Final Fantasy XVI is already more focused on western audiences than any previous mainline entry.
From the game’s first trailer and some comments from Producer Naoki “Yoshi-P” Yoshida, Final Fantasy 16 appears to be much darker than most other games in the series. Development also seems to prioritize the experience for western players in regions like North America and Europe: Yoshi-P has revealed that voice capture British English came even before the Japanese, which is a series first.
While it’s too early to tell whether or not this is a good or bad approach for Final Fantasy 16 to take, it’s clear that Square Enix is hopping on the western-focused trend of some other Japanese publishers.
Final Fantasy 16 features the anime-inspired character models, Chocobo birds, and magical creatures you’d expect from the Japanese series.
Siliconera reported Monday that when Producer Naoki Yoshida was on Washanaga, a Japanese livestream published Sunday, he revealed that Square Enix recorded and filmed first with British actors. He also noted that production with the Japanese actors has yet to start, though it’s beginning soon. At the very least, this is a fairly big hint that a 2022 release date is most likely at this point.
The trailer’s medieval aesthetic and British voice actors mirror the approach of popular live-action fantasy franchises like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. Japanese fantasy tends towards the more fantastical, only occasionally dipping its toes into macabre themes.
Game of Thrones also spearheaded the popularity of dark and violent medieval fantasy in North America. Final Fantasy 16 can lean into that trend as a way to distinguish itself from every other Final Fantasy game.
It doesn’t go as overboard as Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin does with its main character wearing a regular t-shirt. Still, the next mainline entry will deliver a world that feels a lot more like the Westeros from Game of Thrones than it does Ivalice from Final Fantasy XII.
This is part of a larger industry trend in focusing on the North American market over Japan. Final Fantasy 16 and even Dragon Quest XII: The Flames of Fate are both some of the darkest entries in their respective franchises ever. It’s been well-documented that Sony is shifting its focus to western studios and franchises over its quirky Japanese games. Square Enix is apparently doing the same.
This might make FF16 more appealing to your casual player in North America, but Square Enix, Sony, and other companies taking this approach need to make sure it doesn’t come at the sake of quality.
Thankfully, the Final Fantasy VII Remake series is still delivering that kind of Japanese-focused experience for fans who prefer that approach. As that subseries will likely continue for the next several years, Square Enix can afford to take risks with Final Fantasy 16 to try something different — as long as it doesn’t compromise the story or gameplay.
Final Fantasy XVI does not currently have a release date.