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Final Fantasy 16 is a tale of summons and their human hosts

Final Fantasy 16 looks to go bigger in more ways than one, as we saw during a recent hands-on preview.

Square Enix
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Square Enix has always dreamt big with the Final Fantasy series. These games are tales of gods, monsters, and humans fighting for peace and freedom. At their core, whether they take place in a medieval land or an anachronistic modern day, Final Fantasy is about heroes fighting for humanity and for themselves. Final Fantasy 16 looks to be taking this idea to new levels, focusing on the tale of a single hero caught in a world besieged by war and on the brink of destruction from some of the series' most familiar monsters. Shacknews recently had a chance to go hands-on with the game's opening hours, which only appears to be a taste of a much grander adventure.

To understand the story of Final Fantasy 16 means learning its rules. This is a world in which Eikons are massive beasts and forces of nature, but ones that are hosted by select humans. For those who have followed this series, Eikons are basically some of Final Fantasy's most recognizable summons. Think Ifrit, Ramuh, Bahamut, and others. The story's opening moments features a colossal battle between Shiva and Titan. In the land of Valisthea, where this story takes place, Eikons reside within blessed (or cursed, depending on who one asks) human vessels known as Dominants, who can call upon their power when they are needed.

Clive cuts down enemies in Final Fantasy 16

Source: Square Enix

Players are introduced to Clive Rosfield. He is the son of the ruler of Rosaria. Viewed as unworthy of his father's throne, he joins the First Shield of Rosaria and is tasked with watching over his younger brother. Joshua is next in line to rule Rosaria. He's a sickly young boy, but one who was born as the Dominant of the Phoenix. The early moments of the game take players through an extensive flashback sequence, one that walks them through Clive's training; his relationship with Joshua, his father, and other supporting cast members; and a treacherous plot that upends the entire kingdom. It sets up what's certain to be a lengthy revenge tale and gives Clive a clearer motivation than other recent series protagonists.

While I'll dance around story spoilers, I'm happy to tango with Final Fantasy 16's combat. This is the first entry in the series to fully embrace real-time combat and it has no trouble making that transition. It isn't totally combo intensive like Capcom's Devil May Cry (though it should be noted that I didn't have enough time to unlock some of the more ridiculously powerful abilities in Clive's arsenal) but it's refreshingly sophisticated in its design. While players are encouraged to strike fast and hard, they are rewarded for quick reflexes. Precision dodging will briefly slow an enemy, allowing Clive to punish them with a quick responsive blow. Mechanics like the Phoenix Shift allow Clive to close large gaps quickly. Clive can also utilize Fire, which is tied to a single button, to strike from afar. While Fire is a great starter spell, it's clear that Clive will learn much more as the campaign goes along, especially as his skill tree expands over time and opens up different elements.

Clive masters Thunder spells in Final Fantasy 16

Source: Square Enix

Boss battles test what players have learned, but also throw in a few other interesting ideas. If Clive finds himself against a larger enemy or a boss like a Morbol or a Gigas goblin, Cinematic Strikes will allow him to do some heavier damage while also treating players to some exciting visuals. Likewise, Cinematic Evades will test the player's reflexes, allowing Clive to evade a massive attack and respond in kind. Fights against bigger foes are set apart by a separate results screen, complete with the signature Final Fantasy victory fanfare.

After a lengthy narrative setup, other party members will soon join Clive on his journey. They'll fight autonomously and utilize their distinct abilities in any battle. There's one noteworthy exception and that's Torgal, Clive's trusty hound. Torgal can be issued commands with the D-pad, such as charging at targets or using a healing spell. Sometimes, managing two characters at once can be a little hairy, but fortunately, there are items that can help with that. Players who opt for the Story Focused gameplay option at the start of the game can find equippable items that can perform certain mechanics automatically. For example, the Ring of Timely Assistance issues commands to Torgal without the need to press the D-pad.

As our time with Final Fantasy 16 came to a close, Clive had just discovered Cid's Hideaway, which will act as one of what is likely to be several central hubs. This is where players can load up on supplies, visit the blacksmith to improve weaponry, and take on various side quests. Up to three side quests can be displayed simultaneously. This is also where players can meet various NPCs and learn more about the struggles they have faced since Rosalia's fall, but it is the charismatic Cid's backstory that most will be interested in learning about, especially with the grandiose way that he introduces himself to the narrative. Again, we'll dance around story spoilers for now.

One last thing to note is that this narrative focuses largely on Eikons and will allow players control some of them directly. I got to take part in one Eikon battle during my time with the game and this is where I started to feel a little concerned, because the fight left me feeling slightly wanting. Considering some of the cool battles I had taken part in with Clive, I expected an Eikon clash to hit a little harder. Instead, the impact felt comparitively tame. It could just be me, but I would expect a titanic struggle with some of the Final Fantasy series' most powerful summons to feel proportionately massive. Perhaps that's something that will happen down the road, because as noted, this looks to be a long campaign.

The wait for Final Fantasy 16 is almost over. It'll be ready to roll out exactly one month from today. Look for it to release exclusively on PlayStation 5 on Thursday, June 22.


This preview is based on a pre-release PlayStation 5 build played on site from the Square Enix facility in Los Angeles, CA. This is a special version made for media to experience, and contents may differ from the final version. FINAL FANTASY XVI © 2023 SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights Reserved.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
  • reply
    May 22, 2023 6:00 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Final Fantasy 16 is a tale of summons and their human hosts

    • reply
      May 22, 2023 10:20 AM

      Does this feel like the FF7Remake combat?

      • reply
        May 22, 2023 10:21 AM

        No lol it's dmc + ff15

        • reply
          May 22, 2023 10:54 AM

          Damn, I wanted a full length FF with that combat

          • reply
            May 22, 2023 1:19 PM

            Fortunately, FF7 Remake's sequel is still on the agenda for the end of the year.

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              May 22, 2023 1:42 PM

              It'll still be tiny in scope compare to FF7, though. :( I would pay $200 for a proper 60 hour epic in that style.

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                May 22, 2023 1:56 PM

                OG FF7 was about a 35 hour game. FF7 Remake is about the same length. These are huge games despite being "split up".

                Its worth noting that this is clearly not a remake, but rather a sequel with alternate reality or time travel shit going on. "Remake" is a cute way to name the game because it isn't just a remake of the original game, but rather a remake of what actually happens.

      • reply
        May 22, 2023 10:22 AM

        Or maybe dmc + dragon's dogma with ff flavor is more accurate

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