How ‘Final Fantasy XVI’ can reconcile with its colourful past and storied present

The game’s apparent time travelling narrative could be just what the series needs to revitalise itself

From the opening moments of the Final Fantasy XVI announcement trailer, it was clear this new instalment would be an adventure unlike many of the series’ earlier editions.

“The legacy of the crystals has shaped our history for long enough,” a message in the trailer reads, in large, defiant font. With this simple declaration, it appears that Final Fantasy is finally ready to break the chains of its past and move forward, while still working to pay homage to the themes and motifs that brought it to the present.

Crystals have been an integral part of the franchise since the very first game debuted in Japan on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987. They’re often also known as orbs or spheres, and are important to either the narrative and combat system in the world – sometimes both.

These crystals are usually either the complete focus of the narrative, such as with the original Final Fantasy, or used as an ancillary function in Final Fantasy XI. Most importantly, the idea that the series could be moving beyond them – both as a set piece and idea – is a major shift overall for the games.


Final Fantasy I
Final Fantasy I. Credit Square Enix

Most recently, Final Fantasy XV crossed over into a more contemporary setting, as compared to the medieval fantasy or futuristic science fiction worlds of the past. Not only do Noctis and his crew cruise around in a car, but they also use smartphones akin to what we would use in everyday life.

While communication devices had been seen prior to Final Fantasy XV, this was one part of the story that felt as though it was looking to reach forward into the future rather than remain mired in the past, which is what crystals seem to represent.

The entirety of Final Fantasy XV’s realm of Eos felt much like a road trip you could set off on with your friends – albeit with chocobos, magical swords and summons – and it felt like the most forward-thinking adventure in the series.

Final Fantasy VII Remake also adopted a more futuristic approach despite the original game featuring what many would call out-of-date tech and a less modern setting. Every part of that game felt much like traversing a modern city, thanks to its architecture.

As a general rule, the more traditional a Final Fantasy title, the more fans tend to gravitate toward it. Final Fantasy VI is one of the most popular entries in the series beyond the trifecta that most fans agree on are the best – Final Fantasy VII, VIII and IX – and it’s still nowhere near approaching modernity.

Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy IX. Credit: Square Enix

While details about Final Fantasy XVI are currently scant, it certainly looks like it’s going to present us with an amalgam of the worlds the series had put together over the years.


We can also definitively say there’s a prince named Joshua and a character that’s been dubbed “Joshua’s shield”, who could potentially be an older version of Joshua himself. Is it hinting that this new adventure might feature some sort of time traveling dilemma like that seen in another of Square Enix’s classic RPG games, Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross? Who knows for sure.

While the trailer might imply that Final Fantasy is moving beyond its reliance on crystals, it also seems that the series is – at the same time – ready to turn back the clock and return to its medieval fantasy roots. But there’s definitely still room in players’ hearts – or at least, this player’s heart – for mythical creatures, legendary heroes and chosen ones.


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