Final Fantasy XVI is a beautiful game, both within the cutscenes and gameplay. The combat looked slick and exciting. Clive flipped, dipped, and parried with a satisfying flourish, perfectly in line with the developers’ stated goal of making Final Fantasy XVI feel like a “high-speed rollercoaster.” The presentation went into detail on some of the smaller activities Clive can get up to when he’s not saving the world or doing whatever it is Clive does, as we’re not quite sure what his motivation is yet. Knowing the typical cadence of Final Fantasy stories, it’ll start out small, like “head to the village” and eventually end with “kill god.” There are hunts he can complete and what looks to be a wealth of sidequests. We haven’t seen any mini-games yet, but here’s hoping a version of Final Fantasy’s greatest card game, Triple Triad, will appear in some shape or form.
A big focus of the presentation was on the Eikon battles. As you progress through the game, Clive will encounter Eikons (which are akin to the summons of previous games) he can fight to win their powers. Each fight is different, with some, like the one against Garuda, being brutal 1v1 beatdowns. But other fights, like the one between Pheonix and Bahamut, are more reminiscent of the aerial combat in Panzer Dragoon.
The gameplay showcase is pretty much in line with what I played during my hands-on experience earlier this year. I like that we were given the opportunity to see more of Valisthea, considering my demo was mostly contained within a dark castle at night. Wonder at and exploration of a beautiful landscape was one of the defining elements of Final Fantasy XV, and it’s good to see that while the game is tonally different (high fantasy vs. techno fantasy), the team at Square Enix is sticking with what works.
As in previous Final Fantasy games, Clive will occasionally be joined by other party members. You won’t be able to control your human companions, the game’s AI will take care of that. But your faithful hound Torgal is all yours to command, able to fight enemies and heal you.
I was, however, a bit disappointed that we didn’t get a better glimpse at the people of Valisthea. Game director Naoki Yoshida has said some disappointing things regarding diversity and this game, hinting that when players have the chance to “see for themselves,” those concerns might be somewhat addressed. It looks like we’ll still have to wait.
But more than seeing gameplay or chocobos or even moogles (which I was glad to see in the presentation), I was most hyped to hear Masayoshi Soken’s soundtrack, and I was not disappointed. We heard a range of music from mellow acoustic guitar tracks to hype-as-hell orchestral themes punctuated by a chorus shouting unintelligible words reminding me of one of the best pieces of Final Fantasy music in existence, “Liberi Fatali.” Overall, it was a fun presentation, and I cannot wait for the full game. Between this and Zelda, my summer is stacked.
Final Fantasy XVI launches on PlayStation 5 on June 22nd.