With exclusive commentary from Art Director Toshiyuki Itahana.
Hello everyone! This is Toshiyuki Itahana from Square Enix. To commemorate the upcoming release of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition, I’d like to introduce some rare concept art from the original Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles from 2003 and share a look at some new pieces for the Remastered Edition.
For the original game, I joined as Character Designer and Art Director part way through development, after being brought on by the Producer, Akitoshi Kawazu. At this point, the setting and atmosphere of the world had already been established in writing, so I had the pleasure of bringing it to life with art.
For the Remastered Edition, as well as working as the Remaster Art Director & Character Designer, I’ve designed some new character variations and weapons, which I think fans will really look forward to!
1. First up, here’s a look at a rough draft of the main art for the Remastered Edition.
Eagle-eyed fans may see the layout is similar to artwork from the original release in 2003. I tried to draw in it a similar way to the original picture from 17 years ago, by starting with a pencil sketch and colouring it digitally.
There are a few changes from the original version. For example, there was originally a Yuke holding the crystal chalice in the centre, but for the remaster, I’ve changed this to a Selkie. I’ve also changed the female Clavat and the male Lilty on the right of the picture to be the characters from the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles novels, Erin and Chad, so fans of those books may appreciate this little easter egg!
2. This is a draft of an illustration used for promotional materials around the time the original was released.
It’s a draft from when I was still considering the layout, so it’s a little embarrassing to show it in its unfinished form! I’ve included elements central to the story, like the characters Gurdy and the Black Knight, as well as the mysterious girl who appears towards the end of the game in the background.
Looking at my illustrations from 17 years ago like this, I see lots of things I want to go back and fix – but I think almost every artist would say the same!
3. This is the line drawing for the front cover illustration for the Japanese guidebook, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles World Ultimania.
As I mentioned earlier when talking about the main art, this guide contained a Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles novel at the back, about Erin and Chad. Those two are at the centre of this illustration.
My personal title for this picture is ‘Memento Mori’. It becomes clear as you progress through the story, but the characters in the background are all thinking about someone who isn’t there.
I really like this illustration, so please try to search online and take a look at the finished colour version as well!
4. This is a picture of the inside of the caravan, which isn’t shown in the game.
I drew this picture while imagining what daily life would be like for the members of the caravan, living together in such a small space. It was very fun to draw. For the crystal chalice in the corner, I seem to remember than I scanned it in and added it to the picture before colouring it digitally. As with the main art, I drew my line art in pencil and then scanned it in to colour it digitally. It might be interesting to compare the differences between the original draft and the final coloured version and see how the colours really bring it to life.
5. This line art depicts the end of a fight, when the characters still have mud on their faces and clothes, and the adrenaline is still enough to make them forget their wounds.
For the finalized, coloured version, I added a background in digitally. Most of the illustrations for Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles are warm and cosy, so I remember that when I drew this, I wanted to draw something with a slightly different tone that shows another aspect to these characters.
6. What a trip down memory lane! Now I have to think back and remember what was this from….
I believe this was drawn as an insert for a strategy guide or magazine back when the original game launched in 2003.
The concept is the moment when a moogle delivers a letter from home during the journey, which is something that happens after each boss fight in the game, and helps remind the player of their family back home and their reasons for taking on their dangerous adventure.
I love drawing smiling characters, it’s so fun as it brings the characters to life.
7. This is a sketch of the Mushroom Forest, an early dungeon in the game (which can also be found in the free release of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition Lite at launch).
For most of the backgrounds in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, I drew snippets of landmarks, buildings and the overall atmosphere of areas. The background designers then took that as a starting point and expanded it from there to design the levels and dungeons of the world.
Everything is made of mushrooms, all the way down to the paths, and it turned into a beautiful area with the towering mushrooms dyed red under a sunset sky.
8. This is another sketch similar to the Mushroom Forest one above.
It was to convey the atmosphere of the Miasma Stream area to the development team. It’s not an illustration that would have been used for promotional purposes, so it’s quite rough.
The currents of miasma that would be shown in game were added digitally, when I coloured the picture, so this looks like a drawing of a passageway in a cave, but when combined with the digital effects it transforms the artwork into something new and exciting.
9. These are the newly added character variations for the remastered edition.
I’m relieved we’ve finally arrived at a coloured piece, not just sketches, haha!
We added new character variations to the Remastered Edition because we wanted the game to feel fresh to those who had already played the original, and to give a wider choice to people playing the game for the first time. Especially since Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition will focus on online play, we wanted to reduce overlap of identical characters as far as possible by offering more options to players.
These new variations include some more Japanese-inspired designs, as well as variations that have outfits similar to characters from later Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles games that were released after the original.
For Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition, I worked alongside another designer, Rubi Asami, who also worked on Mobius Final Fantasy. The new female Clavat character variation that she designed was very popular when Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition was first announced.
I look forward to seeing which characters become popular with players of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition.
I don’t often have the opportunity to show these kinds of unfinished sketches as well as finished illustrations, so this was a lot of fun for me!
The original Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles was released 17 years ago, but there are still lots of dedicated fans. I’ve had messages from fans telling me how much they would love to play it again on modern hardware. And now, I’m absolutely delighted that they’ll have the opportunity.
For the original, I imagine most people played together with their siblings or close friends, but Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition will let you play with lots more people around the world. It feels like the times have finally caught up, and it has really become a Final Fantasy where everyone fights together.
I truly hope that lots of people can have fun together on their adventures as a caravan and make unique memories along their journey.
For those who pre-order Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition on PS4, there’s also a limited-edition theme as a bonus, which features coloured versions of some of the artwork you’ve seen today alongside some wonderful music from the game’s soundtrack.
If you’ve already decided to play Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition on PS4, please think about pre-ordering! Everyone, please enjoy your adventures gathering drops of myrrh and exploring the world together with your friends!