Final Fantasy XVI Takes on Its ‘Star Wars’ Problem

With each new Final Fantasy, fans of the role-playing video games that became famous in the 1990s for using this medium to tell deep and epic stories with a large and diverse cast will find this makes the series meaningful again. I hope to make something.

The last 15 years of entries missed the point. Seven years ago, the latest installment, Final Fantasy XV, disappointed many with its incoherent storyline and forgettable characters. Even the manufacturer doesn’t want to defend it.

Square Enix, the studio behind the 35-year-old series, is trying to correct a few mistakes when it releases Final Fantasy XVI for the PlayStation 5 on June 22nd. But like those in charge of other aging entertainment venues, such as Star Wars, the studio has walked a precarious tightrope trying to meet the expectations of its loyal fanbase while attracting new audiences. I’m here.

For Final Fantasy XVI, that means moving away from traits that have been fundamental to all games in the main series, such as the ability to manage large parties of characters and the quirky, whimsical tone.

From now on, players will only control one character, adopting the structure of successful role-playing games such as The Witcher and God of War. And in its ambition to tell a story that rivals “Game of Thrones,” the film is rated “M” for adult content for its brutal violence and unsubstantiated use of obscenity. This is the first work done.

Square Enix says the game will pay special attention to the story of Clive Rosfield, a prince seeking revenge after the destruction of his kingdom and the murder of his brother. Players follow a new character from adolescence to adulthood to understand his motivations and eventual changes.

“We wanted to restore faith in the FINAL FANTASY series by going back to its roots, focusing on the story, and making up for what happened with FINAL FANTASY XV,” said Yoshida, Producer of FINAL FANTASY XVI. Naoki said. said through an interpreter in a recent video call.

Final Fantasy XV left an embarrassing mark on Square Enix due to its obscure story. Major plot points were left unexplained, in part due to the decision to distribute narrative details throughout the animated film and anime series.Some downloadable content aimed at expanding the backgrounds of important characters completely canceled.

However, whether Final Fantasy XVI’s new focus on story content resonates with gamers remains an open question.

If Square Enix goes too far in serving nostalgic fans, it risks creating the perception that Final Fantasy is out of current gaming trends. Focusing too much on new audiences can lead to scrutiny for abandoning your roots. I tried to please both groups, like I tried with Final Fantasy XV. Solid review overall With a high production value, it might safely land somewhere in-between creative mediocrity.

Star Wars viewers witnessed a similar dynamic in the latest trilogy. Critics praised the second episode, “The Last Jedi,” for providing a new perspective on the space opera by suggesting that ordinary humans could become Jedi, but franchise supporters saw the episode as breaking scripture. hated the work. In response to the backlash, the Rise of Skywalker, one of the most critically acclaimed Star Wars films of all time, reversed these infractions.

Final Fantasy’s most distinctive original gameplay feature, a turn-based combat system in which players switched between character parties and chose actions such as casting magic spells on enemies, was discontinued over 15 years ago. rice field.

Some people still like that system, but as consoles become more powerful, gamers—he is no exception—have come to expect fast-paced action, Yoshida said.

Final Fantasy XVI also takes on a noticeably darker tone than its more lighthearted, child-friendly past. The game begins with the invasion of the protagonist’s kingdom and the brutal slaughter of his family. Yoshida said the decision to take this direction reflected the harsh conditions of the modern world.

“By showing the bad side, it emphasizes the good side and makes it feel more real,” he says. “But as you know, Final Fantasy XVI is essentially a story about love and a story about hope.”

Yoshida said that the decision to focus on one character in Final Fantasy XVI was largely driven by its modern combat design. The player controlling Clive must rely on timing and reflexes to attack and avoid enemies. Yoshida said adding more characters to the party would require players to master multiple skill sets, which would make the game too complicated.

Stories centered around a single character often adhere to Joseph Campbell’s concept of the hero’s journey, in which someone ventures into the unknown, overcomes danger, and returns transformed. This formula has produced such video game heroes as Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter, as well as Link from The Legend of Zelda and Lara Croft from Tomb Raider.

Still, that structure can constrain game designers, says Subik Mukherjee, an assistant professor of cultural studies who leads research on video games as a storytelling medium at the Center for Social Science Research in Kolkata, India. Other characters the player encounters appear to exist only to help the protagonist, as the camera remains primarily fixed on the protagonist.

Mukherjee said some games using that approach have found a way to tell a compelling story, citing the story of Red Dead Redemption 2 gang member Arthur Morgan and the group’s leader. pointed out his deteriorating relationship with Dutch van der Linde.

But Square Enix could struggle to achieve similar feats. The stories of blockbusters such as Final Fantasy VI (1994) and Final Fantasy VII (1997, rebooted in 2020) were revealed through multiple characters and intersecting narrative perspectives.

The first few hours of Final Fantasy XVI show the game’s efforts to tell a complex story involving multiple kingdoms at war. The game will test whether Clive’s solo journey (he meets a few companions, but mostly with just his dog) is a successful storytelling mechanism for the story.

The series includes Yuna from FINAL FANTASY X, a summoner determined to banish evil monsters, and FINAL FANTASY VII’s childhood friend who saves the game’s main character, Cloud Strife, from danger. It also has a rich history of portraying strong women, such as Tifa Lockhart. Mental breakdown.

Video game developer and longtime fan of the series, Brianna Wu, said another reason Final Fantasy XV worries fans is the fate of women. The game gives little airtime to the main character’s fiancée, Lunafreya Nox Fleuret, murders her, and overly sexualizes mechanic Cindy Orlam, who was constantly exposing her cleavage. expressed.

“As a gamer who loves Final Fantasy of powerful women, I feel like they’ve been really down the wrong path for a long time in terms of representation,” she said. “Clive sounds interesting, but I’m really excited to see what they do with the women.”

Square Enix producer Yoshida said the story of Final Fantasy XVI will resonate with gamers across generations. By following Clive from adolescence to adulthood, the storyline will resonate with younger players just entering the real world, as well as older gamers who know what the real world is like, he said. Told.

Perhaps more importantly, whether Clive’s story can turn a waning series into the influential game it once was.

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