One of the big surprises (well, almost) of the recent PlayStation 5 Showcase, Final Fantasy XVI‘s debut ‘Awakening’ trailer had me floored. Most new Final Fantasy announcements floor me by default, mind, but this one more than usual. Clocking in at four minutes long, this wasn’t just a tease or a logo splash. We got to see a decent chunk of actual game, cutscenes and gameplay and everything, and I haven’t been able to stop watching or thinking about the trailer since. As with every new game in the series, not everything here will resonate with every fan, but I found a lot to get excited about and figured I’d highlight some of what has me the most keen for the next mainline Final Fantasy game.
A RETURN TO HIGH FANTASY
One of the most immediately noticeable things about Final Fantasy XVI in this initial look is that there isn’t a single car or mecha in sight. The game looks to be making a return to the ‘classic’ fantasy trappings that’ll be familiar to anyone who’s played some of the earliest entries in the franchise as well as notable spin-offs such as Final Fantasy Tactics and recent-ish titles like Final Fantasy XIV. It looks like a fairly grim take too, giving off serous Game of Thrones/The Witcher vibes with its heavily European-inspired setting. I’m a huge fan of the fantasy-meets-reality ethos that drives games like Final Fantasy XV and VII Remake, but the time feels right to see something a bit different and from a fresh set of eyes.
A TALENTED NEW TEAM
And a fresh set of eyes is exactly what we’re getting with Final Fantasy XVI. While the likes of Yoshinori Kitase and Tetsuya Nomura are plugging away at the second chapter of the FFVII Remake, Square Enix has handed the mainline series keys to Creative Business Unit III – the team behind Final Fantasy XIV. It might seem radical to entrust the franchise’s big new single-player entry to the MMO guys, but there’s a large portion of the fan base out there that believes that XIV’s narrative is one of the best in the series. Add to that the fact that with this team comes the likes of Naoki Yoshida (affectionately Yoshi-P), who is credited with saving FFXIV from mediocrity and turning it into the powerhouse it is today. Yoshi-P is on producer duties, while fellow FFXIV talent Hiroshi Takai is directing, a pairing that’s honestly the most exciting thing to happen to a mainline entry in a long time.
FINAL FANTASY: COMBAT EVOLVED
Speaking of talent, while it hasn’t been officially confirmed, we know almost for a fact that former Capcom game designer Ryota Suzuki is also working on Final Fantasy XVI as Battle Director. Suzuki-san’s hiring was announced in 2019, for the very same team that we now know is working on FFXVI. With a resume that includes Devil May Cry 5 and Dragon’s Dogma, Suzuki-san’s combat design chops are well and truly proven and should be a good indication that franchise’s push into the realm of real-time combat is only going to continue and get stronger as a result. There’s always the chance long time fans could be put off by some of the action game staples we’ve seen in the trailer like lengthy combos and air juggling but fingers crossed the studio are considering accessibility and varied playstyle in the design.
NOTHING IS SACRED
While we obviously know very little about the game’s core narrative, I’m already very intrigued about some of the themes that Final Fantasy XVI seems to be going for. It can be inferred from the trailer that we’ll be diving into a world where certain, special individuals are able to call on the power of Eikons, this game’s take on summons. It’s not clear how these ‘Dominants’ come into their powers, but it seems they’re quick to be turned into tools of war in an ongoing conflict. Summons aren’t always made pivotal to the plot in a Final Fantasy game, so it’s interesting to see how they’re used and this time around it feels like a darker take that explores the ways in which a society might actually handle these almighty deities. That is to say, not well. We also see call-outs to the ‘legacy of the crystals’ and the idea that there are those that might decry living under the guidance of all-powerful crystals – another Final Fantasy staple explored from a new perspective.
WE WON’T BE WAITING TEN YEARS FOR IT
Possibly the most exciting thing about Final Fantasy XVI is that it might actually come out in our lifetime. Everything in the trailer gives the impression that the game is quite far into development, and doesn’t come off as looking like target renders or flashy teases like we’ve seen from earlier titles like VII Remake and XV. The protracted lead times of those games hopefully won’t be repeated, and I legitimately wouldn’t be surprised if the game is due for a 2021/22 release. Industry talking head Jason Schreier reckons that the game has been in development for quite some time and should come out earlier than people expect. Time will tell, I guess!
Or course, there are enough reasons to be keep the optimism at a cautious level when it comes to Final Fantasy XVI. There are still a ton of unknowns about its narrative – especially when it comes to the main party characters. Will this be another FFXV-style sausage fest or are we just yet to see the non-white, non-male members? Is it just me or does the game look oddly current-gen? Although maybe a break from pushing visuals over all is welcome. Still, with only these four minutes worth of out-of-context scenes I’m feeling extremely positive about the series’ next entry. Check out the trailer above and decide for yourself how you feel.