While many (including myself) are gushing over just how good Final Fantasy 16 seems to be, some of my time with the demo was certainly spent wondering just how the franchise’s fanbase is going to react to just how different the game really is.
I knew Final Fantasy 16 was an ARPG, but I was surprised by just how much of an action game it really is. The game’s real-time combat is arguably the star of the show, and Final Fantasy 16’s elaborate boss battles are clearly designed to offer the game’s marquee moments. The game is filled with elements of classic Final Fantasy adventures (the team used phrases like “pillars” and “constants” to describe them), but it’s about as much of a departure from those games as a major Final Fantasy can be without completely ignoring everything that came before.
There will certainly be those who are simply not into the kind of gameplay that is very much the heart of the Final Fantasy 16 experience. Again, though, I couldn’t help but wonder how those who generally consider themselves to be Final Fantasy fans, but may not be fans of the style of game Final Fantasy 16 very much is, will react to it. The Final Fantasy 16 team said that they really want to please fans old and new, but would those fans see this change in direction as a kind of betrayal? More importantly, should those fans expect Final Fantasy 16 to represent the future of the franchise if the game sells well?
So, I asked Final Fantasy 16 producer Naoki Yoshida whether he hoped Final Fantasy 16 would kick off a new era for the franchise or whether he hoped that future Final Fantasy games will still be encouraged to be different and try new things. His response not only offered a surprising amount of insight but revealed the one thing that he thinks a Final Fantasy game should always be.
“We don’t want to push the Final Fantasy franchise in one direction,” Yoshida says. “I remember when I took over Final Fantasy 14 and the director Kitase-san told me ‘Final Fantasy is what the creator at that time thinks Final Fantasy should be, and that’s what you should do when creating this game.’ I really took that to heart. I want that to be the same thing that creators moving forward can do. Whatever they think is the best thing is what they should make. That’s what we’re doing. What we thought would be the best Final Fantasy is what we’re creating.”
Of course, Yoshida and the Final Fantasy 16 team are more than aware that some fans will not know what to make of Final Fantasy 16 due to their ideas of what the franchise should be.
“One thing I noticed from working on this series for so long and speaking to fans all over the world is the idea that Final Fantasy is a certain kind of series,” Yoshida says. “It’s become very niche in the sense that Final Fantasy is a series about JRPGs, or anime characters, or that it’s about teens running off to save the world and that’s what all the games are going to be like. People were kind of getting locked into this image of what they believed Final Fantasy was.”
It’s not just fans, though. According to Yoshida, the studio would sometimes buy into the idea of a Final Fantasy game should be as well.
“It’s the same on the development side as well,” Yoshida explains. “People in development at Square Enix think, ‘Ok, we’re making Final Fantasy, but we have to do it this way because this is the way they did it in the past.’ What we wanted to show the next generation of developers with Final Fantasy 16 is that you don’t have to get locked into that, you can do whatever you want, and that anything is possible with the Final Fantasy series.”