Square-Enix, we need to have a talk about one of the biggest name talents at your company. He helped make Final Fantasy VII the hit that it was, he made the Kingdom Hearts series from what should have been a total disaster into something great and has been working for you for over 20 years. His art, while controversial, is known on sight by many gamers and artists around the world. Square-Enix, we need to have a chat about Tetsuya Nomura.
I want to preface this letter by saying this is not a letter of anger or hate for Nomura or you, Square-Enix, but it’s going to sound like it for a while. I promise, I’ll make sure my intent becomes clear by the end.
First though, we have to talk about the last decade. When I was a kid, I remember seeing Kingdom Hearts ads on TV and thinking to myself, “that looks like a disaster. Final Fantasy and Disney? Disney?” Yeah, I was that kid who thought he was too cool for Disney now that he’s all grown up and 12. Fortunately, one of my best friends insisted I try it and I was broke enough where I basically played any game I could get my hands on. The rest will come as no surprise.
The game was incredible. A hit bigger than it had any right to be. It appealed to traditional gamers with its real-time battle system, deep side quests and surprisingly gripping storyline. It also appealed to a whole new audience as it brought in fans of Disney who previously hadn’t touched a video game.
After a relatively unsuccessful spin-off for the GBA, Kingdom Hearts 2 came out 3 years later to significant consumer acclaim. I still remember walking to the local Gamestop after school with my money I had saved up in anticipation for launch day. I was not disappointed. Everything about it was improved from the first game. A bigger story, better combat, all new worlds. It was fantastic and I loved every second of it and couldn’t wait for the next entry.
But nothing happened. To be fair, we got some spin-offs and remakes. Smaller titles meant to keep Kingdom Hearts fans on the hook because Tetsuya Nomura was off on more important things: Final Fantasy Versus XIII. After the massive success of Kingdom Hearts 2, you decided it was worth putting him in charge of your flagship series. This wasn’t a bad idea. Nobody would blame you for it. He was one of your brightest new talents, why wouldn’t you put him in charge of Final Fantasy? The series was where he first started to shine in the first place.
But nothing happened. Year after year went by and other than the occasional “where is Final Fantasy Versus XIII” article, information was pretty much non-existent. I don’t know what happened at Square-Enix during that time. Nobody who does will talk about it anytime soon and I don’t want to speculate. What I do know for sure is that after 7 years of floundering, you took Nomura off the game and gave it to Hajime Tabata to rescue as the newly branded Final Fantasy XV.
After that, it seems Nomura went back to Kingdom Hearts, his baby. He had been working, coming up with story and artwork for the spin-offs in the meantime, and now, it seems, he was ready to get back to Kingdom Hearts in a big way. Kingdom Hearts 3 was officially announced at E3 in 2013.
But nothing happened. It’s 2017 now and we have seen almost nothing new since that announcement. We’ve gotten a couple small clips of gameplay from various E3 trailers but nothing substantial. Four years in and we haven’t even been given an estimated release date. Not even a year!
What we have gotten is the announcement that Tetsuya Nomura is heading an episodic remake of Final Fantasy VII. Final Fantasy fans all remember when they first heard the announcement that Final Fantasy VII was finally, FINALLY getting a remake. I remember seeing Tetsuya Nomura’s name on the trailer and I instantly lost faith that I would be playing this anytime soon. That announcement came at E3 of 2015. In February of 2017, the anniversary of Final Fantasy VII, we have received… two screenshots. Two measly screenshots, promising one episode of a game.
Nothing is happening. I’m sure you see where I’m going with this. The trend is pretty obvious to anyone paying attention. Major releases by Tetsuya Nomura don’t happen anymore. His games don’t get finished and this has been a trend for over 10 years. Frankly, without looking at your books, I would guess that without the financial support of your western developers like Eidos and Crystal Dynamics, plus your many re-releases and ports of older games, you wouldn’t exist anymore.
At the beginning, I promised that this wasn’t a hate letter against you or Nomura. I have loved Square-Enix as a company for as long as I can remember. I have fond memories of playing Chrono Trigger at a friends house on his SNES. Playing Chrono Cross, one of my favorite games ever, for the first time. The reverence with which I used to hold the Final Fantasy name which was almost Holy Grail-esque. I also love Nomura’s contribution to gaming. Kingdom Hearts was one of the best new franchises in gaming back in the mid-2000’s. His artwork on Final Fantasy VI and VII was an inspiration to many, myself included.
My suggestion is not to let Nomura go but rather to recognize his strengths and to stop pushing him (or allowing him) into roles where he does not belong. If the last 10 years have proven anything, it’s that Nomura is not a director. Games he directs do not get finished. Instead, allow him to do what he does best, write stories and create artwork. If that requires a new title, make it for him. He’s worth keeping around but not in this role.
This is a tough change to make but it is one that needs to happen both for the continuation of your company and for his art.
Thanks for reading.