Mon, 9 October 2017
Spotlight: Yasumi Matsuno
Now that we’ve officially in the Tactics run of the Ivalice era, I figured that now would be a good time to shine a little light on a huge force behind the scenes of the Tactics games: Video Game Designer, Director, and Producer, one with an absolutely stellar career: Yasumi Matsuno.
Yasumi Matsuno was born October 24th, 1965 in Myoko, in the Niigata Prefecture of Japan. Growing up in a rural environment, Matsuno claims that he was very isolated as a child. Thus, nearly all of his time was spent in front of television screens, reading books, and practicing the very specific hobby of creating dioramas, especially those based on World War 2. Oddly enough, quite the indoor kid considering that he grew up in the countryside.
His had his first video game experiences as a high schooler, playing one of two arcade games at the local train station. One was PacMan, a game I’m sure we’re all familiar with, and the other was a game called “Xevius”, a vertically scrolling shooter war game where you take on the role of a combat airplane.
Matsuno wanted to become a writer for either books or movies, but he decided to do the smart thing and go to college and study Foreign Policy. Finding his studies unfulfilling, he dropped out of school after 3 years to pursue his dreams. He did manage to get a writing gig as an economic reporter, but he wanted something more creative. A fan of the games Ultima Online, Dragon Quest, and The Legend of Zelda, he tried to land a writing job at a gaming company. Incredibly good at getting jobs, Matsuno landed a lead “Planner” position at a game developer called “Quest”.
The first game he did “planning” for was for the NES game “Conquest of the Crystal Palace”, not much is known about this game’s development, except that this was the first time Matsuno and his later partner in crime, composer Masaharu Iwata, began working together.
Moving up to a director position at Quest, Matsuno pitched a Fantasy RPG strategy game that would be put out on the new SNES. Borrowing strategy, fantasy, and Active-Time elements from the games “Nobunaga’s Ambition”, “Daisenryaku”, and “Master of Monsters”, game would come to be known as “Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen”. If I were to describe the gameplay to a Final Fantasy player, it would be Final Fantasy Tactics, but with a much simpler map.
A couple interesting facts about the game: the North American Edition of the SNES version is considered one of the rarest games of all time since only 5000 copies were ever shipped. Another odd fact: Ogre Battle was a Queen song, and also Queen’s name is used in The “March of the Black Queen” part of the title. Basically, Matsuno is a huge fan of Queen and refers to them often in his games.
After the success of Ogre Battle, Matsuno would get to work on a sequel, changing the gameplay in drastic ways, focusing more on intimate battles, and making the world a 3D one. Behold the awkwardly titled “Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together”. Now Ogre Battle was pretty much FF Tactics, but this, if you’ve seen screenshots of it, was almost exactly the same game, but with a tragic multi-branching storyline inspired by the Bosnian Genocide.
Tactics Ogre was an extremely popular game, with RPG Gamer calling it “forever [...] a masterpiece”.
Oh, and “Let Us Cling Together” is a Queen song.
Not one to stay anywhere for very long, in 1995 Yasumi Matsuno quit “Quest” to move to the big leagues. He would get a job at Square Soft, getting to work on a game very, very, very, similar to Tactics Ogre, a game called…
...Which would later have the Final Fantasy name slapped on it in the form of “Final Fantasy Tactics”.
Tactics, of course, would turn out to be legendary. As in hearing people tell us to get to tactics is a legendary pain in the ass. That’s how popular the game has become.
Creating the Ivalice Universe, Matsuno would stretch his strategic and tactical game design skills in the loosely-related Vagrant Story. Inspired by architecture from France, nearly canceled due to it’s size, it released in 2000, and would be a smash hit, and earn the coveted 40/40 from Famitsu Magazine.
Next he would oversee Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced in a producer role, and also help out with the horrible PlayOnline Function on FFXI, but his next big gig would be as co-director (along with Hiroyuki Ito) of a little PS2 game called “Final Fantasy XII”.
FF12’s development history is insane and I’m not gonna get into it here, but Matsuno was one of the people deeply upset by Hironobu Sakaguchi’s messy departure from Square-Enix, and quit square officially over “illness”, which may or may not be true, we talk about that on the FF12 review I think.
Since 2006, Matsuno has been a free man, a freelance game that many companies have clamored for. He wrote the super-violent Wii game “Madworld”, as well as the 3DS game “Crimson Shroud”. He was asked to help write another Tactics Ogre Game, and even worked with Hironobu Sakaguchi on his mobile title “Terra Battle”.
Currently he’s working on two games for Mobile Platforms, “Unsung Story” and Lost Order”.
In conclusion, for those guys who think that the greatest Final Fantasy game of all time is Tactics, you know who to thank. Matsuno is one of those game Directors who truly has a unique style. Way to go, Matsuno
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