Final Fantasy 16 Is Challenging The Formula & What This Means For Future Games

As a longtime fan of Final Fantasy (FF), I consider myself somewhat of a FF traditionalist. With every announcement of a new FF game, I would groan when the characters were not designed by Nomura, the music were not arranged by Uematsu, or the fact that the gameplay is no longer a turn-based system. Yet, when that new FF game drops, I would be one of the loudest voices hyping it up. I am a hypocrite like that. Final Fantasy is my kryptonite and I will play every mainline FF game that Square Enix pushes out.

So, when I first saw the Final Fantasy 16 (FF16) trailer, naturally I was ambivalent. While FF16 retains certain familiar elements like the crystals and supernatural beings named Ifrit and Shiva, the game looks and feels inherently different. Firstly, it gives off a more medieval western feel. The game looks more like a western action RPG to the likes of The Witcher or Dragon Age than a typical JRPG. Next, tonally FF6 appears more sombre and serious. Maybe it’s the manner of how the characters speak, akin to those old English plays or the game’s color scheme of greys and browns. What is clear is that FF16 lacks the kira-kira that I love in Final Fantasy games.

In October 2023, I caved and bought a PS5 so that I could see how much “damage” Naoki Yoshida and team have committed towards my favourite franchise. After 63 hours of gameplay, I can conclude that FF16 is a solid game. Is it GOTY worthy? Of course not. However, what stayed with me is how FF16 was designed and how it could impact the nature of future FF games.


Despite being a turn-based lover, I must admit that a turn-based battle system is not the future of gameplay especially for a franchise like Final Fantasy. I would even go as far to say that by sticking with this battle system only limits the distance that Square Enix could bring future FF games forward. With FF16, we can see a much improved and intuitive action gameplay since FF15. I love how FF16 fully utilises the PS5 controller, allowing attacks to be executed with style and finesse.

That said, FF15 and FF16 are consecutive mainline titles that only allow players to play as one character only. Does this mean the end to battle party management? I really hope not, because part of the appeal of FF games is managing the cast’s different abilities. It is how players grow to love the characters in a FF game. If we are to consider the Final Fantasy 7 Remake, it is obvious that Square Enix is experimenting on how to bridge battle party management with action gameplay. I hope we will be able to see a more streamlined turn-based action hybrid gameplay in FF7 Rebirth.  


From a narrative standpoint, FF16 challenges the FF formula in several ways. Firstly, this is the first FF game that features an older hero. There are three time skips in FF16 and the majority portion of the game takes place when Clive is in his thirties. As a person who grew up with FF and is now in her thirties, this is so refreshing to see. I hope that there will be more age diversity in future FF games.

With age, surely comes maturity. I’m happy to report that Clive breaks free from the emotionally constipated trope that plagues past FF heroes. One of the reasons why FF16 has more mature storytelling is because we get to see Clive grow as a character and eventually (successfully) communicates his feelings to other people. Could this be the precedent for future heroes in FF games where emotional growth is depicted alongside with their physical growth? After all, what’s sexier than a buff man with a big sword?

A buff man with a big sword that communicates his feelings clearly.

I don’t think my reservations for future FF games will ever go away, because let’s admit it, change is scary and uncomfortable. That said, I don’t dislike the direction that Square Enix is steering the franchise in either. I can confidently say that I am very much onboard on the Final Fantasy ship and am excited about what the future brings. Just a question though, when are we getting another mainline FF game featuring a woman?

This article was contributed by Yang Safia. When not hoarding books and makeup, she enjoys reading books and playing video games. She has yet to write that fantasy novel that’s been living in her head. Follow her on Instagram or read more of her writing on her blog.

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