WHEN Square Enix announced earlier in the week that a Monster Hunter and Final Fantasy collaboration was on the way, fans were shocked but excited.
The two much-loved franchises are two of the biggest in Japan, and their most recent games are among the most successful in the world right now. The idea of the two coming together really is huge.
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What no-one realised at the time was that the collaboration didn’t just come from nowhere, or from the accountancy offices of the two firms looking to cash in on each other’s popularity–it had been a decade in the making.
Talking to Sun Online, series producer and director Naoki Yoshida — known to his fans as Yoshi-P — explained how it came about.
To understand it, you need to go back to 2010 when Final Fantasy XIV was first released. It was Square Enix’s second major foray into the massively multiplayer role-playing game market after Final Fantasy XI, and it was bad. Not just slightly bad, but terrible.
Fans were outraged, the media was utterly scathing, and the project looked doomed. Yoshida was swiftly brought on board as a new director to try and fix the game. At the time, a friend who he had met two years earlier, Ryozo Tsujimoto, tried to talk him out of what he saw as career suicide by taking on this broken mess of a game.
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Tsujimoto is another significant figure in the Japanese games industry; he works for rival Capcom, and is a producer on the Monster Hunter series of games of which Yoshida was–and still is–a hardcore player.
Once Tsujimoto realised that Yoshida had his heart set on taking the job and making a success of it, he relented. He then offered Yoshida any support he wanted.
At the time Yoshida turned him down, knowing that if he accepted the offer at that point then any success would just be riding his rival’s coat-tails, and that the game would never manage to stand on its own. But the friends agreed that one day, “once the games were on a level playing field” they would make it happen.
Yoshida set about his impossible task. He and his team tried patching the original game, but quickly realised that it was an impossible job because of the terrible state of both the game and the back-end systems.
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As he puts it, at that time there was barely any content, the user interface was terrible, and fans had a simple message: this is not a Final Fantasy game.
Square Enix contemplated scrapping the whole thing and being done with it, but in the end Yoshida set about a much more ambitious project. While maintaining support for the original and its long-suffering players, the team set about building a totally new game in parallel with the original.
As they drew the story arc of the original to a close, they launched A Realm Reborn–a totally new game that carried on the story from the original.
Looking back at this process objectively, Yoshida says he sill thinks of it as “such a crazy stupid thing”. Almost two years later, in October 2012, that new version of the game launched–and fans loved it.
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Critics were amazed as well, and suddenly the player base started growing again.
“We wanted to win back the trust from players, and seeing that so many people are now playing it, that goal has been fulfilled,” Yoshida says.
He also notes that the game has now been commercially successful too. It’s recouped the original development costs for essentially two games,and is now one of the most profitable in Square Enix’s catalogue.
But back to the collaboration. Monster Hunter has always been a huge franchise in Japan but, until recently, has never really made much of an impact in the West.
The crossover’s first two events have only just been announced, and there is much more to come
Monster Hunter World has changed that this yeah, with millions around the world flocking to the franchise for the first time across multiple platforms.
So, Yoshida and Tsujimoto revisited their agreement from 8 years earlier, and decided that now was the time to make good on it.
Their passion for each other’s games drove them to find a way to work together. The passion from both development teams for each other’s products also fed into it too.
The love that both teams have for each other’s games meant that “We wanted to give it our all,” Yoshida says. “From there, we thought about making that passion successful as a business. If we’d thought about business first, there may have been a lot more limitations. We were able to establish this on this scale because we’re very passionate gamers.”
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Now there are “two franchises coming out of Japan trying to take over the world together”, Yoshida says, with many more details on where else this collaboration will go promised in the near future.
The first phases starts later this summer with the hunt for Final Fantasy’s Behemoth in Monster Hunter World, and the arrival of Rathalos into the world of Final Fantasy XIV.
The crossover content in FFXIV will be available for max-level players only, though, so if your interest is piqued you’d better get levelling.
FFXIV still has a free trial with no time limits, and is out on PC and PS4 now. You can download the free trial now, or buy the starter pack for PS4 if you want to have go.
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