Finally, after almost 2 years we have some new information on Final Fantasy XVI, including a potential release window.
While everyone else focuses on the new story bits, the chunks of gameplay and theorizing. Let me elevate some fears here because Final Fantasy XVI's staff is stacked!
- 1 The Importance of ‘Who Made This'
- 2 Creative Business Unit III Rising
- 3 Director Hiroshi Takai
- 4 Creative Director and Writer Kazutoyo Maehiro
- 5 Localization Director Michael-Christopher Koji Fox
- 6 Art Director Hioshi Minagawa
- 7 Character Design Kazuya Takahashi
- 8 Combat Director Ryota Suzuki
- 9 Composer Masayoshi Soken
- 10 Producer Naoki Yoshida
The Importance of ‘Who Made This'
Probably one of the great shames of the gaming industry today is that the marketing and consumers rather latch on to brands and franchises. And the talented people who made the thing they like. Now that I think about it is probably more of a western thing. Yes, people know who Neil Druckmann from Naughty Dog is, but I believe fewer people know who Amy Henning is. And if you don't, shame on you. My point is that the team behind a game is more important than the franchise it's made for. Some developers create breakout franchises but when they move on to new endeavors, their fanbase rarely follows them.
Creative Business Unit III Rising
The subject of this piece is Final Fantasy XVI's staff. A mainline Final Fantasy that has one name shockingly missing, that of Tetsuya Nomura. For the few uninitiated, Tetsuya Nomura's touch is all over the Final Fantasy franchise. He's been a major creative driving force since the fifth entry and contributed much and more to shaping the Final Fantasy we know today. Later on, he started directing his own series of spin-offs that we now know as Kingdom Hearts.
So to a number of Final Fantasy fans, it comes as a shock that this game is made by that other team. You know, that team behind both the incredible MMORPG's. And a line of Final Fantasy adjacent titles that never reached the mainstream success other Square Enix titles have. But some of which are now beloved cult classics, with some of the best writing in the medium. So I'm here to introduce you to the people behind Final Fantasy XVI. And tell you why you should be excited about it because this team doesn't miss. But if you want to learn more about the story of Final Fantasy XVI, you can visit the official website here.
Director Hiroshi Takai
Hiroshi Takai has been with Square Enix for quite some time now and is a veteran of the industry. Starting off as a debugger on Sega's Ys: The Vanished Omens all the way back in 1988. Since then, he's accumulated quite the track record, especially for those more familiar with older Square Enix titles like SaGa and Legend of Mana. His first brush with Final Fantasy came in 1992, being one of the battle graphic artists for Final Fantasy V. Following that, he managed to build quite the resume. Having worked as a planner for the title Bouncer which was released in 2000 before he got his first directing job as a battle director in 2005.
More important however is what followed after, in the late 2000s Square Enix made Takai director for their first title using the Unreal 3 engine. The Last Remnant was released in 2008 for the Xbox 360 and a year later for PC. A title that tried to, similarly to Final Fantasy XII, bring Final Fantasy Tactic's combat into the new era of triple-A games. To a moderate success, the title wasn't especially well-received by critics. But it was a diamond in the rough, showing a lot of potential that couldn't be realized due to either time constraints or the lack of experience with the Unreal 3 engine.
But as soon as they showed the first trailer for Final Fantasy XVI, I definitely saw The Last Remnant's DNA still lingering on. And with the experience Hiroshi Takai had, working on Final Fantasy XIV these past ten years. I'm certain he'll finally live up to his potential. If you want to check out The Last Remnant yourself, a remaster that fixes most of the technical issues was released back in 2018 for the PlayStation 4 and is also available on Switch.
Creative Director and Writer Kazutoyo Maehiro
Where to start with Kazutoyo Maehiro? He's also been with Square Enix for well over 25 years. And the first title he happened to be involved with as a planner is one of those beloved cult classics I mentioned earlier. Final Fantasy Tactics. Yasumi Matsuno's masterpiece, would arguably influence Maehiro's style of writing in the long term. Final Fantasy Tactics is a tactical RPG that features some phenomenal writing, the type of writing and depth you would not expect in a JRPG and even less so in a video game.
He'd continue to work with Matsuno as a director for Vagrant Story, another criminally underrated JRPG from the year 2000. After that, he worked as a planner on Final Fantasy Tactics. And Battle System Design for Final Fantasy XII. And surprise, surprise as a Lead Planner on The Last Remnant. Which also smelled heavenly of that Matsuno touch when it came to its overall vibe.
Since then Kazutoyo has moved on to work on the critically acclaimed MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV, like most of the Last Remnant team. While he has some development supervisor credits for both Heavensward and Stormblood. Kazutoyo Maehiro is probably most known for writing the Main Scenario's for Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn and the award-winning Heavensward expansion. Especially the latter, convinced with stellar writing and complex characters. A skill probably acquired by working with Yasumi Matsuno do it for over ten years.
Final Fantasy XVI's story already hints at a political mess. Mixed with high fantasy elements and characters that struggle to find their place in it. But I'm cautious because Kazutoyo Maehiro is an evil man that hurt me with just six words. ‘A Smile better Suits a Hero.'
Localization Director Michael-Christopher Koji Fox
First of all, what a guy. What a name. Michael-Christopher Koji Fox, who I'll refer to as Koji from here on out because we're tight like that. He got his start with Square Enix back in the early 2000s when Square Enix was getting ready for the English release of Final Fantasy XI. He's been with Square Enix for 20 years at this point and is currently responsible for anything Localization from Creative Business Unit III. And while he worked on several games since he joined, he's mostly known for his work in Final Fantasy XIV.
And it's a lot of work he did, not only did he help with the world-building. He also created an entirely new language, wrote several of the songs and is the lead singer of the Final Fantasy XIV band The Primals. Fans of Final Fantasy XIV know him mostly as a menace and that really funny guy the Fan Fests and Live Letters. And every time you see a dumb reference to a movie or other games in the game, it is tradition to scream out Koji's name in agony.
That said, Koji had a hand in many of Final Fantasy XIV's greatest moments, and his team continues to do great work to this day. And with him at the helm for the Final Fantasy XVI localization, you can be assured that Kazutoyo Maehiro's material will be elevated by this man. Do also note, that Square Enix does localization a little bit differently from other companies. While some prefer direct translation, Square Enix usually encourages their translators to make the source material shine. So some localizations can vary slightly.
Art Director Hioshi Minagawa
Oh, and would you look at this? Another Square Enix veteran who's been with the company for over 30 years. Allow me to introduce you to Hioshi Minagawa who's been an art director on a number of titles, including Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story. Probably one of his bigger acclaim to fame was that he took over the seat of director for Final Fantasy XII after the original director, Yasumi Matsuno quit Square Enix.
Since then, Minagawa was involved in the development of Square Enix's Crystal Tools engine and later transferred into the Final Fantasy XIV development team. Here he became the Lead UI designer for both A Realm Reborn and Heavensward. Until he transitioned into the role of Art Director for two proceeding expansions; Stormblood and Shadowbringers. And probably some of his best work came in cooperation with Kazuya Takashi, who we'll get into in a moment. And Akihihiko Yoshida, who's probably best known for his art for Final Fantasy Tactics, Bravely Default and the character design for Yoko Taro's games.
Character Design Kazuya Takahashi
Now here is the case of a person, you probably never heard about. But you've most likely seen his work. Whenever you see Final Fantasy XIV concept art, that has this ethereal glass painted look. Chances are that the piece is probably made by Kazuya Takahashi. Who started out as a Field Map Graphic artist on Final Fantasy IX, did similar work on Final Fantasy XI and then transitioned smoothly into XIV.
Here he would then work as a Character Concept Artist for both A Realm Reborn and the award-winning Heavensward expansion. And we'll notice a trend here, where some of the talents who shipped Final Fantasy XIV's relaunch and first expansion. All slowly transitioned into this project. It's almost like their absence from Final fantasy XIV since then has been justified.
What makes Takahashi's art so special. Is the marriage of the previously mentioned Akihiko Yoshida's fun fantasy style. And the ethereal beauty of Yoshitaka Amano's work. The latter had been with the franchise since the first title, and is the origin of what we now identify as the Final Fantasy look. And what we've seen of Final Fantasy XVI's characters and reimagining of known Final Fantasy staples lived up to that and then some. Given Kazuya Takahashi's track record, there is no doubt that he'll bring his A-game here.
Combat Director Ryota Suzuki
Now we come to the first, and probably only name that is not associated with Square Enix. At least until now, Ryota Suzuki was specifically hired to direct the combat of Final Fantasy XVI. And with good reason, a quick peek at his resume should vanquish and doubts. Even if some of the more hardcore Final Fantasy fans still yearn for the turn-based combat of old. By the way, the Bravely Default games do exactly that, being a love letter to those old Final Fantasy games and all that. And you should definitely play them.
Meanwhile, Ryota Suzuki has been working with and under one of my personal favourites Hideaki Itsuno. For the unknowing, Itsuno practically birthed the genre of what we now know as the character action game. Which we'll define action games with a depth in combat you'd normally associate with fighting games. And who would've thought, he and Suzuki worked on several of them together. Most notably on Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and the Capcom vs. SNK series. He then followed Itsuno to work as a planner for Devil May Cry 4 and as a designer for Devil May Cry 5.
And if you have any doubt that this man can't do fantasy combat. I assure you that he can exceed in that field as well. Having worked recently as a programmer on Monster Hunter: World and its expansion Icebrone. But he was also responsible for the gameplay of Dragon's Dogma. Probably one of the best action RPG's ever made, but I'm also very biased towards it. So we can conclude after Suzuki has been working for over two decades with one of the best action game directors working today. Final Fantasy XVI's combat will probably have enough depth and style to produce heaps of insane combo compilation videos.
Composer Masayoshi Soken
Masayoshi Soken is probably one of those guys you've never even heard of if you live outside the Final Fantasy XIV bubble. But allow me to alleviate your fears right here and now, the man has been a protegee of industry legend Nobuo Uematsu. And was even hired by the man in 1998 when he joined Square Enix. Since then he's been working as a sound designer, sound director and composer on numerous projects. Including Drakengard and mainline Final Fantasy titles.
But his acclaim to fame came when started working on Final Fantasy XIV, first as a sound director with the occasional composition. Until he became the MMORPG's primary composer. To put it simply, Soken is a godsend. He and his team have been delivering one of the best soundtracks the industry has to offer, year after year. But it's also the range he works with, for that Final Fantasy XIV has been his playground for a while now. And I dare you to find other titles that effortlessly transition grand orchestra music into a Japanese rock ballad.
And if you still have any doubt about this man's ability, I highly encourage you to seek out his team's work on YouTube, Spotify, or your music streaming service of choice. Masayoshi Soken is one of the most talented composers working in the industry today. And the wider gaming world is gonna find out about him very soon.
Producer Naoki Yoshida
This brings us to the man, who's uniting this team. And also the guy who's been working with most of this talent for the better part of a decade. Final Fantasy XIV director and producer Naoki Yoshida, who also happens to be the man in charge of Creative Business Unit III. It's crazy to think these days, that he made his directing debut all the way back in 1999 as the Story Mode Director of Bomberman 64. And for a man who is now known for saving the Final Fantasy Online brand, and arguably Square Enix as a whole. That he got his start with the company by working on Dragon Quest.
Naoki Yoshida has the reputation of cleaning up troubled projects, one that shined during the crazy story that is the development of Final Fantasy XIV. Since then he's been known and loved by fans as the friendly face of XIV, thanks to his constant appearances on their livestreams. But his management style as a producer is what is probably most important here. The team behind Final Fantasy XIV and now Final Fantasy XVI has been micromanaged to hell and back. To the point that Naoki Yoshida has optimized so much, that he can develop an MMORPG, keep the legacy of another alive and develop a new entry for the franchise.
And if Final Fantasy XIV's continuous success is anything to go by, Naoki Yoshida's name inspires confidence. That quality is assured. And that issues and complaints are being addressed and worked on as soon as possible. Since he's also an executive at Square Enix, and now pretty much his own boss. He seem to have free reign over the Final Fantasy XVI project. And if this still doesn't convince you. Most of the team mentioned here has been a well oiled machine for over a decade. And has been delivering one of the greatest experiences you can have in a video game. So there should be little doubt that they'll easily meet any expectations you'll have for Final Fantasy XVI.
For more news around Final Fantasy XVI and details on the recent State of Play, visit us here at ESTNN.