Following the launch of Final Fantasy XVI, there has been some controversy regarding the title’s identity, which is really not a new conversation topic at all. Final Fantasy VII’s original launch, Final Fantasy XV’s release, and Final Fantasy XIII’s debut all faced similar elements of controversy.
Due to various facets of Final Fantasy XVI, such as its action combat, mature rating and themes, and setting, it has been deemed by many not to be an authentic Final Fantasy experience. And this notion is, at least from what I’ve seen, always encapsulated by those shackled by the past and/or have a specific game or two they use to define the franchise.
Of course, it should go without saying that Final Fantasy XVI is indeed a Final Fantasy game. And aside from bringing up non-points like the title of the game itself, one of the most evident strings of commonality within this franchise, even for the mainline entries, is how much they differ. From settings to gameplay ideas, each entry has its own takeaway on what Final Fantasy is, continuously molded by the perceptions of the development team at the time. For instance, Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy X, and Final Fantasy XII couldn’t feel more different in their approaches, yet they’re united under one banner.
Final Fantasy’s mainline outings have always embraced innovation at their cores, bolstered by shifts in genre, both drastic and slight, storytelling design, and so much more. These games are all self-contained fresh experiences that don’t restrict themselves to presumptions. Honestly, with Final Fantasy XV taking a more action-centric approach than previous games, it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Final Fantasy XVI would take that base idea and evolve it to significantly greater extents to a degree where it’s unrecognizable from what came before.
As for the medieval-esque setting, Final Fantasy isn’t new to that. The most obvious comparison one can make is Final Fantasy IX. Those who find the medieval setting offputting or not fitting for Final Fantasy have likely defined the franchise by Final Fantasy VII or another game, meaning they may only be a fan of that entry or entries, which is completely fine. But I don’t think being a fan of one or two particular titles equips you with the knowledge of what the series is like as a whole. Essentially, Final Fantasy has very, very general labels that can be morphed as they wish.
The maturity controversy is another oddity and one I don’t really understand. Final Fantasy has always had mature elements, and even if they’re dialed up in XVI, it’s not like the sheer notion of it all is wholly foreign. Final Fantasy Tactics is the first comparison that comes to mind, even if I don’t possess a deep history with the game. XVI reminds me of that title tonally in several regards. And then there’s also Type-0.
Probably the strangest bit of contention Final Fantasy XVI is receiving, though, has to do with the frankly bizarre Kingdom Hearts references countless individuals are making. I used to think it was only a handful of people comparing parts of the game’s storytelling to Kingdom Hearts, but it is, in fact, far more than you may initially assume.
The first thing I think about whenever anyone tries to call any Final Fantasy title’s storytelling Kingdom Hearts-like is how, whether they choose to be truthful or willfully ignorant, Kingdom Hearts got its narrative writing points from Final Fantasy. Time travel, the power of friendship, and elements some deem too “anime” are inspired by Final Fantasy’s takes on those concepts.
This same reaction occurring to Final Fantasy XVI has me perplexed beyond belief because the only points of similarity I found with Kingdom Hearts were specific parts of its combat design. Anytime someone tries to blame their incomprehensibility or dislike of something story or character-related, they pivot to Kingdom Hearts by default. For those who have victimized themselves into such a trapped mentality, it’s honestly rather disturbing and pitiful to witness.
Contrary to what anybody says, Kingdom Hearts is not complicated or arduous to follow. As long as you pay attention to all of the games’ content and are capable of just a bit of critical thought, you’re good to go. To be entirely candid, Kingdom Hearts is one of the most straightforward series I’ve ever played because it goes out of its way to directly tell you instrumental story threads, character motivations, and so much more. It holds your hand in countless crucial regards.
Not being able to follow the storyline is on you for either not paying attention or going into the series with the bad faith mindset that it’s incomprehensible. You’re intrinsically setting yourself up for failure because you want to dislike Kingdom Hearts. People self-inducing themselves into Kingdom Hearts hatred grasp at any culturally-perceived fault with all their heart, gripping onto them like their lives depend on it because if they don’t, their entire collective world will shatter. They’re afraid of facing the reality of being wrong, even if it’s humorously conspicuous.
Instead of admitting and realizing that Final Fantasy XVI’s change is what makes it a meaningful new mainline adventure, there’s an urge from many to label it as Kingdom Hearts, one of the internet’s laughing stocks, because they lack the basics of media literacy. It’s simultaneously exhausting, amusing, and distressing to see this all unfold because these people never change, and they probably never will. Then there are also people blaming Tetsuya Nomura for the apparent failings with Final Fantasy XVI, which, uh, should tell you all you need to know.
Ultimately, Final Fantasy XVI is a Final Fantasy game, and conclusions stating otherwise are more likely than not rooted in delusion.
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