A Final Fantasy Discussion that will even surprise Final Fantasy Fans!
“Zero”, the theme song for Final Fantasy Type-0 (FF0), is performed by Japanese rock band BUMP OF CHICKEN. In the November third edition of Weekly Famitsu we printed an interview with the band discussing the origins of this collaboration and Final Fantasy memories. As the band members are openly big game fans, especially of Final Fantasy, the discussion went on for quite some time. Unfortunately there was hardly enough space to print all of the interview and thus an edited version was sent to the newsstands. So today we are presenting to you the full, uncut interview! As creating this song was not simply collaboration but also the band members fulfilling a dream, this turned into quite a deep discussion of Final Fantasy. We hope that, along with the footnotes filled with game details, you will enjoy this interview brimming with Final Fantasy facts!
■ The Band’s Dream: Collaborating with Final Fantasy
– Tell us about how this collaboration began.
Naoi Square–Enix asked us and we told them “We’re such big fans, please let us do it!” We actually heard about the request to do the theme song through staff member. Since I didn’t know how much they knew about games I had to check with them about the project. “Is that really for FF? FF as in Final Fantasy?” Even XIII had so many different titles in the works.
– This was back when the game was still called Agito XIII1 and not Type-0, correct?
Naoi Right. It was a PSP game at that point but still called Agito XIII.
– You sure know your stuff! (Laughs)
Naoi Well, since I also played XIII I knew about it!
– Before this collaboration, you had a dinner with Tetsuya Nomura, correct?
Fujiwara About eight years ago at a screening for FFVII Advent Children we struck up a conversation him and he ended up inviting us to dinner, yeah.
– What did you talk to him about?
Fujiwara We pretty much just told him how much we liked him and his work!
Masu He was outnumbered.
Naoi We kept explaining to him, you know the guy who makes FF, what makes the games so great. But he just laughed and listened to us.
– So did that talk lead into this collaboration?
Fujiwara At that dinner we told him how much we would like to work together with him at some point and I think that’s what led to this. Nomura said “Definitely” but we figured that was just the real world way of being polite. So at the time we didn’t completely believe it.
– While producing the song did you and the development team meet frequenly?
Fujiwara We didn’t really have many detailed instructions for writing the song. They basically left it up to us. I visited Square–Enix as the band’s representative maybe 2 or 3 times, but I was completely like a country boy in the big city. I shouted “There’s a slime at the entrence!” There were also Yositaka Amano illustrations from FFXI hanging up next to the receptionist desk. So I asked if I could take pictures and then sent mail to the guys. I was also telling them stuff like, “There was a slime at the reception desk!”
Naoi When I got that mail I started writing a response saying “We want to go there sometime too!” and everyone in the room started getting really excited saying things like “Oh man, Fuji (Fujiwara) is so lucky!” After that a detailed email came giving a whole report of everything there.
Fujiwara Actually, I was so excited that I actually don’t even remember what we talked about!
– (Laughs) So, what did you use as references while writing the song?
Fujiwara We got to see mid development screen shots and planning documents. Character illustrations and the like too. We also got a copy of the script, but what really inspired the song were the first illustrations we got from Nomura. More so than detailed impressions, first impressions are more important. And thanks to those, we were able to write the song without thinking too much.
■ A Song Made With Everyone’s Burning Passion
– During the opening of the game an acoustic version of “Zero” plays. Was this a request from the developers?
Fujiwara We actually had pretty in depth meetings with Tabata (Director: Hajime Tabata) and Nomura about it. When the song was complete and they were deciding where to use it in during gameplay, they told us they also wanted to use it in the opening. So we said that we could do another version as well. I wasn’t able to put it into words at that moment, but I felt like I had already had the arrangement done in my head. That day I was able to make the outline of the acoustic version using classic guitar arpeggio.2
– The special edition of Zero comes with a DVD that contains a special version of the opening cinematic. Have you seen it?
Fujiwara Yeah, we have. (To Masu) Right?
Masu What? The final version? You mean, the final release version?
Naoi Sorry, he’s always like this, haha.
Masu No, no, no, heh. We’ve seen so many videos, but haven’t got to play the game yet.
Masukawa That’s true. But we’re talking about the opening version video.
– How did it feel to hear your music playing in a FF cinematic?
Masu It fells like the song matches up with the game world. Not only that, but it really feels like the people who made the cinematic cared deeply about the song and put forward that feeling in the video. I was moved.
– You’ve done a lot of collaboration work up to this point. The songs always seem to be to have a deep connection to the work, some times even using lines from the work in question as lyrics. Is there something about these types of collaborations that is extremely appealing to the band?
Fujiwara Well, the most important thing is that we feel like we really want to work with the people we do the collaborations with. If those feelings aren’t there, nothing good will come of the collaboration. Also, when it comes to making the song it absolutely has to sound like a “BUMP OF CHICKEN song. For these types of songs, if the lyrics don’t sound like us or it doesn’t sound like a way we would normally approach making a song or if it’s something we don’t wouldn’t want to make naturally, then it won’t end up being a song that anyone would want to listen to. And I think that would be a disservice to the people we are working with. Because the people we have worked with have been able to see this, we have been able to give 100% up to this point.
■ And Now For the Intense Final Fantasy Conversation!
– The CD jacket for the special edition features a Yoshitaka Amano illustration. What led to that?
Naoi When our producer saw the artwork that Amano did for FF0, he instantly said how great he thought it was. He really isn’t a gamer but he said, “This art is truly fantastic.” He was talking about it like a piece of art.
Fujiwara But to us it was like “You’re just now noticing this?”
Naoi We’ve known how great Amano’s artwork is for over 20 years! So when he said “Wouldn’t this art be great for the jacket cover?” we were like “What is this guy saying? Of course we can’t do that!”
Fujiwara We just couldn’t believe he could say such a thing! Haha.
– It’s because you are such big FF fans.
Naoi That’s right! But when asked if we could use it for the jacket, figuring we had nothing to lose, they quickly told us “Yes.” I replied “Really?!” only then realizing that we were really going to be able to use it. Along with that, since to us pixel art and FF have such strong ties, we also asked if they could produce pixelized versions of the band. Isn’t it everyone’s dream to be drawn in pixel art? Uh… did I said too much? But since I’m such a big FF fan, being drawn in that style is one of my dreams. So we asked, and they did it! They did versions of us wearing the uniforms from FF0, wearing the costumes for various jobs and a whole lot of different versions. In one I was the white mage and Hide (Hideo Masu) was a Black Mage.
Fujiwara On top of that they also produced things for us with “BUMP OF CHICKEN” written in the FF font. We hadn’t asked for that, but it was made as if they knew we’d absolutely love it. It’s as if they knew us perfectly!
Naoi As soon as we saw the jacket we were saying how amazing it was and were so unbelievably happy. But then, the very same producer who brought up the whole idea seemed a little withdrawn about it. He said “Oh, well, this is pretty good I guess. Yeah, it’s looking pretty good.” and we were all “No, not ‘pretty good’ this is perfect!” So our positions pretty much swapped! The pixel art was found inside the jacket and even our band emblem was done in that style. It is an amazingly done piece of work; every FF fan should see it. Now, of course, we didn’t say this to Square-Enix but we would love to see these sprites used in an animation. Have them fight goblins and be on the verge of death or something like that. The wants of a fan are never ending, haha.
– If these character sprites were used in a Final Fantasy game, what types of characters would you like them to be?
Fujiwara Well first, the only ability I’d have would be Hide3
Naoi And be able to equip the Chicken Knife4.
Fujiwara But since we won’t have Attack, we’ll need Run and Hide. Also, something like Remember5.
Naoi Yeah, to remember what I ate yesterday, haha.
– When you say “Hide” you mean like Edward from FFIV, right?
Naoi Yeah. And then maybe he’d just barely be able to use “Sing”…
Fujiwara I’d absolutely have Sing!
Naoi And the other band members would have “Perform” right?
Masukawa Since Masu plays the drums, he’d have “Beat” right?
Masu But look at me! There’s no way I can move like that!
Fujiwara You’d definitely have “Remember”.
Naoi Nah, this is FF, so the drums would be able to move like Magitek Armor!6
Masukawa That, or a summon monster!
Naoi Haha, Masu as a summon!
Masu So I’d come in, bang on the drums and then leave?
Naoi Also, we’d probably be weak individually, but become strong when all four of us are together.
Masukawa And our ultimate magic would be “Zero”!
Fujiwara And we’d probably confuse ourselves all the time!
Masukawa That’s Confu!7
– You guys sure are fans, aren’t you! So, everyone, out of the FF series, what are your favorite titles?
Naoi Well, to start I have to say I love all of them and I can’t pick a favorite! But if I had to, I’d say I have a lot of memories of FFVIII. When it came out, Fujiwara and I were just began living in Tokyo together and we played the game using the same save file. Also, FFVIII was the first one to have a theme song. Fay Wong’s “Eyes On Me”. When we heard that, we thought “Wow, if that was one of our songs, that’d be amazing!” So while that was something we that was only a dream, unbelievably it came true! Now we’re in the same position like when Julia sang in the bar!8 Now I’m all excited, haha! Also FF0 is like FFVIII in how they both center around academies. And the game is also like FFVI in how it has a lot of characters. I like VI about as much as I like VIII, so the fact that FF0 is like both of them kind of blows me away.
– And Fujiwara, how about you?
Fujiwara Of course I can’t really pick one either, but my own first FF was FFIII. My parents played FFI and FFII, especially FF1, and when I was in the second grade I remember thinking how much they seemed like “adult” games. I didn’t understand all the magic and the monsters were scary. And I wasn’t able to understand how during the middle of the game the characters were able to class change9 and become bigger by using a Rat Tail. My second grade mind thought “Maybe they ate a mushroom and got bigger?”10 And then with FFII, the main characters had names and I was able to understand the story. The game also had at lot of named supporting characters. There was Ming Wu11, Richard12, Leila13, Gordon14, and Josef15. And also, the game opened up with a sudden battle and and then your whole party was annihilated! That blew my mind as a child. And as I knew about other RPGs of the time like Dragon Quest, I really noticed the novelty of the game with things like “There are no levels!” and “The characters are left or right handed!” Really, a lot of things about the game surprised me. I remember wanting to play FFIII by myself and it was all because of FFII. So… today let’s say FFII is my my favorite.
– That’s a pretty in depth bit about FFII, even right down to the minor characters!
Fujiwara The Game Boy Advance remake of FFII had the “Soul of Rebirth”16 bonus dungeon. Now that is the kind of remake I want to see!
Naoi (To the Square-Enix PR representative) Please!
Fujiwara Don’t interrupt with requests! We’re working right now!
Naoi Hey, I’m asking as a gamer and a reader of Famitsu!
– Haha! And you, Masu?
Masu Well, I don’t really play games all that much. The only one I’ve played is FFIII and it was Fujiwara’s copy about ten years ago.
Fujiwara My games are already vintage, haha!
Masu We didn’t have games in my house. One day when I was around, 20 I think, I was at Fujiwara’s house. And for some reason he lent me his Famicom and copies of FFIII and Dragonball 3 The Legend of Goku17 saying “Here, these are fun. Take them.”
– FFIII and The Legend of Goku?
Masu Yep. The Legend of Goku was kind of interesting. Haha.
Naoi He’s just saying that because it’ll look good published in Famitsu.
Masu This time we’re talking about Final Fantasy! Anyway, I really got into my first FF. But just like everyone always says the final dungeon was long18! And you can’t save. And since this vintage Famicom was old, if I wasn’t careful the plug would fall out of the socket from its own weight! So I sat against it so that the system wouldn’t lose power. And I played that way, not even going to the toilet, until I beat that darkness guy!
Naoi “Guy”?! Just say “cloud”! It’s the same number of syllables! (Laughs)
Masu Well now we just spoiled everybody!
Naoi It’s okay. This is Famitsu!
Fujiwara What were your final jobs?
Masu Ninja, ninja, sage, sage. The four main characters were the 4 Warriors of Light so that also makes us the… well nobody has ever called us the 4 Warriors of Light.
Masu Well, thinking maybe something like that might happen sometime, I named the four characters after us. In the end, the noble sacrifice made by the character with my name saved the world. Now that’s an adventure. Oh, and since Naoi and I are speedy we were the ninjas, and sages were our smart looking guitar players.
Masukawa Well that’s a pretty rough way of splitting it up!
Fujiwara Anything is fine, but don’t go becoming useless in battle now.
Masu But no one else was defeated! It was thanks to me that the world was saved!
– That’s some drama! And Masukawa, your favorite?
Masukawa I didn’t play them as the were released. I started with FFIX when I was already an adult and then played the remake versions. Then I played FFX on a Playstation 2 I bought on my own. I really got into that one. Almost to the point I could say I lived in the Nagi Plains19! I really got excited about how it had voice acting. The characters called me “you”!
Naoi “Umt syh” and the like.
Masukawa That’s Al Bhed20, right? I loved Rikku. I played Blitzball until I got as strong as possible. I also got all of the ultimate weapons and did Break Damage Limit. The Sphere Grid was really enjoyable too.
– By the way, on your second album there was a track “Gungnir”21. Since you are FF fans, was this influenced by the summon Odin?
Fujiwara Absolutely! There is no doubt that that is where it came from.
Naoi You’d probably have to be a pretty smart kid to know Gungnir without having played FF!
Fujiwara The word appeared a lot when you used Odin, so I always wondered “What is that?”. Afterwards, I learned from my mother that Odin riding Sleipnir22 is originally from Norse mythology. No, wait. In FFIII there was a regular enemy Sleipnir that was a pain. But I do remember cutting enemies in half with Odin!
■ How Does the Band Plan on Playing FF0?
– So, who are your favorite characters from FF0?
Naoi When I played the demo version I liked the tricky Ace but Sice is the coolest. While I still don’t know any of the story details I think she’s great. Her battle style is very direct and very stylish.
Fujiwara Aw, everyone is all “Sice, Sice, Sice!”
Masukawa I definitely plan on using Rem in my party.
Fujiwara Isn’t that love?
Naoi King was particularly difficult. I thought dual pistols would be great for a beginner but he was surprisingly difficult to handle.
Fujiwara And Masu still has to play the demo.
Masu That’s true. I haven’t gotten to it yet.
Naoi Masu doesn’t really play games but he does have a PSP. But he only has a 2MB memory stick so he can’t even do system updates! We’re probably going to have to order him to get a bigger memory stick to update his system!
– Will you be playing FF0 together?
Naoi I can’t wait! We’re definitely going to play together.
Fujiwara We have a tour23 coming up so hopefully we’ll get to play while we’re on the go.
Naoi And this time, Hide, you’re is playing with us. Of course, we aren’t going to support you too much, otherwise you’ll never learn. Plus, we don’t know how much we can even support you in game.
Masukawa Yeah, but he won’t be very useful. If he’s not there he can’t die!
Masu I’ll be sacrificing myself to save the world!
Fujiwara If that’s the case, you can just sit back and watch, haha.
– Do you plan on performing “Zero” on your next tour?
Naoi We’d love to play it! Of course, the set list changes every day so, I can’t say we’ll definitely be playing it. But we absolutely want to play it during the tour.
– Lastly, how about a word to our readers.
Naoi Okay, you do it, Masukawa.
Masukawa What! Okay. While we haven’t played FF0 yet, we hope you’ll enjoy “Zero” when you hear it in the game. So, if you’re playing the game and you happen to like the song, we hope you’ll give our other CDs a listen. Uhh, what else? That’s about it, I guess.
Naoi Why did you keep talking! You should have just stopped before the “what else”!
Photography：Kazumichi Kokei Hair ＆ Make-up：YOSHIKO (SHIMA) Stylist：Kumi Saito (Signo)
(Translator’s Note: The one thing I was most confused about while translating this was the 2MB memory stick. Naoi says, “でも、メモリースティックの容量が2メガしかないから” but I can’t find any proof that a memory stick that small exists. Am I misunderstanding? 容量 refers to the total capacity, does it not? If it was bigger, he could delete stuff! Maybe I'm thinking too hard about this.)
1: ”Agito XIII”…… Originally FF0 was developed as one of the core titles of “Fabula Novus Crystallis FFXIII” under the name “FF Agito XIII”
2: arpeggio… A style of guitar playing where the notes of the chord are played in order from the lowest note.
3: Hide… An ability of Edward from FFIV. The command allows the character to hide off screen in order to avoid enemy attacks.
4: Chicken Knife… A weapon found in FFV. It gets stronger the more the player runs away from battle.
5: Remember… An ability of the sage Tellah from FFIV. The command casts a random powerful spel or does nothing.
6: Magitek Armor… Robots fueled by magic. Introduced in FFVI, they also appear in FF0.
7: Confu… A magic spell which confuses enemies.
8: Julia sang in the bar… When Laguna, one of the main characters from FFVIII, went to a bar the famous singer Julia sang “Eyes On Me”.
9: class change… In FFI the main characters can have their classes changed by giving a Rat Tail to Bahamut. This also changes the art style of the characters from having large heads to a smaller, more natural style.
10: ate a mushroom and got bigger… Referring to the actions of a famous character who wears overalls and a red cap.
11: Ming Wu… A character who sacrificed himself so the main characters could obtain the most powerful magic, Ultima.
12: Richard… A character who sacrificed himself by fighting off the Emperor, allowing the main characters to escape.
13: Leila… A character who was swallowed by Leviathan, removing her from the party for some time.
14: Gordon… A character who abandoned his older brother Scott and their home country but then later commanded the Rebel Army. [↩
15: Josef… A character who block a giant bolder allowing the main characters the chance to escape, however lost his life in the process.
16: Soul of Rebirth… A bonus dungeon included in the Gameboy Advance version of FFI•II. The story focuses on the minor characters in FFII who sacrificed themselves.
17: Dragon Ball 3: The Legend of Goku … A Famicom game where players used cards to travel around a board game style map.
18: final dungeon was long… FFIII’s final dungeon was very long and had no save points making it a point of discussion even today.
19: Nagi Plains… Explansive plains found in FFX. Many players ran around the field to try to capture the monsters.
20: Al Bhed language… A language found in FFX spoken by characters such as Rikku and Cid. In English “umt syh” is “old man”.
21: Gungnir… Odin’s weapon from Norse Mythology. It is also the name of the second track on BUMP OF CHICKEN’s second album “THE LIVING DEAD” which one of the band’s popular live performances.
22: Sleipnir… Odin’s horse. Also appeared as an enemy in FFIII and was a nuisance to the player by casting spells such as Toad.
23: tour … The band’s “GOOD GLIDER TOUR” which will take place in clubs all over Japan from 12/15/2011 to 1/30/2012. See BUMP OF CHICKEN’s official website（http: //www.bumpofchicken.com/）for details.