Square-Enix opens up about trying to make Final Fantasy VII for N64, jumping to Playstation, and Nintendo's reaction

Polygon has put together an absolutely amazing feature on the creation of Final Fantasy VII, including all sorts of devs that worked on the game. The feature finally gives us a look into how the project originally started on N64, then jumped over to Playstation. This was a huge turning point in the game industry, as well as a devastating blow to the relationship between Square-Enix (Squaresoft at the time) and Nintendo. PLEASE make sure to check out the entire feature linked below, as it's extremely in-depth and super interesting. We've hand-picked a few choice snippets from the feature.

Hironobu Sakaguchi

Producer and executive vice president, Square Japan; Chairman and chief executive officer, Square USA

We knew Nintendo 64 and PlayStation were going to be the next hardware generation, and that we’d be developing our next game for one of them. It was similar to when we moved from the Famicom to the Super Famicom. Our first step wasn’t to choose between the two systems, but to focus on learning the Silicon Graphics workstations we had purchased. They were very expensive machines, and we made a demo on them to show people, “This is how Final Fantasy could look in 3D.”

Kazuyuki Hashimoto

CG supervisor, Square Japan; Chief technical officer and senior vice president, Square USA

Square planned to build a game for the next-gen Nintendo machine, but the [development] kit wasn’t available and the technical [specs kept changing]. So I suggested we could go with a standard environment and we could see what we could do with it. Then later on we could optimize this idea to the small machine. Initially, we could do something with the most powerful environment so we could be more free — free to figure out what we could do in 3D.

Yoshinori Kitase

Director, Square Japan

It wasn’t really “officially” in development for the Nintendo 64. It was more like we were experimenting with the hardware.

Hiroshi Kawai

Character programmer, Square Japan

[Nintendo] actually started giving us emulation kits for the 64. They weren’t running on anything reasonably sized. Do you know what an SGI Onyx looks like? A little smaller than [a 4’x4’] table. … I only had very simple demos running on it at the time, trying to port over some of the higher-resolution models that we used for the Siggraph demo to see how they would perform. … I was [also] using a 3D model of a Leviathan guardian that definitely wasn’t part of the FF6 Siggraph demo.

Yoshinori Kitase

Director, Square Japan

We started making a demo to see what was possible, and only a handful of people worked on it: a few programmers, and four or five artists to work on the graphics. Those artists may have forgotten by now, but the first characters we had them work on were Cloud, Barret and Red XIII [all of whom ended up in the final version of FF7].

Hiroshi Kawai

Character programmer, Square Japan

All this work was toward — I think they called it the Shoshinkai, Nintendo’s Space World [trade show in Japan]. And here I am coding, kind of being able to do lead dev work for this Space World demo. Then I think it was near the end of the year. Sakaguchi-san just gathers everybody in the middle of this gigantic floor where we had a bunch of devs working in the middle of Meguro. And he just casually announces, “You know, we’re not developing for Nintendo anymore.” … So all my work at that point kind of went down the drain.

Hironobu Sakaguchi

Producer and executive vice president, Square Japan; Chairman and chief executive officer, Square USA

Of course, back then I wasn’t the president of Square. There was a management level above me, and I talked with them to make the decision. But PlayStation games being on CDs was the biggest factor. If you wanted to make a 3D action game on a Nintendo 64 cartridge with that limited space, you could do it. But I wanted to create a 3D role-playing game. It was very clear in my head what I wanted to make, but that would have been difficult on Nintendo’s hardware. …The biggest problem was, of course, memory. Based on our calculations there was no way it could all fit on a ROM cartridge. So our main reason for choosing the PlayStation was really just because it was the only console which would allow us to use CD-ROM media.

Shinichiro Kajitani

Vice president, Square USA

At that time, Square was really close to Nintendo — we were basically like a second party for them. So when their new system was in development, we gave them lots of advice, like, “You’re going to need a CD-ROM drive for it,” “You don’t have enough bandwidth to do what we’re trying to do,” and, “With what you have now, we’re not going to be able to make an RPG.” We gave them lots of advice. But [Nintendo president] Yamauchi-san at Nintendo basically refused to listen to any of it. And that’s when Sakaguchi-san and the management team at Square decided, “OK, we’re going to go with Sony now.”

Jun Iwasaki

Vice president of marketing, Square U.S.

I thought it was the right decision, but yeah, there was a lot of [tension] with Nintendo after.

Tomoyuki Takechi

President and chief executive officer, Square

It was pretty uncomfortable. There were about four to five years where we couldn’t really talk with Nintendo. We didn’t have a friendly relationship with them.

Shinichiro Kajitani

Vice president, Square USA

When we made the decision to go with Sony, for about 10 years we basically weren’t allowed into Nintendo’s offices. From a consumer’s point of view, it was good to have two companies competing with each other because prices wouldn’t rise and it would be better for them. But from a business perspective, our main interest was making sure that Sony won and Nintendo lost, basically, because that would be better for us.

Hiroshi Kawai

Character programmer, Square Japan

What I heard was Nintendo said, “If you’re leaving us, never come back.”

Check out the full feature here


Fri Sep 08 17 04:16am
Rating: 1

Nintendo then:
Square: You need a CD drive.
Nintendo: No.

Nintendo now:
Capcom: You need more RAM.
Nintendo: Okay.

It's pretty amusing to see how Square basically told them what they should've done to have been successful. Granted, it was known how very stubborn and prideful Yamauchi was. If only he had listened, we'd have a CD-based Nintendo 64 with Final Fantasy VII and more third-party games.

Ah well. Hindsight is 20/20.

It's pretty amusing to see how Square basically told them what they should've done to have been successful. Granted, it was known how very stubborn and prideful Yamauchi was. If only he had listened, we'd have a CD-based Nintendo 64 with Final Fantasy VII and more third-party games.

The problem with Final Fantasy 7 is that back then, it required two discs to actually play it which is what probably prompted Nintendo to avoid discs at the time because this would mean they have to give more freedom to devs.

Anyways, I honestly think Hiroshi Yamauchi did the right thing as the N64 would have had tons of shovelware on par with PS1. I mean, This is the same guy that predicted that games would be getting worse from now on and he was right on that part.

Really though, its not like Square didn't have many choices back then considering that they didn't even bother to support SEGA during the 16-bit era.

Interesting read, and now I know that image isn't a N64 FF prototype, but rather something completely unrelated called "Final Fantasy 6: The Interactive CG Game"

... Wouldn't it just be perfect thus if the FFVII Remake is the first mainline FF game to return to Nintendo systems with Switch 1?

They seriously should just forget about a FFXV port [full or mobile] that would sell terribly now.

Fri Sep 08 17 04:34am
Rating: 1

What I heard was Nintendo said, “If you’re leaving us, never come back.”

that was yamauchi's bullshit for you. Then we wonder why third parties are reluctant to support the switch when all of them are FULLY on board on a 25M console like the one.

and by the way, angel studios managed to make a 2CD game fit into 64MB. I am sure you could have found a way for FF7 to fit on two 64MB carts.

that was yamauchi's bullshit for you. Then we wonder why third parties are reluctant to support the switch when all of them are FULLY on board on a 25M console like the one.

It's not like that was two CEOs ago and a man that hasn't been relevant since 2004 or anything. If third-parties' vindictiveness during the Wii/Wii U days was still all over what mean ol' Yamauchi did, they need to get their heads out of their asses. Simple as that.

yeah joke's on them for not supporting a console that already has a near ZERO third party support.

Fri Sep 08 17 09:56am
(Updated 1 time)

Wow, it's almost like that's a self-fulfilling prophecy or something, when a third-party who looks at other third-parties saying "we're not developing for this because no one else is" and then says "we're not developing for this because no one else is."

Fri Sep 08 17 09:58am
(Updated 1 time)

no it's something FAR simpler. 7%

Nintendo charged 20% royalty and SEGA 15%. Why was THAT the major attraction for MANY third parties? Look at the 3DO with a similar model of VERY low license fees. 3 years, 2M units and...286 retail games which is MORE than the wiiu's disk library.

when you got the highest license fees and a toxic attitude, people simply walk out at the first possible opportunity. something to think about.

Yeah, and what's that royalty nowadays?

Fri Sep 08 17 10:04am
(Updated 1 time)

good question. Apparently it was lowered to "competitive levels" during the GC days but the damage was done. I am even amazed Namco still make games for nintendo consoles after what happened with the company's founder and anyone who knows the body harvest story KNOWS there will never be a flagship GTA game on a nintendo console. You mess with your "suppliers", they will get back at you and as you can see, even in the Wii days, many companies simply made low budget games, from the insulting dead rising to on rail shooters to...dance games. Activision made CoD reflex yes but it by then was too little too late.

Fri Sep 08 17 06:09am
(Updated 1 time)

Gasp! Nintendo shooting themselves in the foot with their own arrogance?! Never!

I can see both sides of this argument. Yamauchi thought he was doing the right thing for Nintendo and gaming in general by keeping that tight reign he had over 3rd parties on Nintendo hardware and Square wanted to go in a different direction. Ironically, the quality of Square's games has been steadily decreasing since FFX imo, but Nintendo's quality only increased.

It would bring things full circle to have the FF7 Remake come to the Switch. I hope it does happen and am happy to see the relationship between both companies is better now.

Fri Sep 08 17 08:24am
Rating: 1

has been steadily decreasing since FFX imo

bravely default, FF15 and Kingdom Hearts say hello. As for nintendo, they made a lot of crappy games for the wiiu like mario tennis, amiibo festival, mario party 10 and mediocre stuff like starfox, pikmin 3 to blatant cash ins like game and wario so it's not all rosy over there either.

Fri Sep 08 17 08:35am
Rating: 1

I wouldn't call Pikmin 3 mediocre and I definitely wouldn't say that game and Wario is a cash in.

Yeah, I loved Pikmin 3 and Game & Wario.

You're talking to Squaresoft fan. First RPG I ever played was FF8 and it gave birth to my love of the RPG genre. I went back and played every FF game before it and after it (except 15). So I'd like to think I know what I'm talking about.

The first 2 games you mentioned? Notice how recent they are? Square has only recently started to find the right track again. For a long time, after FFX, they've been releasing increasingly worse games. Kingdom Hearts was the only thing they were doing right. The Final Fantasy franchise was driven into the ground with the 13 series. They screwed up the Eidos branch. Square has been lost for a long time. Bravely Default is what the Final Fantasy franchise should have still been.

The games you mentioned from Nintendo, notice how they're all side projects and minigame collections? I haven't played the latest Starfox so I can't speak on it, but Pikmin 3 is great. Nintendo's core franchises. Mario,Zelda, Smash Bros etc they've only gotten better with time. Has it all been perfect? Hell no, Federation Force and Donkey Konga exist after all, but their track record is still miles better than anyone else.

S-E are consistently getting better than the FF13 days and this has been the case for the past 4-5 years whereas Nintendo had to fill in the holes with mediocrity making the purchase of the WiiU more of an insult as the years went by. And while I simply could not bother finishing pikmin3 (little king story literally wiped the floor on that genre) notice that I did not mention federation force. The game is far better than people give it credit for. It is the WiiU lineup that completely disappointed many fans and are reluctant to spend another 340eu to buy a console with no third party support

You speak as if FF13 was 20 years ago. That was less than 10 years ago. It's because that series flopped so hard, Square had to go back to what made them great. Games like Bravely Default and bring FF closer to what it once was.

You're talking to the wrong guy. I love my Wii U. I missed the Wii so it's backwards compatibility is a big plus for me. It allowed me to play Skyward Sword and what has become my favourite RPG of all time (next to Chrono Trigger) Xenoblade Chronicles.

Nintendo made some of their best software on the Wii U. Bayonetta 2, Xenoblade Chronicles X, DK Tropical Freeze, Mario Kart 8, Smash Bros 4. As badly as the Wii U sold, it had the best 1st party exclusives of the last generation. It also sold more 1st party games than the other 2.

I'll be the first to admit that Wii U was a poorly executed console, but the idea behind it was solid and it became the Switch.

Fri Sep 08 17 11:01am
(Updated 2 times)

last five years I only see stellar games from the company so they are getting better.

as for the WiiU, tropical freeze was not as good a DKCR feeling like the first game's cutting room floor, Bayonetta 2 had more simplified mechanics than B1 (something like baten kaitos origins) MK8 and Smash were just as good as their predecessors if not better yes (X I haven't played as I am looking for a modded wiiu to play the undub since my ears bleed with the English only dub) but being a wii fan I can say Nintendo made a lot more quality first party games on the Wii and even GC and N64 than their WiiU lineup. I can understand your satisfaction if you did not own a wii but the actual wiiu content pales in comparison to any other nintendo home console first party offerings.

as for the switch, they should have made a chromecast device. That way they would have kept all Wii WiiU and DS/3DS compatibility and move forward from there. This is the first nintendo console I do not get its value proposition.

Wii U's first party library was a mixed bag to me. Smash and MK8 were excellent but Tropical Freeze and Mario U were uninspired, Star Fox was the worst entry in the series, Mario 3D World and Pokémon 3 were good but ultimately forgettable and the big gem, Breath of the Wild, was too late to matter to Wii U.

Awful system.

The value is having console games on the go. Not handheld games that are console quality. Actual console games. Local multiplayer on the go. 2 built in controllers.

I wonder if they did not go the CD-rom route because Sony and their's failed partnership with the SNES CD-Drive. Just showing that Nintendo si different and cartidges are rhe awesomeness.

Then again, the close to no loading times on N64 was really nice.

But damn. Imagining the N64 with with a CD drive and FF7 on it (how that would look with the greater hardware) and how our gaming world today wojld be rather different has had my attention for years. Maybe in some parallell dimension ;)

isnt it amazing that no playstation final fantasy have ever graced a nintendo platform? but nintendo final fantasy games are all over the place.

What if they had launched the N64 with the disk drive. Did those disks have enough space for FF 7? I always thought that should've been the original format over carts.

While I personally believe that Final Fantasy VII is a mess of a game it's hard to argue that losing it to Sony wasn't one of Nintendo's biggest eff ups, given how huge it became. If there was a book about why Nintendo has garbage third party support, chapter 1 would be titled "Final Fantasy VII".

Yeah I remember this moment back when I was a teenager. So disappointing. It really was the turning point for Nintendo. The company has never been the same since, for better or worse.

Yeah, at the time I didn't have my finger on the pulse of what was going on. PlayStation wasn't on my radar in the slightest until FFVII was out and I was flabbergasted that it wasn't on N64. I was drinking the kool-aid back in those days. Nintendo had done a lot to alienate third parties before that but it wasn't until then that their hubris really bit them in the ass. We saw the mass exodus of third parties to PlayStation and Nintendo was stuck with their "dream team". No one needed to play by Nintendo's rules anymore. Like you said, they've never been the same.

yeah sure more rewriting the past, lol as if a cd is remotely close to an actual fpu .well at least this time they did of sort of acknowledge the fact that it was partly a business decision. Just can't stomach the artistic line bs

Fri Sep 08 17 02:57pm
(Updated 1 time)

At least since Iwata took over he diminished Nintendo's management arrogance that was steadily leading them into self destruction.

They screwed many companies when they were king. Nintendo losing to Sony was definitely a good thing for the games industry.

That's an interesting view. I've always thought Sony changed the industry entirely for the worst.

I'd like to hear the Nintendo side of this argument now.
Even though THEY will probably be decent enough not to talk about it too much.

Also I want to remind all of you that Zelda and Mario 64 could not have been done on a CD. Now think which ones of these games wrote the guidebook to 3d gaming. FFVII? Or Mario and Zelda 64 ?


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