Meet the key development staff of Final Fantasy XVI
If you want to know what an upcoming video game is going to be like, one thing is more likely to give you a good idea than anything else: taking a good hard look at the people behind it. For those excitedly looking forward to Final Fantasy XVI, we finally have a better idea of who the various leads are on the project.
Sure, you can read up on the FF16 characters pre-release, and try to glean what you can from the new trailer and world screenshots. But if you ask us, knowing who the staff are on a game such as this is just as important as all that other pre-release hype - as it can really tell you something about the game that Square Enix's promotional machine might not otherwise.
Basically, this is a great way to help predict the nature of Final Fantasy XVI and set your expectations accordingly. So, let's do just that, shall we?
Final Fantasy XVI Development Staff: Meet the Key Players
So, without further ado, here they are - the faces that will be powering the latest Final Fantasy game. Naturally, any video game devlopment of this size is the work of hundreds of people, not just a handful - but these names are the ones in directorial roles, the people who will be shaping the project in the most significant way.
Some of them you'll be very familiar with already; others you may never have heard of before. But here they are, and here's a short biography of each to help you learn about what they'll bring to FF16.
Naoki Yoshida - Producer
Naoki Yoshida doesn't need much introduction to Final Fantasy fans; known affectionately as Yoshi-P, he's the man who stepped in to save Final Fantasy XIV - and arguably the series itself - from irreprable damage when the original release of FF's second MMO went seriously wrong.
Before FF14, Yoshida began his career at Hudson Soft, where he worked on several games including a Bomberman title. After joining Square Enix, he first worked on a number of Dragon Quest spin-offs, before getting the call to helm the reboot of FF14. He was a natural choice for FF14, as he was an avowed fan of MMOs, having spent many hours playing titles like EverQuest, Ultima Online, World of Warcraft, and Guild Wars.
Aside from basic Special Thanks and division-related credits, FF16 will be Yoshida's first major credit outside of FF14 since taking on the FF14 project. While he remains both Producer and Director on the FF14 expansions, he's stepping back to only be a producer on FF16. That leads us on to out next key staff member, FF16's Director.
Hiroshi Takai - Director
Credited as FF16's 'main director' you can think of Takai as Yoshida's go-to man on the project - and in many ways, he has been that for Yoshida for some time.
We have an entirely separate article breaking down the career of FF16 Director Hiroshi Takai in more detail, but the short version is that he joined Square in the early nineties, working Final Fantasy IV and V, before moving on to the SaGa and Mana series', including SaGa Frontier, until he was drafted to the Final Fantasy XI team.
Takai's most telling credit is the 2008 RPG The Last Remnant, a high fantasy affair that looks like it will have a few subtle similarities to FF16. After that game, Takai joined up with Naoki Yoshida and was working on an action RPG that they later described as being rather like Bloodborne - but before Bloodborne existed.
That project was ditched, however, when the Yoshida was drafted to the struggling project that was Final Fantasy XIV 1.0. Takai went with him, joining A Realm Reborn team to help fix that game. He worked on a few expansions, then transferred to an unknown new project codenamed "Faith" - that we now of course know as Final Fantasy XVI.
Kazutoyo Maehiro - Creative Director & Original Screenplay
The man primarily responsible for the story of FF16 is one Kazutoyo Maehiro, a less famous figure among Square Enix developers but one with a surprisingly impressive and varied resume.
Maehiro's first brush with Final Fantasy came with Final Fantasy Tactics, where he worked as an event planner - which in those days meant implementing and in part writing the story sequences. He next worked on Vagrant Story, with the same time, but on that title worked on map and level design, and was actually in charge of the game's maps. So, he's comfortable both writing and working on gameplay systems.
Maehiro's career largely oscillates between these two disciplines; on both versions of Final Fantasy XII he acted as the lead designer of the battle system, but on Final Fantasy XIV he acted as the main scenario writer for both A Realm Reborn and the Heavensward expansion. After this, he appeared to largely move on to FF16. Those familiar with the stories of these parts of FF14 and FF Tactics will have a strong idea of the sort of story Maehiro is likely to deliver.
Notably, Maehiro also worked with Takai on The Last Remnant, so it's another piece of connective tissue between FF16 and that interesting little 360/PS3-era title.
Michael-Christopher Koji Fox - Localization Director
Another beloved name at Square Enix who found his fame through the fanbase of Final Fantasy XIV, Michael-Christopher Koji Fox takes on a similar role to that he holds on FF14 - that of the boss of the game's localization.
His entire career has been in this field, working as a translator on titles like Final Fantasy XI, Dirge of Cerberus, and Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions before finally finding himself on the Final Fantasy XIV team. He's one of the few senior figures from the original FF14 to transfer over to A Realm Reborn, and has remained with the game ever since.
His role in FF16 cannot be overstated, because we know from comments made by Naoki Yoshida that FF16's story scenes were recorded English-first, then translated back into Japanese and other languages - the reverse of series tradition. As the gatekeeper of the English-language interpretation of FF16's story, he will have a significant influence over the narrative of the final product.
Hiroshi Minagawa - Art Director
Hiroshi Minagawa makes a triumphant return to the Final Fantasy series for FF16 - and continues the running theme with FF16 of a strong lineage from Final Fantasy Tactics through to this new game. FFT was Minagawa's first FF, following on from Tactics Ogre, and he then went on to act as the visual design director on FF12.
Minagawa flirted with direction on the PSP remake of Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, but in recent years has largely been most well-known for his work as the art director on recent FF14 expansions. He has an eye for UI too, however, and led the UI design for FF14 on both A Realm Reborn and Heavensward.
Having worked on Tactics, 12, and 14 so extensively, Minagawa's art is arguably the most strongly associated with Final Fantasy after the art of Tetsuya Nomura and Yoshitaka Amano, so he's a fitting figure to step into this role for FF16 - and it's easy for fans to predict what sort of designs he'll be dreaming up.
Ryota Suzuki - Combat Director
Ryota Suzuki made waves back in 2019 when it was revealed he'd left Capcom to join Square Enix to work on an as-then unknown triple-A title that we now know is FF16. And like most staff members, his hiring to join Yoshida and Takai's team as the Combat Director is telling of the sort of game FF16 is likely to be.
Is FF16 turn-based? Certainly not. Will it have playable party members? Probably not. In fact, looking at the trailers, we can see more than a subtle similarity to the last game Suzuki worked on at Capcom - Devil May Cry 5. Before that, Suzuki worked as one of the gameplay design leads on the truly excellent Dragon's Dogma, another action RPG. He also has credits in a range of fighting games, and even as a programmer on Monster Hunter World - so he was all over the place at Capcom.
It's that Devil May Cry connection that makes Suzuki stand out, however, especially with how FF16's combat looks in the recent trailers. In an interview on a Japanese recruitment website talking about his joining Square Enix, Suzuki even commented on what he saw as the company's biggest challenge.
"In the past, command battles were common, but nowadays hardware has improved and games that incorporate action elements are becoming mainstream, even in RPGs," Suzuki said. "It has become necessary for us to establish a system for creating RPGs with action elements."
Kazuya Takahashi - Character Design
Arguably the least well-known name on this top-line list of FF16 staff, Takahashi nevertheless has a quite star-studded resume, starting with a role as a background designer on both Final Fantasy IX and X. In this earlier stage of his Square Enix career he also worked with Yoko Taro on the first two Drakengard games.
Like much of the FF16 staff, his real strong association with Final Fantasy came with Final Fantasy XIV, with Takahashi coming on to the FF15 series with A Realm Reborn as part of Yoshida's get-right team to fix the game. He since then has acted as a character designer on all of the expansions, right through to Endwalker - and now he takes on the same role on FF16.
Takahashi has quite an active presence on Twitter - and through that account, we've seen quite a few glimpses of characters from the world of FF16. He has a distinct style that is a perfect match for Minagawa's art direction.
Masayoshi Soken - Composer
Masayoshi Soken is another much-loved member of the Final Fantasy XIV team, where in true Final Fantasy tradition he has maintained quite a publicly prominent position as the MMO's lead composer. But his story with Square begins much earlier, over twenty years ago.
Soken largely worked on a lot of smaller Square titles including Drakengard 2, Front Mission 5, Dawn of Mana, Lord of Vermillion, and Mario Hoops 3-on-3, working either as a sound designer or composer. But his big break came with the original FF14, where he shared composing duties with several others including FF music god Nobuo Uematsu and FF11 legend Naoshi Mizuta.
Once Yoshida joined for A Realm Reborn, Soken was in the process of taking over FF14's music, paying homage to Uematsu while leaving his own distinct stamp on things. It's here that he found his fame with fans, both as a composer but also as a star, playing FF14's music live on stage at fan festivals alongside fellow FF16 director Michael-Christopher Koji Fox, who'd often sing. The pair are part of an FF14 band, The Primals.
People figured out Soken was the composer of FF16 quite quickly - the first trailer had his musical signature all over it. It is likely Soken will be joined by other composers on FF16, however - no FF since FF9 has been composed by a single musician, and Soken continues to juggle work on FF14 with FF16, and has recently undergone successful chemotherapy treatment for cancer.