Koichi Ishii is the CEO of Grezzo, the company that developed The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for Nintendo Switch, among other things. But his time in the game industry has been long and significant, and he was a project planner at Square on the original Final Fantasy on NES. In an interview set up by Square Enix to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Final Fantasy III on Famicom (which only released much later in North America with a 3DS remake), Ishii explained his role in the creation of the series, including revealing the lore behind random things like white mages, dark knights, and Moogles.
Koichi Ishii reveals “new” old lore in Final Fantasy
According to Ishii, after creator Hironobu Sakaguchi roped him in to make Final Fantasy, Sakaguchi and designer Akitoshi Kawazu were actually still busy making Rad Racer, so Ishii just started planning the game by himself. He developed the emphasis on the elements of fire, water, wind, and earth. He also came up with the “diorama-esque world map, characters that felt like walking painted metal figurines, and a sense of height and depth through airship-like vehicles that cast shadows on the ground.” And notably, the side-view combat perspective — a departure from the first-person perspective used in Dragon Quest — was his idea too, in addition to his designing the hero combat sprites for Final Fantasy and III.
But what’s surprising is the amount of lore that Koichi Ishii dreamed up for the game world that has seemingly been unknown until now. For instance, the mountains are white in the original game because “the rocks making up the mountains had crystal shards in them, and those shards sparkled from the reflection of the sun’s rays. That’s why the mountain’s surface was portrayed as white.”
Additionally, white mages have that signature red triangle look on their robes because “a white mage’s robe is embroidered from red threads imbued with magic when spun together, increasing the wearer’s magical power. The reasoning for the red threads being on the sleeves is that magic leaves the body through the hands and wrists, so that area is most effective.” Likewise, they don’t use iron equipment because it can “disperse” magic. Also, characters of the dark knight class in Final Fantasy III vanish when they die, leaving behind just armor because “they have a dark pact where their body is engraved with dark magic runes, and when they’re KO’d the dark magic runes take their soul and body so only the empty armor remains.”
Those are the most surprising bits of new lore explained, but Koichi Ishii also famously created Chocobos and Moogles. He explains that he actually created Moogles in elementary school, when he liked drawing koalas. Moogles are basically a mix of a koala and a bat: “White koalas with wings like a bat, but they can also blow up their body and float around. Those wings are for controlling direction in the air, not flapping around to fly.”
Those are a lot of random new details about the Final Fantasy lore we never knew before! What do you think of it all? Check out the full interview for even more details about Koichi Ishii’s effect on the series, including of course directing Final Fantasy XI! Or check out our coverage on the first part of this massive interview from a couple weeks ago.