35 years, fifteen numbered episodes, a few sequels, dozens and dozens of spin-offs and a remake later, the Final Fantasy license continues to mark the history of video games. A saga whose simple name makes it possible to cause great shivers in a whole fringe of players and nostalgic players. But like those who grew up with it, the license evolves over time, even if it means risking losing its letters of nobility that have made its reputation.
After an FF13 which divided for its great linearity and a Final Fantasy 15 which combined open world and action without managing to create a striking experience like the other episodes of the saga, Square Enix Enix announces Final Fantasy 16 at the opening of the PS5 Showcase in September 2020. A darker episode, which fully embraces the action orientation timidly initiated by its predecessor. Optimism returns among some fans, concern rises among others. The next numbered episode carries two heavy burdens on its shoulders: getting out of the shadow of FF7 Rebirth for a few months and getting the license back up after the disappointment that was Final Fantasy 15.
The task is not easy as the players are wary after the beautiful promises of an episode which never managed to be what was expected of it. Naoki Yoshida and his team could nevertheless create a tour de force. We were able to preview Final Fantasy 16 a few months before its release after a dense presentation with the producer himself. Is it on track to be the episode of renewal and to reconcile the most disappointed with the license? A point on our first exciting contact with the game.
“We played from a special version intended for the media, the content may differ from the final version. »
Final Fantasy 16 promises 11 hours of cinematics
Direction Valisthéa. In this land blessed by the Crystals, humans are gifted with magic, which ensures them security and prosperity. Each of the six nations has a Mother Crystal, providing the world’s most precious energy: ether. A resource that dwindles over time and that undermines the balance and the fragile peace between the Valisthean forces now threatened by the advance of a certain Black Scourge. Final Fantasy 16revives a more traditional fantasy placed under the aegis of magic crystals, but which is distinguished by the central role given to invocations. Here called Primordials, they reside in the bodies of mere mortals, the Emissaries. A coveted power but which provokes debate. The game already promises a complex geopolitical web suggesting a more mature episode, darker than usual. An assumed will of Naoki Yoshida, who wishes to tell a story that will speak to those who grew up with the license. However, he wants you to be reminded that each Final Fantasy is different and that there is no need to have done the previous ones to appreciate the PS5 exclusivity. All have their unique side, gameplay, characters, storyline and different feeling.
We will live this story through the eyes of Clive Rosefield during three periods of his life: his teenage years, when he was in his twenties and then in his thirties. The eldest son of the Archduke of Rosalia was expected to be the host of the Primordial Phoenix. Cursed, it is ultimately his younger brother, Joshua, who will inherit the coveted power. Stripped of his title of Emissary, Clive trains to handle the sword to be the guardian of his little brother and to protect him. A task he will fail in, leading him on a quest for revenge against the Primordial Ifrit across Valisthea. However, Final Fantasy 16 will not be an open world. The team has chosen to limit the number of cities to explore to focus on two of the four pillars around which the game is built: the narrative and the characters.
To give substance to this story, more than 11 hours of cinematics will be in the final game, ” all integrated without any transition and running in real time with the game engine “, says Yoshida. And from what we have seen, it promises. It’s beautiful, epic, animated to perfection, in short, grandiose cutscenes worthy of a great Final Fantasy and the PS5 that amaze your eyes. This is also the third pillar on which FF 16 rests: the visuals. If the version that has been put in our hands still needs a little work and will be fine-tuned by then, Final Fantasy 16 is already beautiful and fluid.We can’t wait to see what it will bring fully optimized when it is released on June 22, 2023. However, the beating heart of this new episode will be its fourth and final pillar: the fights.
Dynamic and fast-paced action combat
On this point Final Fantasy 16risk of causing disruption. Because the license must evolve with the times and action games have become the norm, Yoshida and his team are betting on purely action-oriented and real-time gameplay. To bring these more dynamic fights to life, Square Enix’s Creative Business Unit 3 called on a big name in the genre: Ryota Suzuki, known for his work on Dragon’s Dogma or the Devil May Cry license. Enough to promise more lively, more exciting clashes than in the past, but what about the facts? To test this new combat system, head to a fortress in search of information on Ifrit. Accompanied by Cid and his faithful dog Torgal, Clive must make his way through rooms filled with soldiers. The poor buggers do not last long against this trio of shock which is unleashed as not allowed in fights which gain in dynamism and ferocity. Where FF15 only asked to press a command to twirl in all directions, its successor will put the player to more contribution with a system based on combos. Unlike aFF7 Remake , everything is entirely in real time and it’s not simple command presses that make the game salt, but rather combo sequences like a beat’em all. Less aerial and complex than a Devil May Cry, the gameplay of FF16 does not demerit against its model.
Simple attacks in the air or on the ground, projections, charged magic attacks, blows to bring a target back to the ground or towards you, Clive has no shortage of ways to approach his enemies. The hero in search of revenge can also call on the Talents of the Primordials to obtain a whole arsenal of attacks assigned to the R2 combos + a symbol for each invocation. Phoenix will release his claws to deliver fiery blows, Garuda will allow the Archduke’s son to chain air potatoes without giving his enemy any respite, while Titan will transform his right arm into a real shield capable of blocking almost anything and tackle his opponents to the ground as if they were rag dolls if the QTE is successful. The range of moves of each Primordial is worked and customizable,Final Fantasy 16 is based on the possibility of interchanging between each creature on the fly with a simple press of the L2 key, creating a real synergy between each of them.
It takes a little time to get used to the configuration of the keys and the whole thing will seem messy during the first games, but once the principle of the switch between the Primordials has been acquired, it is easy to juggle between the different offensive and defensive options, while keeping a finger on the buttons for dodges that will require liveliness and foolproof reflex. It’s more technical and you’ll have to know the mappingat your fingertips to create stylish, fiercer sequences that give way to classy, spectacular and already fluid choreographies in all circumstances a few months before the launch of its final version. We only regret that the members of the team, controlled by the AI, only make an act of presence. Apart from our faithful companion, it is impossible to put them to more use by giving them orders to, for example, make a combo last, a sequence or heal the protagonist. The system nevertheless seems developed enough to adapt to each style of play. The skill tree will also allow you to customize Clive’s range of moves by spending points for each Primordial to claim new powers. No big surprise here,
Exciting and powerful once mastered, Final Fantasy 16puts a hand on the back of everything that FF15 had done with a combat system that is more refined, impressive, frenetic and twirling than ever. Boss fights are the perfect showcase to show off what the game has in store. It’s technical as there are lots of little subtleties (willpower gauge for powerful enemies, destabilization of opponents, etc.), exhilarating and spectacular as possible. On the one hand when Clive is unleashed with his Limit Break where devastating blows and special effects of great beauty follow one another without any respite, on the other because the staging of the boss fights looks particularly promising.
Spectacular titanic clashes
FF16 knows how to impress and is even more spectacular during the second type of confrontation: battles between Primordials. In addition to facing them in his human form, Clive will be able to go to battle with them by adopting the form of these huge summons to make the fight fairer. Spectacular like no other, these battles are divided into different phases that are most often playable, sometimes with very permissive QTEs that are impossible to miss as they take up all the space on the screen. Like a certain Bayonetta, all these epic clashes will be based on a different concept to offer unique experiences each time. The one with Phoenix will look more like a 3D shooter when the Titan one will be over the top with an entire area incorporated as a battlefield. It’s the fight between Ifrit and Garuda that we had the chance to try. It looks like a big professional wrestling match where you have to anticipate your opponent’s blows to better get into him or counter him.
Ifrit has four commands to knock down his opponent: an attack, a dash, a fireball and a dodge. It was enough to create an intense duel with an exhilarating feeling where each impact of the blows is felt to perfection thanks to an ingenious use of the DualSense. Nothing revolutionary on the horizon, and yet the style is there, as well thanks to models of great beauty always introduced with cutscenes that amaze. We do not sulk our pleasure to see all these monsters more disproportionate than the others to put on the face, it is quite simply enjoyable. Once again, the great spectacle is assured, both by the gigantism of the fight and for the compositions of the great Masayoshi Soken, who offered us an auditory feast during this first grip. And since we drift on the sound part of Final Fantasy 16, we were able to try some of the fights in VF, which looks good even if the Japanese and English voices stand out, especially since the lip synchronization is more worked on these versions.
Gameplay accessible to all?
This 360° turn towards the action promises to be a pure success, but Final Fantasy 16 will not leave less seasoned players on the floor. Aware that this new direction is intimidating to some, the game will invite players to choose between two distinct modes at the start of their game: action mode and story mode. Unlike other productions, there is no question here of automatically adjusting the difficulty. Choosing one or the other will only allow you to equip or not two of the accessories designed to make FF16 more accessible by facilitating certain aspects of it. A pirouette that allows everyone to personalize the gaming experience without taking all the fun out of the fights.
Clive can for example equip himself with an object allowing the person who controls him to anticipate the blows. Time slows down, gives way to a very permissive QTE and hop the player performs a perfect dodge to better follow up with a powerful attack behind. Another will offer an approach more similar to Final Fantasy 15 by bringing together some more complex combos in a single key to twirl the hero in all directions more easily. The last one that we were given to see automatically manages the controls of this good old Torgal, which gives rise to a series of annoying replicas in the long run. Yes he’s a good boy, but no need to remind him every twenty seconds.
We obviously tried them for sport during our session, and these accessories offer more amplitude during the somewhat chaotic beginnings by allowing us to better manage our attacks without necessarily focusing on enemy patterns . Nothing is fully automatic and a minimum of dexterity will always be required, but we greatly prefer the feeling of the action mode which makes the games more exhilarating and satisfying. “ We wanted to make the game more accessible without taking all the fun out of the gameplay and keeping the feeling that the player is actually playing rather than feeling like everything he does is automatic,” Yoshida explains in a presentation .
The bet seems successful and this approach seems to be the best compromise for those who would like a slightly less complex or less action-oriented gameplay. All lights are green, but Final Fantasy 16 needs to prove itself in other aspects as well, like exploration which we felt here was marred by these X+R2-based QTEs with haptic feedback to open heavy doors. . If it was just once in a while it would be fine, but sometimes it’s a few minutes apart if only a few seconds. From there to say that it could be a ploy to hide the loading times… We will see on the final version, outdoors, and which will not only be a small portion extracted from the game to give us a first overview.
We are waiting for it… impatiently
Final Fantasy 16 already looks spectacular and bombastic. The purely action orientation already suits it perfectly, with frantic, impactful, technical and more dynamic gameplay than ever where acrobatic prowess, pretty special effects and flashy staging mingle during boss fights. It remains to be seen if the rhythm will hold up over time and if the readability will not be undermined with more enemies on the screen. If we are on conquered ground, FF16 must still convince on other aspects. Action is good, but where are the RPG mechanics?