Few video game releases carry as much weight as the numbered Final Fantasy games. Since the original dropped in1987, each game has set a benchmark in either graphical capabilities, role playing combat/customization, or video game storytelling. On a couple of occasions, a game in the series has set a benchmark for all three. 2023’s Final Fantasy XVI, the franchise’s next entry, certainly has the chance to do just that for a new console generation. We have a long way to go before we get our hands on it, so in the meantime, here’s a list of features Final Fantasy XVI needs to include to make it one of the series’ best.
A Mature Tone
Since the game was announced in 2020, all signs have pointed to Final Fantasy XVI being more mature than previous games. The main character appears a bit older than previous leads, the world has a darker and more realistic setting as opposed to the fantastical or futuristic games, and there’s even (one can presume) a post-sex scene in the latest trailer. All of these components feel fresh for Final Fantasy, but games like Elden Ring and The Witcher 3 have proven there is a strong appetite for RPGs that explore darker themes set in a bleak world. I want Square Enix to lean into those aspects and give us their own spin on mature storytelling… just with the Final Fantasy coat of paint.
Despite wanting a more mature outing, I still would like a laugh coupled with light, fun moments. Maybe the Honey Bee Inn scene from Final Fantasy VII Remake is too much to ask for, but could there be an annoying recurring octopus boss named Ultros? A well-placed cactuar? A stretch of gameplay in a fun, lighthearted part of the medieval setting seemingly ravaged by war and gigantic summons (known as Eikons in the game)? Anything that keeps Final Fantasy XVI from feeling too serious the whole playthrough would be welcomed by me.
Truly, what’s Final Fantasy without its extensive roster of party members? After much speculation about the status of party members, Producer Naoki Yoshida recently spoke with IGN about FFXVI having “companions” who participate in battle, saying they’d be AI-driven like characters in Final Fantasy XV and Final Fantasy VII Remake. These sound like party members, but I’m hoping they get to play more of a role than just participating in fights. These characters should be customizable, with their own weapons to equip and skill trees to unlock. Since the first game, shaping and building your ideal team have been some of the strongest aspects of the franchise and I want to see that continue with Final Fantasy XVI.
Unique Fighting Mechanics
Granted, this is probably wanted in every action game, but as I mentioned, Final Fantasy has a long history with experimenting and offering some of the most unique battle systems in all of gaming. Square’s Active-Time Battle system was revolutionary when it debuted in Final Fantasy IV. In my opinion, Final Fantasy X perfected turn-based combat. And say what you want about Final Fantasy XII and XIII, but each provided unique and engaging takes on combat. As Square Enix continues to evolve its systems to be more action-focused (having recently brought over Ryota Suzuki, of Devil May Cry 5 fame, to be the Combat Director), Final Fantasy XVI should feel as smooth as some of their action-heavy contemporaries, but with as much depth and customization as the best Final Fantasy games.
New Takes on Classic Elements
As we all know, while not being connected plot-wise, the Final Fantasy series has many recurring themes, races, and elements appearing in each of their games. Based on what has been shown so far, summons, crystals, and chocobos will all be playing a big role in Final Fantasy XVI, or at least making an appearance. But, I think the game needs more! Moogles should be effectively weaved into the world. Homages to classes like white mages and dragoons should be paid. And, of course, characters named Cid, Biggs, Wedge, and Gilgamesh all have to show up at some point in the adventure. I don’t have the answers to how all of this should be done. I just believe it should.
A Compelling Rival
Final Fantasy used to be great at delivering really cool rivals. Think about it. The original PlayStation games all featured memorable rivals in Sephiroth, Seifer, and Kuja, but since then, Final Fantasy has been slacking in the rival department. Final Fantasy XVI offers Square Enix the perfect opportunity to get back to their rival roots with the game’s medieval setting, a lead who appears to be a revenge-filled adult, and characters known as Dominants the game’s official website describes as “a single man or woman who is blessed with the ability to call upon” the dreaded powers of an Eikon (Final Fantasy XVI’s version of summons). A Dominant sounds like the perfect person to be our main character’s rival and be the person they’re seeking revenge against.
Obvious, right? For many people, the series’ music is more iconic than the games they’re attached to. Each game has provided memorable character themes, riveting boss battle music, and compelling soundtracks. Final Fantasy XVI is not the time to falter with that legacy. It needs to deliver the goods.
The Best Final Fantasy Story of All-Time
Is it unrealistic to say a game needs to have the greatest story in its series’ 30+ year history? Maybe. But Final Fantasy XIV (the MMORPG most of the team behind Final Fantasy XVI previously worked on) has been said to have one of the greatest stories in franchise history. Considering Final Fantasy‘s history, those are some bold claims. So, to match the boldness, I proclaim that the Final Fantasy XIV team should be able to deliver an even better story with a single-player experience in Final Fantasy XVI.
A Striking and Unbelievable Plot Twist
Not since Final Fantasy VI’s halfway point or Final Fantasy VII’s famous death scene has Final Fantasy been able to deliver a plot twist that truly rocked the gaming world. Final Fantasy XVI should get back to that. I’m hoping for a moment that truly makes players pause the game, drop their controllers, and question what the hell just happened. The best stories do that, and since I’m already calling for Final Fantasy XVI to have the best story in franchise history, it should also be able to deliver an instant classic plot twist.
Final Fantasy Magic
No, I don’t mean the spells Firaga and Curaga (though, they should probably be in the game). I’m referring to the indescribable magic the best Final Fantasy games capture. The type of synergy felt in the games when the story, gameplay, exploration, dungeons, characters, and customization are all complementing each other and working in harmony. You can see the synergy when Cecil sheds his Dark Knight status in Final Fantasy IV, gives up his Darkness ability, and learns Cover and White Magic abilities as a newly formed Paladin. You can feel the magic when you lose a certain character in Final Fantasy VII, as the moment is both shocking emotionally, but also challenging gameplay-wise becausee you need to continue playing without an important party member. That’s the kind of magic Final Fantasy XVI needs to have. The magic that comes through when the game’s story combines with its refined RPG elements to create moments and feelings no other games are able to deliver but Final Fantasy.
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