Sony PlayStation State of Play March 9, 2022 Wednesday PS4 PS5 games Japan Japanese developers maybe Square Enix Final Fantasy XVI

For the First Time Ever, I’m Excited for a Final Fantasy Game

I have a complicated love-hate relationship with Japanese role-playing games. I can’t stand bloated, melodramatic plots, yet I still adore many of the worlds and their characters. My dislike of grinding is offset by my enjoyment of strategic, over-the-top battles. I abhor when a JRPG’s runtime sniffs at 100 hours, but I finish them all the same. The genre’s music, at least, is almost always stellar — I can’t think of a JRPG that has particularly atrocious tunes. As I play most of them, you’ll often find me griping about them online. And despite all this, I have no nostalgia or interest in what many consider the best the genre has to offer: Final Fantasy. Until, that is, Final Fantasy XVI.

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I blame Chrono Trigger for my disinterest in Square Enix’s flagship series. I played it before any other, so every JRPG afterward I’ve compared to the time-traveling classic. The character design, story, music, and gameplay couldn’t be beat in my mind, so Final Fantasy never really grabbed hold of me when I gave the likes of Final Fantasy VI and VII an honest shot. Final Fantasy X caught my interest, but by that time my older brother and I weren’t capable of sharing as I was in my early teens and him in his late teens. (Constant arguments over who got to play PlayStation 2 or GameCube in each of our rooms after school necessitated a rule from Mom that we couldn’t play each other’s console, so I missed out on all the PS2 Final Fantasy games but did get The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. I think I still won that trade.)

Ironically, I now have a PlayStation 5 and my brother doesn’t. As such, I’ve been following the build-up to Final Fantasy XVI, and developers like the renowned Naoki Yoshida have said all the right things about it. So I went ahead and squeezed in some time with the demo in-between Diablo IV sessions and my stressfully slow playthrough of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.

Unfortunately, I came away genuinely excited to play more and terrified how I’m going to fit it in my overstuffed gaming schedule.

first time excited for Final Fantasy with XVI FF16

Final Fantasy XVI and its demo open with a bombastic fight between two massive monsters called Eikons that I’m pretty sure was inspired by Gandalf’s fight with the Balrog beneath the Mines of Moria, followed by another bombastic fight between two massive Eikons but with soldier-stomping and political intrigue sprinkled in. Sweeping orchestral scores with notes of classic Final Fantasy tunes accompanied both. These opening sequences pulled me in with nostalgia and anticipation I didn’t know I had, made all the better by some surprisingly decent English voice acting. Despite a few mouthfuls of proper nouns – Valisthea, Mothercrystals, other nonsense – there wasn’t anything to trigger the “hate” part of my love-hate for the genre.

Jumping right into the combat tutorial as a much younger Clive Rosfield after these scenes, I wondered if Final Fantasy XVI is even a JRPG at all — a debate for another time. Regardless, having played God of War Ragnarok fairly recently allowed me to get a quick grasp on the fluid combat mechanics, from simple sword combos to a couple fiery spells.

Some more political intrigue later and I was off with a couple bros to slay some goblins, and I ran into the first hitch: Bosses had a bit too much health to whack away at, making Clive’s effort to defeat them seem more like hitting a brick wall rather than a chubby goblin boss. However, cinematic attacks have me intrigued to see them in action against more meaningful foes. Unlockable abilities also seemed somewhat rote: I could’ve sworn I used the same air slashes and lunge attacks in just about every Tales Of game.

Still, it’s early in the game, and whether an action RPG or a turn-based one, I am excited for the sixteenth Final Fantasy. The character development all around seems a notch above that of most other JRPGs, and so too does the English voice acting. So much so that, for the first time in a long time, I might not switch to Japanese voices. The music is on point, and while I could do with fewer kingdoms and side characters to remember, this world has me more than keen on picking up the game at launch – a first for me and the Final Fantasy franchise – as I was quite disappointed when the demo concluded.

Also, there’s a puppy named Torgal. I need more baby Torgal in my life.


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Author
Lowell Bell
Lowell is a freelance contributor with The Escapist that began his career reporting on live events such as the Penny Arcade Expo and E3 back in 2012. Over the last couple of years, he carved a niche for himself covering competitive Pokémon as he transitioned into game criticism full time. About a decade ago, Lowell moved to Japan for a year or two but is still there, raising a Shiba Inu named Zelda with his wife while missing access to good burritos. He also has a love/hate relationship with Japanese role-playing games.