Final Fantasy IV for the Famicom was 80% Complete?

I was doing some research on Final Fantasy IV for my Legends of Localization stuff today and came across something pretty interesting.

It’s somewhat common knowledge among Final Fantasy fans that what we know as “Final Fantasy IV” was originally “Final Fantasy V”, and the real FFIV was planned for the Famicom. But it was supposedly only at the initial concept stages when it was canceled. If you’ve never heard this before, there’s a great article that touches on the subject over at Lost Levels.

Anyway, I thought this was the case until today, when I ran across some sites (link (archived copy), link 2) that had some Hironobu Sakaguchi interviews from way back in the day.

First, here’s a portion of an interview from the August 1991 issue of “HIPPON Super!”:

–There’s something I’ve been wanting to ask about IV’s development; about the FC version of IV that was canned…

Sakaguchi: Ah, yes, that. (laugh)

–Was it a completely different project?

Sakaguchi: Yes. It was actually stopped while only at the initial concept stage, though.

–But when the FC version was canned, were any ideas brought over to this SFC version?

Sakaguchi: Yes, of course. We couldn’t just let the good ideas go.

–I think fans will be relieved to hear that. But it was completely different story-wise, wasn’t it?

Sakaguchi: No, the story wasn’t completely finished, so it wound up being canned while in an unfinished state.

That fits in with what else I’ve heard before.

But a few years later, in a “Dengeki Super Famicom” interview about FFVI’s development, this is what he said:

–Crystals are the symbol of FF, but I hear they won’t be in this new FF?

Sakaguchi: Yes, that’s correct. It takes place in a world where civilization has reached mechanization, and much of what was in previous FF worlds has been tossed out. That said, the world still has that European Middle Ages vibe to it.

–Will this be the last FF on the Super Famicom?

Sakaguchi: Hmm… Probably. This one will sort of sum up 1 through 5. I have no doubt it will be the pinnacle of FFs so far. But this is just one stop along the tracks. I’m sure there’ll be a 7 and 8 down the line, and this one will serve as the bridge.

–This is a bit of an old topic, but when you were developing 4 for the FC, you were developing 5 for the SFC at the same time, right?

Sakaguchi: A painful question… (laugh) 4 on the FC… When development was canceled, I told many game magazines in interviews that it had only been at the initial concept stage and that the story was never finished. I said there was nothing to it (laugh), but that was a big, fat lie. It was actually some 80% done. But I was filled with regret and answered with a lie as if dragging my tail between my legs.

–Do you still have the data/files for it?

Sakaguchi: I don’t really know much about that sort of thing, but I think we still have it.

I don’t actually OWN this issue of the magazine (and I don’t have an exact issue number at the moment) but if this is true then it’s extremely interesting. I’d love to see what it was intended to be like and how later games might’ve borrowed stuff from it.

Who knows, given that unfinished versions of old Square stuff have been leaked out in the past, maybe something relating to this will get out someday. I can only hope.

UPDATE: Doing some online sleuthing it looks like it might have been this issue of Dengeki Super Famicom:

In the corner it says it includes an interview with Hironobu Sakaguchi. It’s issue number 6 it looks like.

I actually found this on Yahoo Auctions Japan here but it’s over $40, yikes. I wish I could afford it ðŸ™?

UPDATE 2: I finally bought this issue, but alas it wasn’t the issue I was looking for after all. I’m still on the hunt for a Dengeki Super Famicom issue and/or bonus insert that includes interviews about FFVI’s development…

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11 Responses to “Final Fantasy IV for the Famicom was 80% Complete?”

  1. Ian says:

    Wow, it would be fascinating to take a look at that.

  2. It pretty much goes without saying, but I’d love to see a copy of that leak, or better yet, be officially released. Wouldn’t that be something; port what’s done, finish it up and release it as Final Fantasy III.5 on the DS, PSP or another system, like the ports and remakes of the rest of the series.

  3. BusterTheFox says:

    Huh. The things ya never knew.

    Interesting; I never would’ve found out about this otherwise, so thanks for posting about it!

  4. I wonder who runs Lost Levels. You should inform them of this so they can update their article.

    • Mato says:

      Good thinking, I just sent a tweet. I’m guessing this is probably old news to them though, they know way more than me about this sort of stuff 😛

  5. Zinco says:

    If they were working on on FFIV for the Famicom and FFV (which I guess was finally FFIV) for the SFC simultaneously, I would guess that a lot of the ideas for FFIV(FC) ended up going into the real FFV, since they seemed so interested in exploring the class system even more, and because the plot of the game seemed like a step backward from FFIV(SFC) (albeit a step up from FFIII(FC)). After all there’s no good reason for them to have abandoned all they worked on with FFIV(FC) unless the game was turning out irredeemably terrible.

    • Mato says:

      I think he said here or elsewhere that the stories were completely different though – if so then that’d be interesting.

      • Zinco says:

        Huh. I guess it’s just hard for me to imagine a company giving up on an installment of a major franchise that far into development—but that’s not as rare as I give it credit, even today when games are vastly more expensive to produce. (Everyone’s still wondering what the hell’s happened with FFXIII Versus).

        There were also a lot of games at that time—Mario 4, Zelda 3, Dragon Quest V—that began as NES projects but were reworked as SFC titles, although granted they were all probably substantially reworked to take advantage of the new system—maybe with the exception of DQV (though in that case the size of the game could have been an issue). So I could understand if the ambition of FFIV for the Famicom was too small to effectively scale to SFC standards, particularly since they’d been working on the SFC FFIV already and would have to top it. (But again that’s why I had suspected they morphed the FC FFIV into FFV anyway, as I could see it being mostly possible to make on the FC. But if they didn’t, they didn’t.)

        So much idle speculation! There’s just something so weirdly fascinating about the game making process, though—I suppose that’s the nature of there being so many artifacts of lost ideas in games that you aren’t necessarily able to see in other media. Heck, why else would we have all been so tied up in the idea of finding lost copies of Earthbound 64 lying around? It’s not that we’d accept the variations in its story as an alternate canon or anything—but when we’re presented with a finished copy of a game, or a novel, or a movie, or whatever, we’re meant to accept that work as a final word, when in fact the creators only arrived at that product after discarding many other tempting ideas. It’s rare to get an intimate look at that creative process. Of course the argument can be made that there’s something spoiled about the final product when you know too much about its creation—maybe because it seems somehow mutable when you know all the other places it could have gone—but I’d love it if game developers were as open about these processes as, say, people who make movies.

        • darkmage says:

          That would definitely explain the NES-isms that FFIV SFC ended up having – the stationary map sprites having animations, the 3BPP map palettes and 4BPP battle palettes, fixed-width font for dialogue, etc.

          FFVI especially flexed the capabilities of the SNES – it would have been interesting to see how FFIV might have done the same if it was designed for the SFC from the beginning.

  6. Neko Knight says:

    Unfortunatley, a lot of good games get canned for a variety of reasons ( cough, cough, Mega Man Legends 3, cough… )
    There is a lot of interest in retro games, though. Mega Man 9 and 10 come to mind, along with games like Cave Story and what not. Heck, Hudson Soft even promised that Bonk RPG which was canceled for the PC Engine would be released on the Wii Virtual Console ( it didn’t happen. ) But if enough people show interest, SE might MIGHT consider finishing the game and releasing it digitally. There’s a mock-shot of the game somewhere with a description that mentions new job classes like “chef” or something. If possible, it would be nice to see that posted here.

  7. […] original Famicom might’ve been further along than most people realized. For reference, see here. I also mentioned finding an issue of the magazine the info supposedly came from – but was […]

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