We only know so much about Final Fantasy XVI, Square Enix’s next big single-player behemoth in its 34-year-old Final Fantasy franchise. In fact, with the massively popular MMO Final Fantasy XIV delivering record subscriber numbers, Google still asks me on occasion if I meant XIV when I type XVI into the search bar. (It’s pretty annoying.) And yet, thanks to its splashy and mesmerizing reveal trailer last September, we still know enough for me to present you with five reasons why Final Fantasy XVI will amaze us.
All of us. Every single one of us. 7.88 billion human beings will be bedazzled. (OK, fine, yes, I’m getting carried away.)
5.) The Hardware
It’s the least among the five reasons why Final Fantasy XVI is going to rule, but it’s absolutely worth a mention. The PlayStation 5 is a powerful machine, and Square Enix has never let hardware strengths go to waste.
I was too young at the time to fully grasp what I was looking at, but I still remember seeing Final Fantasy VII cinematics on-screen during an advertising commercial and being blown away. The ad heavily featured Cloud riding his motorcycle, but it included flashes of Sapphire WEAPON’s assault on Junon and other epic moments. The PlayStation finally had a gorgeous game. Flash-forward a few years and Final Fantasy X pulled it off again for PS2. And for all its flaws, Final Fantasy XIII‘s graphics sold the PS3 like no other.
There’s a pattern here. I’ll be the first to say that graphics aren’t always as important as great gameplay and a good story when it comes to JRPGs. But Sony has consistently relied upon FF at its event showcases as a hallmark in excellent production values. Final Fantasy XVI will amaze us in even better ways, but there’s a darn good reason why its announcement trailer happened at September’s PlayStation State of Play last year. I suspect we’ll see more at State of Plays to come.
4.) The Combat
Combat mostly took a backseat to character introductions and interpersonal drama in the Final Fantasy XVI trailer, but the bits of battle that we did see are more than enough to include it in this list of five reasons the game is going to rock.
Last June, Ryota Suzuki joined Square Enix on a top-secret project. This was more than a bit eyebrow-raising, as Suzuki was a key designer on two of Capcom’s best combat-oriented games: Devil May Cry V and Dragon’s Dogma. Fast-forward to October, just a few weeks after Final Fantasy XVI‘s reveal, and Suzuki was officially confirmed to indeed be working on the sixteenth entry as its lead battle designer.
This guy knows his stuff. Both DMCV and Dragon’s Dogma are action-driven video games. They’re also quite different from each other, which demonstrates Suzuki’s wide range of talent. Dig deep enough into the nuts and bolts of the Final Fantasy XVI reveal trailer and you’ll see why the combat’s another reason the game will amaze us.
It’s fast-paced and frenetic, but unlike Final Fantasy XV, it looks like it’s got a great rhythm that never relents but still allows for strategic moments. In that sense, it has the potential to wow us with an even flashier take on the Final Fantasy VII Remake battle system. And that game’s battle system is really, really solid. We still don’t know much — it seems like protagonist Clive taps into the power of various summon spells between sword slashes, which is rad — but I’m excited to learn more soon.
3.) The Maturity
Look, I love entries like Final Fantasy X. They’re charmingly anxious and fueled by teen angst. Not to sell them short; the best of them weave wondrous tales with darker themes than one might expect looking at a goofball with mismatched shorts like Tidus on the cover. In some ways, even Final Fantasy VII and its remake series fit the bill here. These are all games produced by Yoshinori Kitase’s team at Square Enix, including the likes of Tetsuya Nomura and Kazushige Nojima. If these names mean nothing to you, don’t worry about it. The point is, they tend to create these sorts of games.)
Final Fantasy XVI will likely tell a different kind of tale. One woven with similarly darker themes as its Kitase-produced brethren, but outwardly harsher with more moment-to-moment dread and, to be honest, likely a far stronger script. Everything we’ve seen of it thus far suggests Final Fantasy XVI will stand among relatively mature giants like Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII.
And to be clear, I’m not just pointing out the fact that young Joshua (the official website list the kid as a mere 12 years old when this happens) gets his assassinated father’s blood splattered all over his face during what appears to be the game’s prologue. Depending on how such things are written, they can range from powerful moments of despair to try-hard, “edgy” cringe.
The third-highest of these five reasons Final Fantasy XVI is worth the wait could have instead populated more disparaging lists if the story came across as less grounded and genuinely mature. But…
2.) The Story
…by all current accounts, that’s not the case. Final Fantasy XVI‘s reveal trailer opens with Clive looking purposefully out-of-place among his peers and stern superior as part of a hostile military battalion. He’s ordered to kill someone entitled “the Dominant.” We soon see an epic conflict play out as two Eikons (staple summon monsters from the FF series), namely Shiva and Titan, duke it out with dozens of men scrambling far beneath them. One gets crushed when Titan tosses a boulder. Ouch.
The moral weight of the fact that Clive is ordered to kill a Dominant quickly becomes apparent when the trailer then rewinds to what appears to be a younger time in Clive’s life — this likely is when the game’s prologue chapter will play out. In this stage, Clive is tasked with defending the aforementioned Joshua, who is his younger brother and the Dominant of the Eikon known as Phoenix. Dominants are unique individuals whose power is much-desired between dueling kingdoms in this world. It’s also curious that Clive, as the firstborn son to the Duke, did not inherit the power of Phoenix.
These happier times are soon put to the sword when imperial soldiers kill the Duke, burn the peaceful kingdom of Rosaria seemingly to the ground, and trigger Joshua’s angry transformation into Phoenix. What follows is a string of fast-paced scenes from later into the game; what matters most, however, are the two separate lines being voiced as things unfold.
“The legacy of the Crystals has shaped our history for long enough.” The line is delivered with an almost hateful tone. Someone resents the iconic crystalline structures commonly found in Final Fantasy games; here in FFXVI, those Crystals must hold great sway over the population. Whoever this is, they must want to shatter such illusions. Sounds heroic after a fashion, but then, fiction is chock full of people who want to pull the blindfold from society’s eyes simply to replace it with something chaotic or malevolent.
The other line is definitely Clive’s. “I’ll kill you… if it’s the last thing I do.” We see another image of an older, hardened, grim-faced Clive followed by the official Amano logo.
It’s hauntingly effective. It’s downright bone-chilling. It is cold vengeance, and it’s what our hero is feeling after the horrific events his younger self was made to witness. And it’s handily one of the five reasons Final Fantasy XVI will amaze us. No, better still — it’s why it’s on track to take us all for a ride.
1.) The People
No matter how good a story sounds, no matter how mature it may seem, and no matter how shiny the combat may be, no RPG can come together fantastically if the people crafting it aren’t up to the task.
Final Fantasy XVI will amaze us because it’s coming from the hearts and minds of Creative Business Unit 3. Whereas Creative Business Unit 1 is Yoshinori Kitase’s group, 3 belongs to Naoki Yoshida, AKA the director and lead producer of Final Fantasy XIV. This dude knows his stuff. Many praise him for singlehandedly turning Square’s fortunes around when he led the team that rebooted FFXIV in 2013, but he’ll be the first to humbly correct them and share the spotlight with his hard-working subordinates.
While Yoshida isn’t directing FFXVI (the difficulty from doing so alongside spearheading further expansions of an MMORPG would be insane), he is not only providing tons of input but assisting in the game’s direction and tone. In many ways, Yoshida is the most important soldier on deck here. But there’s strong reason to suspect that the lead writers are the ones who were responsible for the award-winning FFXIV expansion Heavensward, and believe me, if that’s truly the case the script will be as crisp as the trailer wants us to think it’ll be.
Out of all five reasons that Final Fantasy XVI is poised for greatness, nothing can compare with the pedigree of the men and women working hard every day to deliver the finished product. Without their “blood, sweat, and pixels,” the whole thing would come apart like certain shows in their eighth and final seasons.
There’s an old ad campaign from back when several FFs were ported the Game Boy Advance that’s always stuck with me. It’s stuck with me not because it was good, per se, but because it was silly. The tagline for the three re-releases was simple. “Finest Fantasy for Advance.”
For the past 15 years and counting, that dumb quote springs to my mind downright weekly. For one reason or another, it’s just one of those things that get lodged in the brain and won’t relent.
I didn’t have much cause to tell anyone about this until Final Fantasy XVI was revealed; now I have five reasons to tell everyone I meet that there’s an excellent chance XVI will be the “Finest Fantasy in forever.” It’s equally goofy. No; it’s worse than the real quote. I’ll own that. But it’s what I believe, and I hope you’ll join me in eagerly awaiting more news about Clive Rosfeld and friends in the months to come.