Ode to Nasir
Nasir, you may have seen the name without thinking twice about it. He was a popular programmer back in the 80’s, we worked mainly on Apple 2 computer games, the guy was had a genius knack for building games on that platform. The guy sold 23 000 copies of his best selling games, in 1980 …. on the personal computer market. It’s like starting a successful sushi shop, in the middle of New Mexico in 1924!
If like me you booted up Final Fantasy 1 on your NES back in the day there is a very cool little sequence that will happen once the heroes of light get the king to build a build to the next area of the game. In that little sequence like credit sequence the was a line that seamed almost out of place “PROGRAMMED BY NASIR” this kept me wondering what or who was Nasir? A programming language? A tool they used to make the game? No it was the name of a glorious legend!
Nasir to the past
See in the early 80’s the american game market was suffering big time, the market had been flooded by junk-ware, home consoles where crappy at best and personal computer used to cost an arm and a leg. Nasir was barely able to live of his own products, the man could pump 12 games a year, games like Gorgon, viewed like some of the best title out there at the time! So in 1981 he had to close the doors of his business like many other “indies” developer of the time.
Nasir decided to travel the world and chill a bit for a while. But that guy had a reputation of being a mad demi-god genius and so in 1986 he was called back from his travel by friends in the goal of meeting some interesting people in Japan. Nintendo in their usual fashion did not recognize that they where standing in front the second coming and did not hire this shiny golden god.
Hironobu Shikaguchi from Square on the other hand knew that the man before him could perform miracles with code and thus Nasir went on and worked his divine magic various projects such as Rad-Racer and 3d-worldrunner and then when working on a small project named… Final Fantasy. Funny thing Nasir was an action game type of guy, shooters, side scrollers and platformer where easy for him to understand and code, however he was not very understanding of the RPG mechanics, hit points and other similar mechanic where a very foreign for him. But nevertheless he made it happen, without him it’s easy to say that Square was doomed.
You see the story does not stop there Nasir is some sort of modern wandering code-knight, never really stepping in the spotlight but always saving the day. He went on and coded Final Fantasy two and three for the Famicom (Nintendo Entertainment System in Japan) and then he vanished from the face of the earth again, probably using his divine abilities to stop to cold war or something. So in 1992 (Need I remind everyone that the cold war stopped in 1991? Coincidence I think not!) Nasir was tasked to work on an action RPG game for Square: Secret of Mana.
The Nasir conspiracy
Here is my crazy theory on how things when at Square after he left, they tried their best start developing something too complex for them and they had to beg for him to come back. Secret of Mana was to be one of the first CD game to be released on the super Famicom CD system, the coders they had where good and had good experience making RPGs, but they lacked the expertise to do a very complex action title. Secret of Mana had to be forged by the same divine hands that had built Final Fantasy. But alas the CD add on system for the Super Nintendo was cancelled and the game had to be heavily modified to fit on a SNES cartridge, I do think that without Nasir at the helm, the project would have survived that drastic changes. The game was translated in 30 days and sent to North America, and a few days later I had the chance to play that master piece.
Nasir pretty much retired after that, Square must have paid him a a king ransom for his services and he went back traveling the world/chilling in California. Here is my other crazy theory: Secret of Mana 2 was basically developed exactly on the same engine and most of the big features have been cut down because that without Nasir they where too hard to recycle or readapt. Thus we lost grass cutting, using a whip to traverse ledges and many other little game mechanics that made the first game so unique.
Praise thy Nasir
Nasir Gabelli, AKA the reason why we have Final Fantasy today, the reason you played Secret of Mana and most probably the reason why Square (and Square-enix) managed to become the behemoth it is today. It’s insane to think how much one skillful individual can accomplish and still never really get the real praise of these accomplishments. He his the real miracle behind Final Fantasy, he his the prodigy that mad Secret of Mana reality! In the end he’s a unsung hero from the video game world!