Say the words Final Fantasy and most people will have a certain image in their head. Spiky-haired pretty boys, Sci-fantasy fusion settings, chocobos and massive weapons. But where did all this come from? At its start, Final Fantasy was little more than a simplified computer clone of Dungeons and Dragons fantasy aesthetics. It took one man to recreate that into the #VideoGames series we know and love today.
How Tetsuya Nomura Redefined Final Fantasy
Tetsuya Nomura was originally hired as a simple debugger for Final Fantasy IV, his role in the game was so small that he wasn't credited. When Final Fantasy V rolled around, Nomura was added into the team in charge of the game. He was trained by artist Tetsuya Takahashi and given the opportunity to work on monster designs. His work and ideas impressed the director enough that he was made Graphic Director for Final Fantasy VI. It wasn't until #FinalFantasy7 however that Nomura would truly be given his big break.
When Final Fantasy VII entered pre-development, Nomura was asked to become the principle character designer on the game instead of Yoshitaka Amano, who's bold fantasy art had defined the appearance of the 2D Final Fantasy titles. Leading the character design for a Final Fantasy title was one thing, but heading up design on the first ever 3D Final Fantasy was an immense ask.
Buster Swords And Bishounen: Nomura's Final Fantasy Was Something Very Different
Nomura had essentially been handed the keys to the kingdom when it came to Final Fantasy's design. He struck out in a bold new direction, redefining the series with his personal style. His work was marked with a modern, edgy sensibility. A dynamic and exaggerated style that favored flair over function. Characters like Cloud and Sephiroth, with their swooping, over-the-top hair and massively oversized weapons, replaced the '80s fantasy influenced designs of Amano.
Nomura also created many of the facets of Final Fantasy that we take for granted today. His designs moved Final Fantasy away from its Dungeons and Dragons inspired roots into a unique fusion of fantasy, sci-fi and modern day elements that defines the series to this day. Even some mechanics exist mostly thanks to Nomura's efforts, such as the limit break system, which was his brainchild.
He Didn't Just Change Final Fantasy
It wasn't just the Final Fantasy series that the artist left his mark on. Games like Parasite Eve and Brave Fencer Musashi demonstrated the artist's flexibility and mastery of different styles. From realistic bio-horrors to cute fantasy samurai, Nomura was a master at giving each game a unique style that was still recognizably his.
If Nomura was given the keys to the kingdom in Final Fantasy VII, then Kingdom Hearts was his attempt at building an empire from the foundations. After the success of Mario 64, Disney wanted a hit platformer-style game that used their characters. When they approached Square Enix however, Nomura gave them so much more.
Kingdom Hearts is one of the biggest success stories in gaming, a series with an intense fan following and so many spin-offs you'll get dizzy trying to count them. Without Nomura and his original characters and ideas, Kingdom Hearts may have ended up another forgettable Mario clone, lost among a sea of Gex and Bubsy 3D.
No Boring Designs For Tetsuya Nomura
Like many great character designers, Tetsuya Nomura sought to express the personalities and concepts embodied by his characters in their appearance. While some criticize his penchant for ornate outfits and accessories, his embellishments never seem thoughtless.
Nomura's outfits may not be practical, but they're never lazy. Every color choice, cropped jacket, belt or oversized weapon on a character serves a thematic purpose. Say what you want about his style, you won't find any grizzled middle-aged men in shirts on the cover of a Tetsuya Nomura game.
Are you a fan of Tetsuya Nomura's style? Excited for the FFVII Remake? Let us know in the comments!