Final Fantasy is an extremely long running RPG series, and has known many different directors throughout it’s lifespan. Whether we’re talking Hironobu Sakaguchi or Tetsuya Nomura, they have all brought their own style and passion with them for the series. In September 2014, it was announced that Tetsuya Nomura would be stepping down as director of Final Fantasy XV, the latest entry in the franchise, and that he would be handing over the director position to Hajime Tabata, a relatively unknown director to fans of the mainline Final Fantasy titles. I’m here to share some info about who this man is, his history with the series, and why I feel no one should fear the future of Final Fantasy XV in his hands.
Hajime Tabata first sat in the directors chair for the Final Fantasy franchise when The Compilation of Final Fantasy VII was starting to kick off. His first effort directing Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII, a mobile game, didn’t really make waves. However, when he got to direct Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, he really made himself known to diehard fans of the series. Released in 2007, Crisis Core was a prequel to the original FFVII, starring Zack Fair, and chronicling a couple years of his story prior to the events of the original game, alongside a handful of recognizable characters.
Crisis Core pushed the PSP to it’s limits, providing a great action game for the portable system as well as a look at a part of the FFVII timeline we never really got to explore. To me, it was easily one of the most remarkable games on the PSP, with a fantastic story and characters, engaging gameplay, and great music. This game’s high quality and success is no doubt one of the reasons Tabata was chosen to direct FFXV years later.
It’d be a few more years before we’d see another Final Fantasy directed by Tabata, during which time he was directing The 3rd Birthday, a more actionized entry into the Parasite Eve series. However, as we are here to discuss Final Fantasy, let’s move on to his next big game in the franchise, Final Fantasy Type-0. Originally released in Japan in 2011, Type-0 was once again another Final Fantasy action game on the PSP, however this time it wasn’t a sequel. Type-0 was a gritty, darker Final Fantasy featuring an elite squadron of playable characters caught in the midst of a bloody and harsh war.
It would be a long time before those on western shores would receive this game, despite the huge positive reception it recieved in Japan. In 2015, Type-0 HD finally hit western shores for the PS4 and Xbox One, once again overseen by Tabata. Despite the games sometimes questionable camera, it was well worth the wait and delivered a gripping story on top of a fantastic game.
Type-0 HD also provided a playable demo for Final Fantasy XV, which had been passed over to Tabata the year prior. Titled Episode Duscae: Final Fantasy XV, this sneak preview of the long awaited JRPG did not disappoint. The world was vast and beautiful, the combat just as engaging and action packed as Tabata’s previous games, and only made the wait for FFXV that much harder.
With 6 months left until the game’s release, it remains to be seen if Hajime Tabata and the development team for the game can deliver on over 10 years of anticipation, but I am very confident that they will. I have been absorbed in Hajime Tabata’s games in a way I had previously thought only a mainline Final Fantasy could manage, but Crisis Core and Type-0 were both spin-offs. Despite that, they captivated me with their unique stories and new take on the series combat, without losing the heart and charm that really stitches a Final Fantasy game together. The Final Fantasy series has a bright future in Tabata’s hands, and if FFXV nails it as I suspect it will, this will not be the last we see of him.
Based on the demo and all the games I have played that Tabata has been the director of I really doubt it. But at least his games are not absolute turds like Toriyama’s.