The key to Final Fantasy XVI’s success is its story - but it’s also Naoki Yoshida’s biggest worry
Final Fantasy XVI producer Naoki Yoshida has revealed he firmly believes that the thing that will set the game apart from its many contemporaries is its story - but that also makes it his greatest fear in preparing to send the project out to the public.
“My biggest thing, and I guess it's my biggest worry - but the one thing that I’m looking for is how people think of the story,” Yoshida revealed during a chat with RPG Site as part of FF16’s final media tour, where a select few were able to play around six hours of a near-final build of the game.
“I want to know how people think when they get to the end of the game and they've finished watching all the way to the end of the credits, and what they feel at that moment. How will they feel? That's what I want to know. I want to know if they're going to say, 'this was the greatest thing ever', or 'this was a really interesting story'. I'm just waiting to see how the fans react to the story, because that's what we've put so much effort into.”
Throughout the interview, Yoshida places a strong emphasis on the team’s focus on delivering a full story multiple times, drawing a comparison to Final Fantasy XV, and the sorry state in which it launched - in a state that many fans felt were half-finished.
Focusing on the story in this way isn’t just about making right on the problems of FF15, however - it’s also about making something that can stand apart from its peers - something Yoshida made clear when asked about how he feels FF16 can stand out from other action games with relatively stripped-back RPG mechanics of a similar style, which are increasingly common now. How, exactly, does FF16 set itself aside from the likes of God of War or Jedi survivor?
“While we're moving to action and we put a lot of effort into creating action, it's got to be about the story. Final Fantasy is about the story,” Yoshida argues. “We put our main focus, even more than action, on that story. And you look back at the previous games, at FF15 - they had their story, but it wasn't complete. And then they try to make it complete, and then they promise some more story, but then they don't give us the story...
“And so you had a lot of people that went into the series wanting us to give them a great story, and they didn't get that. And a lot of people were disappointed in that. Like, even if they liked the game, they're left wanting because one of those main pillars of the Final Fantasy series, stories, was not given to them. And so we wanted to make sure that we had our first and foremost focus on the story and we think that is going to set us apart from all those other games out there.
“In those games, yes you're going to have action, you can have those RPG elements... But are they going to have a story that is as engaging as FF16's story? I think that's what sets it apart.”
Yoshida's excitement and worried anticipation for the reception of FF16's story is understandable, as it has been produced differently to past titles. Most notably, it is English-first. While the story was written by Japanese creators including Creative Director Kazutoyo Maehiro, that work then passed to localizers led by FF14's Michael-Christoper Koji Fox, an in-house translator who led the charge on crafting that story for the English audience.
Voice recording took place in English first under Fox's supervision, with that script and performances translated back into Japanese for that version. In the hands-on, the positive impact of this on the presentation of the story for Western players is keenly felt.
Yoshida notes that he’s also interested to see what hardcore action gamers think of the RPG systems, and what Final Fantasy fans make of the action gameplay - but really, it’s all about the story.
“When it comes down to it, all I really want to know is what people think of the story,” he concludes.
He won’t have long to find out. Final Fantasy XVI will be in stores in exactly one month. You’ll be able to read more excerpts from our chat with Yoshida, plus the interview in full, over the course of this week.