The rumors had been swirling. A new website had been claimed. A twitter handle was started. And yesterday, Final Fantasy XVI was officially revealed. With the coming of a new console, it makes sense that we would see a new Final Fantasy game in the works, and yet it was still shocking to see the cinematic lead the PlayStation 5 showcase this week. Those who follow me, know that I’ve had a long career of saying very mean things about Square-Enix. So it only feels right that I comment on the reveal of Final Fantasy XVI. Let’s get into it.
A Dark Final Fantasy
Alright, so let me start by saying I am not going to get on here and rip this trailer. I’ve seen plenty of people doing so online, and I’m frankly flabbergasted. What did you see in this that you hated? The darker vibe? The actual high-fantasy aesthetic? I’m sorry it didn’t have 4 guys driving in a car. It’s worth taking a moment to remember that despite the name ‘Final Fantasy’, these games have trended away from the fantasy aesthetic for the better part of the last twenty years.
Final Fantasy VI started the trend with the Magitek vibe, and Final Fantasy VII and VIII ran with it. Only Final Fantasy IX attempted to play up the more traditional fantasy elements in the PS1 era. And since then, only the MMOs have really leaned heavily into the fantasy aesthetic. FFX, XII, XIII, and XV meanwhile have all taken more of a modern fantasy approach.
I say all of that to say, it’s about time we got a new high-fantasy world. And more than that, the trailer gives off some seriously dark fantasy vibes. This is particularly exciting given Square-Enix’s recent success with Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers. You can check out what I had to say about that here.
Theme Vs. Setting
None of this is to say that Final Fantasy hasn’t dabbled in dark stories. Final Fantasy VII and VIII both touched on some pretty dark story elements, and even their worlds played on themes of hopelessness. Final Fantasy XIII was all but dystopian in many ways. But those are themes. The setting, much like other games in the franchise is very fantastical. It’s bright, colorful, and appealing to look at.
While Final Fantasy VIII definitely played on some dark themes, it wasn’t until the final dungeons that the world actually reflected that. Until then, it tended to be pretty colorful and fun to look at. The trailer of this game didn’t strike me as that. I took away a much darker tone, a world bereft of hope or perhaps suffering for a time?
Final Fantasy games typically follow these story beats.
- Yay, everything is great! (Squall becomes a SeeD member, Zidane and Tantalus kidnap the princess, Tidus is a star Blitzball player, etc.)
- Oh no, evil happened. Everything is not great. (Sorceress Edea and Galbadia, Queen Brahne goes nuts, Sin happens, etc.)
- Assemble your squad and power of friendship it.
- Villain explains to you why the world is actually bad and must be wiped out.
- Explain to the villain why the world is good and worth saving.
- Secret actual final villain.
Changing up the formula
And that’s where Final Fantasy XVI looks like it’s going to take us down a new path. We’re entering a world where it seems like “oh no, evil!” already happened. Rather than a story about people fighting to protect the world around them, it’s a tale of fighting to create a better world. Maybe I’m crazy, but 15 games in, I’m ready to mix things up a bit.
Overall, I don’t know what Final Fantasy XVI will be. This is one cinematic, emulated on PC to use PS5 hardware. It could be FF7 Remake all over again, and we won’t see any truth to it for a decade. I’m hopeful that we’ll see more of what we saw in that cinematic. I’m ready for my Final Fantasy game to grow up alongside me. How about you?