With Final Fantasy 15 approaching its fourth year since release and the current console generation on its way out, many fans are starting to wonder when the Final Fantasy franchise will get its next mainline entry, and more importantly, what it will look like.
Through recent projects surrounding the series and hints given by Final Fantasy 14 director Naoki Yoshida, slowly but steadily a picture starts to form. Although nothing has been officially announced as of yet, with a series as important as Final Fantasy, the release of a new game is only a matter of time.
Read here about everything we know so far, and find out what Final Fantasy 16 needs to capture fan’s hearts once again.
Final Fantasy 16 release date: development likely already underway
A new console generation historically means a new Final Fantasy, and both the PS5 and Xbox Series X are upon us. While it’s not clear by how much the current coronavirus epidemic may delay console and game announcements, new info on FF16 will likely be released within the year in order to promote it as a title for the new consoles.
On April 1, 2019, a job listing appeared on Square Enix’s official Japanese website. In it, Square was looking for developers to work on a follow-up project to Final Fantasy 14. Furthermore, the initial planning was said to have already been completed, with the division looking to shift into full-scale development.
Since Final Fantasy 14 has been the last title in active development, it can be assumed that this is Squeenix recruiting for the next mainline game. Despite the date of the posting, it was generally not believed to be a hoax, mostly due to the fact that the company’s new fiscal year begins on April 1, and Naoki Yoshida had just been promoted to the board of directors.
His promotion is one of the reasons people generally believe Yoshida to be involved with the next Final Fantasy. In a video interview all the way back in 2017, he hinted that he’d love to work on Final Fantasy 16, calling it “ideal”.
Yoshida’s success in rebooting Final Fantasy 14 puts him in a great position to direct FF16. By now he’s got a reputation for being somewhat of a fixer at Square Enix, having helped out with several games while he was directing the Dragon Quest: Monster Battle Road card battle games.
Additionally, Tetsuya Nomura, director for the Kingdom Hearts series and responsible for the concept for Final Fantasy 13 Versus, which was later reworked into Final Fantasy 15, will likely be busy for some time: he’s not only currently working on Final Fantasy 7 Remake, which will be released in several episodes, but also several new Kingdom Hearts sequels.
Final Fantasy 16 setting: back to the roots?
During the Final Fantasy Fan Fest 2019 in Paris, several Western journalists asked Yoshida what his vision of Final fantasy 16 would look like. This yielded two important pieces of info (via Siliconera):
For one, Yoshida doesn’t believe any Final Fantasy title in the near future will be an MMO. This makes sense, as FF14 is doing just fine - there’s no need for the competition from its own ranks. Secondly, he would like for the next Final Fantasy to use a high fantasy setting with fewer machines.
Most Final Fantasy games use a fantasy setting with steampunk elements, such as mechanical soldiers and airships, but especially Final Fantasy 13 and 15, both of which arguably underperformed, had a very modern style. Final Fantasy 15’s modern realm of Eos, in particular, is strongly inspired by North America.
It seems prudent to go the opposite way and try something more a little more traditional in the vein of previous games such as Final Fantasy 9 and 12. Final Fantasy 14’s Hydaleyn, too, does very well with its lush world and story featuring vengeful gods and world-shattering wars. Anyone looking for a more futuristic setting gets that with the Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Final Fantasy 7 originally made the more modern approach successful for the series, but as with everything, variety is the spice of life.
Final Fantasy 16 features: here’s what fans want
Final Fantasy is a series that’s continuously ahead of the rest of the JRPG world. FF15 was famously the first Final Fantasy with an open-world setting, as well as the first single-player Final Fantasy with a multiplayer mode and story DLC. In taking inspiration from Western RPGs that were already using these features, Final Fantasy 15 set out to redefine the series. While the reaction was mixed overall, the game did a lot of things right, here are some things the next part could do to further improve on existing ideas.
Fix the open world
These days almost every RPG has an open world, to the increasing fatigue of many players. There’s nothing to be said against open world setting in general, if done right – a frequent criticism of the open world in Final Fantasy 15 was that there simply weren’t enough interesting things to do. Quests were mostly fetch quests that had no effect on the world at large, and driving around in the Regalia instead of making sure Noctis reached his goal robbed the plot of its urgency. The world of Eos, too, seems to be mostly motorways – fans were missing towns to explore and more characters to talk to. Overall the possible solution seems to be a denser, more interesting world with more possibilities for interaction, as well as side-quests with actual storylines of their own.
The combat system needs another overhaul
In FF15, your AI companions play a central role. Their banter is automated, Ignis drives you around, and even with control over characters other than Noctis later having been patched in, anyone you don’t control fights for you without your intervention. This, as well as the frequently unhelpful camera, turned Final Fantasy 15 into a game that is often beyond your control. Combat in particular feels often either cluttered or a bit uninspiring for how little input it requires from you. While round-based combat is making a comeback elsewhere through games such as Persona 5 or the newest entry in the Yakuza franchise, perhaps it’s not necessary to go that far back – the Active Dimension Battle system used by Final Fantasy 12 offered a pleasant mix between tactical combat and AI-controlled team mates.
A bigger focus on story
It’s not that Final Fantasy 15 didn’t have an interesting story, it just lacked the pacing to tell it well. In order to understand everything that’s going on, Square Enix asked you to immerse yourself in the full media universe – an anime, a film, DLC, and that’s simply a lot of stuff. The side-quests and traveling to the different tombs around Eos also took away from the story, which didn’t really come into its own until the latter half of the game when open-world travel was suspended. Final Fantasy lives off of its characters, of meeting new friends and finding new places to explore. Everything, from the setting to the plot developments, underlines that. Compared to that, a plot that largely comes down to “get into a car and drive to your wedding” didn’t quite cut it. Recent developments in Final Fantasy 14, especially the Shadowbringers DLC, are a great example of an enjoyable fantasy story.