Square Enix continues Final Fantasy 9's 20th anniversary celebration with another staff interview—the last one, it seems. This time, Final Fantasy 9 director Hiroyuki Ito talks about the series "getting back to its roots," and what that means, exactly.
Ito says he's often "hounded" by questions like, "What’s the concept for [Final Fantasy 9]!?" which he'd like to respond to with, "Who said there has to be a concept?" But Ito acknowledges "in the adult world there are some things you can’t avoid. So yes, the hard-to-define phrase 'returning to roots' was in place [before development started]."
When any piece of media claims it's returning to its roots, it usually spawns a lot of possibilities. In the interview, Ito discusses how the team narrowed down the ingredients of Final Fantasy's "roots," then proceeded from there.
"So, then, do we make another game like FF1? Or do we try and recall the feelings from when FF1 was originally under development, essentially going back to our roots as game creators?" Ito says. "Or do we appeal to the nostalgia crowd, making a title that feels like the games we love from the past? It’s not any specific one of those things, and on top of that every developer has their own feelings about their work."
Ito suggests the true nature of Final Fantasy 9's roots showed themselves as the game was developed. "[T]he highly deductive matters of what it really means to be human, what role circumstances play, consideration for others, kindness, hatred—I think that all of those concepts were reflected in the game," he says. "In other words, I think that perhaps getting back to the true nature of things is what 'returning to roots' could mean in this case. That just might be the overarching theme of FF9."