While (patiently) waiting for Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth and Ever Crisis to come out, I’ve been playing the latest installment in the franchise: Final Fantasy 16. And so far, I’m loving it! Here’s my review of Square Enix’s latest game, which I’m playing on the PS5.
Warning: spoilers ahead.
All about revenge
If you know me well enough, you know I love a good revenge story. That’s what FFXVI promises in one of the trailers. Clive Rosfield, the hunky main character, vows to deliver vengeance to the person who killed his brother, Joshua, right in front of him. He spends 13 years after that fateful day waiting for the chance to confront his brother’s killer and find closure. As you get further into the addictive story, however, you learn that things are not always what they seem.
In a heartbreaking reveal, Clive realizes that he was the one who transformed into Ifrit and took his brother’s life. The revenge story then turns into one of acceptance as Clive learns that he is a Dominant, able to harness the power of Ifrit, another eikon of fire. He must now leave the past behind and carve out a future worth living in.
In yet another twist, we also learn that Joshua, the Dominant of Phoenix, survived and is on a mission of his own to stop an entity called Ultima from using Clive as a vessel. However, the brothers rarely cross paths as they journey across Valisthea, despite how close they come to nearly bumping into each other. It isn’t until about halfway through the game that they finally reunite and start working together to take down the main antagonist.
My thoughts on the plot
The game takes many turns that I did not anticipate, involving political alliances, wars, and mysteries all tied up together. Some of it is a bit difficult to understand, and some characters are introduced without much context. I had trouble keeping up with the different kingdoms and enemies due to how they are referenced at times (such as ‘royalists’ and ‘republicans’ when referring to the Waloeds and Dhalmekians).
Thankfully, there are a few different ways to read up on characters, conflicts, and other plot-relevant details with the Active Time Lore function, as well as characters such as Tomes and Vivian in the Hideaway. These help the most to understand what happens between time skips. There is a 13-year time skip after the prologue where the story begins, and then a 5-year skip partway through the story. The time between those 5 years are not explained outright in detail, so you need to speak with Vivian for a history lesson.
Overall, the story is beautiful and would be a page turner in novel form, as I was excited to keep playing to see what would happen next. There’s a little bit of romance, plenty of action, as well as powerful themes of self-forgiveness and justice in an unfair world. There are also well-developed characters to cheer for throughout the game.
Choosing which mode to play in will largely impact the gameplay when it comes to combat. I chose story mode to enjoy the plot, which meant Clive was equipped with items that made fighting easier, such as the Ring of Timeliness, Ring of Evasion, and Ring of Strikes. This meant I mostly just had to hit one button to execute combo attacks, dodge, and switch targets. Torgal also attacked and healed automatically, as a good dog should.
I have to applaud the development team for making potions and other useful items easy to access with just one button (instead of going through another menu or manually setting up hotkeys like in other games). Combat was simple and fun for me, who wanted to sit back and enjoy the story. I also loved the eikon battles and cinematic actions. There were prompts to initiate each cinematic action so I still felt in control of the fight. The game felt more like a movie at parts–which I didn’t mind.
Attention fans: we have a new blorbo! Clive Rosfield is the tragic heartthrob of Final Fantasy 16, with his charming good looks, tragic backstory, and doomed-by-the-narrative plot line. Cid is also a standout character according to the fandom, with his roguish qualities and commanding presence. Jill, Dominant of Shiva, is a badass who is capable of fighting her own battles or offering help to others. And don’t forget Joshua, who players come to adore through Clive’s eyes.
I also want to point out that this installment features the first canon gay couple of the Final Fantasy franchise! Being released in June, the month of gay pride, seemed fitting to finally show two male characters in love, no shipping goggles required. Dion, Bahumat’s Dominant, and Terence, his loyal second-in-command, are shown sharing a tender moment and are described as lovers in the game’s Lore. Happy Pride Month to them!
Each Dominant has a part to play in the story, and whether you love them or hate them, are important to the plot. I enjoyed Benedikta (Garuda) as a minor antagonist in the beginning of the game and Cid (Ramuh) as a protagonist who helps Clive achieve acceptance and find a new purpose in life after revenge is no longer an option. Dion stole my heart with his princely nature and dedication to his duties, while Barnabas (Odin) and Hugo (Titan) gave me the creeps at times, while also proving to be good antagonists to fight against. My favorites have got to be Clive, Joshua, and Jill, who we follow throughout the game.
There are also wonderful side characters who add extra life to the story and aid the main characters on their quest. Some of my favorites include Mid, the daughter of Cid and passionate engineer, Martha, who aids the Hideaway and gives out wonderful side quests, Gav, a scout and prominent member of the Hideaway (who arguably becomes a main character later on), the Dame, the proprietress of a respectable brothel and also friend to the Hideaway, and the Medicine Girl, who helps out the main characters in a pivotal moment.
And finally: Memes
You can’t have Final Fantasy without the memes; and boy, are there plenty of moments to turn into comedic images or quotes! I made a few while playing and have enjoyed seeing other players’ contributions to the fandom, alongside fanfiction, fanart, and even additional voice lines from the actors.
What are your thoughts on the latest edition to the Final Fantasy franchise? Which characters are your favorite? What scene had you bawling like a baby? Let me know in the comments!