The first time you ever heard of him may have been from his character designs in Final Fantasy VII, but Tetsuya Nomura doesn't consider Square Enix's biggest hit to be his turning point in the video game industry.
Nomura is currently the director for the latest installments of two of Square Enix's major franchises — Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III. The former lowly designer who was accepted into Square Enix in 1991 emerged from his zipper cave for an interview with Weekly Famitsu where he talked about his past. Here are some things you may not have known about him.
1. Nomura's First Memory of Games
"[My first memory] is not of video games, but board games." As a child, Nomura played Sugoroku games — a Japanese board game similar in format to games like Parcheesi where players roll dice and move pieces along a path from start to finish. Nomura would play on boards that his father would make for him.
"The ones my father made would had barriers you had to cross to get to the goal, and there would be different rules between the barriers," Nomura recalled. As a child, Nomura would take his father's idea and make his own versions that he would play with his friends.
2. Nomura's First Day at Square Enix
Nomura originally entered Square Enix (then Squaresoft) as a designer. At the time, the company was in the final development stages of Final Fantasy IV (originally released in North America as Final Fantasy II) and no one had any time to teach the new guy the ropes.
"I asked 'what should I do?' and they told me 'do debugging with the testers' so I was there in my suit helping with debugging." Nomura recalled with a laugh. "It was my first day, so I wore [a suit]." It wasn't until the company moved on to developing Final Fantasy V that Nomura actually got to do any work as a designer.
3. Nomura's Biggest Turning Point
Most people will assume that Nomura's biggest turning point was his work as a character designer on Final Fantasy VII, but Nomura himself cites his work on Final Fantasy V. "At the time, development of Final Fantasy was done where Mr. Sakaguchi would set up the bare bones [of the game] and everyone would bring in their own proposals according to that."
Where most people would make their proposals on documents filled with walls of text, Nomura used his skills as a designer and wrote his proposals by hand, with sketches and little manga doodles to get his image across. "As I would hand in proposals like that, eventually Mr Sakaguchi and Mr Kitase would ask 'Where's Tets' proposal?' at meetings." It was through his unique method and stance that Nomura believes helped land him his position with Final Fantasy VII.
4. Nomura's Contribution to Final Fantasy VI
During his work on Final Fantasy V, Nomura submitted several proposals that were passed over for Final Fantasy V, but eventually used in Final Fantasy VI (originally released in North America as Final Fantasy III). Among his proposals were a gambler class where characters would fight with dice and cards and a ninja class that had a dog as a companion. These character classes became their own characters, Setzer Gabbiani and Shadow, in VI.
5. Nomura as Director
"I'm not director material." Said Nomura, talking about his experience as director for the first Kingdom Hearts. Kind of odd, considering he's been at the helm for the entire series. Nomura himself prefers being on the front lines of development, rather than handling oversight of an entire project.
However, being the director for Kingdom Hearts was a necessary sacrifice for Nomura. "Most importantly, I had to have the final say on the content of the game. Basically, without it, I wouldn't have been able to make the game I want. I had to have Kingdom Hearts come out in the way I envisioned."
6. Nomura's Hobby
Outside of working on video games, Nomura uses his free time to watch movies. Aside from whatever's popular, he also specifically enjoys horror movies, mockumentaries and movies based on real events.
"Western, Eastern, or whatever, I watch many different movies of many different genres." Nomura said. As for his enjoyment of the horror genre, when asked whether he would like to make a horror game, Nomura replied, "I'd be interested, but no one is looking to me to make one."
7. Nomura's Latest
Nomura is currently working on Final Fantasy XV. So how far along is he on development? Who knows? But he did get a cat recently. A Scottish Fold to be specific.
"I was at a local pet shop and there was one kitten that was wreaking havoc, that jumped at me when I approached the glass." Nomura said. "They let me hold it and while the clerk was explaining how they were 'very mild and gentle' it was biting my finger hard."
Drawn by the critter's rambunctious personality as well as its unique fur, Nomura decided to adopt it. Hopefully it won't be too much of a distraction from Nomura's game development.
I finally got an interview this week to talk about something very important... I adopted an adorable cat! Oh FFXV? Yeah thats still going.
— Tetsuya Nomura (@CrazyNomura) March 12, 2014
*Note: The tweet is from a fake parody account, but the content is true.