Final Fantasy 16 Soapbox
Image: Push Square

I'm a massive fan of Final Fantasy. No doubt like many of you reading this, my gaming tastes were shaped by seminal PS1 titles like Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX. As a kid, those RPGs showed me that games could be more than Crash Bandicoot or Tekken 2 — that they could tell epic, 50-hour stories filled with unique characters and high stakes drama. Even on the PS2, there was Final Fantasy X. In all of its angsty glory, I really connected with it as an equally angsty teenager.

But I think my obsession with the franchise really peaked with Final Fantasy XII. Europe had to wait a long time for it — almost a full year after its Japanese release in 2006 — and I remember being hyped beyond belief. Up until that point, no gaming series had struck a chord with me like Final Fantasy did, and for XII, after reading about it for months on end in magazines, I was determined to be there day one, ready for the next amazing adventure.

It ended up being a divisive instalment, but that 10/10 review score in the Official PlayStation Magazine told me all I needed to know. Bought it, adored it, replayed it at least three or four times, and it's still one of my favourite Final Fantasy games today. But what I didn't know at the time was that it would take close to 20 years for the series to excite me like that again.

Final Fantasy 16 Gameplay

Which brings us neatly to Final Fantasy XVI. It's mad to think a franchise that was once so dear to me hasn't caught my eye quite like this in nearly two decades, but here we are. From my perspective, XVI has always had so much going for it. The project has been spearheaded by the team that made Final Fantasy XIV such a phenomenon, and they're joined by former Capcom combat designer Ryota Suzuki.

We're back to a medieval fantasy setting. It's got an actual release date that's stuck. It didn't go through development hell like its immediate predecessors. And, perhaps most importantly, all of the footage we've seen is overflowing with style, polish, and potential. It's rare to see a company that's this confident in its product months ahead of launch.

To be honest, Final Fantasy lost me after XII. I did play and somewhat enjoy Final Fantasy XIII when it came out, but the magic just wasn't there for me. The characters didn't resonate, and the lead up to release was marred by reports of an extremely turbulent development cycle. Plus, there was all of that Xbox-driven controversy that added some unwelcome drama to the whole saga. Unlike XII, it just seemed to crumble under years of expectation.

Final Fantasy 16 Gameplay

It's easy to forget, but Square — back when it was called Squaresoft — was pumping out a new mainline Final Fantasy title pretty much every year. Games were less resource-intensive back then, of course, but the frankly tedious development cycles of both XIII and XV did nothing to win me over. It can be hard to get hyped about a game that's clearly struggling behind the scenes, and that was certainly the case with the aforementioned Final Fantasy XV.

What a strange, patchwork game that was. I like XV, but not once did it ever feel like a complete, cohesive experience — even after it was dramatically improved through the Royal Edition. By comparison, everything we've seen of XVI strongly suggests that there has always been a direction; a vision that the team has worked towards since the concept phase. And for a post XIII and XV Final Fantasy game, that's a huge deal.

That's probably the main reason I'm so onboard with the upcoming action RPG — it's just nice to see the series seemingly back on track. And look, I know some people don't share that sentiment. XVI is walking a bold new path for the franchise, which has predominantly featured turn-based or command-based battle systems up until now — and some fans simply don't like that. But as someone who loves a good action game, and thinks something like Devil May Cry 5 is close to the pinnacle of that genre, Final Fantasy XVI is like a dream come true.

Final Fantasy 16 Gameplay

If it wasn't already abundantly clear, I can't wait for this one, and I say that as someone who's been playing Final Fantasy games for over 20 years. Even if Final Fantasy XVI doesn't connect with everyone, I'd still enjoy seeing Square's series return to the top echelons of the gaming pantheon — a property synonymous with quality. Let's hope it reaches those heights.

Well, Rob's hyped, but how hyped are you? Do you think Final Fantasy XVI will take the series back to the top? Embark on a quest for revenge in the comments section below.