Final Fantasy XVI‘s June 22, 2023 release date is rapidly approaching, and one of the more telltale signs that a game is tracking well towards its release is when the game starts to receive classification ratings in a range of different regions around the world, and today one of the biggest of all, the ESRB have dropped their rating on the game explaining how and why Final Fantasy XVI earns itself a Mature 17+ rating.
The Mature 17+ rating cites “Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence” but expands in more detail with its summary, which reads,
This is an action role-playing game in which players assume the role of an enslaved prince (Clive) on a quest to find his missing brother. From a third-person perspective, players explore a fantasy kingdom, complete various quests, and engage in battles against enemy soldiers and fantastical creatures (e.g., trolls, orcs). Players use swords and magical attacks (e.g., fireballs, lighting strikes) to kill characters in melee-style combat. During fighting sequences, players can perform cinematic attacks/finishing moves by following on-screen prompts. Battles are fast paced, accompanied by impact sounds, cries of pain, and large explosions. Blood-splatter effects frequently occur when characters are slashed and killed. Cutscenes depict additional acts of violence and blood: a character’s hands severed by a sword; a guard’s throat slit by a knife; a character impaled through the chest; a prisoner’s shoulder stabbed and twisted by an interrogator’s blade. The game contains some sexual material: a character caressing and straddling a man in bed; references to prostitution—sexual moaning sounds in a brothel; dialogue such as, “I’d be happy to show you…provided I can afford it” and “…thank you for your service. My chamber is just upstairs.” Some characters are depicted with partially exposed breasts and buttocks. The words “f**k” and “sh*t” are heard in the game.
For Final Fantasy, a Mature rating is something unusual, but Final Fantasy XVI has embraced a darker and more violent tone. Recently, Hiroshi Takai, the Director of Final Fantasy XVI spoke about the rating, saying,
In the early stages of development, we decided that we wouldn’t tell a juvenile story. Some of the major considerations were the age range of the players we expect to form our core audience, and also that we have an increased capability to portray things, in several meanings of the word. You say it’s a more “violent” direction – but the key point here is that we didn’t want to just make things more extreme, we wanted to show things more realistically and naturally.
The world of Final Fantasy XVI is wracked by endless wars between nations, so we inevitably had to include scenes of battle. And if a character doesn’t have any blood splatter on them after slashing someone with a sword, that ends up looking unnatural with modern graphical capabilities – which creates an even stronger sense of dissonance. I’m sure the series will continue to butt up against this question of depicting things realistically and naturally in the future as well.