- Written by Stephen Powell
- Gaming reporter
Gorgeous hairstyles with no strand out of place, a cast of loyal citizens and more plot twists than succession. These are the ingredients that have made the Final Fantasy series stand the test of time.
However, after the previous game’s mixed reception, this latest installment, which launched Thursday, has some work to do.
“Since the story of Final Fantasy 15 was not as well received as previous titles, we needed to focus on winning back players’ trust, and showing them once again that this series is all about story,” explains Final Fantasy 16 producer Naoki Yoshida.
This story, clearly inspired by fantasy shows like Game of Thrones, encourages players to think about taking better care of the planet. a theme that has been around throughout the franchise’s history.
How these messages are interpreted should be up to the player, though according to Naoki Yoshida: “I look at games as entertainment, and I hope that through that entertainment players can take something away.
“Talking about the environment and those issues is also very important, but I think what Final Fantasy 16 also focuses on is that there is darkness in the world and darkness in ourselves. We have to accept that darkness in order to overcome it and move on to tomorrow.
“But I’m not in a position to say that’s how the players should feel, because everybody’s going to take something different. But if they feel something, it makes us very proud and happy.”
Most games stay away from overt messages about social or political issues so as not to alienate potential players who may have different opinions.
Aoife Wilson, who reviewed the title for Eurogamer, says the series’ environmental themes are clearly visible: “I generally think in most Final Fantasy games when the story boils down to saying something about protecting the planet, being careful about mining for selfish reasons.
“But what I really like about 16 is that it tries much harder than previous titles to say it all through a very human perspective.”
The first game for the Nintendo Entertainment System came out in 1987 and since then around 173 million copies of the titles in the franchise have been sold.
An example of the Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) genre, the series is unique in that the setting of each title is independent of each other (except for some small overlaps in places). Beloved characters, locations and worlds live and die in one game. It’s as if The Sopranos replaced Tony with a new character every series and ditched New Jersey for a different location.
It’s a risky approach that asks players to forget their attachment to previous characters and invest emotionally in new characters each time. However, the series sticks to it.
According to Wilson, it’s a way of trying to keep the series fresh: “It means you don’t have to play six to be able to play seven, for example.
“They’re all indie, but they share a bit of a similarity and have nods to past games for fans as well. I often think that’s why they’re so successful, the fact that games are constantly having to reinvent themselves.”
Final Fantasy games are not for everyone. They require patience and reward players for their investment. Attacks must be learned and mastered – randomly hitting buttons will only get you so far in this franchise.
The scripts are over the top, some of the story arcs are a bit conventional, and Final Fantasy X5 has been criticized for having four male characters as its primary focus. There is an attempt at more variety this time around with a female character Jill in a central role, a queer relationship is featured but the main protagonists are still mostly white.
With so much competition in the role-playing game space right now (Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Hogwarts Legacy are two of the best-selling games of the year, for example), Final Fantasy 16 has had its intermittent work of wooing gamers who aren’t fans. already in series.
However, its tone, aesthetically distinct and fun set-piece battles give it distinct points of difference.
Wilson says that this version is the first in the series that she’s fallen into for a while and has a chance to progress: “When I was writing my review of Final Fantasy 16, I was asking myself ‘Who would I recommend this game to?'” “
“I think, interestingly, for the first time in a long time, this is a title I can pretty much recommend to anyone interested in gaming. I can do this without too many caveats or explanations and I think that’s a very good sign for the series.
“Honestly with the recent entries in the series, it was hard to do. Fifteen years were fine, and they had some lovely moments, but when it launched, it didn’t feel like game over. It had some of the right ingredients but it just didn’t all come together.” “.
This version has a darker tone than the previous entries. The departure will seek to make the series more appealing to new players, who will be more accustomed to that feel than some of the gothic and modern mashups we’ve seen in the past.
A JRPG fan once told a friend of a classic of the genre that “the game really became its own after about 80 hours of play.” Not everyone has the desire to keep playing for a long time before seeing the best in it.
Saying the same about Final Fantasy 16 isn’t fair, but it’s a title that requires some serious time investment to get the best out of it. The recent success of similar releases like Zelda, the Elden Ring, and Hogwarts Legacy suggests that it shouldn’t be a barrier to success. Gamers’ appetite for a title they love can easily spill over into investing several hours in a story-driven game like this one.
Its makers hope it’s not just fans of the series who want to go the extra mile.
Final Fantasy 16 was released on Thursday, June 22nd.
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