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16 IS The Ultimate Final Fantasy

I know, I know – I can already hear the comments. But bear with me, because I really do believe it’s true. Final Fantasy 16 is the ultimate Final Fantasy experience. And I think it’s only going to get better from here.

If you’re after a stat-driven turn-based RPG, I can imagine you’re rolling your eyes around now. But that’s never been what Final Fantasy is. Yes, it’s the mode that it was delivered. But it’s the way that many, many franchises have been put out over the years, and none of them have been as huge or important as Square Enix’s flagship franchise.

Its creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi, tweeted that it was the ultimate entry in the series. That was met with… well, about the same level of reaction as this will be. But he’s right. But there are a lot of fans who can’t see the forest for the trees.

Final Fantasy has always been about graphics, epic gameplay, and stories. From the days of sprites, Squaresoft were putting out absolutely gorgeous games filled with incredible things to see and characters you’d never forget. And as technology improved, Square pushed the envelope. They created the greatest-looking games for the PS1 and PS2 too.

And then things changed. It took a long, long time for the company to get used to HD consoles, and trying to balance everything Final Fantasy was known for in an era that was harder to develop for. It’s why we’ve only had three mainline single-player games in the last 13 years.

They struggled with gameplay. Each entry found itself controversial for no reason other than it not being like those that came before. It wasn’t “Final Fantasy” enough, starting with XII. It got bogged down in systems, in pushing graphics… and not enough in pushing story.

Final Fantasy 16 – the Ultimate Final Fantasy?

By ditching its RPG roots, 16 is free to explore a new era of Final Fantasy. It can focus on mindblowing graphics, on characters and story, and on fun, quick gameplay. No getting bogged down in stats and builds – leave those to other RPGs. Let this franchise focus on what it is: blockbuster.

It takes everything we love about the older games, and puts it into a modern context. And I’m not going to pretend it always does that flawlessly. But I agree with Sakaguchi: this is the ultimate Final Fantasy. If it could have been made for the SNES, this is what Final Fantasy would have looked like all those years ago. It’s as simple as that.

On the other hand, The Final Fantasy Remake is the other side of this coin, proving that the old way of doing things isn’t entirely antithetical with modern gaming.

Retro-styled RPGs and games like Baldur’s Gate and Starfield will fill in the gaps left wanting. But let Final Fantasy be what it needs to be – epic, accessible, beautiful and big. And all those things describe this latest entry in the series.

Because ultimately it’s the only franchise that does this at this level. And it has been floundering for long enough.

My final request? Release it on Xbox – because I need an excuse to play it all over again.


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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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Twitter: @matgrowcott