When a new Final Fantasy game is released, fans of the iconic role-playing series, known for its deep and epic storytelling with diverse casts, eagerly anticipate a title that will bring the franchise back into the spotlight. Final Fantasy 15, the most recent installment, disappointed many with its disjointed narrative and forgettable characters, even failing to garner support from its creators.
Square Enix, the studio behind the 35-year-old franchise, is now attempting to address past missteps with the upcoming release of Final Fantasy 16 for the PlayStation 5 on June 22. Read more.
However, like other aging entertainment properties such as Star Wars, the studio faces the challenge of satisfying the dedicated fan base and attracting new audiences.
For Final Fantasy 16, this means deviating from specific characteristics integral to the main series. The game will depart from the traditional approach of managing an extensive party of characters and the whimsical, quirky tone found in previous titles.
Instead, players will control a single character, adopting a structure reminiscent of successful role-playing games like The Witcher and God of War. In an ambitious endeavor to deliver a story on par with “Game of Thrones,” Final Fantasy 16 is the first installment in the series to receive an “M” rating due to its graphic violence and strong language.
The game’s narrative will focus on Clive Rosenfield, a prince seeking vengeance after his kingdom is destroyed and his brother is slain. Players will witness Clive’s journey from adolescence to adulthood, gaining insights into his motivations and eventual transformation.
“We wanted to regain faith in the Final Fantasy series by returning to its roots and emphasizing the story, aiming to make up for the shortcomings of Final Fantasy 15,” explained Naoki Yoshida, the producer of Final Fantasy 16, during a recent video call.
Final Fantasy 15 left Square Enix with embarrassing scars due to its confusing storyline. Narrative details were scattered across an animated movie and an anime series, leaving key plot points unexplained. Additionally, downloadable content intended to provide background on important characters was canceled, further frustrating fans.
However, it remains to be seen whether Final Fantasy 16’s renewed focus on storytelling will resonate with gamers. Striking a balance between appeasing nostalgic fans and appealing to new audiences poses a significant challenge. Final Fantasy 15 attempted to please both groups and received generally positive reviews for its high production values, but it could be seen as settling for creative mediocrity.
The Star Wars franchise faced a similar situation with its recent trilogy. While “The Last Jedi” was praised by critics for its fresh take on the space opera, suggesting that anyone could become a Jedi, loyal fans criticized it for deviating from the established canon. In response to the backlash, “The Rise of Skywalker” attempted to reverse those violations but became one of the most heavily criticized Star Wars films.
Final Fantasy’s signature turn-based battle system, where players navigate a party of characters and choose actions like casting spells, was retired over 15 years ago. While some players still prefer that system, Yoshida explained that fast-paced action had become the norm as consoles have grown more powerful, and gamers have come to expect it.
Final Fantasy 16 will also explore a notably darker tone compared to its more lighthearted and accessible predecessors, even appealing to younger audiences. The game begins with the invasion of the protagonist’s kingdom and the brutal slaughter of his family. Yoshida justified this direction as a reflection of the harsh realities of the present world.
“He stated that showcasing the negative aspects accentuates the positives and makes them feel more genuine,” he stated. “At its core, Final Fantasy 16 is also a story about love and hope.”