The Final Fantasy franchise is fighting fit in a way it hasn’t been for quite some time. Final Fantasy XIV underwent a huge revitalization that took it from a floundering MMO to one of the most critically acclaimed and beloved games in the genre. Final Fantasy VII Remake, meanwhile, defied expectations and delivered an incredibly strong, modernized version of the iconic Japanese role-playing classic.
Now, Square Enix looks to be making some smart moves to ensure Final Fantasy continues to shine while in the spotlight. The recently revealed Crisis Core Reunion is set to take the much-loved but oft-forgotten PSP spin-off of Final Fantasy 7 and bring it to modern platforms for a new generation to experience. And a trailer for Rebirth, the second part in the Final Fantasy VII remake trilogy, looks to be continuing the bold reimagining of the original’s story.
Perhaps most exciting is Final Fantasy XVI, the next installment in the mainline Final Fantasy series. Little is known about the game and, instead, much of the excitement around it is tied to its creative team. Director Hiroshi Takai has worked on a number of Saga titles, as well as The Last Remnant. Writer Kazutoyo Maehiro, meanwhile, has previously been involved with Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy XII, and Vagrant Story.
Much of the attention, however, has been focused on Final Fantasy XVI’s producer Naoki Yoshida, who is credited for the successful salvaging of Final Fantasy XIV. The positive response to his involvement is unsurprising considering there is resounding agreement that Final Fantasy XIV’s narrative and characterization are incredible. Naturally, expectations are high for what this creative team can do for Final Fantasy XVI and, following the debut of the game’s latest trailer, we talked to Yoshida-san about what players can expect in terms of gameplay, narrative themes, and more.
How much of a gameplay factor are the big Titan battles we saw in the recent trailer? What’s the ratio to those versus more recognizable FF15-like human combat?
Naoki Yoshida: So what you saw in the trailer with that Titan battle, the Eikon versus Eikon battles, is only actually a tiny sample of the battles that we have in store in the game. In the trailer, you had the one scene where Shiva and Titan are battling. Actually, this is not a playable part of the game; this is a cutscene, but while that’s happening Clive will be in that same area, kind of experiencing the battle from a different perspective.
However, later in the trailer, you saw a different type of battle with Titan involved. That part of the battle is actually fully playable. But again, what you’ve seen there is only a very, very small part of that battle. So the battles with Titan, for example, it’s only about maybe a 20th of what you actually get to experience.
So in that [trailer], the battle was tightened. The battle itself goes through many different stages, many different phases, and all of these change in real time. And the player ends up experiencing something that is large-scale, action-packed, and high-octane. And hopefully, a lot of players will see that and [think], “I can’t believe you created something that’s so crazy.” And again, that’s just the battle with Titan. There are several other summon versus summon battles and they are all unique from a game design perspective.
For example, while one of these battles is reminiscent of a 3D shooting game, another feels like a pro wrestling match, while another, like the one with Titan, incorporates an entire area as the battlefield.
And again, what we saw in the trailer, that’s a good example of those battles. The [user interface] that you saw on there, again, it’s showing that this is all in real time. However, that UI, we’ve had to actually remove parts of the UI from the trailer because they would be spoilers for the story. But we did want to show that these battles exist, and that, again, Clive will be able to control one of the summons and have these summons versus some in battle.
We’ve talked a lot about the Eikon versus Eikon battles, but there are different type of battles, as well. A lot of the battles that Clive will face just while journeying around the realm will be smaller-scale. You have Clive versus smaller-size enemies, or maybe waves of these enemies. And then, of course, as he progresses through that, he’ll encounter elite enemies or what you could call mini-bosses. And then he will encounter, finally, bosses or these giant creatures. [There are] even times where Clive will encounter, [in] human size, the full size Eikons himself.
You also have a lot of pressure from the [development] team itself because the dev team has expectations in what they want from the game. And so, to tell you the truth, no one should ever tackle two Final Fantasy games at once like I did
Which previous Final Fantasy games would you liken this game to and how has FFXIV served as a source of inspiration?
As the game will be focusing heavily on action featuring these real-time battles, sometimes on a massive scale–things that the series hasn’t fully explored yet–Final Fantasy XVI will end up feeling like a truly new experience for many fans–unlike any of the past FFs. So it will still have that look and feel of a Final Fantasy game, but still feel different. One thing that did kind of serve as a source of inspiration, at least for the summons, was in Final Fantasy XIV. The story there and game design there also put a lot of emphasis on how we portrayed the summons known as the Primals in Final Fantasy XIV. And so, players will see some of those influences in Final Fantasy XVI, and in how they’re portrayed and how they appear in the game.
FF15 was very consciously about male friendships and masculinity, what overall themes is this game trying to express?
One of the main themes explored in Final Fantasy XVI’s narrative deals with the inevitable clash of values and ideals when you get multiple different people with different ideals in the same room; what is truly right and what is truly wrong? Again, because we focus so much on their Dominants, and they have such a large part in this story, you’re going to see how they think the world should be and what they think is right for the world. You’re going to focus on those motivations and those struggles, and then, you’re going to delve even deeper and into darker themes when it comes to how people should live; should people live the life that was chosen for them or fight to break free from that kind of destiny?
Are there plans to support the world with tertiary lore material, or is it more self-contained?
Currently, there are no plans to create anything, for example, like a lore book like we had in Final Fantasy XIV. So, the development team is currently working really hard to make the final release of the game a complete experience so that no other tertiary content will be required to enjoy or understand it. And so, how the story and the narrative progresses is that we follow the life of Clive Rossville through three different stages: his teens, his 20s, and his 30s.
And because we’re covering such a large amount of time with those jumps, it’s safe to say that a lot will be happening in the background with regards to the state of the realm. And while we have a few side quests available in the game that will touch upon what’s going on in the world in the background in addition to that main scenario, we also will have these in-game compendiums, and a lot of stuff to read in-game that will hopefully help provide a lot of the lore to those people who wish to delve deeper into the game world.
There was implied nudity in the recent trailer. Is this a more adult, M-rated Final Fantasy?
So this is something you can say, not just with the Final Fantasy series, but in general, compared to the past, video game ratings have become more and more restrictive recently regarding what can or cannot be shown. That said, I do believe that ratings are very important to ensure that younger players, younger children, are shielded from extreme material.
But on the other hand, when trying to tell a story with difficult adult themes, these ratings can end up becoming somewhat of a hindrance. And you find yourself changing things that you wanted to do in the game based on that rating. You wanted to show something, but because you have this certain rating that you need to go to, you need to move the camera away. And that ends up making the entire experience feel a little bit cheaper. And so, this time, to make sure that we could tell the story that we wanted in the way that we wanted to, we decided to pursue a mature rating in most of the regions that will be releasing the game. But again, this is not because we simply wanted to make the game more violent or the game more explicit, this is because we felt it was necessary to allow us to explore those more mature themes that the game tackles.
What is it like to go from revitalizing an MMO to now being in charge of the next main entry in the franchise. Is that something of a graduation or do you just feel like, hey, this is just another Final Fantasy game. I’m going to do my best.
To tell the truth, to be in charge of the next mainline Final Fantasy, it’s a lot of pressure. And so, you have the pressure from the fans who want a lot of different things and have a lot of different ideas about the direction that the series should go in. You have that pressure of the history of Final Fantasy. It being a 35-year-old franchise, and having all of that history there, the weight of that history. You also have a lot of pressure from the [development] team itself because the dev team has expectations in what they want from the game. And so, to tell you the truth, no one should ever tackle two Final Fantasy games at once like I did.
The one thing, though, that is very different from XIV, is that on XIV, I am producer and director, but luckily, on Final Fantasy XVI, I’m only the producer. So that whole amount of pressure that comes with being a director is not on my shoulders. It’s on the director’s shoulders. So in that sense, there’s a little bit less pressure on me. I know that when the company came to me and asked the development team to tackle the next Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy XVI, I told them that we would do it as long as I didn’t have to be director as well, because there was no way I could direct two projects of this scale at once.
That said, being asked by the company to create the newest mainline Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy XVI, was an honor. And it was an honor that was only made possible by what we were able to achieve on Final Fantasy XIV and the amount of feedback that we’ve gotten from the fans and the amount of support that we’ve had from fans and players and the media around the world. You guys supporting us, gave us this opportunity to take on the next Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy XVI. And for that, we’re very appreciative.