Square Enix has provided an incredibly comprehensive look at the upcoming Final Fantasy 16 in a PlayStation State of Play presentation. In a 20-minute showcase led by producer Naoki Yoshida, and translated by localisation director Michael-Christopher Koji Fox, much of the game’s story structure, combat mechanics, characters, and enemies were explored in great detail.
The bulk of the information was previously known – we learned a lot in our hands-on preview of Final Fantasy 16 at the end of February 2023, but several more intricacies were shared here – with Yoshida promising there was far, far more to discover.
Curiously, the presentation began with Yoshida explaining that even though this is the 16th Final Fantasy game, you don’t need to have played all the previous 15 games to enjoy it. This may be obvious to those familiar with video games, but it seems like this is an aspect Square continues to face challenges with, and something it wants to double down on to ensure the game has broad appeal.
Yoshida then revealed that the Final Fantasy 16 main theme would be performed by Kenshi Yonezu, a highly-awarded and popular contemporary Japanese singer-songwriter.
Final Fantasy 16: State of Play details
Story and Flow
Broadly, Final Fantasy 16 will take place in the world of Valisthea, where several kingdoms are vying to control an energy resource (what else?) derived from the enormous crystals that dot the landscape.
The game will follow the journey of Clive Rosfield, a representative of the Duchy of Rosaria, and one of the few people in the world who can wield the power of an Eikon – giant mythical beings that previously existed as Summons in previous games. Final Fantasy 16 will explore his life in three distinct phases: his teens, his 20’s, and 30’s.
While the game starts in Clive’s 20’s, it will turn back the clock early on to revisit his youth in a prolonged, ‘fully playable flashback’ phase of the game, where the game explores how things unravelled for him, and we can see how characters and locations change across the decades.
The big, defining event of the game’s early period appears to relate to Clive’s younger brother, Joshua. In the showcase, we see Joshua lose control of his Eikon, and Clive stepping in to stop him – presumably with some traumatic consequences.
While not strictly an open-world game, Final Fantasy 16 will have several open areas to explore. The showcase demonstrated the use of the in-game World Map, and how it can be opened at any time, and used to instantly jump to various locations dotted across the map – presumably those you’ve visited before.
A montage of lush, expansive fantasy environments was shown, including footage of Clive quickly dashing and flapping his way across the landscape while riding on a Chocobo.
The big departure for Final Fantasy 16 is that the game’s combat now takes place in real-time, rather than a turn-based system, or a hybrid model like Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Clive has access to his sword for standard attacks, the ability to dodge, and basic magic projectiles.
He also has access to a large suite of special abilities, which he will derive from the various Eikons he encounters (and presumably adopts) throughout the game. You can only equip three of these abilities at any one time, but you can also toggle between three different move sets on the fly.
The showcase cycled through various clips of fights against several different enemies, both humans and beasts. A large number of the special abilities were also shown off, as Clive worked them into his combat routine. Massive energy blasts, wild flurries of attacks, and great waves of flame, filling the screen with colour, light, and explosions.
New abilities are unlocked by spending ability points earned by defeating enemies. They can be used on the upgrade screen to unlock new abilities, or simply enhance existing ones.
The showcase then detailed several of the features designed to make the game more approachable to those who aren’t comfortable with action games. The game has an option to automatically upgrade your abilities for you, for example.
But the focus point was the various in-game accessories that help make aspects of the real-time combat easier – such as slowing down time before an enemy hits you, allowing you to dodge, or automating it completely. Other items can automate combos for you, automatically heal you, and more.
Final Fantasy 16 will also have a ‘Story Focus’ mode, which will instantly equip all these items for you from the get-go, but these items can be equipped and unequipped at any time, no matter what mode you play.
Some other accessibility options shown were things like on-screen waveforms to provide a visual representation of sound and music for the hard of hearing.
The Final Fantasy 16 State of Play then introduced some of its supporting characters, the key one being Cidolfus, this game’s version of the series’ recurring ‘Cid’ character, who becomes a mentor to Clive, as well as a regular companion.
There was a brief look at Jill, a friend from Clive’s youth, with remarks that reunions with characters from Clive’s past – who you’ll meet in the various time phases – will play a key part in his personal growth.
Some companions will accompany Clive in fights, like Cid, with plenty of conversations in between. However, party members will be AI-driven during combat, with players only needing to focus on controlling Clive.
The one exception is Torgal, Clive’s canine companion. He’ll constantly be at Clive’s side and while he’ll also act of his own accord, he can be ordered to attack and heal. You can also feed him treats and pet him, of course.
One of the big new things shown during this showcase was Cid’s Hideaway, which appears to serve as the central hub area for Final Fantasy 16, where you can get your affairs in order.
Cid’s Hideaway contains a shop run by a character called Charon, who the development team has cited as one of their favourite characters. There’s also a blacksmith, who can craft new gear for Clive, or upgrade items.
The Hideaway also houses a comprehensive training mode where you can practice your combat skills – a familiar feature for character action and fighting games – with several options for setting conditions. The existence of the Arcade mode, where you can play through levels to compete for high scores, was also mentioned.
Sidequests can also be picked up in the hideaway, and there’s a feature that lets you view all the information on quests offered all around the world. Elsewhere, there’s a Hunt Board, run by a Moogle, who provides you quests to hunt down elite foes for bounty rewards.
The Hideaway is also home to two interesting services. There’s a loremaster called Harpocrates, who will gradually let you unlock reading materials on the comprehensive lore of the world as you progresses through the game.
Similarly, a character called Viviane Ninetales acts like an in-game teacher – she’s there to tell you about the relationships, politics, and military history of the world of Valisthea, complete with visual aides, family trees, and war tables.
The Final Fantasy 16 showcase then cycled through clips of the various enemies you’ll fight in the game.
These included series staples like the Marlboro (Morbol), armoured knights that are more Clive’s size, giant reptiles, and nimble assassins. Clive will also go toe-to-toe with other characters who can wield the power of the Eikons like he can.
There are colossal beasts like an ice dragon, mysterious constructs built out of ancient, mystical technology, and elemental enemies, like one made out of pure flame.
The final spotlight of the showcase was focused on the big cinematic duals between the kaiju-sized Eikons. At certain points in the game, Clive himself will turn into Eikons – either Ifrit or Phoenix – to face down others in world-shattering combat scenarios.
The encounters will all be unique, in terms of scenario and gameplay mechanics. Footage of a fight between Phoenix and Bahamut was shown, which appeared to play out like a 3D shoot-em-up.
Others involve Ifrit plowing through the environment in wrestling-like matches that devastate the landscape.
Final Fantasy 16 will be available 22 June 2023 for PlayStation 5.