Masayoshi Soken, the composer for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has revealed during the Digital Fan Festival 2021 that he had been battling cancer.
Sokken had been a composer for Final Fantasy XIV, and remained aboard as it was rebooted as A Realm Reborn after the MMO’s initial launch was disastrous and poorly received. Sokken’s then prior works included Drakengard 2, Front Mission 5: Scars of the War, Dawn of Mana, and more.
The first day of the festival revealed the release date of the Endwalker expansion, the first look at the Reaper Job, Male Viera, and more. The second day featured more details on upcoming content; including updates to Save the Queen with a new final chapter, and the continuation of the Bozja war story-line.
Patch 5.55 will launch May 25th, while the Make It Rain Golden Saucer campaign will begin in July. Patches 5.57 and 5.58 are expected to come June to July and July to August respectively. August will see the return of the Moonfire Faire and The Rising, while September will see the Final Fantasy XV collaboration quests return.
The day also celebrated the Glamoured to Life Showcase cosplay competition, a Live Q&A, Japanese voice cast interviews and live readings, the Who Wants to Be a Gillionaire PVP competition, and live band performance.
The latter featured Square Enix band The Primals performing metal renditions of beloved Final Fantasy XIV. The band is made of Masayoshi Soken, Eikichi Iwai, GUNN, Michael-Christopher Koji Fox and Tetsuya Tachibana.
It also featured a performance of The Twinning dungeon’s music A Long Fall; a popular and somewhat memed track due to fan animations and videos, usually showing characters dancing to the music. This was surely known by Square Enix, as the live performance featured the developers dancing along to the music.
There was plenty of merriment of the first day as well, as during pianist Keiko Matsui’s performance, Soken asked fans “Do you know… La Hee?” This is the fan name of Civilizations, the music for the Rak’tika Greatwood area; with the first and many lyrics that sound like “la hee.” What followed was Soken’s (intentionally) hilarious off-key performance complete with otamatone.
At the end of the second day, during the events closing ceremony, Soken revealed something shocking to fans, and others on the Final Fantasy XIV development team.
As Soken begins to speak, producer Naoki Yoshida turned his back to the cameras at times, no doubt hiding his emotions. He, Soken, and all others on stage struggled to hold back the tears as more was discussed.
You can find that segment below, beginning at 10:36:39.
Soken revealed that he had been diagnosed with cancer in March 2020; just before The Primals would have performed in Toyosu, Japan, and just as the COVID-19 coronavirus had become a pandemic. At the time, Soken elected not to reveal this to others. It was later revealed the development team had not been told this up to the public announcement today.
Until October 2020 Soken was being treated for cancer in hospital; but determined not to do nothing, he made arrangements with Yoshida and Square Enix President and CEO Yosuke Matsuda to continue working from within the hospital. Soken expressed his gratitude to the the sound team’s support during that time.
He explained that while chemotherapy was physically and mentally tough, he managed to complete To The Edge, a track that plays for the final patch 5.3. He explains how seeing the reaction from players around the world helped him “conquer this cancer.”
Soken then revealed the cancer was almost in full remission, and he had been given permission to leave the hospital. He once again attributes him being able to be there due to the support from Yoshida, Matsuda, Square Enix’ human resources department enabled him to continue working, and the fans. He also explains how he realized through all he went through, that “video games can heal.”
Soken states he will continue to give his all, to create game games for the fans. After a rousing applause for Soken, Yoshida tries desperately to stop weeping as it is his turn to close out the Digital Fan Fest.
This seemingly prompts Soken to explain that he had not told others about his cancer- even in the development team- so as not to make anyone worry about him, and that it could have affected their performance. It was also because he was treated as normal that he felt like nothing had changed; and that it had got him through the difficult times.
As Natsuko Ishikawa, (Shadowbringers’ and Endwalker‘s lead story designer) shows concern about how Soken was asked to do small changes (such as a mere seconds so music would fit better in cutscenes); Soken simply gives an emphatic thumbs up.
Yoshida, now openly crying, states it was a tough decision whether to talk about this or not; revealed that Soken explained (in Yoshida’s words via a translator) “if I have nothing to do, I have nothing to live for, so don’t change anything.”
He reveals he had asked why Soken wanted to continue to work even while in pain, and no one able to visit him due to lockdown quarantine. “It’s because the players are waiting for it,” Soken had told him. “The players want it, and that’s what we have to do. And the best medicine to cure my cancer is the cheers from the fans.”
Yoshida explained how, when he took over development of the game over a decade ago, he gave a speech to over 300 development team members. While they all gave him strange looks and doubts, it was Soken that came to the front, and pumped his fist into the air shouting “Let’s do this!”
Yoshida then apologizes to the development team for not being able to reveal it, but that “Soken is back, and he’s gonna be ready for our next adventure.” “I’m not sure if this the right type of comment for the ending of the fan festival,” Yoshida concluded, “but I just want to say I’m so happy- so happy that my best friend is back with me.”
Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker launches November 23rd.
Final Fantasy XIV is available to Windows PC, (via the SE Store, and Steam), PlayStation 4, and coming soon to PlayStation 5, and Xbox One. A free trial is available. In case you missed it, you can find our Shadowbringers expansion review here (we can’t recommend it enough!)