As far as RPGs go, only a handful of
games have had such an
impact on my outlook of the genre, changing forever how I play and rate
Of that short list, even fewer others are held in as high regard as style="font-style: italic;">Final
Fantasy IV. The game was great—it had all the
elements that defined an epically
enjoyable RPG. Fantastic lore, deep characters, and a captivating story
would keep one enthralled for days or weeks until the game was played
to completion.

style="width: 256px; height: 533px; float: left;"
alt="Takashi Tokita"
recently had the opportunity to sit down with none other
than Takashi Tokita, lead designer of style="font-style: italic;">Final Fantasy IV by
Square. Tokita, to
many gamers, is a living legend and I wanted to get inside his head a
bit to
find out his thought process behind the hit title.

It’s been 20 years since
the game’s first launch and to
celebrate Final Fantasy
has made its way over to the PSP in an exclusive
Complete Collection edition which includes style="font-style: italic;">Final Fantasy IV:
The After Years.
We spoke about the port, and while it’s certainly a cool
thing to have the game
available on so many platforms now with new graphics and innovations
for the
recent PSP edition, I found myself increasingly fascinated by
Tokita’s approach
to the game in its original iteration in 1991.

Perhaps the days of several friends
sitting around a
television while one guy plays a single-player RPG as the rest add
and suggestions how to progress are on the downswing, perhaps on their
way out
all together, but the philosophy behind a really great game stays the
same. In fact,
if more games were to follow the Final
Fantasy IV
format, we’d perhaps see a
lot more value for our gaming dollar than we do today.

Even two decades later, Tokita shows
a dedication to the
game. In the latest version of the title, eleven months were spent on
the existing game into the new decade, with updated textures
and graphics,
among full art and audio galleries. As a labor of love, Tokita told me
that the
After Years had launched on mobile platforms, but not on the PSP. So
instead of
just doing another port of the After Years, it was a perfect
opportunity to
revisit Final Fantasy IV
and bring it into the modern gaming era. This wasn’t
something that only Square Enix was interested in; the fans themselves
outright demanding that a packaged version become available. The answer
to that
demand? Final Fantasy IV
Complete Collection.

I asked Tokita how he would rank style="font-style: italic;">Final Fantasy IV in
relation to the other Final Fantasy games in the franchise. As the
first title
in which Tokita took an active role in design, he likened it to a first
and stated he’ll always have a very deep love for the game.

It’s little wonder he has
that sort of sentiment.
Storytelling in FFIV and games like it has almost become a lost art as
we see a
shift in not only the way stories are told in games today, but also the
and impact of those stories.

Tokita agreed that with the increase in
the power of
available hardware and technology more storytelling methods have begun
to rely
more heavily on visual elements. However, he also believes today we are
starting to see a shift back to simpler game play in an effort to hit
chords within the player.

href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 200px; height: 342px; float: right;"
alt="Final Fantasy IV Complete Collection Box Art"
1991 Final Fantasy had to trim the fat in order to fit on
a cartridge. Nearly three quarters of the game was trimmed off in order
to get
the game down to size. During this editing, although it was a
restriction, it did force Tokita and his team to consider every aspect
of the
game and filter it down to the bare essentials to get the story told
and the
emotion conveyed. Today, things are a little different. Tokita believes
far too easy for a developer to get caught up in visual elements and
rely on
them to convey the story and emotion that the essentials can easily be
With near limitless disk space and memory of today’s gaming
machines Tokita may
have a point.

Even if a developer successfully
simmers off the excess of their
game to keep just the essentials in order to convey their story, they
need a way to get the gamer emotionally involved with the character(s).
I asked
how Tokita did this in FFIV.

Having been an actor and thespian
around the time of the
game’s design, Tokita understood that tone, diction, and
articulation all
affected audience response. At the time a game with full voice-overs
wasn’t possible but that only helped in making sure all
dialog was chosen
correctly. In fact, often what you don’t say is more
important than what you do
say, he told me.

In some way Tokita believes it may be
easier to capture your
audience than if you were trying to tell a story through a film. With
the players are actually involved in making the decisions which makes
that personal chord considerably more achievable. On the flip side,
decisions then also become susceptible to the audience rejecting the
arc of the
story, as if they don’t like the way something turns out,
they’ve already felt
they’ve committed and will be displeased that much more.

Can voiceovers make an impact? Of
course they can.  During
our interview Tokita pointed out that if
one of us had a sad demeanor, that would impact others in the
conversation and
the overall feel and mood of the conversation would be much different.
This is
the kind of result that can be achieved with tone of voice in

Needless to say, even without
voiceovers, a huge following
has developed for Final Fantasy over the years. I asked Tokita how he
felt that
community has evolved over the past 20 years. He felt that it certainly
grown. There obviously is a very large fan base from years back, but
with all
the new incarnations of the game, including the Complete Collection now
available on the PSP, a whole new generation has adopted the franchise.
has high hopes for it too, envisioning that the game and story will be
told for
even more generations, like an old song—something anyone can
pick up and pass
on to further generations.

If there was a game that could do
that, Final Fantasy IV
could be it.  For
me, the memory of that
game has been powerful enough that I do tell my friends about it, years
And that’s because Takashi Tokita and his team knew the
essentials to telling a
story that would affect us all for years to come.

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016