Final Fantasy is one of the most long-standing and popular video game series of all time. The first installment was released way back in 1987, and the series has been successful since. The franchise has seen over 50 released games since its start, with 16 main titles and dozens of spin-offs. The most recently released mainline title was the 16th game, which launched in June of this year. Final Fantasy XVI (FFXVI) launched to very favorable reviews, with 87 percent on “MetaCritic,” a popular gaming website that pools reviews for many video games.

As the weeks went by, though, various journalists and writers claimed that this game did not feel like a Final Fantasy game since it played drastically differently than the previous entries. While this opinion is very subjective, it could not be further from the truth. FFXVI is without question a Final Fantasy game, sticking to the series’ philosophy of focusing on having a vision unique to the director, and therefore should be considered part of the series.

Final Fantasy is a series that is built on change. The interesting twist about this series is that every numbered installment is a brand new start. The characters, world and stories in FFVI and FFVII are also completely different. Every game in the series has had some kind of major or minor innovation. Some games have changed small things, like the rhythm and pace of combat or the way characters learn new abilities, but every mainline entry is defined by change.

Naoki Yoshida, director of the fan-favorite FFXIV and producer of FFXVI, had this to say about the controversy — “Final Fantasy is whatever the director making the latest installment thinks is the best game, the best story of the time.” In just this one quote, Yoshida sums up the motto of the series

FFXVI marks the greatest change to the series from a gameplay perspective. Every main Final Fantasy game in the series (with one exception) has what is called “turn-based combat” — each character (and enemy) has a set turn and may select one of many actions for their characters, ranging from attack to defense to the use of magic.

FFXVI ditches turn-based combat for an action system. Instead of a menu popping up and having characters take turns, the combat is in real time. This means you have full control over everything the character does. Instead of clicking the attack command, the player must press the attack button. It’s a change that gives the player much more control over the action. This change has been loved by many, but many have also said this drastic change does not hold true to the game’s roots.

FFXVI should not be demonized for bringing such a drastic change to the series. It still stays true to series traditions — the story of every mainline Final Fantasy game is the centerpiece. These games are epics that have runtimes of anywhere between 30 to 50 hours and storylines that are rich and extravagant with diverse and unique characters.

Take Clive Rosfield, the main character of the latest game. He is a former prince, whose country was invaded, and eventually, he was sold off into being a mercenary and slave. For most of his life, all he has done is kill those his higher-ups have pointed their sword at. Final Fantasy is defined by its lovable yet realistic characters, and FFXVI has them in spades.

Keep in mind, Final Fantasy as a series does not have a holy transcript that every director must follow. The series in itself is open to any new player since every mainline game is a fresh start. It’s understandable if a fan of the classic games does not like where the newest installment goes, but to say it’s “not a Final Fantasy game” is inherently wrong. Remember that exception from earlier? Here it comes into play.

FFXV was released in 2016. The kicker here is that it was originally announced in 2006. It took a whole decade for this game to be developed. FFXV was the first game in the series to have action-focused combat, and when it came out, many fans were saying how it didn’t feel like a Final Fantasy game. Notice the pattern? When innovation occurs in a long-running and beloved series, there will always be fans and detractors.

FFXVI undoubtedly has an incredible amount of love and passion put into it. I have played many games in this series — both main and spin-offs — and quality stays true to the series’ history. While FFXVI wildly differs from its predecessors, that does not matter. It still holds up the series’ philosophy of being a heartfelt story with innovative gameplay and realistic characters. FFXVI is, by definition, a Final Fantasy game. It’s in the title, and the soul of Final Fantasy is here in spades.

Nicolas Scagnelli is a senior majoring in English.