Final Fantasy Type-0 HD and XV Could Change the Face of the Franchise

Hajime Tabata, director of Final Fantasy Type-0 and co-director of Final Fantasy XV,  has been the subject of several interviews over the last couple of weeks. Among his comments made are remarks about how Final Fantasy XV could determine the future of console games and how Type-0 HD will serve as a stepping stone toward the long-awaited XV (a statement that was solidified with the announcement that a demo of XV will be included with Type-0 HD). While the former statement may be placing a bit too much stock in Final Fantasy‘s impact on console gaming, the latter certainly raises a few questions.

The one that sticks out in my mind is, “What will future Final Fantasy titles look like?” Sure, it’s obvious by this point that the series will take a more action-oriented approach to combat, but this trend has been occurring for at least the past seven years or so—or to put it in more relatable terms, about as long as XV has been in development. What has me more curious is the tone of the games.

As Tabata has revealed (and anyone who has played the PlayStation Portable release knows), Type-0 is a darker installment, intended for a mature audience. Not very typical of JRPGs, which often have a more family-friendly orientation, despite sometimes containing complex battle systems. That’s not to say the majority of JRPGs would be appropriate for a five-year-old, but many are suitable for younger audiences, even if they feature the occasional cuss word or innuendo.

Final Fantasy Type-0 behemoth

For me personally, this seems a bit discordant. Take Bravely Default, for example. While the gameplay requires strategies the average nine-year-old wouldn’t fathom, the tone and story of the game seemed geared to appeal to that demographic, even if it is rated T (for Teen, if you’re unfamiliar with American game ratings). I repeatedly found myself wondering why these characters were so kid-friendly. Sure, Ringabel is a perv, but remember the Japanese aren’t nearly as uptight about sex as Western audiences, and the game was not originally slated for a Western release. Compared to the maturity of the job class system and even the Brave/Default system, it didn’t quite resonate with me.

That is why I am both thrilled and intrigued by Tabata’s revelation. Clearly, Square Enix wants to push Final Fantasy in new directions. Everyone has been focused on the gameplay, starkly contrasting the turn-based battle systems of older titles, but  what about the atmosphere? The Final Fantasy brand doesn’t stand on combat alone. Contrariwise, it is a series known much more for its in-depth and involving plots. Given that, it only makes sense that pushing the boundaries of the series wouldn’t stop at reinventing its combat.

Since Type-0 is a spinoff and not a numbered entry, it would be easy to dismiss the game as a one-off that won’t represent the franchise as a whole. While that could be the be case, Tabata’s admissions seem to imply otherwise. Tetsuya Nomura, director of Final Fantasy XV, has voiced similar statements, assuring us that XV will be the darkest entry in the franchise to date.

Final Fantasy XV Leviathan

Aside from that, the series is due for another shift in focus. Though there are plenty of purists out there, the franchise made major leaps twice in one decade: first with IV (1991), which established the series as story-driven; and then with VII (1997), which took the series in a more somber direction and emphasized graphics and FMVs. Since then, Square Enix has attempted to breathe new life into the franchise several times, most notably by rendering the series into a more MMO-style RPG.

A change has to occur, and it needs to be soon. Following the open world of XII, the franchise made a bizarre 180 with the ultra linear XIII and has been scrambling to find its footing ever since. Spinoff titles and mobile releases have been cranked out at a rapid pace the past few years, but most hearken back to a bygone age of Final Fantasy, and while many fans are clamoring for that to be the norm for console releases, Square Enix is clearly not on the same page.

Final Fantasy needs to find an identity, even if it’s a new one. Fortunately, it appears Square Enix has zeroed in on a direction, and it could just be a darker, more mature style, at least for its big console releases. The crystals willing, we’ll find out more in the coming days with Square Enix’s TGS conference. At worst, we should have a feel for the future when Type-0 HD and the XV Episode Duscae demo release in March.