Now that it's almost ten years removed, how satisfied are you with the final product? How satisfied are you with the voice acting of such a dense script?
AOS/ JR: 100% satisfied. It's still career highpoint for both of us. They just don't make JRPGS like that any more. They kind of never did. And good writing in the original really helps the translation. There's only so much lipstick you can put on a Seeq.
JF: I couldn't have been more happy, and I thought the recordings went amazingly great. As director, you always want a little more time, but when you're up against a deadline sometimes that pressure can produces better work. Seven weeks was crazy, and we argued for nine to ten. We recorded from morning to eve, and did a lot of nighttime records as well. Ultimately they gave us eight very full, intense weeks.
Was there any unused text that didn't make into the game? Any unused recorded dialogue?
AOS/ JR: There were definitely scenes cut, but all before voice was done. Due to a small recording snafu, there were some atmospheric voices in scenes like the Sandsea raid that unfortunately couldn't be used, so the original Japanese tracks voices were reused. There's also a lengthy compilation of outtakes (half of them Dimaggio just improvising in the studio) which will probably never see the light of day, but we're happy to play them for any fan who wants to hear them in person.
Note: I asked Smith about these outtake recordings to possibly include them in this story. As you may expect, though, he clarified that they aren't his to share due to rights issues with Square Enix. However, he and Reeder have taken part in panels discussing this and more of their work at PAX in the past, and thought that the expo would be a fun venue to possibly play them in future.
Any other larger challenges that you can remember from the process?
AOS/ JR: Time, especially on the non-voice part. As mentioned earlier, we had a generous amount of time for the voice (and we think it showed) but very little for the text only sections. There were also money constraints for recording, which kept us from using any non-voice-actor celebs (probably a good thing) and made using child actors (who often require more in-studio time, and paid tutors, etc.) something of an uphill battle, but well worth it.
JF: Not that I can remember! My memory of the entire FFXII experience is nothing but good. It was a lot of work, a lot of hard work, and I'm very proud of how it turned out.
GE: I was thrilled to book the role and Jack helped give me the confidence to go with my gut and fly. He's a real actor's director, gently adjusting and helping the actor paint the character. It did feel like a great fit. Let's just say Jack does his job very well! Haha!
No Future, No Bullshit
Final Fantasy XII came out in a post Final Fantasy X-2 world, meaning Square Enix was making sequels at this point to numbered Final Fantasy games. Was there anything in the script/game that was there knowing that a sequel would come out? Any kind of lead-in to what became Revenant Wings, the cancelled Fortress, or another project? AOS/ JR: No, there was nothing in FFXII that lead to Revenant Wings, and it's hard to say about Fortress, though it's unlikely.
Did anything change on your end or any work that had to be re-done after Mr. Matsuno left the project? If so, can you go into some detail as to what?
AOS/ JR: Essentially, no. Though he was still there in name, he was for all accounts and purposes off the project by the time our work began in earnest, so things were fairly set with the new team workflow. The only real change is probably the lost opportunity for his feedback through the localization process, but it's hard to gauge what effect that would have had, and the team was definitely helpful throughout.
There are all sorts of different stories about the troubled development of the game. From your end of things, are there any rumors you'd like to lay to rest?
AOS/ JR: We haven't paid much attention to the rumors, to be honest. Our experience with the team was on the whole very positive. The project coordinator, Mr. Kato and fill-in director Minagawa knew what they were doing and were very much in control. We'll never know what kind of game it would have been if Matsuno hadn't left, but we both feel the team did an exceptional job realizing his vision.
Did Square Enix ever contact you at any time to translate the International Zodiac Job Edition?
AOS: There was some talk, as I recall, of doing English just for the Japanese release, as an option, but they eventually decided against it, or at least, we were never officially approached.
Any lasting memories?
GE: Just a couple of weeks ago I found myself in the same studio where we did FFXII for the first time in ages. Standing in that booth looking through to the control room, I immediately pictured my sky pirate on screen, walking with that swagger and Jack at the desk directing me. It was a fantastic time.
JF: It's a game that distinguishes itself for a number of reasons, and still does. People still talk about this game to me, it was different. Matsuno-san, I feel, was really important to the flavor of the game, and how he built a team that was capable of making something a little different. FFXII was much more movie and story oriented, and they weren't always in the sentimental register you see so much in JRPGs. He was bold enough to create a mythology that Alex and Joe were very adept at localizing and making real for the English audience. To this day it's still my favorite game I've worked on, because of the story, and the great characters.
FFXII distinguishes itself as a completely unique thing, and to my mind, that is what I think FF games could be and should be.