For years, myself and others have wanted Square Enix to go back to the roots of their iconic Final Fantasy franchise. It wouldn’t be their first time, as the series’ ninth mainline installment did just that – doing away with the majority of futuristic elements found within the previous three entries (though moreso in VII and VIII) in favor of good ole’ medieval swords and wizardry. While both Final Fantasy VII and VIII did absolute gangbusters in sales, Final Fantasy IX is arguably remembered the most fondly of the three PS1 franchise entries, and for good reason.
It’s no secret that many feel like the series has lost its way over the past decade. In Final Fantasy XIII we saw a heavier emphasis on action combat that, while nice, couldn’t make up for the lackluster story and supporting cast. Final Fantasy XV performed well, but at what cost? Years upon years of development, only to receive comparable sales figures to that of Final Fantasy VIII. Is it a good game? Sure, but is it what diehard fans wanted in the first place? Probably not.
But before you call myself and other like-minded individuals “get off my lawn” geezers, consider this. Naoki Yoshida, producer of Final Fantasy XIV has stated himself that he would like to see a more straightforward fantasy approach taken in the next mainline entry. At the FFXIV Paris Fan Festival a couple weeks back, he had this to say:
“…Personally speaking, I’d like to see a Final Fantasy that is straightforward fantasy, one that doesn’t have much machinery, and with no mecha in it. After all, we’re having trouble with the Garlean Empire being too powerful. Ah, okay, that was a bad joke.”
Why does this matter? First, this man has a ton of integrity for how he turned around the disaster that was Final Fantasy XIV 1.0 into the highly profitable (and competitive) MMORPG we know today as A Realm Reborn. While that’s not to say that all of his ideas have been great, it goes to show that even some higher ups directly involved with the franchise would like to see a return to form, and his influence could very well serve as the tipping point for XVI (whenever it comes) to be built as a high fantasy experience rather than what we’ve received in the past few entries.
But what is a return to form, really? All Final Fantasy games have dealt with some sort of advanced technology, from the works of the Lufenians in the original Final Fantasy to…the Regalia…in XV – a proper balance must be struck between the two extremes. For me personally, a game with a similar setting to IX or XII would be ideal. However I can already hear people saying, “Octopath Traveler and the Bravely Series are right there waiting to sate your fantasy appetite”, and that isn’t a lie. But as much as I loved Octopath Traveler and certain parts of Bravely, they are #notmyfinalfantasy. All kidding aside, I hope we see more out of both franchises, but I still want a straightforward Final Fantasy game.
Some people might claim that a return to roots would be “too much” fantasy, but I call bullcrap on that. That is like saying that the first five Final Fantasies shouldn’t have been ultra-fantastical because Dragon Quest was also doing it, but both series have coexisted just fine from the very beginning to present times. Really people, we don’t have to worry about medieval fatigue setting in while folks are still waking up early to dress as various fantasy characters whilst eating massive turkey legs at Renaissance Festivals across the globe.
Again, there’s a way to blend both technology and fantasy into one ultimate being, and Final Fantasy proved that with many of their games. But it’s the subtlety of the technology that makes for a more robust experience – one I think the franchise is desperate to relive once more.
But that’s just one man’s opinion – what do you think about the potential for Final Fantasy XVI, whenever it arrives, to return to its roots?