Final Fantasy XVI aims for M rating to portray “difficult adult themes”
Next year’s Final Fantasy XVI aims to be the first mainline, numbered game in the franchise to receive an M (for Mature) rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board. That’s according to producer Naoki Yoshida, who told GameSpot in a recent interview that the higher age rating is needed to tell a story with “difficult adult themes.”
Responding to a question about “implied nudity” in a recent trailer for the game, Yoshida complained a bit about age ratings that he sees as “becom[ing] more and more restrictive recently regarding what can or cannot be shown.” While acknowledging that those ratings are important to protect younger players, Yoshida said a lower age rating can be “somewhat of a hindrance” to storytelling.
“You find yourself changing things that you wanted to do in the game based on that rating,” Yoshida said. “You wanted to show something, but because you have this certain rating that you need to go to—you need to move the camera away. And that ends up making the entire experience feel a little bit cheaper.”
To get around that problem, Yoshida said Final Fantasy XVI will be “pursu[ing] a mature rating in most of the regions that will be releasing the game.” That isn’t just for the sake of being “more violent or… more explicit,” he said, but to “explore those more mature themes that the game tackles.”
In the US, early 2D Final Fantasy games have generally received ESRB ratings of E (for Everyone) or E-10+ (for Everyone 10 or older). Series entries from the 3D era overwhelmingly max out at a T (for Teen) rating; Final Fantasy XV, for instance, received a T rating for “Language, Mild Blood, Partial Nudity, [and] Violence.” The ESRB’s write-up of the game’s content noted “realistic gunfire” and impaled characters, as well as “some female characters [that] are depicted topless, with breasts that lack discernible details (i.e., no nipples).”
Only two spin-off games using the Final Fantasy name have received M ratings in the past: 2015’s Final Fantasy Type-0 HD and 2022’s Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin. The latter game’s story didn’t seem to benefit from the rating’s relative lack of restrictions, though; VentureBeat’s review summarized the critical consensus by describing the game’s “ugly graphics, shallow characters, and nonsensical script.”
In other promotional interviews surrounding Final Fantasy XVI‘s planned Summer 2023 release on PS5 and PC, Yoshida revealed that the game will depart from its predecessor by not offering players free-form “open world” exploration. “To bring a story that feels like it spans an entire globe and beyond, we decided to avoid an open world design that limits us to a single open world space, and instead focus on an independent area-based game design that can give players a better feel of a truly ‘global’ scale,” Yoshida told IGN.
Yoshida also promised some extreme variety in the fights between the Final Fantasy XVI‘s powerful Eikons, which can be summoned by gifted characters in the game’s world. “For example, maybe one Eikon-versus-Eikon battle… will be reminiscent of a 3D shooter. whereas another Eikon versus a different Eikon, it’s more like a pro wrestling match, and then maybe even a third with one Eikon versus another Eikon will transform an entire area into a battlefield,” Yoshida told Game Informer. “And so again, we didn’t reuse these systems, and each one of these Eikon-versus-Eikon battles is unique and will change with each battle.”