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Final Fantasy XVI: The Franchise’s Greatest in 23 Years

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Final Fantasy XVI

The screen bursts into a mesmerizing display of fiery explosions and dazzling lights. Colossal fists of monstrous creatures collide relentlessly, each strike carrying the weight of a thousand wrecking balls. Exhaustion starts to creep in as I frantically press buttons, resolute in my determination to obliterate my opponent. I’ve yearned for this epic confrontation for hours, and I refuse to show any mercy.

Standing up during a video game boss fight is usually a promising indication, and Final Fantasy XVI lives up to that expectation.

The newest addition to Square Enix’s long-running series grabs hold of you from the very beginning and never relinquishes its grip. The stakes remain consistently high, the scenery is perpetually awe-inspiring, and the combat system is absolutely phenomenal—whether you’re engaging in battles against lowly bees during side quests or relentlessly chipping away at the colossal Titan itself. It stands as the finest mainline entry in the series since the era of the PlayStation 1.

Final Fantasy XVI’s Medieval Realm and Intense Narrative

Final Fantasy XVI

Final Fantasy XVI unfolds in the medieval-inspired realm of Valisthea, which bears striking similarities to Westeros from Game of Thrones. Within this world, rival nations vie for power and control over the Mothercrystals, colossal glittering mountains of ore that serve as both a source of energy and magic. This concept harkens back to the intriguing thematic elements of the 8- and 16-bit eras of the series, where radiant gems dictated the destinies of humanity.

Our tale revolves around Clive Rosfield of Winterfell (well, Rosaria), a nobleman turned mercenary who is consumed by a thirst for vengeance after a catastrophe strips his family of their authority and claims the life of his brother. His journey intertwines with the Dominants of Valisthea, extraordinary warriors blessed with the ability to harness the power of legendary monsters called Eikons.

From there, an adrenaline-fueled roller-coaster ride ensues, spanning approximately 40 hours. Unlike sprawling epics that take hours to gain momentum, FF16 thrusts you into the heart of the action within its first 20 minutes. In the spirit of the early Final Fantasy games, unexpected plot twists and betrayals abound, creating a sense of urgency and continuous progression that would be difficult to replicate in an expansive open-world setting. While dedicated fans will discover numerous Easter eggs throughout the game, particularly nods to FF4 and FF6, no prior knowledge of the series is necessary to relish this installment.

In fact, the less you know beforehand, the better.

Producer Naoki Yoshida has emphasized that FF16 embodies a more “mature” Final Fantasy, and it lives up to that description. This game delves into violence, profanity, and what some may consider “adult situations,” which, for the most part, harmonize exceptionally well.

However, there are moments when it falters. The portrayal of female characters hits some sour notes, with Benedikta Harman, the Dominant associated with Garuda, suffering the most. An attempt to mold her into a Cersei Lannister-like figure falls dismally short, rendering her more akin to a reality TV villain driven by lust than a formidable political strategist. It’s disappointing, but fortunately, the majority of the game’s remaining cast manages to deliver compelling performances.

FF16: A Visual Spectacle with Captivating Designs

Final Fantasy XVI

Square Enix’s latest installment, FF16, continues the tradition of pushing boundaries with its awe-inspiring visuals. From the mesmerizing battles against the Eikons, each uniquely designed with stunning pyrotechnics, to the massive scale of violence reminiscent of the God of War series, the game is a visual spectacle.

Valisthea, the game’s setting, is a sight to behold. From decaying castles to towering spires that stretch towards the sun, every corner offers breathtaking scenery. Even in its darkness, FF16 maintains impeccable lighting and textures, avoiding any muddiness or washed-out visuals. Contrary to Winterfell, the city of Sanbreque stands out with its gleaming white towers and murals reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel. The sun-drenched desert, adorned with terraced saltwater pools, also captivates the players. By opting for a more linear progression instead of the open-world mechanics of FF15, the environments in FF16 feel fully realized and inhabited, eliminating the vastness and emptiness often associated with open-world games. However, I did long for more hidden corners and secret passages to explore within the dungeons.

The character designs in FF16 are exceptional. Spanning three eras in Clive’s life, which spans roughly eighteen years, the game showcases the growth and transformations of numerous characters. They receive new outfits, hairstyles, and occasionally bear new scars, adding depth to their visual representation. Without a doubt, nearly everyone in the game is incredibly attractive and exudes undeniable style.

Bold prediction: FF16 will be the game that sparks the most romantic pairings and fan-ships this year.

Decisive Battle

Final Fantasy XVI Wolf

Final Fantasy XVI introduces two significant changes to the traditional formula of the series. In contrast to previous games, which allowed players to control multiple party members, this installment focuses solely on the protagonist, Clive, while also offering simple commands for his loyal companion, Torval. This decision appears to be influenced by another major change, which involves abandoning the turn-based spell-casting mechanics in favor of combo-driven combat. The resulting battles in FF16 bear resemblance to the dynamic action found in games like God of War, Devil May Cry, and even Yakuza.

As the game progresses, Clive acquires new Eikon abilities that provide opportunities for customization, allowing players to tailor their playstyle. They can opt for slow yet powerful strikes, swift attacks, long-range magical assaults, or classic sword slashes, or they can specialize in one specific approach. The combat system is immensely enjoyable, although it may require some adjustment for those unfamiliar with managing parries, dodges, and ability cooldowns. To enhance accessibility, the development team has included several accessories that automate dodging and combos. However, utilizing these items comes at the cost of using accessory slots that could otherwise be filled with stat boosts or other ability enhancements, resulting in an unfortunate trade-off.

Throughout its 35-year history, the Final Fantasy series has consistently reinvented itself, with varying degrees of success. It may seem improbable for a blend of God of War, Game of Thrones, and SNES-era Final Fantasy games to work harmoniously, but somehow, Final Fantasy XVI manages to exceed expectations inspired by these influential sources. It stands as a resounding triumph, paying homage to the series’ legacy while boldly forging a new path for its future.

Final Fantasy XVI is scheduled for an exclusive PlayStation 5 release on June 22.

Rating: 9/10

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