A lot is riding on Final Fantasy XVI, from my perspective. As a longtime fan, I believe Square-Enix has stumbled quite far from its glory days. Final Fantasy is a series that embodies the storytelling medium, serving up multiple worlds per title and entire hosts of protagonists and villains to celebrate. Though the series has plenty of competition, its past is nigh untouchable. So, why am I worried? Let me touch on the most recent news for the game before I get to my point.
Final Fantasy XVI has a story focus
On the latest Tokyo FM radio show, One Morning, Naoki Yoshida briefly discussed Final Fantasy XVI.
· Final Fantasy XVI is quite action-oriented. It’s a Final Fantasy featuring story and action
· (What about players who aren’t good at action games?) We really want players to enjoy the story, so we’re preparing a mode for players who want to focus on story. Since we have quite the substantial support actions, we’re of course preparing something easy to operate and smooth to play. Don’t worry too much (players who aren’t good at action games.)
· I’m from the generation that has been playing the Final Fantasy series from the first game in real-time—I’m almost in my 50s. I think the Warriors of Light have grown up in their own worlds, so I want to create a world of Final Fantasy that those who know the good and bad of reality can also be passionate about. I believe there are certain hardships that are experienced when becoming an adult, so I want to make the main theme of this game something that those who grew up playing Final Fantasy and understand reality can still enjoy, get something out of, and think about.
We have been with the Warriors of Light for a long time. Frequently, the story follows a young character, and that’s fitting for most players. It seems Naoki is aware that our mindsets change as we mature, and life presents a new set of challenges. If he genuinely intends to inject a sense of life’s trials and tribulations weighing on the characters, FFXVI could be a game-changer, narratively.
Final Fantasy’s recent past hurts my excitement
There have been significant missteps in the Final Fantasy franchise, but I can think of none larger than Final Fantasy XV’s predicament. You see, following a band of four fresh-faced protagonists across a world of political intrigue managed to entertain me. It was a story I indulged in heavily, excited as Final Fantasy XV’s mysteries unraveled before me. Square handled the action-heavy gameplay well to the point where I said, “This should be the standard for combat,” before Final Fantasy VII Remake came out.
At specific points in the game, elements from the story seemed missing. I chalked it up to impatience for a time until I saw that Square would not explain certain character moments in the game. Characters in your main party leave for a while and then come back with little explanation. Instead, there are physical changes, ordinarily injuries the character sustained offscreen. I kept waiting for an extravagant side-quest to start that would fill in the blanks.
The game does a poor job explaining one of the villains. Ravus Nox Fleuret is Lunafreya’s older brother, former Prince of Tenebrae. He appears as one of the antagonists, and I was excited to learn as much as I could about it. Later in the game, he suddenly shows up in a precarious situation, and once the story is over, I’m again left to question, “Will any of this be explained?” No. So, what happened to the narrative behind this game?
Final Fantasy leaned into DLC
Square-Enix began to roll out episodic DLC that would fill in the blanks for each protagonist. Finally, Gladioulus, Ignis, and Prompto’s story would be complete. Too bad to get the full story, players had to spend more money. This isn’t the first time Final Fantasy adopted DLC, but it was usually for cosmetics or items that would lose their significance later on.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that there were several more episodes of DLC planned for release in 2019 – Episode Ardyn, Episode Side Story Arena “The Beginning of the End,” Episode 2 Lunafreya, “The Choice of Freedom” and Episode 3 Noctis “The Final Strike.” Square Enix canceled the latter three, but they released Episode Ardyn in 2019. Am I to believe Square did not withhold content so they could tell these stories? Hah!
In the end, Final Fantasy XV is an incomplete story. It’s fun, but it fails to cast itself in a memorable light because the DLC practice harmed it. Imagine playing Final Fantasy VII on the PS1, and they stripped out main story content for any of the beloved characters, only to later cancel the tale? Think about the practice for any story game that has stuck with you. If Square Enix wanted DLC, the stories should have been new. You don’t gut your main story to fill in the blanks later.
Should Final Fantasy XVI have DLC?
No! That’s my knee-jerk reaction. Absolutely not. However, too many gaming companies have hopped on the DLC bandwagon, and gamers are worse for it. If Square Enix decides to make an expansion for Final Fantasy XVI, let them be actual expansions. I don’t want to see a main character going missing and then coming back like, “Hey, guys! Don’t mind my [insert conspicuous injury here]. Let’s just keep going and the guy controlling us will figure out what happened to me once he shells out $10-$20.”
The above example is not an example of expansion-worthy content. It’s a plot hole. That’s bad storytelling, and that’s something Final Fantasy, or any JRPG, can’t afford.
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