The Japanese magazine Famitsu published an interview with key development staff of Final Fantasy X to commemorate the game’s 20th anniversary in the 7/29-8/5 2021 issue. Interviewed were producer Kitase Yoshinori, event director Toriyama Motomu, character designer Nomura Tetsuya, and writer Nojima Kazushige.
The interviewer points out how it seems that a lot of effort was put into the scene with Tidus and Yuna at the springs, and Toriyama says that this was becaue that was the climax of Yuna’s journey, expressing the feelings of the characters who are going to have their risk their lives.
As for the kiss, Nojima says that he originally wrote the scene entirely differently, with Yuna saying “but, but…” whenever Tidus tried to turn the conversation positive, and him eventually stopping her from doing so by sealing her lips. This was changed by assistant writer Watanabe Daisuke. It was entirely different from what Nojima wrote, but he thinks it ended up fantastic.
Nojima is asked for things he paid particular attention to, and he says that one such thing was Tidus’ dialogue. For example, when Tidus first arrives at Besaid and sees people, he exclaims (in the Japanese version) “People!”. Many pointed out how this was weird, but Nojima thought that being weird in such a way is what makes Tidus the protagonist, and was adamant about not changing it.
Another thing Nojima wanted to do was have Yuna mouth “thank you” silently in the scene while riding the Shoopuf without captions, as he felt players would still understand. In the end, however, this ended up captioned, and though he protested it all the way, his protests were denied with the reasoning being that people would think it was a bug. Kitase said that if he told him they would have done it in the HD Remaster version, but Toriyama says that people would have just thought it was a bug again.
Toriyama is also asked what he paid particular attention to, and he says that for him it was the opening. The interviewer notes how Toriyama is the one who decided to use the track Zanarkand for the opening, and Toriyama says that now that he thinks about it, FFX was the first time they started attaching tracks to scenes while actually playing through the game.
While there were of course cases where tracks were ordered for particular scenes, in the case of Zanarkand, Toriyama tested tracks that were already done with the opening that he was working on, and found that it matched the scene perfectly. He ended up changing the cuts to match the track, and says that the scene is a fantastic one that stands out the way it does only because it was completed by composer Uematsu Nobuo’s music.
Kitase adds that he thinks that the completed opening scene also inspired Uematsu with ideas for the ending theme. He also says that the sound team staff, Uematsu included, only start testing the game in the latter half of development, which is where they find out how the game designers used their music for the first time.
This topic makes Nojima bring up how he just remembered that someone “stole” a track from him that he was planning on using for one of his scenes: He had been cradling it for months when all of a sudden he was told that it was going to be used elsewhere. He says that this sort of tragedy happens in the final parts of development of all games, and so he now tries not to grow too attached to tracks as a result.
Next, the interviewer brings up how the lyrics of the Hymn of the Fayth have a hidden meaning, and asks what led to their creation. Nojima says that when coming up with the Al-Bhed language, he wanted it to have a proper linguistic system, and read many books about cyphers. In the end, in order to get it to fit with the game’s system, it became a simplistic substituion cypher, but the lyrics of the song are a leftover from his initial plans.
While Final Fantasy is a series that incorporates elements from all sorts of mythology and fantasy, Nojima wanted to make Spira a world that would be able to stand on its own independently, and initially wanted to even give series staple Bahamut a different name in this world. But he eventually felt that no matter how much he put in, there would be a limit to how much players would be willing to look at, and so it winded up being scaled down to what is seen in the finished game.
It is brought up how FFX handles multiple themes, and the interviewer asks what the core of the story was at the start. Nojima says that he began with the contrast between Yuna, who remains strong even though she knows that she has to sacrifice herself at the end, and Tidus, who just tags along not knowing anything.
Nojima next elaborates on the inspiration for this theme, which he says is something he has not talked about much before: When the FFX project had just started, he had just read several collections of private papers of kamikaze pilots and their families. Amongst them were stories of the pilots’ families seeing them off and worrying about their health even though they knew that the pilots were going to die. That sort of resolve and resignation is what forms the core of FFX’s story.
Nojima wanted Tidus to be a vessel for the player in the story, and that is why it was necessary to constantly portray him as ignorant. The world of FFX has its own ideas of what is happy or sad, and Tidus drawing closer to its heart as he observes it, until he eventually changes the world itself, is what Nojima had planned from early on.
The parent-and-child themes were something that came after. Yuna’s story came first, with Sin and the repeating of history attached to it, and the story of the previous generation only came to be as a result of that. Spira gets its name from the word “spiral”, which Nojima says is a reference to how history and phenomena are linked in the form of a spiral.
Next, the interviewer asks why the summon (aeon) lineup in FFX is so different from those of other FF games, and Toriyama says that this was part of Nojima’s idea of making a new original world, which led to them having entirely new summons aside from the few staples like Bahamut. Kitase adds that the number of summons available to the player was decided by the battle team, and Nojima chips in saying that he loved Anima’s design.
The interviewer points out how other systems like the sphere grid also FFX very unique compared to previous games, and Kitase says that it ended up so different because they left handling the systems to battle director Tsuchida Toshiro, creator of the Front Mission series. Nojima says that having three characters at a time in battle was also decided on by Tsuchida, as was the number of party members. Nojima also chuckles when he recalls looking at an Excel file by battle system planner Nakazawa Takatsugu, in which the characters were identified with names like “spear” and “something guy”.
Nojima says that Tsuchida’s method of doing things was a “cultural revolution” for them, and Kitase elaborates, saying that Tsuchida approached things with a logic-based method: For example, when making maps, he would consider how many meters the player would walk before getting into a battle, decide how many battles they player should get into, and then calculate how big the map should be based on that.
Up till then, the FF team had prioritized story and visuals, and designed the game based on them, such as by having art director Naora Yusuke freely draw backgrounds and then after they were done think about how to include them in the game. Tsuchida, on the other hand, started with raw numbers, and characters and story followed after.