Yesterday, Sony and Square Enix blessed us with the biggest chunk of Final Fantasy XVI news yet during the State of Play event. Square Enix released not only a new trailer but also a new blog and updates to the official Final Fantasy XVI website that has established a nice foundation upon which we can start building an idea of what this game is about and what we can expect.
Despite the number, Final Fantasy XVI is not the 16th entry in the series; it’s not even the 16th single-player mainline entry, either (thanks to FFXIII’s sequels and the FFVII Remake). There are a million and a half Final Fantasy games, far too many to count. This is simply the one that comes after the one with Noctis and his bro-dtrip.
Final Fantasy XVI takes place in the realm of Valisthea. Valisthea is home to these huge, magical superstructures called mothercrystals that grant people the power to use magick in their everyday lives. All of the major geopolitical players in Valisthea have organized their government and culture around these crystals, as they’re a major source of power and conflict.
Part and parcel to these political entities are the Dominants, who are people born with the ability to summon and control Eikons — i.e., your typical Final Fantasy summons. There’s even a nifty song at the end of the newest “Dominance” trailer to remind you who all the Eikons are.
Into this miasma of big-ass magical mommy mountains and walking weapons of mass destruction is one Clive Rosefield. He’s the oldest son of the Archduke of Rosaria and exudes the same kind of Final Fantasy main-character energy as Squall Leonhart or Noctis Lucis Caelum. Basically, he’s a sad-looking, emo boy-man who can swing a sword real good. He was expected to inherit the power of the Eikon of fire, Phoenix, but that power passed him over in favor of his timid younger brother Joshua.
Between the two trailers, there seems to be a time-skip as the Clive we meet in the Dominance trailer is slightly older (and way sadder) than the Clive we met in the first Awakenings trailer. Both trailers also showcase a bit of the combat in which we can see Clive summoning a rock-plated fist to punch his enemies. Of the information shared so far, we know Dominants can share a portion of their powers with others. That Clive can essentially rock punch people tells us that, somewhere along his journey, he’s hooked up with or defeated Hugo Kupka, the Eikon of earth. We’ve also been introduced to Benedikta Harman, Dominant of the wind Eikon Garuda. I’m not quite sure if these Dominants are party members to befriend or boss fights to overcome.
Based on what I’ve gleaned from the trailers, each Eikon is an avatar of a particular element, and only one element can be represented by an Eikon at a time. Titan is the Eikon of Earth, Garuda is the Eikon of wind, Bahamut is the Eikon of… dragon powers, I guess, and so forth and so on. Joshua controls the Eikon of fire, but it seems like something happens to him that causes him to become possessed by a second Eikon of fire, Ifrit. Now, Joshua has two Eikons in the same body, a theory supported by the FFXVI logo, which features both Phoenix and Ifrit seemingly locked in battle. I’m guessing that one of the main points of the story is Clive trying to figure out how to free his brother from the warring Eikons while the other nations want to control him as a weapon.
Another part to figuring out what we’re in store for with this game is examining who’s leading the team making it. Naoki thee Yoshida is the game’s HPIC or Head Producer in Charge. If you’re new here, Yoshida is basically the guy who led the resurrection of the rotting corpse of Final Fantasy XIV 1.0 after its disastrous initial launch and turned it into the now endlessly meme’d, critically-acclaimed MMORP — you get the point. With Yoshida helming it, whatever FFXVI will be, it’s gonna be exceptional.
Right next to Yoshida on the get-hype list is combat director Ryota Suzuki, who helped design the combat systems for Devil May Cry 5 and the Dragon’s Dogma series. In perusing the list of developers, I was a little disheartened to not see my girl Natsuko Ishikawa in charge of the game’s story. Ishikawa wrote both Shadowbringers and Endwalker expansions and is basically the reason why nearly every Final Fantasy XIV player looks like they’ve been run over by an emotional steamroller and will burst into tears whenever someone breathes “remember” too softly. However, Kazutoyo Maehiro, the guy who is FFXVI’s creative director, wrote the Heavensward expansion which is one of the most perfect Final Fantasy experiences in the game’s 35-year history. So, for whatever happens in Final Fantasy XVI, know that you will be in your feelings.
Rounding out the list of developers is a special name, the composer Masayoshi Soken. As a long, long time Final Fantasy nerd, I thought Nobuo Uematsu was the pinnacle of Final Fantasy music. He still might be, but Soken proves there’s just something special going on at Creative Business Unit III’s music department. Soken was the primary composer for the FFXIV expansions. He gave us “Heavensward,” “Wayward Daughter,” “Shadowbringers,” “Footfalls,” and “Flow” — bangers, every one. Last year, during the FFXIV Digital Fan Fest, Soken revealed that, during his work on composing “To the Edge” for Shadowbringers, he was undergoing treatment for cancer and that, “seeing the reactions of all the players around the world, it helped me conquer this cancer.”
Soken’s music is special and his presence, along with Yoshida and the others on FFXVI, gives me hope that this game will be one of the greats, right up there with V, VII, IX, and, cough, XII. There’s still a long development road ahead. Yoshida said that, while the game is playable from beginning to end, his team still has a lot of work to do putting on the final polish.
“Although the world finds itself in turmoil,” he said before the FFXVI trailer presentation, “We’ll continue to focus on what we do best — making games. For if, through entertainment, we can provide people with something they can truly enjoy, maybe we can bring a little happiness to these hard times.”