Ever since 1987, Final Fantasy has been defining the JRPG genre. Leveling up, medieval and magical worlds, turn-based combat, in-depth narrative, and engaging characters were the characteristics that people look for when they play a Final Fantasy. With Final Fantasy XVI, the latest entry in the main series, players have begun to question if Final Fantasy is still the JRPG of the past. However, the franchise has been redefining what a Final Fantasy is for some time now.
For the main, numbered games in the franchise, Final Fantasy begun changing during Final Fantasy VI. Technology had begun to sprout in the world of Final Fantasy VI, and Square Enix went all in on that with the release of Final Fantasy VII. Cloud Strife and his friends are in a world dominated by technology, with many similarities to real-life. Motorcycles, helicopters, and trains are seen everywhere in the game, and this is where the question can be raised: what is the definition of Final Fantasy? And the answer is very simple.
Final Fantasy Grows With Its Audience
As Final Fantasy’s audience grew up, so did the franchise. The evolution from the first game in 1987 to today is like night and day, completely different. And with Final Fantasy XVI being the first game in the mainline series to be rated mature, it is clear that Final Fantasy is not the simple series from before. But that does not mean that Final Fantasy XVI is not a Final Fantasy game. As time has gone on, the game has transformed itself over and over again. Combat, story, and RPG elements have all been changed for every game.
Take Final Fantasy X, one of the most beloved in the franchise. The sphere grid was the main focus of leveling up and gaining new abilities, but was never seen again afterwards. Final Fantasy XV focused more on an action-style gameplay instead of the turn-based combat that has been a part of every game until then. Every game in the series is mixing the pot and bringing in new ideas to keep fans returning to the series. Final Fantasy XVI transformed the combat and RPG elements to focus more on the action and narrative instead of spending time in menus. Hironobu Sakaguchi, known as the creator of Final Fantasy, even stated that Final Fantasy will always continue to evolve.
— 坂口博信 (@auuo) August 14, 2023
Modernizing the Greatness of Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VII is seen as one of gaming’s greatest accomplishments. Square Enix’s first step into 3D, along with a memorable story and characters. With Final Fantasy VII Remake, Square Enix knew to adopt a more action-focused gameplay instead of the original’s turn-based combat. This change is the biggest sign of Final Fantasy’s evolution to today’s gaming world. The story also was changed, leaving many gamers questioning why. Not only is Final Fantasy evolving, but so is the original stories we know and love.
To introduce Final Fantasy VII to a new audience, along with the original fans, Square Enix chose to take a different approach on the story. We all know the original story at this point, with Cloud and Sephiroth becoming gaming icons as hero and villain. The remake travels a different path, and is a sign that Final Fantasy is not going to be the same games of the past anymore.
The original Final Fantasy VII still holds up this day, but mainly due to ports to modern systems with changes to accommodate. A fast forward feature to quicken combat and traveling and an invincible power-up available at any time make the game much easier to approach today. These features are another example of why Final Fantasy VII Remake changed the gameplay, as turn based combat has been seen as sluggish by most gamers. Games need to be fast and action-packed constantly to hold the attention of gamers nowadays, with only a few games holding an exception. Final Fantasy VII Remake is going to be what many gamers grow up with, and will be the story most will remember for years to come. The original will always be available and still is one of gaming’s greatest achievements, but the remake will be the game most will choose to play.
Final Fantasy Defined
So what is Final Fantasy? It is simply whatever Square Enix chooses to do with it. Spin-offs have taken the gameplay to new heights and many different paths. Strangers of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origins is a action-focused retelling of the original Final Fantasy, and Final Fantasy:Tactics takes the turn based gameplay to play more as a tactical RPG, similar to games like Fire Emblem. Final Fantasy has always been offering different ways to play and enjoy the stories told. Naoki Yoshida, the director of Final Fantasy XIV, the critically-acclaimed MMORPG that has taken the gaming world by storm, said in an interview with IGN what he believes defines Final Fantasy.
Yoshi-P says whatever has these 7 things is "Final Fantasy" to him #FF16
1. Awesome story
2. Awesome graphics
3. Awesome battle system
4. Awesome music
5. Large volume gameplay feel
7. Moogles pic.twitter.com/cXjda6qlPT
— Genki✨ (@Genki_JPN) August 15, 2023
To go further, Yoshida stated that as long as a Final Fantasy amazes people, then it is fine to be called a Final Fantasy. Yoshida is also a producer for Final Fantasy XVI, which has no shortage of moments that are simply amazing. The combat director for Final Fantasy XVI, Ryota Suzuki of Devil May Cry fame, has said that Final Fantasy XVI is his personal masterpiece in combat. When playing the game, every encounter with an enemy builds adrenaline, mastering combos with all the abilities available at the press of a button, not needing to wait your turn to execute a simple attack. With all games becoming faster paced, so too did Final Fantasy.
Moving Towards the Future
Final Fantasy XVI is a sign of what is to come in the future for Final Fantasy. The sales have impressed Square Enix, and Yoshida plans to be a part of the making of the next game. Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, the next part in the trilogy of the remake for Final Fantasy VII, is to be released in 2024. The games of the past are being released as pixel remasters on modern platforms, along with speed-up features to accommodate the slower pace the games have. And Final Fantasy XIV will be releasing a new expansion, named Dawntrail, in Spring 2024.
Final Fantasy is as popular as ever, and the creator of Final Fantasy agrees that Final Fantasy XVI is the path the franchise should continue to follow, stating that is the “ultimate Final Fantasy”. Whatever direction Final Fantasy is taken, one guarantee is that it will continue to amaze us, just as it always has. For a full-depth review of Final Fantasy XVI, please see our review at KeenGamer.
— 坂口博信 (@auuo) August 14, 2023