Carrying on from Ryan’s praise towards Shigeru Miyamoto, this week I bring to the table a recent discovery of mine, but someone who avid RPG players unlike myself will have no problem recognising. This week we feature the never resting story-telling RPG master that is Hironobu Sakaguchi.
Born November 25th, 1962, Sakaguchi became a part time worker for the, then, unmerged Square Co in 1886 as the director of planning and development after exiting his university course prematurely. Within 5 years he moved up the ladder to become the vice president of the company, and subsequently the president of Square’s newly formed state-side headquarters not long after.
Sakaguchi’s work for the JRPG genre is forever deemed the biggest. He is the creator of the long running and legendary Final Fantasy series and the producer for almost every major iteration in the series making him the main man behind some of the critically acclaimed games of all time, Final Fantasy VII, VIII and X despite the first title being named to reflect his plan to retire from the gaming industry at that time.
Not only did he work on the blockbuster Final Fantasy games, but he also took the reigns as the producer for other fabled RPGs such as Parasite Eve, Vagrant Story and Kingdom Hearts to name a few. His “ground-breaking” work on the Final Fantasy series was enough to earn him the third spot in the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences Hal of Fame following Shigeru Miyamoto and Sid Meier.
In 2001, Sakaguchi turned his skills away from games to instead direct a movie based on the Final Fantasy universe as a way to switch his efforts way from interactive story-telling. His debut movie, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within used a heavy method of CGI to attempt to recreate real-life visuals as much as possible. Sakaguchi even made a cameo appearance in one of the scenes. The movie, however, didn’t fare so well in the box office despite having a huge franchise name under it’s belt. It went on to lose Square’s cinema division over $120 million. Enough to cause the company to dismantle the division.
Square’s stock plummeted as Sakaguchi resigned from his executive vice president spot at the company and in 2001 stepped away fully from Square as it merged with long-time rival, Enix – To create the Square Enix we know today. Follow the break away from the company, Sakaguchi was backed by Microsoft Game Studios and went on to found his current day studio, Mistwalker.
After partnering with Microsoft to create his new studio, Sakaguchi announced plans to work on two exclusive role-playing games for Microsoft’s Xbox 360. These two works would later be released as the collaboration with Dragonball creator, Akira Toriyama, a man who works with Square on the Dragon Quest franchise, to create Blue Dragon while his work together with FeelPlus would result in the second game, Lost Odyssey. The collaboration between Artoon to create Blue Dragon and FeelPlus for Lost Odyssey was planned to continue onto a third studio, Cavia to create a third Xbox 360 exclusive then known as Cry On. The project was eventually cancelled and all three of the collaborative studios merged to create AQ Interactive in 2010.
After the release of Lost Odyssey, Sakaguchi’s company turned to make Blue Dragon into a series despite fans making it clear a sequel to Lost Odyssey was what they wanted. Despite Blue Dragon being released solely for the Xbox 360 it’s two sequels, Blue Dragon Plus and Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow were released onto the Nintendo DS
Last year, Sakaguchi and his team released The Last Story exclusively for the Nintendo Wii. Though it was easy to notice the naming similarities between The Last Story and Final Fantasy, Sakaguchi himself hasn’t stated whether or not it was named to see his exit from game development much like the original Final Fantasy was 25 years ago. Yet an update on the Mistwalker website announced the company’s work on an iPhone game to be released this year called Party Wave, though what kind of game it is, we’re not sure.
Hironobu Sakaguchi is an avid blogger in his spare time. The Mistwalker website is often updated with notes and talks about his day, family life, travels and hobbies. Sometimes we get glimpse into his calm mind as a game producer, other times we get magnificent evidence of his photography skills and on the rare occasion, he shares a little bit of what his team is working on. After leaving Japan to live in Hawaii, Sakaguchi took up surfing as a major hobby. Often times his blog on the Mistwalker site features surprisingly professional shots of his pets, the sunrise and sunsets he witnesses on his travels or just a couple of quick manipulations. Away from surfing and photography Sakaguchi considers himself as a story-teller rather than strictly a producer. When asked about his likelihood to create an action game he answered with “I don’t have what it takes to make an action game. I think I’m better at telling a story.”
His consistent tweets also serve as another outlet for Sakaguchi to expresss the beauty he sees in his everyday travels, and most recently his trips to Nintendo’s Paris headquarters. While he hasn’t controlled the Final Fantasy series since leaving Square Enix, Sakaguchi has reportedly voiced concern over his creation by tweeting to current Square Enix development head, Tokashi Toyika to “stop rehashing Final Fantasy”
Ahead of the European launch of his latest tale, he has travelled to the United Kingdom where he will attend the Midlands MCM Expo as a guest speaker and will go on give a speech about his work at this year’s BAFTA Awards.
Hironobu Sakaguchi is without a doubt one of the most influential gods of gaming. His creation of Final Fantasy is widely considered to be the true birth of role-playing vidoe games and wasn’t afraid to try his hand in other areas. After disliking the changes being made to the industry, he planned to leave with Final Fantasy being his final work, yet instead, he saw it’s success grow and tried changed the industry around him for the better. Even today he continues his efforts to tell emotional stories in long epic interactive tales and collaborates with a range of people to achieve those goals.