Dungeon Encounters is interesting, deep, and probably the most mechanically rich Square Enix game in years

What are the most important aspects of a role-playing game? Is it the characters, the story? The artistic vision of a believable yet fantastical world? Or is it the mechanics? Hiroyuki Ito definitely thinks it’s the latter.

And maybe we should be listening to him. Ito’s resume speaks for itself – he worked on all of the earliest Final Fantasy games, but started carving out a significant role with Final Fantasy 4. To that game he contributed the Active Time Battle (ATB) system, a wonderful piece of game design that would come to be a defining characteristic of the entire Final Fantasy series and Japanese RPG subgenre. Then he went on to expand the job system as the lead battle planner of Final Fantasy 5. He co-directed Final Fantasy 6 alongside Yoshinori Kitase, contributed to greatest-of-all-time Chrono Trigger, and designed the bonkers battle and character progression mechanics of Final Fantasy 8.

Perhaps most importantly, he was director of two of the best games in the Final Fantasy series – 9 and 12, two wildly different games that are both incredible in their own right. Games are made by teams and we as an industry have a bad habit of crediting too much to those individual big names – but there is no denying that Hiroyuki Ito is a towering influence and one of the most important and clever game designers in Japan. If we set aside things like art and story, he is surely the most notable employee Square Enix now has. He is to FF’s game design as Nobuo Uematsu is to its music; the grandmaster. Even the unstoppable force that is Tetsuya Nomura says he regards Ito as one of only four people he considers his “senior”.

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