whether his small collaboration with Hajime Tabata on FFXV, and subsequent stage appearance during the game’s reveal was a sign of a possible “reconciliation” effort with the company, Sakaguchi had this to say:
That’s a difficult question. Do you want the honest answer? As a company, it made sense for [Square Enix] to distance themselves from me. Obviously, I had a strong influence on the people who were there and that’s not necessarily a positive thing for a company that needs to carry on and continue growing. I can understand why things played out the way they did. However, 15 years have passed, and the people who are working there now and making Final Fantasy games now are not people I have worked with before, so my influence won’t be as big on them as it might have been in the past. -Hironobu Sakaguchi
This was a very strange answer. Going by his ‘influence’ comments, it clearly seems that he was implying that Square Enix’s execs were wary of his influence on the FF teams, as these employees naturally might have seen him as the ‘boss’ figure. Judging by how his involvement with the series was gradually reduced by the company during his last years working for the Japanese giant, it certainly feels that Sakaguchi had to leave in order to grow himself.
Clearly, it seems that he went on stage to “endorse” FFXV as favor to Tabata, a director who had shown massive respect towards the series’ roots, and Sakaguchi himself. During FFXV’s development, Tabata had a few dinners with Sakaguchi. In these dinners he picked the mind of the series’ creator in order to better understand how the FF games worked.
So, Sakaguchi’s seemly eternal exile from Final Fantasy has finally brought us, and Mistwalker into 2021 with a new JRPG to look forwards to in Fantasian.
A New Project With a Fresh Visual Style
A happy new year!#FANTASIAN, the game we have been developing over the last 3 years is almost complete and is scheduled to be released on #AppleArcade this year.
The game is an RPG that takes players through a unique world handcrafted dioramas: music by Mr. Uematsu.@AppleArcade pic.twitter.com/ZCKDVn7fYR
— 坂口博信 (@auuo) January 1, 2021
Fantasian, at least visually and conceptually, is Sakaguchi’s most interesting project since the Last Story. Handcrafted Dioramas, which are handcrafted miniature sets, are crafted with painstaking detail, then they are photographed and the 3-D character models are incorporated into them.
The technique provides Fantasian with a unique look, and judging from the short snippets that I have seen, the game does promise an epic adventure in the vein of Sakaguchi’s previous big time works.
The only downside here is that the game will be exclusive to Apple Arcade. So, those of us wanting to play the game might have to adopt an iOS device in order to play it later this year.
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