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I love Final Fantasy 16’s low-poly dog

FF16 continues one great series tradition: the low-poly dog (even if it isn’t as egregious as Lightning Returns’ canine abomination).

There sure have been a lot of low points for Final Fantasy as a series since the halcyon days of the PS1 Final Fantasy era. As soon as FF12 was out the door, the series began to stumble – weighed down by its own legacy, so desperate to reinvent and re-establish its place as an industry leader that it continually made promises it couldn’t keep.

This pre-adolescent identity crisis manifested most clearly in the Final Fantasy 13 trilogy, where Square Enix tried its damnedest to develop a game worthy of the series’ name, but came up against problem after problem after problem – all underlined by the Crystal Tools engine, an incomplete and inefficient platform that hobbled both Final Fantasy 13, and the doomed initial release of Final Fantasy 14, too.

Rumor has it that so much time and money was spent on making this engine work that Square Enix decided it needed to extract as much juice from Crystal Tools as it could once it was (finally) up and running. Hence, the Final Fantasy 13 trilogy was born. The whole thing was a bit of a farce, culminating in Final Fantasy 13: Lightning Returns – a game developed in 18 months with a genuinely good battle system at the heart of it, but little else to write home about outside of that.

Here it is, the infamous FF13 pooch. Look at its face!

The game was something of a dichotomy; on one side you had lush environments, incredible pre-rendered cutscenes, and systems that seem to be actively apologising for the duology of games that came before. On the other side, you have… this dog. The result of making an engine not designed for open world gameplay do… open world gameplay. This dog wasn’t just some background asset that was only funny if you got close enough to really interrogate it, like the cheering crowds in racing games. No. This dog took centre stage. It could be found in a hub. There was a whole quest revolving around it.

This little PS1-style pooch was a central asset in Lightning Returns, and became something of a lightning rod (no pun intended) for the quality of the game as a whole. In this one canine creature, the rushed development and apparent lack of care for Square Enix’s prized franchise was lionised. Poor little guy.

This is the FF16 dog. You'll see him a few times in your adventure.

So, why the history lesson? Well, because Final Fantasy 16 also has a low-poly dog. The beagle has landed, again. But, compared to Lightning Returns, this low-poly pooch looks a damn sight better – and represents just how far the company has come, really. Instead of being a PS1-looking dog in a PS3 game, our barking pal in FF16 looks more like a PS4 dog in a PS5 game. That’s an improvement of three whole console generations!

This new dog – a more throwaway asset than the one in Lightning Returns – fits into its world better. Sure, it’s a less curated creature than Torgal (below) but you only see this flap-eared critter a couple of times in the game; it’s not a companion you have by your side throughout. It doesn’t look out of place, and it doesn’t break your immersion; as much care and attention has been placed on this dog as the grapes you come across earlier in the game.

The most handsome companion.

Final Fantasy 16 is easily one of the most polished and complete games we’ve seen at launch for a while. Better yet, it’s a technical showcase that really outlines what this current generation can do. It’s an expensive, well-executed example of what big budget games can and should be doing in 2023.

And it’s fitting that a little low-poly dog has the power to show that off. Good boy.

Final Fantasy 16 is out now on PS5, and will come to PC at a later date. Probably. You can read our 4-star FF16 review at the link.

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