Final Fantasy XVI was reviewed on the PS5.

After being in development for around four years, Final Fantasy XVI has finally been released. This PS5 exclusive is another action role-playing game developed and published by Square Enix and is the 16th installment of the franchise. Here is our non-spoiler review.

A Dark Fantasy

The game opens up with a visually stunning fight between a phoenix and a beastly titan called Ifrit.  The scene fades as we are introduced to the main character Wyvern, or Clive Rosfield.

The game continues to show us a horrific and bloody war he is thrown into.  I knew years ago from the first announcement of the game that we were going to be getting something pretty dark and heavy.  Not just story-wise, as the previous entries have not shied away from serious topics, but that it will have some gruesome imagery.  The game definitely doesn’t sugar coat the absolute bloody brutality of battle.

The heavy subject matter along with what we are presented doesn’t stop at the introduction, but it continues all throughout the rest of the game. It was a surprise for me as I never really knew exactly how far the developers would push it, but that is what they did. Surprisingly, it didn’t at all feel forced or that it was trying too hard. The team behind the game knew that the franchise had to change and evolve, so that was what they did. Thus, delivering a truly dark fantasy that is almost guaranteed to evoke an emotion from the players.

What is the Story?

The story from the get-go seems simple. It takes place in a world called Valisthea. The world is made up of six different nations, each with their own dominants and Eikons. To put it a bit simply, Eikons are mystical beasts that represent different elements, and dominants are people who serve as their vessels.

Clive Rosfield, our main protagonist, is bestowed with the blessing of the phoenix which gives him special powers. However, his younger brother Joshua is the one that the phoenix chose as its vessel, its dominant, thus making him an extremely important figure in the kingdom. Clive has sworn to be a shield for Joshua and to make sure that he is able to fulfill his duty. Things take a horrific turn when Clive’s family are betrayed, and the kingdom gets destroyed. He swears revenge against the large unknown Eikon that is responsible.

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Like I said before, the story from a first glance seems pretty simple. But as you play through the game, you are treated to a lot of twists and turns that may catch you completely off guard. You also may have your heart ripped out because that is exactly what happened to me. I ended up enjoying it quite a bit and personally, it’s become one of my favorite stories in a Final Fantasy game so far. That’s saying something.

Initial Gameplay and Tutorial

There are two modes of difficulty when you start the game: story focused, and action focused.  As the names suggest, one is much easier and allows the player to just enjoy the story.  The other will give you more to do to engage you in the gameplay.  For this review, I’ve chosen the action focused.  I have to talk about the gameplay after all.

After we watch the initial cutscenes, we are treated to a tutorial that goes over the basics of combat.  We are taught how to attack, evade, and cast ‘spells.  It’s all presented as a flashback that still plays into the story, which is a nice touch.

The menu screen is very neatly organized into six categories:

  • Journal – This covers everything that Clive has encountered as you play,
  • Items – Things that Clive can use in battle or in side quests, etc.
  • Attributes – Clive’s health, attack, defense, etc.
  • Gear and Eikons – Items that Clive can equip to make battling easier. Eikons are special powers bestowed on Clive that he can use in battle.
  • Abilities – Leveling up Clive gives you experience points to unlock new abilities.
  • System – Where you can save your game and change the settings.

These are all self-explanatory, but I wanted to take the opportunity to mention how clean and organized the whole layout is.  Having a complicated menu system can easily break the flow of the game and irritate players if they can’t accomplish what they need to quickly.  I’m happy to report that that is not the case here.  Plus, the menu shows you your current party members as old-school pixelated characters.  It’s a super cute touch.

How is the Combat in Final Fantasy 16?

As opposed to the earlier entries to the franchise, Final Fantasy XVI is more action oriented rather than turn based.  Battle designer Ryota Suzuki, a Capcom veteran who has worked on Devil May Cry 5 and Monster Hunter, believed that with this combat system, people who aren’t well versed to more action-based gameplay will find a lot of enjoyment with this game.

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I myself am not a huge fan of turn-based games, though I still do enjoy playing them.  However, I do lean towards games like this one in that I prefer this combat system more.  The downside that I’ve noticed while playing is that I do feel that the game does hold your hand a bit too much, even while playing on normal.  A hard mode is available but only after completing the game on normal and starting a new game plus, which is a shame as I believe it should have been available from the very beginning.

Changing Clive’s different eikon powers and unlocking new abilities did give the gameplay a bit more fun variety, but I found myself getting a little bit bored with certain segments and boss fights.  Some boss fights were a lot better than others, but the ones that weren’t very good felt like they dragged on for a very long time.  I found myself button mashing quite a bit and groaning every time I encountered an important story enemy.

Stunning Visuals and Amazing Sound

The Final Fantasy franchise has always been known for its stunning visuals and graphics. The same goes for each games’ soundtrack. This entry is no different. Immediately from the get-go, I was captured by the intense battle between the two eikons I mentioned in the beginning. My amazement for the visuals continued all throughout my playthrough of the game.

Producer Naoki Yoshida had a certain goal when it came to the design of the characters.  In an interview with Skill Up (I highly recommend watching), he talked about his distaste for the term, ‘JRPG’.  To basically sum it up, whenever he asked the fans or media about that they think about the image of Final Fantasy, they always say it’s ‘anime-like’, ‘teenagers saving the world’, ‘very JRPG’. So naturally, he wanted to separate this game from these common stereotypes, and I feel like the team definitely accomplished this. This is still very much Final Fantasy; however, it is very different from its predecessors, and I appreciate this change.

The lead composer for this game’s soundtrack is Masayoshi Soken.  Masayoshi has a long history of works to his name, but his most prominent being his work with Final Fantasy XIV. Personally, this game has some of the best battle music that I’ve heard in a long time. It was absolutely exhilarating, especially during the dramatic battle cutscenes. The same goes for the more slow and emotional segments. There were many points in this game where I got emotional with not only what I witnessed on screen, but from the music I heard that made the story and experience much more impactful.

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Will Final Fantasy 16 be Ported?

Final Fantasy 16
Who’s a good boy?

One of the downfalls of the release is that it is only available on the PS5.  It will remain a Sony exclusive for six months.  So, unless you have a PS5, you will unfortunately have to wait.

The game’s producer Naoki Yoshida has confirmed that a PC port of the game is a long way away.  In an interview with Japanese news outlet Ascii, Naoki said that a PC port will be in development now with the PS5 release.  However, it is speculated to take at the very least, a year.

As for Xbox users, there is no confirmation as to whether it will be ported.  So unfortunately, only PS5 users can currently enjoy the game.

Should You Get It?

I’m not the biggest Final Fantasy fan, though that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the games. But because I’m not heavily invested in the series, I didn’t have any expectations going into this game. While there are quite a few segments that felt like they overstayed their welcome, I was pleasantly surprised by my time with this entry. I feel that I can safely recommend it to any Final Fantasy fan, as well as anyone who hasn’t really played the games all that much. There is something here for everyone to enjoy and have fun with.

With all that being said, Torgal is best boy. I will forever die on that hill. For the love of all that is good, please pet this good boy.

Final Fantasy XVI is now available on PS5.

Beautiful Visuals
Amazing Musical Score
Some Intriguing Characters
Interesting Story
Repetitive Combat
Some Segments Drag On
Some Framerate Issues

Review Summary

Square Enix delivers a solid new entry to the Final Fantasy franchise.

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