The director of the only recent Final Fantasy that’s been a solid hit points to something that’s been increasingly creeping into the games, and that he’d like to scale back.
While it’d be an exaggeration to say the series has gone completely off the rails, many fans and critics would say that Final Fantasy has lost its way in recent years. In particular, Final Fantasy XIII and XV left many who played them disappointed, with the Final XIII trilogy requiring three very different games to wrap up its hazy narrative ambitions and XV never quite seeming to fully deliver on the promises it made during years of preview videos and trial versions.
But on the other hand, Final Fantasy XIV has been on a consistent upswing in popularity for the past several years. Following a disastrous launch, publisher Square Enix brought in current producer/director Naoki Yoshida to massively overhaul the massively multiplayer online role-playing game, and since the release of Final Fantasy XIV’s 2014 A Realm Reborn version, it’s been healthily supported by gamers and largely free of criticism.
▼ Trailer for Final Fantasy XIV’s newest update, Shadowbringers
With Final Fantasy XV director Hajime Tabata having resigned from Square Enix last October, and company hotshot Tetsuya Nomura focusing on the in-production remake of Final Fantasy VII, some see Yoshida as the best candidate to take the wheel of the series’ future. Last weekend, Yoshida made an appearance at the Final Fantasy XIV Fan Festival in Paris, where he was asked “As a director, in the online future of Final Fantasy, what sort of elements do you think you should deliver to players in Final Fantasy XVI or XVII?
Yoshida’s answer, however, dealt more with what he doesn’t want to put in his Final Fantasy games:
“This is my personal opinion, but I don’t want them to include many machines, mecha/robots. I’d really like to see a Final Fantasy that’s a straight fantasy story.”
For those who haven’t played each and every installment, it might sound strange to hear the opinion that Final Fantasy isn’t “fantasy” enough, but Yoshida had a point. The opening hours of Final Fantasy XV have the game’s heroes cruising in a four-seater luxury convertible along asphalt highways winding through a landscape heavily inspired by the American southwest, complete with greasy spoon roadside diners. After that, they hop on a motorboat and head to a stand-in for modern Venice, and the game’s finale takes place in a location that’s in many ways a copy of Tokyo’s real-life Shinjuku neighborhood. Meanwhile, Final Fantasy XIII had so many technological elements that upon its release at least one Japanese media outlet described it as the latest chapter in Square Enix’s “science fiction series.”
Against that background, Yoshida’s desire to see the franchise take a step towards the medieval/Renaissance-inspired settings that it used to feature becomes much more understandable, especially when Final Fantasy XIV has far less machinery than XIII or XV and also far more goodwill than either of the two troubled installments.
Of course, it’s worth noting that Final Fantasy XIV isn’t completely old school in its aesthetics and story either. Yoshida himself acknowledged that the Garlean Empire, a major antagonistic force in Final Fantasy XIV, is such a threat because its more technologically advanced than the players’ factions. Final Fantasy XIV also has a crossover event in the works with fellow Square Enix title Nier: Automata, a game which falls squarely in the scienc fiction genre and is set in the year 11945 AD.
All the same, Yoshida’s idea to give the series’ future games a heavier dose of fantasy, in order to make sure they’re not the final ones for the franchise, is one worth looking into.