When Hironobu Sakaguchi says “final,” he means it. As it turns out, he doesn’t particularly like sequels.
That’s surprising, given that Sakaguchi is the man behind one of gaming’s longest running and most popular franchises, Final Fantasy. Sakaguchi joined SquareSoft in 1983, shortly after dropping out of college, and before long took over as the developer’s Director of Planning and Development. Unfortunately, Square’s first few games didn’t sell very well; Sakaguchi decided that his last game would be a fantasy RPG based on Dungeons & Dragons, after which he’d retire from the game industry and return to university (hence the “final” in the game’s title).
That didn’t happen. Final Fantasy went on to become a massive success in Japan, and Sakaguchi served as the series’ director until Final Fantasy V, the second entry in the franchise to appear on the Super Famicom. Sakaguchi was a producer on Final Fantasy until Final Fantasy IX (his favorite entry in the series), during which time he also oversaw the development of other classic SquareSoft RPGs, including Chrono Trigger and Parasite Eve. Sakaguchi also directed the CG-animated theatrical flop, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.
These days, with the fifteenth entry in the core series about to make its debut and over two-dozen spin-offs on store shelves, Final Fantasy’s virility has become a punchline among gamers. Yet, in a recent interview with IGN, Sakaguchi dropped a bombshell: he doesn’t just dislike sequels, he hates them.
That sounds ridiculous, but the evidence supports Sakaguchi’s claim. No individual Final Fantasy installment had a direct sequel until Final Fantasy X-2 came out in 2003, after Sakaguchi left the company. Before that point, every new Final Fantasy title featured a brand new story, new characters, and a new (if familiar) battle system. According to Sakaguchi, this was by design. As previously reported, Sakaguchi always wanted to move forward, improving on past mistakes and trying something new. As he puts it, “There’s no point in doing the same thing.”
Sakaguchi still subscribes to this philosophy. As he told IGN, “Our promise to ourselves is that for every single game that we make, we are going to give it our all, and then we finish it.” When a game is done, “we’ll end it in such a way that there is no to be continued checklist.” So far, Sakaguchi’s time at his new studio, Mistwalker, bears this out: only the Xbox 360-exclusive title Blue Dragon has had a sequel (two, in fact, both for the Nintendo DS), leaving fans of The Last Story and Lost Odyssey futilely waiting for more.
Obviously, in Sakaguchi’s absence, Square Enix hasn’t held itself to the same standards. The last mainline Final Fantasy title, Final Fantasy XIII, received two sequels, while the upcoming Final Fantasy XV started development as a spin-off titled Final Fantasy Versus XIII before being promoted to a stand-alone title.