“Experimentation and emotion”: The previous, current, and way forward for RPGs with Last Fantasy 4's Takashi Tokita

Kath Santarin
8 Min Read

Earlier than he was probably the most influential builders on the earth, Sq. Enix’s Takashi Tokita was a stage actor. There was one thing in regards to the artwork that appealed to Tokita; the emotion, the drama, the status of stay performing – from an early age, the romance of the cinema referred to as to him.

“At first, I needed to change into a comic book artist, as a result of in my childhood there have been many manga magazines that I’d learn – Shonen Soar, and so forth,” the legendary Japanese developer explains to us in an interview at BIG Competition, Brazil. “These comics led to anime, on TV and in films, and seeing these made me wish to both make a manga, or change into a voice actor in anime. So I selected that latter. Largely as a result of it’s very troublesome to put in writing and draw every part for manga [laughter]. However voice performing? I can do this with simply my physique, voice, and thoughts.”

This appreciation for the dramatic caught with Tokita. You possibly can inform how embedded in him it's from the character of his work – Last Fantasy 4, as Tokita has said up to now, is the primary recreation to actually elevate the drama within the sequence. It’s the primary recreation the place these conventional themes of sunshine and darkish within the iconic RPG franchise actually began to poke round on the chaos that lies between the 2 absolutes.

Last Fantasy 4 was just lately re-released for contemporary platforms as a part of the Pixel Remaster sequence. | Picture credit score: Sq. Enix

And that, per Tokita, is likely one of the basic parts of any good story – in video games or some other type of leisure. “I like each side, the sunshine and the darkish. Like Star Wars,” he laughs. “The sunshine, and the darkish, collectively – that’s gray, that’s human. I just like the turbulence between them. The chaos. It’s good for gameplay, and it’s good for drama. Within the gray, it’s a very good place to experiment. And that’s true by all leisure.”

It’s very becoming for anybody that is aware of the Last Fantasy sequence that Tokita would select ‘chaos’ because the phrase to explain what compels it (or, no less than, what compelled the period of the video games he labored most carefully on). “For Last Fantasy 4, my process was script, writing, characters, music… every part… on my own! [laughter] I used to be one of many individuals who labored on just about every part, besides the map and battles.”

And so Last Fantasy 4 holds loads of Tokita’s soul, loads of his values. Quite a lot of the path of his life, wrapped up in a story of revenge, redemption, and romance. “Last Fantasy 4 represents this recreation that included my aspirations from being a manga artist, from being an actor, from being a director. It set an vital turning level, in my life,” displays Tokita. It additionally set a turning level for the sequence – from FF4 onwards, the RPG behemoth grew to become extra emotional, extra involved in regards to the lives and loves of its characters than it was about merely letting gamers kill orcs and dwarves.

A screenshot from Live A Live Remaster, an RPG from Square Enix
Tokita additionally headed up improvement on Stay A Stay, and is happy with the experimental nature of the sport. | Picture credit score: Sq. Enix

After I requested Tokita in regards to the path this recreation – amongst others – set the RPG style down, he laughs. “These days, RPGs have many types – they’re made around the globe, for all totally different consoles, by indie builders and large builders. So what does RPG imply to me? To play an unique character in an unique world. That is RPG. You can also make any world, any story, any character – something – into an RPG.”

He tells me that it was Dragon Quest 2 that taught him this; that it was Koichi Nakamura’s Enix RPG that made him realise role-playing video games might be… effectively, something. “Dragon Quest 2… that’s my ‘future’ recreation,” he displays. “After I was an actor, certainly one of my associates was a programmer, and he really useful I play the sport he was engaged on: Dragon Quest 2. I don’t like Dragon Quest 1… there’s just one character, no selection, no motion.

“However after I performed Dragon Quest 2, I noticed that it had many characters, and drama, and a fantastic storyline. So, it made me realise I could make any story and any character work in a online game RPG. Which led to the work I did on Last Fantasy.”

Tokita experimented with the Last Fantasy components again – in 1991! – lengthy earlier than the sequence would even take into account dropping the turn-based setup of its heritage to go full player-action, like in Last Fantasy 16. Tokita says the style, and the sequence as an entire, has all the time been about experimentation. It’s important to its DNA.

Cid, Clive, Jill and Torgal approach a mother crystal in a climactic scene in Final Fantasy 16.
With extra drama and experimentation than ever earlier than, FF16 takes the sequence in a brand new path. | Picture credit score: Sq. Enix

“I feel an important issues are emotion and experimentation,” he responds after I ask him what, in essence, makes a fantastic role-playing recreation. “And that’s not simply in RPGs, however in all leisure. Good leisure is the place the viewers or the participant may be immersed, and our expectations for a way that works maintain growing. So, I imagine that’s the reality of leisure – we have to maintain experimenting. [He mimics with one hand low, one hand high] Different media is up right here, and we're right here. We maintain experimenting, we will rise up to right here, too.”

Please word: the interview with Takashi Tokita has been edited for readability and readability. It was performed at BIG 2023, previous to a chat given by the Sq. Enix developer about his profession and his historical past with role-playing video games.

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