Final Fantasy is a series which began its life on Nintendo hardware, and its success - and the ultimate success of its publisher, Square (now known as Square Enix) - owes a lot to the incredible popularity of the Famicom in Japan during the '80s and early '90s. Final Fantasy was the franchise which put Square on the map and it would go on to support Nintendo's hardware with sequels as well as other properties, such as the sublime Secret of Mana on the SNES.
However, when Nintendo decided to stick with cartridges for its N64 system, it created something of a problem for Square. The company had already shown off a Final Fantasy SGI tech demo which seemed to indicate that it was about to commit to the N64 - a logical move given how close the two firms had been during the 8 and 16-bit eras - but development of what would eventually become Final Fantasy VII shifted to the Sony PlayStation when it became apparent that the game's incredible scope simply wouldn't have been achievable without the use of CD storage. Final Fantasy VII eventually shipped on three CDs and to date has sold 11 million copies.
Nintendo and Square wouldn't work with one another again until the Game Boy Advance, and stories regarding the fallout between the two firms have circulated for years, with Square president Nao Suzuki publically shouldering the blame at one point.
In a recent Polygon feature on Final Fantasy VII, several people closely involved with the project have spoken about these past events, and even now it seems they don't all agree on exactly what went down:
Hiroshi Kawai [Character programmer, Square Japan]: I'll say this. I'm impressed with what Nintendo [was] able to do with the 64 hardware. Mario, Zelda — their devs must be top notch to be able to do that. But that's essentially the extent of what you can do with the hardware. And you would get nowhere near anything like a Final Fantasy running on it.
Hironobu Sakaguchi [creator of Final Fantasy]: When we made our decision, the president of Square [Masafumi Miyamoto], our lead programmer [Ken Narita] and I went to a meeting with Yamauchi-san. There is an old cultural tradition where, in Kyoto, someone will welcome you with tea, but you're not supposed to really drink that tea. It's just polite to have it there. And Yamauchi-san welcomed us with a very expensive bento meal and beer, and gave us a very nice welcome and basically patted us on the back to say, "I wish you the best." No bitter feelings or anything.
Hiroshi Kawai: I think [Sakaguchi] is just trying to be politically correct with that one.
Yoshihiro Maruyama [Executive vice president, Square U.S.]: I don't think [anyone from Nintendo gave us a hard time]. They said, "Oh, we don't need that." That's what they said. [Laughs] Their philosophy has always been that Nintendo hardware is for their games, and if a publisher wants to publish, "OK you can do it." But if you don't like it, "We don't want you."
Hiroshi Kawai: What I heard was Nintendo said, "If you're leaving us, never come back."
Whose version of events do you think is the most believable? It's quite possible that Sakaguchi and Maruyama - given their senior roles in the past - are trying to paint a rosy picture, but Kawai's comments may well be closer to the truth, especially given the massive bust-up which occurred between the two companies. Let us know what you think by posting a comment.