Thanks to Dan_Tsukasa for the inspiration!
Typing “Nomura ruined Final Fantasy” in Google returns over 131,000 links of people explaining exactly that. Just on the front page alone, you can gather the sentiment that people aren’t fond of the character artist. A few of those link suggests that some people believed he “ruined Square”; others believe he should “jump ship” before Square goes under. But almost all of them unanimously over-attributes Nomura’s influence over Square Enix.
Dan_Tsukasa wrote this defense of Nomura on the Final Fantasy Subreddit. For those who don’t know him, Tetsuya Nomura is a director and character designer for Final Fantasy. Many complain he’s why Final Fantasy took “a turn for the worst”. But how warranted is this criticism? I don’t agree, and neither does Dan_Tsukasa:
I use this sub a lot. And I’m regularly reading things such as Nomura destroyed Final Fantasy, its Nomura’s Fault, I hope Nomura stays away from this game.
I just don’t get all the hate. And I also think, most of the people making those comments also don’t get most of the hate, they’re just attributing things to him that have nothing to do with him.
Nomura started out as a monster artist before becoming a lead artist for the characters of FFVII, then moving onto lead character designer for Final Fantasy VIII, where he also appears to have had a hand in part of the character’s backstory.
After this Nomura didn’t work on FFIX, instead he leads up character design for FFX, not story, not gameplay, just characters, just like all his other work. Around the same time he wrote the base story (so, main events only I guess) for Kingdom Hearts, along with being the character artist, he also designed most of the concept art, how the game would look visually and was in the directorial role.
Nomura did designs for 2 races from Final Fantasy XI, along with some NPC stories before moving onto Final Fantasy X-2.
He also created the concept and character design for Before Crisis, from here he did Kingdom hearts and several other non-FF games before Supervising The FFVII compilation Anime Last Order and finally being the character designer on Dirge of Cerberus.
Nomura also acted as Director & character designer for Advent Children, after this there were several smaller titles in which he was an artist or graphics supervisor before being Main Character Artist in Final Fantasy XIII, XIII-2 and Lightning Returns.
For Dissidia and Type-0 Nomura took the position of Creative producer & character designer.
After this, he took on Final Fantasy XV, in one of his most infamous projects, his roles here were original concept, main character design.
Has anyone seen a pattern in all this yet?
Nomura in Final Fantasy is an artist, who’s first Final Fantasy Directorial Role was Kingdom hearts and FFXV.
The short of it is, all the complaints about him destroying the series have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with him at all, its just people attaching his name to something. Additionally, writing the base story isn’t a huge thing, if you consider that each game had the main story concept, a scenario writer, the main scenario writer, a quest scenario writer it’s not the base story that’s ever the issue in the games when people complain, its everything else.
As an additional side note, Director =/= does everything, directors in films direct things as you all know, but they rarely write the scripts, or the dialogue, instead directing the way they’re said, how they’re said, perhaps at times even the order that they’re said in. People really misunderstand the role of directors and producers in both video games and film, they’re not as all-encompassing as many might think.
Nomura might not do character designs we all love, but generally speaking, that’s what he does, a guy doing characters doesn’t influence how things play, or how the story or dialogue are, or how linear a game is, that’s an entirely separate set of fields that he won’t be involved in. He has been in charge of various Non-Final Fantasy games, however, and surprisingly enough they’re all been very well received, perhaps not perfect, but well received nonetheless.
TLDR: 90% of the stuff people complain about has nothing to do with Nomura
All of this is true. Nomura actually started as a debugger for Final Fantasy IV. Then a monster designer for Final Fantasy V. He created both Shadow and Setzer for Final Fantasy VI, before becoming the lead character designer for Final Fantasy VII. His style is so recognizable, you can tell his designs just by looking at the characters.
But he was never the director of those games. Sakaguchi directed the first seven. Kitase directed Final Fantasy VIII and X. Itou directed Final Fantasy IX and XII. And Toriyama directed Final Fantasy XIII. What did Nomura direct? Kingdom Hearts. Nomura has never directed a mainline Final Fantasy game.
We tend to see the character designs for Tidus – for example – and assume that he “made Tidus”. But he only designed Tidus. Yoshinori Kitase and Kazushige Nojima wrote Tidus’ character, and his story. Sure, Nomura may have had some input. But mostly, Kitase and Nojima’s story influenced Nomura’s art, not the other way around.
But it’s not hard to see why people believe. Final Fantasy XV had yet to see a release date when Dan_Tsukasa wrote this post. And in that time, most people assumed Nomura was the reason for the game’s delay. They weren’t incorrect.
Later on, he would find himself in the director’s chair. But what does a character artist know about directing games? Kingdom Hearts turned out fine. And Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children…had a lot of great action scenes. But from this Kotaku article, we can see even man himself isn’t quite confident in his abilities:
“I’m not director material.”
“Most importantly, I had to have the final say on the content of the game. Basically, without it, I wouldn’t have been able to make the game I want. I had to have Kingdom Hearts come out in the way I envisioned.”
In other words, like most character artists he’s a visionary. But he’s not really a director per se. Other’s aren’t really confident of his directing abilities either. When Tabata took over Final Fantasy XV, he found the team “exhausted and fretful”. Seven years in the developmental stage and Nomura was unsure where to take Final Fantasy XV. Same for Final Fantasy VII’s remake. Nomura didn’t destroy these games, but they don’t quite match our expectations either. Some people wonder if Nomura were still a director, would the games be different, better even? We may never know. And they may never come out…
Is he “destroying” Final Fantasy? Yes and no. No, he’s not the reason Final Fantasy has delays. But yes. Final Fantasy changes and every change is like the death to the old way of doing things. This doesn’t mean the changes are bad. Well, not unless you think they are. In that sense, Nomura destroying Final Fantasy your perspective.