The man who saved Final Fantasy creates his future with "FFXVI"

The man who saved Final Fantasy creates his future with “FFXVI”

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The Final Fantasy series is a staple of RPG culture that helped standardize tropics that have defined the genre for decades. Although they have no narrative connection, each game’s turn-based battle, fantastic worlds and colorful, odd characters struck similar chords. You could always see when you were playing a Final Fantasy game.

This brings us to “Final Fantasy XVI.” While Sony State of Play trailer showed familiar summonses that have become icons in the franchise, it showed something else that felt like players were about to enter a Final Fantasy game. The slower, more methodical turn-based combat system is gone in favor of something that looks worn directly from Devil May Cry. The fantastic environment is also gone, in favor of a more realistic medieval environment with dark undertones that resemble a Souls game.

Working on the project is Naoki Yoshida, a producer who first began saving developer Square Enix’s critical investment in the MMORPG genre, “Final Fantasy XIV”, and who is often quoted as saving not only “FFXIV”, but potentially the entire franchise. . With this latest series contribution, he said he had to balance fans’ expectations with innovation.

“When you think about the future of the Final Fantasy series, you have to aim for the generation of players who have never touched a Final Fantasy before,” 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 do not want you to think that I am abandoning those veteran players and fans of the series, because we are definitely not. We want to create something that everyone thinks is epic.”

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Square Enix has been battling an identity crisis with the series for more than a decade. A tumultuous production cycle tormented 2006’s “Final Fantasy XII”, “Final Fantasy XIII” pivot to a more action-based combat system polarized fans and “Final Fantasy XV”, which deviated even further from turn-based combat, contained an intricate story that developed over several DLCs, one spinoff beat-em-up style gameone anime miniseries and a Film.

When “FFXIV” was originally released in 2010, it was heavily criticized for its lack of content, many bugs and server errors. Yoshida, an avid MMORPG fan herself, was hired to lead a team that would basically rebuild the game entirely. The result was “FFXIV: A Realm Reborn” in 2013, a much more streamlined experience that fixed bugs and provided rich content that not only spoke to newcomers but longtime fans who were desperately looking for signs of the franchise they once knew.

Yoshida, now the producer of “FFXVI”, which will be released in 2023, incorporates the lessons he learned from “FFXIV” into “FFXVI’s” design philosophy. The combat system in “FFXVI” is an excellent example of this: it is action-oriented, with an emphasis on flashy combinations and read-and-react battles that the Final Fantasy series has been trending towards since “FFXII”, but tries to incorporate elements that have long been fans . will recognize.

Fighting will not be a solo experience, unlike what it looks like in the trailer. The main character, Clive, will be accompanied by several AI-controlled party members who will joke and connect throughout the game, similar to previous Final Fantasy games. Yoshida also teases that there will be a “loyal friend” that Clive can give specific commands to during the battle, even though the majority of player control focuses on Clive.

While specific details of the battle will be revealed at a later date, Yoshida is sure of the direction the system is taking. He believes that Square Enix, now with titles such as “Final Fantasy XV”, “Final Fantasy VII Remake” and the Kingdom Hearts series under his belt, finally has the expertise to create a compelling action-fighting system as players, regardless of their familiarity with the series, will enjoy.

“The Kingdom Hearts team at Square Enix have been especially helpful in contributing to these real-time battles and boss battles,” said Yoshida. “You could say that the battles in ‘FFXVI’ are somehow a culmination of the company’s past 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 just as confident, according to Yoshida. Issues that plagued previous games in the franchise – around combat animations, combat fluid 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 will not be a happy story, and includes an environment, Valisthea, which is much darker than previous contributions – will have overarching themes reminiscent of what fans of the series have come to expect. .

“One of the main themes explored in ‘Final Fantasy XVI’s story is about a clash between 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 go?” in Yoshida.

Square Enix made sure that one of the first screens to load when playing “Final Fantasy XV” was a message saying that the game was “A Final Fantasy for Fans and First-Timers.” Yoshida believes that “Final Fantasy XVI” will also benefit from that message.

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

Gene Park contributed to this report.

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