Weekly Famitsu Issue no. 1224: Tetsuya Nomura Interview

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Translated by TLS member Hitoshura.

CHANGES IN THE VISUAL ASPECTS

—What was the most significant thing for you in the transition from “FFVI” to “FFVII”?

Nomura: I guess it was utilising polygons. The difference in high between the characters on the battle screen and the characters on the field screen also kind of seems like the gap between “FFVI” and “FFVII”, and seeing that process of trail-and-error is memorable for me.

—At that time, I hear you could have gone in the direction of using pixel graphics, or 3D, but what were your thoughts on it?

Nomura: I originally handled the pixel graphics, so I thought that if there were no pixels then my work would be gone (laughs). Later I took some training to learn CD, but I went into design and direction rather than working as a modeller.

—The “FF” series had been particularly known for Mr. Amano’s (*1) illustrations previously, so did you feel any pressure when your illustrations were to become the main focus in “FFVII”?

Nomura: I thought of my drawings as the standing images for the pixel graphics of the previous games, so there wasn’t any pressure.

—Standing images for the pixel graphics?

Nomura: In the “FF” series, Mr. Amano’s image illustrations and the pixel characters’ designs didn’t necessarily match. Personally, I considered image illustrations and the pixel graphics as being different categories in a sense. I was in charge of the pixel graphic parts, so I never considered myself as standing alongside Amano or taking over from him. The company decided from a rights perspective to put my name out in front, but originally there weren’t any plans like that at all.

THE TRADEGY OF AERITH AND THE BIRTH OF TIFA

—It was apparently Mr. Sakaguchi who selected you for “FFVII”, but how did that come about?

Nomura: From before when making a “FF” title, everyone would put plans regardless of their section. While everyone handed in text documents they made on a PC, mine were hand-written and had illustrations attached. Because I had originally studied advertising, I would keep in mind how to make people want to read it. Mr. Sakaguchi thought those illustrated proposals were amusing. Then one day he said, “let Tetsu draw the characters.” The start of this was the brush images for “FFVI”.

—Because your proposals were amusing!?

Nomura: Until that point, I hadn’t had many proposals taken up at all, so I don’t think that’s the reason (laughts). I suppose he liked the illustrations on the proposals.

—When it was decided that you would draw the illustrations, was the world and characters’s details already pinned down to a degree?

Nomura: There was a plot for the story, and I drew them based on that. But during the course of it Mr. Sakaguchi put Mr. Kitase (*3) in charge of production, and at that point in time the plot went back to square one. From there, I was also included in coming up with the original idea for the story, and began drawing while thinking up character and story details. At first Mr. Nojima (*4) was still on the “Bahamut Lagoon” team, so Kitase and myself refined the plot.

—Was the Aerith’s shocking death scene also confirmed at that time?

Nomura: I suggested to Kitase about having either Aerith or Tifa die, and it was decided that we’d go in that direction.

—Were there two heroines from the outset?

Nomura: No, originally there was only Aerith, and Tifa was added as another heroine later. To make up for Aerith dying, we needed a heroine who would be by the hero’s side until the end. Plus with Aerith’s death, while there were characters in previous “FF” games who lost their lives, we wanted to try a different approach. By bringing out a ‘sense of loss’ with Aerith’s death, we also wanted to portray the theme of “FFVII” which is ‘life’.

—It did certain have a different impact than that of the loss of characters in past “FF” games. Were there any other points you focused on with the story?

Nomura: I wanted to have a story where you chase Sephiroth. One where there is a SOLDIER who was once a hero, and the heroes follow him. Following a moving enemy hadn’t been done before, and I thought that by chasing something it would help pull the story along.

RELATION BETWEEN THE ORIGINAL CONCEPTS AND THE DESIGNS

—Were there any aspects of the character designs that you struggled with?

Nomura: For Cloud, at first I thought that it’d be better not to use too many polygons, so I gave him sweptback hair, but I didn’t think that looked much like a main character so I changed his hairstyle.

—Were you already thinking about polygon counts at the design stages?

Nomura: While considering it, I tried to be as unreasonable as I could. I thought that was necessary in order to do things no one else had done. For instance, making Aerith’s dress with polygons was very hard at the time. But I believed that thinking about how to make that so it moves naturally would lead to improvement of skills and rendering.

—Sephiroth’s long hair must have also been tough work.

Nomura: That’s right. That was also because I wanted to make the contrast easy to see between Cloud and Sephiroth in their designs. Blond and silver, short and long.

—At the time you said in an interview with our magazine that the image of Cloud and Sephiroth was based on “Musashi [Miyamoto] and Kojiro [Sasaki].”

Nomura: Yes. In particular the weapons, and the “showdown” image, was Musashi and Kojiro.

—Were there any other parts where the story concepts or mental images came through strong in the designs?

Nomura: At first, Sephiroth and Aerith were to be brother and sister, so I gave them similarities in their fringes. That aspect was dropped during the early stages, but the fringes stayed (laughs). I believe the original idea for them to be siblings later became that Sephiroth was Aerith’s first love. Ultimately Nojima thought up Zack, and it was all tied up.

WHITE IS THE “FF” IMAGE COLOUR

—Back at the time, did you realise the extent of the influence “FFVII” had on people?

Nomura: The Internet wasn’t wide-spread yet, and there weren’t really any avenues to see the opinions of a vast number of people, so I didn’t really know how it was being received by the public. But as the release was drawing nearer, the commercials on TV were played a lot, which gave a sense of the scale of things.

—There were several variations of commercials, right.

Nomura: Among those was a commercial that Kyle Cooper (*5) had edited. That was really cool, and it impacted me the way that different editing can give such a different impression. It was because of that that I took an interest in video editing.

—So the current high quality trailers came about because of a commercial for “FFVII”!?

Nomura: No (laughs). There is an outside editing director who has worked with us for a long time, but the present trailers are created with him.

—I see. The novel design for the game packaging, with just the logo on a white background which would be carried over to the future titles in the series, was also talked about.

Nomura: A lot of that was down to (Tadashi) Nomura who lead publicity for “FFVII”. Actually, we were talking about removing the lettering of the logo and just having the image of Meteor Amano had drawn. To have people recognise that it was “FFVII” from that. I thought that was pretty cool, but it didn’t materialise. The background being white was because Sakaguchi said that the image of “FF” was white.

—So there were lots of ideas even for the packaging. By the way, I heard that you are also involved with overseeing merchandise and publicity?

Nomura: That’s true, at the time I wasn’t sure how much I should do, so ended up drawing everything like roughs for plush toys and such (wry smile). I think it’s precisely because I didn’t know, that I was able to try my hand at everything. It was “FFVII” that was the start of my involvement in publicity as well. Though I ended up revealing info about “FFVII” I shouldn’t have and causing trouble, after that I started getting confirmation first. After I started working together like that, I was also able to cooperate with their publicity strategies, and I think I managed to get them to understand the intent of the development. Most of all, it was fun to be able to do that together.

ENERGY FROM IGNORANCE

—What sort of impression do you have now looking back on time spent making “FFVII”?

Nomura: We were basically rushing headlong, without knowing what we could or couldn’t do. And that’s why I think we could generate that much power, and pack everyone’s ideas in there. Our being able to be reckless making games that way ended with “FFVII”. Personally, it was the first “FF” where a wide range of my ideas were picked up, so it was a lot of fun.

—But before then as well, you not only created the pixel graphics but also submitted proposals as well, right?

Nomura: I put forth ideas for “FFV” and “VI”, but they were only really a part of the whole. Unlike in “VI” where with the inclusion of my ninja and my gambler I was given charge of the stories for Shadow and Setzer, “VII” was the first “FF” where I was involved from the ground up. Before then, I had been giving my opinions to a few people like Kitase, so it was interesting to be able to openly introduce proposals.

—”FFVII” is a game that has been supported by fans for over 15 years, but what kind of feelings do you have for the “FF” series?

Nomura: I still remember well what Mr. Sakaguchi said about “FF” at that time. There’s no one to tell that to the new staff, so I’d like to ask Kitase if he’d do so (laughs). I watched up close how Sakaguchi had left Kitase in charge of the development floor, and personally I think that Kitase is the true heir of “FF”. Also, “FF” carries weight because it’s a title that passed through many people’s hands and not just a single person’s. For example, “Kingdom Hearts” has the same main characters and the story carries on, but with “FF” the fact that ‘each time it’s different’ can feel like a tall hurdle. But that’s exactly why the new “FF” must always exceed the ones of the past. Even “FFVII”, which has been supported by the players for a long time and many people hope for a remake, but right now we want to prioritise new titles, and to try our best to make those become like “FFVII” or something greater.

*1: Yoshitaka Amano. Works on the image illustrations and logo designs for the “FF” series.
*2: Hironobu Sakaguchi. Producer heavily involved with the “FF” series.
*3: Yoshinori Kitase. Director of “FFVII”.
*4: Kazushige Nojima. In charge of the scenario of “FFVII”.
*5: Kyle Cooper. A video creator who produces the opening credits for films, with many credits such as “Se7en” and “Mission: Impossible”.

- On the 15th anniversary
To Kitase

We see each other a lot normally, so I don’t really have anything to say (wry smile). Lately, there are getting to be fewer people who worked on “FF” with Mr. Sakaguchi. Among them, I’ve worked with you for a long time, and it feels like you’ve done a lot for me. Let’s keep on going into the future. (Nomura)

- On the 15th anniversary
To Nojima

I think it’s great how you write this dialogue that gives characters clever things to say, and surprising stories. In “FFVII” Cloud’s true identity was a real shock. You later founded your own company and went independent, but I hope we can keep on working together still in the future. (Nomura)

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