Discussing the “difficult question” of character diversity in an interview with IGN, Yoshida acknowledged his comments might be “disappointing” for some readers.
Trailers released for the game to date have mostly featured white characters, and Yoshida was asked whether fans can expect to see a more diverse cast including Black characters, or people of colour, in the final game.
“Our design concept from the earliest stages of development has always heavily featured medieval Europe, incorporating historical, cultural, political, and anthropological standards that were prevalent at the time,” he responded.
“When deciding on a setting that was best suited to the story we wanted to tell—the story of a land beset by the Blight—we felt that rather than create something on a global scale, it was necessary to limit the scope it to a single landmass — one geographically and culturally isolated from the rest of the world in an age without airplanes, television, or telephones.”
Due to the isolated nature of the game’s setting (Valisthea), Yoshida claimed it couldn’t realistically be as diverse as the real world, or even other Final Fantasy games that play out across a variety of locations.
“Ultimately, we felt that while incorporating ethnic diversity into Valisthea was important, an over-incorporation into this single corner of a much larger world could end up causing a violation of those narrative boundaries we originally set for ourselves. The story we are telling is fantasy, yes, but it is also rooted in reality.”
Because the game enables players to experience themes of conflict, struggle and oppression through realistic battles, Yoshida also claimed “it can be challenging to assign distinctive ethnicities to either antagonist or protagonist without triggering audience preconceptions, inviting unwarranted speculation, and ultimately stoking flames of controversy”.
He added: “In the end, we simply want the focus to be less on the outward appearance of our characters and more on who they are as people—people who are complex and diverse in their natures, backgrounds, beliefs, personalities, and motivations. People whose stories we can resonate with. There is diversity in Valisthea. Diversity that, while not all-encompassing, is synergistic with the setting we’ve created and is true to the inspirations from which we are drawing.”
Yoshida previously said Final Fantasy 16 uses British English only and no American accents, in order to channel the game’s medieval Europe setting.
In another new interview, Yoshida told Famitsu that Final Fantasy 16’s release date will be announced later this year. It’s currently scheduled to arrive in the summer of 2023.