I must be in a very small group of people who actually enjoyed Square Enix’s CGI flop, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within but at least some of the people in my gathering include BioWare’s art team. Derek Watts, Mass Effect 3’s art director, chatted with Xbox World 360 magazine about the franchise’s influences which pretty much owes a lot to the 2001 movie.
“Yeah, you know we actually reference a lot from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. We used a lot of their GUIs and the way they did their ship – that was kind of like in some of the early designs for the Normandy.” Of course! It’s so obvious once it’s pointed out! The funky holographic GUIs on Shepard and his (or her) compadres look a lot like those in the film. Blade Runner is the usual comparison but come to think of it, that’s a bit too gritty. Watts wasn’t shy of just how much he and his team use Final Fantasy as a well for concepts: “Our attack helicopters are loosely based off that movie. There’s some great stuff, especially their glowing GUI screens; we used those a lot. I keep a folder of that stuff and I still actually tell the guys ‘just go back and look at that. Change it like that!'”
What particularly tickles me about an off-shoot of the Final Fantasy franchise is how the end of Mass Effect 2 made me cancel my pre-order of Final Fantasy XIII. I completed an incredibly action orientated sci-fi space opera that still resinates to this day and shortly after began watching a new trailer for the Japanese RPG. The complete difference in style and execution left me wondering if a traditional JRPG was the kind of game I wanted to play at that moment in time (I have played it since then…). So to think one of the reason why I love the Mass Effect series – its art – is so heavily influenced by a frequently ridiculed aspect of Final Fantasy amuses me so!