Recently, I was lucky enough to be invited to the Square Enix office in Tokyo to be among the first in the world to have hands-on playtime with Final Fantasy XVI, the epic new mainline series entry being helmed by Final Fantasy XIV’s Creative Business Unit III and its fearless leader, Naoki Yoshida.
You can read all about my experience with more than two hours of the game right here, but there were also some interesting game details to be learned outside of the demo, both in a presentation from Yoshida-san beforehand as well as an intimate roundtable talk with some of the wider lead talent afterward.
Something that stuck out to me in that initial briefing was the emphasis from Yoshida that Final Fantasy XVI would tell a complete story on release.
“One thing that was important to us was to tell a story that was complete, that had a beginning, a middle and an end, and we think that we have succeeded,” the man often referred to as Yoshi-P explains.
“To facilitate this, there are over 11 hours of cinematic cutscenes in the main scenario alone, all seamlessly interwoven into the game experience, playing in-engine, in real time.”
Now, I know what you’re thinking right away – that is indeed a lot of cutscenes. And whether that excites or terrifies you, it’s hard not to be elated that the team at CBU III clearly recognise where prior mainline Final Fantasy entries have fallen short on telling the full tale (*ahem* Final Fantasy XV).
I had to know more though, and so afterward in our interview I approached both Yoshida and the game’s Localisation Director (and known lore nerd), Koji Fox, with a follow-up question. If there aren’t plans to surround this game with all manner of other media – movies, anime, novels and the like – will there be enough here for lore-hungry fans to chew over?
“In-game we have many, many opportunities to learn about the game world and the lore. And not just through the main scenario, but through side content, whether it be through books, we have a Historian that you can visit, we have things in game where you can learn more about the lore and learn more about the world,” they divulge, before revealing what might be one of the most exciting new features in this game in my eyes.
“We actually have a system where you can pause the game at any time, even during a cutscene and it’ll bring up a lore screen where you can access the lore, you know, if you’ve heard a word in the cutscene that you didn’t recognize or want to know more about. You can do this at any time and, again, we’ve prepared hundreds of entries into this lore book, this encyclopedia type of feature that will allow players that want to get deeper into the world and learn more about the world.
For anyone like me, with a memory like a colander, that needs constant refreshing on names, faces, events and anything in-between this one unique wrinkle sounds magnificent – and surely required a ton of work from the writing staff.
“In addition there is, within the game world, this hub that the player will return to, during his [sic] adventures. And at this hub, there will be different types of NPCs that also give more information about the world. Again, there is a Historian that will give you information about the lore and what happened in the past, as well as a Scholar that will talk about what’s happening currently,” Koji Fox explains further.
“They have this timeline that will give you history lessons in the game to tell you about what’s going on and why things are happening. There’s also a very detailed relationship map that shows the connections between all the characters and how they’re related. So again, we hope that we’ve created enough and put enough of this information in the game that players won’t need outside information to understand what’s going on, because they can get that all in the game”
Don’t rule out the idea of tie-in media in the future though, if Yoshi-P is to be believed.
“If the launch goes really well, and people love the game, and some television or movie company comes up and says we want to make a movie out of your game, then yeah, we’ll be all for that,” he gleefully admits.
You can read more about our time with Final Fantasy XVI and some of its key development team right here.