Enix/Quest Era (1992 - 1995)
Starting his development career at Quest, who was owned by Enix at the time, Yasumi Matsuno served as the director on Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen for the Super Nintendo/Super Famicom. Published by Atlus and released in 1993, the game garnered much praise, but due to limited quantities of the title being released in North America, it was not a commercial success. Despite underperforming in sales, Matsuno would go on to direct Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together for the Super Famicom in 1995, followed by re-releases on the Sega Saturn in 1996 and the PlayStation in 1997. The game again released to critical acclaim, and it also helped cement Matsuno's game mechanics as the status quo for tactical RPG gameplay.
Squaresoft/Square Enix Era (1995 - 2005)
In 1995, Matsuno left Quest and Enix for rival company Squaresoft, and with him, he also brought his fellow artistic collaborator Akihido Yoshida. Upon arrival, they quickly began work on what would become Square's antithesis to Tactics Ogre. Seeing release in Japan in 1997 and North America the following year, Final Fantasy Tactics became an instant hit. Commercial sales proved steady, and critical reception was higher than any of Matsuno's previous work. The game borrowed heavily from elements in Matsuno's Tactics Ogre, while simplifying many of the systems for use in the Final Fantasy universe. It also saw the creation of Ivalice, a territory that Matsuno would travel back to in later games.
After the release of Final Fantasy Tactics, Matsuno started working on a secret project for Squaresoft. As the lifespan of the PlayStation was coming to a close, Squaresoft announced Vagrant Story, an original IP that also involved art direction from longtime collaborator Akihiko Yoshida. Vagrant Story received the highest critical acclaim that Matsuno had ever seen, including a perfect 40/40 score by Famitsu Magazine, which is an honor that has only been given to 13 games over the magazine's 20-year time period. Sadly, the game was released merely weeks before the launch of Sony's PlayStation 2, and in turn, it fell to the wayside of the console. Over the years, the game would slowly pick up steam, and it has since achieved a cult status that led to a re-release of the game via digital download on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable platforms.
Matsuno took some time off from directorial duties for a while, helping as a freelance writer for Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber and acting as producer for Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. He also supervised work on Square's PlayOnline before its first beta release hit in 2001.
His reason for leaving the PlayOnline project was announced in 2001, as he was named alongside Hiroyuki Ito (whom was the director of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance) as co-director of Final Fantasy XII, the next installment in Square's powerhouse RPG franchise. It was revealed that the game would see players returning to the world of Ivalice, which Matsuno had previously used as the backdrops for Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. Details on the game included moving from previous "random encounters" with enemies to an open world where players would see the monsters on the map that they would encounter, as well as a real-time combat system in comparison to a turn-based combat system like all the previous installments of the franchise. Fan response was mixed.
Matsuno worked on Final Fantasy XII until about the midway point of the project, at which point he suspiciously disappeared. Square Enix's official comment has been that he had health concerns, but common consensus within the industry is that Square Enix forced him out of the project due to repeated delays which caused the project to go over budget. Matsuno's position on the project was taken over by Hiroshi Minagawa, who had worked for Enix and Square as an art director over the years.
An official statement was released on August 31, 2005 that Yasumi Matsuno had left Square Enix. Five years later, Matsuno spoke publicly about his departure in 2010 on his Twitter account, stating that he left the company due to being annoyed with the staff, the company, and the shareholders.
Despite all of these issues, Final Fantasy XII released to universally fanfare and critical acclaim, as well as scored a perfect 40/40 score from Famitsu Magazine. While Yasumi Matsuno is not credited as the game's director, many consider Matsuno to be the only developer in history to have two games that scored a perfect Famitsu score.
2005 - Present
Matsuno's whereabouts since his departure from Square Enix is largely a mystery. He appeared in a promotional video for the Nintendo Wii, and he even expressed interest in development for the console in 2006:
The Wii controller makes total sense when you think about FPS-like games, but my question was, will the controls fit other existing games? However, when I first tried Mario Galaxy, I realized that the controller fit the game almost scarily well. It allows you to intuitively feel the game and its atmosphere. Graphics have evolved, and there are many games claiming that this generates a more realistic atmosphere. However, there are very few games that have a control interface that lives up to this atmosphere. With the Wii controller, you can actually feel like you're touching or living in this atmosphere.
Matsuno was rated by the website Next Generation as the 13th most important and anticipated developer for 2007. He worked with Platinum Games to write the story for 2009's MadWorld.
In 2010, rumors began circulating that Matsuno was working with Hironobu Sakaguchi on his latest Wii RPG games, The Last Story. Matsuno eventually made an official statement that he was not attached to The Last Story at all.
Rumors began swirling in 2007 about a collaboration with long-time friend and video game composer Hitoshi Sakimoto. Sakimoto was the composer for many of Matsuno's games including Final Fantasy Tactics, Ogre Battle, and Tactics Ogre. In early 2010, Matsuno confirmed that he was working with Sakimoto on something. In July 2010, they went public with a collaboration between the original Tactics Ogre team and Square-Enix, and they were working on a remake to Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together for the PSP.
In 2011, Yasumi Matsuno announced that he joined Level 5 and was working in conjunction with Grasshopper Manufacture on the compilation Guild 01 project. His contribution is a game called Crimson Shroud, a traditional adventure RPG that features tabletop-styled mechanics.
The Yazmat Tribute
The development team of Final Fantasy XII included the optional boss Yiazmat as a tribute to Yasumi Matsuno (Yazumi Matsuno). Montblanc, the moogle who assigns the task of defeating Yiazmat, tells a story of how he and his siblings once worked for a wise master and that the dragon Yiazmat came and killed the wise master, causing the group to break up. The dragon is widely interpreted to represent Square Enix and the wise master is presumably meant to represent Matsuno, adding credence to the rumor that Matsuno was forcefully removed from his position.
References to Queen
A self-professed fan of the rock band Queen, Matsuno has included references in every one of the games he directed.
- "Ogre Battle", "March of the Black Queen", "Let Us Cling Together" all refer to the titles of Queen songs.
- The Rhyan Sea, a region in Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen, is a reference to the Queen song "Seven Seas of Rhyan".
- In Final Fantasy Tactics, one of the chapters is called "Somebody to Love".
- In Vagrant Story, one of the weapons that Ashley can acquire is called Fandango, a reference to the lyrics of "Bohemian Rhapsody".
- The earth elemental summon Hashmal in Final Fantasy XII has a move called "Rock You" (translated to Roxxor in North American versions), referencing to the Queen song "We Will Rock You".