Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

How Final Fantasy XIV Moved Final Fantasy Icon Hironobu Sakaguchi

For a "Final Fantasy" title to go from a complete flop to Square Enix's most profitable game is one thing — for it to have caught the attention of the series creator himself is another. That's right, "Final Fantasy" creator Hironobu Sakaguchi is, apparently, an avid player of "Final Fantasy 14" — so avid, in fact, that he finished the main story from "A Realm Reborn" to "Shadowbringers" in just 34 days (via Twinfinite), and he has enthusiastically been keeping up with every update since. 


The story goes that he was trying to familiarize himself with the game in preparation for a talk with the producer, Naoki Yoshida, in 2021. What was supposed to be a simple brush-up turned into a passion spanning over a year since he started, and his Twitter profile is inundated with regular updates on his in-game activities (as well as promotions for his in-game clothing line, sakaGUCCI). 

So what was it about "Final Fantasy 14" that so thoroughly drew in the man accredited for most of the stunning transformations of the "Final Fantasy" franchise? According to an exclusive interview with IGN, it boiled down to nostalgia.

The MMO reminds Sakaguchi of the early days of Final Fantasy development

In the IGN interview, Sakaguchi cites the time between "Final Fantasy" and "Final Fantasy 4" as a formative period for the franchise's narrative identity. While it may be strange to think about now, after JRPGs have led the charge on story-driven games, there was a time when Sakaguchi didn't think that the RPG genre was particularly suited to strong writing at all due to its creative lineage from the more sandbox-like tabletop games like "Dungeons and Dragons" (where the lore was simply a means to the "system-based" gameplay). It was within the four first installments of the franchise where he and the development team managed to change this outlook and redefine the conventions of the RPG genre as they knew it, establishing the narratively-driven tradition of the "Final Fantasy" games fans know and love today.


It seems this formative period is fairly central to Sakaguchi's understanding of the franchise as a whole. Apparently, "Final Fantasy 14" reminded him of what the "Final Fantasy" development team "struggled with from [Final Fantasy] to [Final Fantasy 4]," in that the developers managed to redefine a "genre that conventional wisdom said was incompatible with stories" to introduce a story of "cosmic" proportions. To him, "Final Fantasy 14" has the fundamental makeup of a true "Final Fantasy" because of how it managed to inject incredibly strong writing into a medium that he considers inherently hostile to player-based narrative.

Final Fantasy 14 is like the Disneyland for the franchise, Sakaguchi says

It's no secret that "Final Fantasy 14" is built on loving tributes and references to the rest of the franchise — a running joke amongst players is that the only "Final Fantasy" game "FF14" hasn't referenced is itself. So it's no wonder that Sakaguchi, in his words, feels like "FF14" is a theme park not unlike Disneyland. In the IGN interview, he mentions that he especially loves how "FF14" — instead of being a spectacle of easter eggs — has its own internal rules to create an immersive franchise experience that doesn't compromise its own standalone continuity. 


Of all the tributes, he points out the appearance of the Magus Sisters from "Final Fantasy 4" and Ultros from "Final Fantasy 6" as especially nostalgic moments that had him nearly "jumping for joy." He's also tweeted about nostalgic in-game experiences, a notable example being his remark on how the framing of an important "Shadowbringers" cutscene is a reference to the original "Final Fantasy"'s packaging, right down to the 3D imitation of Yoshitaka Amano's signature style. 

It seems Sakaguchi is enjoying his time playing a game that pays meticulous homage to a franchise that defined his early career, so much so that he doesn't want to become involved with the development at all. Despite the hopes of many fans in his Twitter replies, the creator of "Final Fantasy" told IGN that he has no intention of compromising his position in the player audience.