Final Fantasy: the future of the series, Naoki Yoshida, the remakes and the Stranger of Paradise drift

Final Fantasy: the future of the series, Naoki Yoshida, the remakes and the Stranger of Paradise drift

Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy. A heavy name to carry on your shoulders, an even heavier name to be imprinted on the cover of a video game. A brand that, for better or for worse, when it returns to appear on the market awakens the passions of more than ten million gamers of all ages, of those who grew up in the era of high fantasy, of those who have been weaned from Cloud, Squall and Zidane, of all the new fans who have discovered a world through the travels of Lightning and Prince Noctis.

A series that over thirty years has explored dozens of communicative containers, ranging from the undergrowth of the strategy video game to the turn-based RPG, from the open-world action title to the animated film, from the concert in the hall to, finally, the Battle Royale mobile experience. A saga that has tasted international success and the darkest crisis, which has grossed billions and lost millions, which has set new standards and found itself chasing the creative ambitions of others.

At the dawn of 2022, Square-Enix is ​​preparing to face one of the most dense and complex periods among those that have characterized its history. A future that will see the outcome of the strategies adopted in recent years come to an end and then face the renewal of mammoth products, the continuation of an extremely delicate work and, above all, the presentation to the whole world of a new creative vision.

And it is precisely from Final Fantasy XVI that it is worth starting, the sixteenth numbered chapter of the saga which, more than five years after the release of the last instance, is preparing to change the philosophical matrix once again of the House. The one left by Final Fantasy XV is a difficult legacy: for every enthusiast who has enjoyed the action / open-world drift and the "on the road" adventure aboard the Regalia, there is another one who is ready to criticize its systems , fiction and above all world-building.

Watch on YouTube. Embracing a dynamic formula that, needless to fool, the fans themselves were calling out during the seventh generation of consoles, Final Fantasy XV left behind some glimpses of the saga's soul, coming to light seven years after the his direct predecessor and experiencing a long and troubled period of development that saw the alternation of the efforts of Hajime Tabata and Tetsuya Nomura, two minds at the antipodes on a creative and authorial level.

A mistake that the house has absolutely no intention of to repeat, and it is precisely for this reason that the production was entrusted to Naoki Yoshida, the latest arrival in the "council" of the producers of the Japanese giant, a man recently promoted to the highest levels of management following the string of successes ringed through the universe of Final Fantasy XIV, which force us to take a quick detour.

The company's MMORPG, in fact, recently broke all records of the past and has established itself as the most played subscription-based video game on the planet, currently counting over 24 million active subscriptions. Sure, the World of Warcraft crash concurrent with the Blizzard Entertainment crisis undoubtedly affected the situation, but what started out as a semi-bankruptcy project ultimately turned out to be the largest goose that lays golden eggs in the world. entire portfolio.

And this brings us to Naoki Yoshida, who has recently officially announced the postponement of Final Fantasy XVI without following the slightest complaint from the public. How come no one had anything to say? Well, because Yoshida's name has become a guarantee of absolute quality, and his team has recently packaged, through the release of the Endwalker expansion, one of the best chapters of the entire saga, giving tens of millions of fans an amazing journey at the height of the high-sounding name at the bottom of the work.

Final Fantasy XV aims to brush up on the traditional fantasy-political inspiration of the saga. Closed the new cycle inaugurated through A Realm Reborn, the fourteenth episode proved to be an extraordinary pink apostrophe in the fluctuating epic of the series. Although the typical ecosystem of the MMO has failed to break through the hearts of a large slice of enthusiasts due to its particular nature, in the midst of an era that has known several grievances from the public, the universe of Ethyris is he is proven immune to any kind of criticism. A legacy that now, after the closure of Endwalker, will have to be rebuilt practically from scratch.

Going back upstream, the director of Final Fantasy XVI will be Hiroshi Takai, Yoshida's trusted man who has been by his side during the course of the Stormblood releases, the incredible Shadowbringers and the recent Endwalker, the latest intricate storylines matured under the wing of the fourteenth chapter. The synopsis, consequently, is in fact very close to the inspiration that guided the hand behind the MMOs of the house, staging a world divided between opposing factions that seems to approach the political tradition that underpins Yasumi Matsuno's Ivalice.

The sixteenth episode will be an action-RPG destined to collect the latest technical drift and enhance its critical points, that is the characterization of the characters and above all of the game world, designing a narrative destined to revolve around the social question - from moment that the world of Valisthea lives of precarious equilibrium - as for the Eikon, or the famous Evocations historically central to the economy of the saga which in this case are linked to people defined as Heralds. The protagonist will be Clive Rosfield, son of the Archduke of Rosaria, who will embark on a vengeance journey after a tragic event closely linked to Eikon Ifrit.

It is the Creative Business Unit III that has the reins of the project, the division responsible for the live-maintenance of the MMO, and from the first trailer shown to the public the hand of the artists behind Eorzea was immediately evident, both in the design of the settings and in the characterization of the characters, not to mention talk about the soundtrack, which despite the absence of official confirmation many immediately attributed to the incredible talent of Masayoshi Soken.

Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker has broken all records in the MMO world. This will be Square-Enix's biggest challenge in the future of Final Fantasy: to restore luster to a name that, while gathering millions of new fans under the famous banner, has disappointed the expectations of several members of the "old guard". It is still early to assemble objective speculations but it is quite evident that the aim of the developers is to bring the brand back into the confines of the traditional comfort zone, in the form of its more mature drift that thrives on political intrigue as well as the parallel struggle against deeply adversaries. humans and divine entities.

In addition to Final Fantasy XVI, however, the house has another huge cat to fry, namely the Final Fantasy VII Remake project. Released on April 10, 2020, five years after the first announcement by Business Division 1, the revised edition of the most beloved chapter of all time saw the abandonment of the owner Luminous Engine in favor of the adoption of Unreal Engine 4 , engine that gave birth to an impressive 2.0 version of Midgar.

What sparked the biggest discussions was the fact that the project, supervised by Yoshinori Kitase and Tetsuya Nomura, deviated from the formula of simple operation remake to instead embrace a partial reinterpretation of the narrative universe that supports the planet Gaia. This choice was strongly criticized by the most loyal fringe of the public, enthusiasts who would happily have limited themselves to reliving a one-to-one scale representation of the original work.

The choice seems destined to condition the he entirety of the package, which once concluded and bowed could be configured as a real "rebuild" edition, to adopt a term that has known fortune in the confines of Neon Genesis Evangelion. After all, going backwards seems impossible by now and the concrete specter that stands out against the horizon is that of witnessing the foundation of a complete reinterpretation filtered through the sole creative vision of the controversial Nomura.

The hand of the artists behind the fourteenth episode can be seen from the first images of FFXVI. Diatribes aside, the technical formula of the Remake was able to convince the public and critics, giving a completely new dignity to the metropolis of Midgar and building on the characterization of the most loved characters, modeled and animated to perfection against the background of a system of combat which, although not devoid of edges, has managed to rejuvenate the ancient original formula while keeping the flavor of ATB battles intact.

The biggest problem lies in the rhythm of the operation, because if it will be necessary to wait more than three years for the release of each episode in which the Remake has been fragmented, it will be very difficult to keep the attention of fans alive, especially of all those who have been waiting for such a release since 1997, people who we could define without particular hesitation the public Final Fantasy "core".

It is a little discussed issue, that of audience growth. As has already happened on the shores of Game Freak's Pokémon video games, the critical mass of fans is now in fact made up of people who have followed the brand from the moment of its debut and who today, at the dawn of thirty, are starting to mature different expectations and above all to desire the implementation of a process of growth within the beloved work, both on a technical and a creative level.

If this dilemma remains unsolved, there are several other questions that hover around the release of the second episode of the remake. How far will the narrative go? How profound will the changes to the original script be? How will the progression system be handled since it will be a direct sequel to a RPG? The answers will likely come when a "Complete Edition" is released including all episodes and all additional content. But how many years will it take to make such a package?

Final Fantasy VII Remake has staged an amazing version of Midgar. This is undoubtedly the most complicated operation in which Square-Enix has embarked so far. Definitely more complex, to move on to the next topic, compared to the construction of Final Fantasy Origin: Strangers of Paradise, "revision" of the first Final Fantasy entrusted to the hands of Koei Tecmo and Team Ninja, scripted by the immortal Kazushige Nojima and supervised, among the others, from the inevitable Tetsuya Nomura.

Which, on the other hand, could lead us to reflect on how Nomura-centric the recent management of the company's intellectual properties is becoming since, with the exception of Final Fantasy XIV, Final Fantasy XVI and Forspoken, the artist and author has now assumed leadership roles in every single project that the house has in the pipeline.

Strangers of Paradise is based on the idea of ​​exploring a new current creative, or that of pure action, revisiting the script that first presented the ambition of Final Fantasy to the world. It will, in fact, be a staging of an alternative universe to the one that hosted the adventure of the Warriors of Light as opposed to Chaos in 1987, destined to offer a reinterpretation of the characters and villains as well as, apparently, to distort the design. br>
How will the Remake continue? And it's not just about the story: how will the game mechanics evolve? Regardless of the doubts that have flourished around the reinterpretation of high-fantasy stylistics in favor of a decidedly contemporary visual impact, the dormant potential of a soulslike style approach - even if it would be more correct to call it "Nioh-like" - is under the eyes of all. Even if in the end such a technical mat should prove unsuitable to enhance weaves that are now part of the legend, it is essential to experiment in different directions, and it is even more so in a historical period like this, in which the series lacks a standard formula to which to remain firmly anchored.

That the project is in the midst of a dense phase of experimentation was confirmed by the implementation of the surveys following the conclusion of the demos proposed to the public, evidently designed to collect as much feedback as possible and act Consequently. And going beyond the discussion regarding the internal and aesthetic characterization of the protagonists, the interpretation of the combat system - which undoubtedly remains the central element of the project - has what it takes to do justice to the fantasy of the series, by borrowing some ideas from the fifth chapter of the saga.

These are the four great tests that the Final Fantasy brand will face over the next few years: building an action rereading of the origins of the series from scratch, filing the continuation of the most massive remake operation ever attempted, to present a numbered episode that is new in all respects as well as successfully inaugurating an unprecedented main trend for the MMORPG experience.

Despite having a good technical basis, Final Fantasy Origin has still many doubts to dispel. Most read now

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Square-Enix is ​​not new to having to deal with such impactful transition periods, since it has clashed with post-PlayStation 2 weaknesses and has lived through the alleged crisis more than anyone else. obsolescence of the turn-based combat system.

The will of the house, as simple on paper as it is intricate behind the scenes, is to project once again into the future a brand that has written the last thirty years of history of video games.

"There will always be a new chapter of Final Fantasy". It is with these words that we closed the celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the saga, recalling how between ups and downs it turned out to be a hotbed of emotions that has very few comparatives in the fabric of the medium.

The prediction turned out to be correct, there will always be a new Final Fantasy, and today we can see at least three on the horizon. Which, on the other hand, brings us to the next question: in what terms will we be able to talk about the saga in five years?

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