Final Fantasy XVI will be the first numbered Final Fantasy game with a Mature rating. The presumption might be that developer Creative Business Unit III wanted this game to have more violence to go along with its new action-packed combat, but that’s not the case. The team gave the note little thought – it came naturally, according to various CBUIII members I spoke to for our FFXVI cover story.
“In fact, we often get this question – people ask us if the rating has gone up because [we] wanted to make a more violent game, and the answer is no,” said producer Naoki Yoshida. “On the outside, it doesn’t seem [the rating system] changed. You still have your E, you still have your Teen, and you still have your Mature. The problem is that over the years, as more and more games have been released and as we move forward, the regulations within them have actually changed a lot.
Naoki Yoshida, producer of Final Fantasy XVI
Yoshida says the team understands that these ratings are ultimately about protecting children from sensitive content, but it’s even more restrictive on what a studio can do in a game. He says that before, studios could do “much, much more”, but now “we find ourselves unable to do the same to get the same mark as before”. An example he gives is that it’s okay to kill a zombie violently today, but if that character is a human, you’ll push the odds more. Say someone gets stabbed with an arrow, says Yoshida, that won’t be allowed with a Teen rating anymore – it’ll immediately get you to an M rating “because it’s too realistic now” in cases where games push for more accurate visuals.
It also discusses the differences in grading systems between different regions of the world. In the end, however, CBUIII made the game it wanted.
“We wanted to create something that was based on reality, felt really real, and spoke to complex and violent themes such as war,” Yoshida explains. “You can’t have a war without certain images. Clive is in the trenches, fighting for his life, covered in dirt and blood. Once you start limiting that when you’re trying to create something very real […], it takes the player out of reality and makes them feel more like a game. That’s what we didn’t want to do. So rather than maintaining the Teen rating, which would have limited a lot of things we could do and [what we] show in cutscenes, the Mature rating allows us to tell the story we wanted to tell the way we wanted to tell it.
“We do not strive to create violent or sensationalist content. We just wanted to create […] the story we wanted to tell that is going to feel real and the story that will resonate best with the players without hiding anything. It is by authorizing itself that the Mature notation [that we’re allowed] not holding back and telling the story we want to tell.
I ask Yoshida if he and CBUIII were concerned about Square Enix’s pushback, as a mature rating could theoretically limit the player base. He says it was okay, joking that maybe he isn’t as scared of his corporate overseers as he should be. But ultimately, he said Square Enix understands why the team needs to be free from scoring constraints with FFXVI. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Yoshida is on the board of Square Enix, who he had to break the news to either.
Director Hiroshi Takai echoes Yoshida’s thoughts, citing that the Mature rating has “enabled us to be able to […] show more now that there are fewer restrictions on our narrative and how we tell our story.
“The Final Fantasy series has always been about trying to get as many people as possible to play the game, and that’s why historically this series has aimed for the lowest ratings – like Teen – to put the game between the hands of as many players as possible.
He says that in the past it was much easier due to hardware restrictions. But as consoles get more powerful, the visuals get more realistic, and getting a lower rating is more difficult.
Hiroshi Takai, director of Final Fantasy XVI
“With new generations of hardware and visuals becoming more and more realistic, if you want to tell a story that feels real, it has to look real too,” says Takai. “By showing the [realistic] visuals, it’s hard to keep that in the lower rated areas because it gets so visceral, and I think you can see that trend from PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 when the graphics got a little more realistic.
“By stepping up, it allows us to tell the story we want to tell without having to fake it. If you’re trying to tell a war story, but you can’t show blood, it won’t be realistic.”
Takai reiterates that CBUIII doesn’t use the Mature classification to make FFXVI hyper-violent – it just helps the team maintain a “real feel”.
Localization manager Michael-Christopher Koji Fox said the Mature rating allowed him to broaden the dialogue because “there are certain words that will take you from a Teen rating to a Mature rating, and if you are stuck with a Teen rating, you should avoid these types of words, even if the character appears to be a character who would use these types of words.
Final Fantasy XVI Localization Director Michael-Christopher Koji Fox
He says that if you feel like a character is avoiding words they would probably say, that character no longer feels natural, which is something the Mature rating allowed CBUIII to avoid.
“Like it or not, a lot of people around the world swear, and it’s part of how they communicate,” Koji continues. “Having a whole world where no one swears at all just doesn’t feel like a real world.” He adds that that doesn’t mean all the characters swear though – there are people in the real world who don’t, after all.
“While Clive will use [swear words and Mature language] every once in a while we tried to do it in situations where it suited, like, ‘Oh, a giant boulder is coming my way.’ Of course, they’ll say, ‘S—!’ But he doesn’t use it in everyday conversation because it’s not Clive’s character.
If you’ve been following the FFXVI trailers, you’ve heard and seen how that Mature note appears in the game’s action and dialogue. for that blanket journey, and I can’t wait to see how far this game takes him this summer.
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