Whatever the end result of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy 15, it’s hard to argue that the game looks anything short of expensive. From the level of detail in the characters to the scale of the world, it’s the sort of game that requires hundreds of people to make.
We recently decided to take a closer look at that level of detail and check out a handful of screenshots from the game, with assistance and commentary from one of the game’s art directors, Yusuke Naora.
Naora has been at Square for more than 20 years, starting as a designer on games such as Final Fantasy 6 and Chrono Trigger, then serving as an art director on Final Fantasy 7 and a variety of other games.
Scroll down to read his comments on different aspects of his career history and FF15’s visual approach.
- Prior to joining Square in the ‘90s, Naora had never played a role-playing game, so he studied on the job while working on Final Fantasy 6 and ended up contributing to some of that game’s unusual areas like Zozo and the Floating Continent. "I think, in a good way, I was able to create designs that differed from what was considered to be the traditional Final Fantasy style at that time," he says.
- While now an established member of Square Enix, Naora says the turning point for his career came in the ‘90s when he worked on the courtroom graphics in the role-playing game Chrono Trigger. "They entrusted me with an iconic visual of the game, and it was the first time I felt Square acknowledged my work, which gave me the confidence to pursue this path." Now more than 20 years later, that path has led him to Final Fantasy 15.
- On Final Fantasy 15, Naora is one of three art directors — a sign of the increasing staff numbers needed for game of this scale. Specifically, he overseas the game’s characters.
- Final Fantasy 15 has a long history, originally going by the name Final Fantasy Versus 13 and sitting in limbo for years before Square Enix revived it and gave it the name Final Fantasy 15. On the visual side, Naora says, "We carried over the most important elements from Versus 13 into Final Fantasy 15, but also updated the designs to mesh with the enhanced technology and realism of Final Fantasy 15."
- For Final Fantasy 15, Naora says the team’s key focus for the visuals has been to make the grounded elements appear more realistic than they have in previous games. "Where the series has traditionally given characters an abstract visual identity using signature costumes, weapons and hair, the mark of Final Fantasy 15’s style is the degree to which we could create living, breathing people and realistic objects thanks to advanced physics-based technology," he says.
- Naora has gone into into elaborate detail to perfect each character’s look, altering things like the shadows created by main character Noctis’ hair so they won’t create harsh lighting effects on his face.
- When Naora gets stuck with the game development equivalent of writer’s block, he says one of his ways of getting past it is to think back to what he did on early Final Fantasy games. "When things aren’t going well or when I hit a roadblock, there are times when I go back to the basics and remember how I felt when I first started at the company," he says.
- Asked about a potential rivalry between the Final Fantasy 15 and Final Fantasy 7 Remake teams, Naora says he doesn’t think of them as competing with one another and actually hasn’t had much contact with the Remake team. "I haven’t seen anything beyond what everyone else in the public has seen," he says, "and I’m not quite sure how their team is structured." [Laughs] Instead, Naora says he’s focused on trying to "surpass the impact the original Final Fantasy 7 had 20 years ago."