Final Fantasy XVI Producer Naoki Yoshida Innovates Series In New Entry

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The Final Fantasy series is a staple in RPG culture that helped standardize tropes that defined the genre for decades. While the story was unrelated, each game’s turn-based combat, fantastical worlds, and colorful, quirky characters struck similar chords. You could always tell when you were playing a Final Fantasy game.

This brings us to ‘Final Fantasy XVI’. While the Sony State of Play Game Trailer showed well-known subpoena that have become icons in the franchise, it showed little else that felt like players were about to enter a Final Fantasy game. The slower, more methodical turn-based combat system has gone in favor of something that appears to have been ripped straight from Devil May Cry. The fantastic setting has also gone, in favor of a more realistic medieval setting with dark undertones that resemble a Souls game.

Working on the project is Naoki Yoshida, a producer first brought in to rescue developer Square Enix’s critically panned venture in the MMORPG genre, “Final Fantasy XIV,” and often cited as rescuing not just ” FFXIV”, but possibly the entire franchise. With this latest series entry, he said he needed to balance fan expectations with innovation.

“When you think about the future of the Final Fantasy franchise, you need to focus on that generation of players who have never touched a Final Fantasy,” Yoshida said in an interview with The Washington Post. “Maybe they think the series is too old, too classic. [So you] create something that shows them that this can be an exciting game.

“But I don’t want you to think I’m abandoning those veteran players and fans of the series, because we definitely aren’t. We want to create something that everyone thinks is epic.”

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Square Enix has struggled with an identity crisis with the series for more than a decade. A tumultuous production cycle Teasing 2006’s “Final Fantasy XII”, “Final Fantasy XIII’s” pivot to a more action-based combat system polarized fans, and “Final Fantasy XV”, which strayed even further from turn-based combat, had a convoluted story unfolding across several DLCs, a spin-off beat em up style gamea anime miniseries and a movie

When “FFXIV” was first released in 2010, it was heavily criticized for its lack of content, numerous bugs, and server failures. Yoshida, herself an avid MMORPG fan, was brought on to lead a team that would essentially completely rebuild the game. The result was “FFXIV: A Realm Reborn” in 2013, a much more streamlined experience that fixed bugs and delivered rich content that spoke not only to newcomers but also to longtime fans desperate for signs of the franchise they once knew. knew.

Yoshida, now the producer of “FFXVI”, due out in 2023, is incorporating the lessons learned from “FFXIV” into the design philosophy of “FFXVI”. “FFXVI”‘s combat system is a good example of this: it’s action-oriented, with an emphasis on flashy combos and read-and-react combat that the Final Fantasy series has been leaning towards since “FFXII”, but attempts to pick up elements of longtime fans. to take will recognize.

Fighting will not be a solo experience, contrary to how it appears in the trailer. The main character, Clive, is joined by several AI-controlled party members who will chat and connect throughout the game, similar to previous Final Fantasy games. Yoshida also teases that there will be a “loyal friend” who can give Clive specific commands during battle, despite the majority of player control centered on Clive.

While specific details of the battles will be revealed at a later date, Yoshida is confident in the direction the system is headed. He believes Square Enix, now with titles like ‘Final Fantasy XV’, ‘Final Fantasy VII Remake’ and the Kingdom Hearts series under its belt, finally has the expertise to create an immersive action combat system that players, regardless will enjoy their familiarity with the series.

“Square Enix’s Kingdom Hearts team has been especially helpful in contributing to those real-time battles and boss fights,” said Yoshida. “It can be said that the fighting in ‘FFXVI’ is, in a sense, a culmination of the company’s previous experience.”

The team, led by Battle Director Ryota Suzuki, formerly of Capcom, who helped design “Marvel vs. Capcom 2,” “Devil May Cry 5” and “Dragon’s Dogma,” feels equally confident, according to Yoshida. Issues that plagued previous games in the franchise – around combat animations, fluid combat, and cluttered user interfaces – have all been streamlined thanks to Suzuki’s guidance.

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Yoshida also believes that the game’s story — which he says won’t be a happy story, and will include a setting, Valistea, which is much darker than previous entries — will have overarching themes reminiscent of what fans of the series have come to expect.

“One of the main themes explored in the story of ‘Final Fantasy XVI’ is about a clash of ideals. What is right and wrong? Should people live the life chosen for them, or should they have the right to choose the path they walk?” said Yoshida.

Square Enix made sure that one of the first screens to load while playing “Final Fantasy XV” was a message saying the game was “A Final Fantasy for Fans and First-Timers”. Yoshida believes “Final Fantasy XVI” will capitalize on that message as well.

“Personally, I think all games should be like this,” he said. “You can see the same thing in ‘Final Fantasy XIV.’ So our base [for ‘Final Fantasy XVI’] is to build something that will be fun for veteran fans and new players alike.”

Gene Park contributed to this report.

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