There are some names in the realm of JRPGs that are next to royalty: Yuji Horii, Hironobu Sakaguchi, Nobuo Uematsu and, if you’re of a certain vintage, Hiroyuki Ito. Okay, so perhaps Ito’s not so much a household name, but a look at his CV should assure you of his credentials; this is the man who invented the Active Time Battle mode that’s been a mainstay of the Final Fantasy series and more than that this is the director of Final Fantasy 6, Final Fantasy 9 and Final Fantasy 12. No matter where you stand on what the very best Final Fantasy game might be (it’s Final Fantasy 12, by the way), I’m sure you can agree that those three earn themselves a place among the greatest we’ve seen to date.
And for almost 15 years now, Ito’s whereabouts have been something of a mystery, frequently picked at by Final Fantasy’s fanbase, his name only fleetingly appearing in the credits of a handful of mobile projects or as special thanks in bigger games. There was some speculation he might emerge as part of the Final Fantasy 16 team, given how it leans into the more classical era of the series Ito is associated with, though when its reveal finally came to pass there was no mention of one of the grandees of the series.