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Are Final Fantasy 16’s Highs Enough To Justify The Lows? – TheFantasyTimes

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By Nikita Gambhir

Are Final Fantasy 16’s Highs Enough To Justify The Lows?



Observing the response to Final Fantasy 16 unfold in real-time is captivating, to say the least. If I were to quantify it, I would estimate that approximately 10% of fans are currently dissatisfied with the game’s new action-oriented approach and minimalistic RPG elements, while the remaining 90% are consistently amazed by every aspect, including the much-debated side quests. However, it seems to me that the discussion is oversimplifying its perception into two damaging extremes: denying the series’ right to evolve (which our Matt defends in his review) on one side, and accepting the flaws as long as the positives outweigh them on the other.

Personally, I find neither viewpoint appealing. I address the first perspective in our roundtable discussion and acknowledge that Final Fantasy 16 is a change for the better. However, I don’t want to disregard the other viewpoint, which I find more concerning. Ignoring the flaws of FF16 does not speak to the future of the series, nor does it contribute to shaping the unique combination of elements we collectively call a Final Fantasy game.

For example, let’s consider the fans’ preoccupation with proving that side quests hold meaning or justifying their formulaic design. It is evident that the side quests (as well as much of the main story) are straightforward and often resemble fetch quests. While they efficiently progress the narrative, they lack structural diversity, meaningful choices, or other engaging mechanics such as unlocking hidden locations or transforming previous areas. These quests do not embody the “world-building” excuse many fans use to justify their simplicity. Interestingly, many fans leverage this “world-building” argument to normalize simplistic quests and downvote those who disagree. So, I ask, why are we hesitant to hold Final Fantasy to higher standards?

I understand that we still bear the scars from FF15’s disastrous launch, but FF16 also suffers from creative choices that hinder its potential. The barren, monotonous areas devoid of any substantial variation, the unexciting main quest padding, the underwhelming quality of Eikon battles following the Bahamut space battle. These aspects are not game-breaking, but they are underwhelming. It is perplexing to witness how these constructive criticisms are dismissed with platitudes such as “no game is perfect,” “everyone has their own opinion,” “you weren’t forced to play,” or “I enjoy X, which you don’t, so I’m content.” Such responses shut down meaningful discussion and encourage settling for mediocrity, even when criticisms stem from a place of love for the series. Final Fantasy 16 simply offers less than its predecessors in certain areas, and it is hard to dismiss that as a mere matter of opinion or taste necessary for the series’ evolution.

Furthermore, speaking of evolution, changing direction does not necessarily mean abandoning one’s roots. Yakuza 7: Like A Dragon takes a bold leap into the JRPG genre while retaining everything that makes a Yakuza experience meaningful, such as side quests, mini-games, and action sequences. The Trails series combines new gameplay elements with each installment while continuously expanding its narrative core. And then there’s Final Fantasy 7 Remake, a project built on the concept of providing more – more locations to explore, more activities to engage in, and even a choice between action and turn-based combat without sacrificing the latter. The developers could have rested on the laurels of the original Final Fantasy 7 and repackaged it for a modern audience, but they went all out to enhance every aspect of the game and its world, not just combat and story like in the case of Final Fantasy 16.

In summary, it is possible to love Final Fantasy and criticize it simultaneously. In fact, the criticism of Final Fantasy 15 is what led us to this point, and even the producer of Final Fantasy 16 acknowledges this. Pointing out the flaws of FF15 not only contributed to the improved “Royal” version but also influenced the producer to envision FF16 as a complete story in one package, rather than a fragmented experience like its predecessor. Remaining indifferent to the quality of Final Fantasy is just as misguided as criticizing its evolving direction. Ultimately, no one benefits from such a passive attitude.

NEXT: Final Fantasy 16: Desires for Future DLC

Watching the reception to Final Fantasy 16 unfold in real-time is intriguing, to say the least. If I were to quantify it, I’d say that about 10% of fans are currently dissatisfied with the game’s new action garb and minimalistic RPG quirks, while the remaining 90% are consistently blown away by every single aspect, including the much-debated side quests.



But, with respect to all parties, it seems to me that the discussion is oversimplifying its perception into two damaging extremes: denying the series’ right to evolve (which our Matt protects in his review) on the one side, and tolerating the flaws as long as the positives outweigh them on the other.

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RELATED: Final Fantasy 16’s Clive-Centric Story Was A Bold Move, And I Love It

Personally, I find neither stance appealing. I address the first stance in our roundtable discussion and acknowledge that Final Fantasy 16 is a change for the better. But I don’t want to ignore the other stance, which I find more concerning. Ignoring the flaws of FF16 does not speak to the future of the series, nor does it help shape the unique mass of elements we collectively call a Final Fantasy game.

Final Fantasy 16 Titan Hugo

Take, for example, the fans’ preoccupation with proving that side quests are meaningful or justifying their formulaic design. It’s obvious that the side quests (and even much of the main story) are fetch-questly straightforward. They indeed don’t waste time getting to the point, but they lack structural variety, meaningful choices, or other mechanical gimmicks like unlocking new secret locations or terraforming previous areas or anything else that would translate the “world-building” excuse many make for them into some tangible essence.

In fact, many fans in debates leaverage this “world-building” point to normalize having quests that are simplistic in nature, as if creating meaningful and compelling quest go against the goal of building the world, and downvote those who disagree. So I ask, why are we hesitant to hold Final Fantasy to higher standards? I get that we’re all still scarred from FF15’s disastrous launch, but FF16 is also riddled with creative choices that hinder its potential. The barren, compact areas devoid of any non-aesthetic variation, the boring main quest padding, the low quality of Eikon battles after the Bahamut space battle. None of these things are game-breaking, but they are shoddy.

Final Fantasy 16 Clive Flame

It’s baffling to see how all of these constructive ideas get lost to platitudes like “well, no game is truly perfect”, “everyone’s entitled to their own opinion”, “no one forced you to play the game” or “I like X which you don’t so I’m good.” Such rebuttals shut down discussion, they encourage ‘settling for less,’ even if the criticisms come from a place of love for the series. Final Fantasy 16 simply offers us less than old Final Fantasy games in some areas by a noticeable margin, and it’s hard to brush that aside as a matter of opinion or taste, to accept it as a necessary part of the series’ constant metamorphosis for the sake of evolution.

ALSO READ: Castlevania: Curse Of Darkness Was The ‘3D Symphony’ That Everyone Forgot

And speaking of metamorphosis, changing direction doesn’t necessarily have to be synonymous with shedding your old skin. Yakuza 7: Like A Dragon takes a drastic leap into the JRPG realm, but preserves everything that makes a Yakuza experience meaningful (side quests, mini-games, action sequences, etc). The Trails series mixes and matches new gameplay elements with each iteration, but the narrative core never stops growing.

And then there’s Final Fantasy 7 Remakea project literally built on the concept of giving you more, more places to visit, more activities to engage in, and even both action and turn-based control schemes without sacrificing the latter for a modern vision. The developers could have basked in the glory of the old Final Fantasy 7 and repackaged it for a modern audience, but they went all out on all fronts to flesh out eveyrthing about the game and the world, not just combat and story as in the case of Final Fantasy 16.

Final Fantasy 16 Clive Jill (2)

Long story short, you can love Final Fantasy and criticize it at the same time. In fact, the criticism of Final Fantasy 15 is what brought us to this point, and the producer of Final Fantasy 16 himself acknowledges this. Pointing out the flaws of FF15 not only helped shape the updated “Royal” version, but also had the producer define the direction of FF16 as a “complete” story in one package, rather than a plethora of scattered material like its predecessor. Remaining indifferent to the quality of Final Fantasy is just as misguided as criticizing its changed direction, and in the end, no one will benefit from such a passive attitude.

NEXT: Final Fantasy 16: Things We Want To See In Future DLC

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