Final Fantasy XVI turns the RPG series into a Hollywood spectacle | Digital Trends

    Disclaimer per Square Enix relating to the demo construct previewed beneath: “This is a special version made for media to experience, and contents may differ from the final version … FINAL FANTASY XVI © 2023 SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights Reserved.”
    In case Square Enix hasn’t made it clear sufficient over the previous few years: Final Fantasy is altering. While the legendary RPG sequence had lengthy been synonymous with conventional, turn-based fight and kooky creatures, current entries have signaled a slow-moving sea change geared toward remodeling the franchise ultimately. Games like Final Fantasy XV and Final Fantasy VII Remake have teased a brand new path for the sequence, however Final Fantasy XVI totally rips the Band-Aid off.

    I acquired a transparent image of that after I sat down for a 90-minute demo of the sport, which is scheduled for a June 22 launch on PlayStation 5. At first look, the newest installment of the sequence is nearly unrecognizable from something that got here earlier than it. It’s a full-on character-action recreation with a dreary tone that extra resembles one thing by FromSoftware (although it’s definitely not a Soulslike). I wasn’t issuing instructions to occasion members, cinematic quick-time occasions popped up between battles, and there wasn’t an MP bar in sight. Whether you’re prepared to just accept it or not, that is the way forward for Final Fantasy.
    The excellent news is that builders at Square Enix’s Creative Business Unit III haven’t taken their accountability calmly right here. Based on my brief time with the demo (an unfinished slice of gameplay custom-built for press), Final Fantasy XVI feels just like the assured cannonball the sequence has wanted after dipping its toe into motion for nicely over a decade. It’s a loud, thrilling spectacle anchored by the sequence’ greatest stab at hack-and-slash gameplay but. Just don’t anticipate it to cater to your RPG nostalgia; it’s a must to be keen to fulfill it by itself fashionable phrases.
    Back to excessive fantasy
    What’s notably humorous about Final Fantasy XVI is that it’s each a complete departure and a return to kind. In a presentation earlier than my hands-on session, I’m given a grand overview of the standalone recreation’s excessive fantasy setting. It’s about every thing I’d anticipate from a traditional entry within the sequence, with a multi-empire battle set on the planet of Valisthea that revolves round big blue crystals and the individuals who search to wield them. The large emphasis on story will embody over 11 hours price of cutscenes — and that’s not counting something associated to subquests.

    The demo itself (which takes place about 5 hours into the story) didn’t reveal an excessive amount of narrative, however I’m totally launched to its protagonist, Clive Rosfield. The grizzled swordsman is on an advanced revenge quest that weaves in traditional Final Fantasy lore. Rosfield was purported to be born a “dominant,” which is a warden of the weather and the summons (dubbed “Eikons” right here) related to them. Instead, his youthful brother, Joshua, is chosen to be Phoenix’s keeper, which seems to finish in a tragedy worthy of vengeance. What’s most intriguing in regards to the narrative setup is that it’ll be informed over a 30-year span, following Rosfield in his teenagers, 20s, and 30s. That premise has me to see how each the hero and world will evolve over the course of the journey.
    Aside from its excessive fantasy setting, the journey shortly components methods with the broader sequence as soon as I’m going hands-on. During my demo, I discover myself trekking up a dreary fortress tower as I slash via rooms stuffed with guards and watchdogs en path to a rooftop boss struggle. It’s a surprisingly linear “dungeon” stuffed with sq. rooms, stone hallways, and solely a small handful of additional corners to discover. I’m undecided how indicative that’s of the ultimate recreation, however the growth staff available emphasised that Final Fantasy XVI isn’t an open-world recreation. Instead, it compares it to a curler coaster journey, which is the sensation I get as I zip between fight encounters with my wolf companion like I might in Bayonetta 3 or Hi-Fi Rush.

    The deeper I get into the demo, the extra I really feel like I’m enjoying an motion recreation with its personal distinct id. Final Fantasy’s historical past remains to be current in summons and spell names, however it’s in any other case surprising to see bloodied our bodies lining the fortress flooring or to listen to characters dropping F-bombs. During a roundtable interview with a number of the recreation’s inventive staff, I requested what linked the mission to different video games within the sequence. Rather than drilling into particular references or methods, everybody available had a broader definition that they felt XVI totally conformed to, similar to every other entry.
    “For me, a Final Fantasy has to have that deep story,” producer Naoki Yoshida tells Digital Trends. “It has to have that complex game experience. It has to have a unique battle system, great graphics, great sound … and then chocobos and moogles! Final Fantasy XVI has all of those, so I think we’ve made something that feels like Final Fantasy.”
    Director Hiroshi Takai maybe places it greatest when he factors out that Final Fantasy video games are about “challenging something new.” Mainline entries have at all times been fully separate video games that discover their very own worlds, characters, and methods. In that sense, Final Fantasy XVI is totally in step with the remainder of the sequence in taking a brand new strategy to RPG gameplay … and it’s that gameplay that may finally make the reinvention rather a lot simpler to swallow as soon as followers truly get to really feel it in motion.
    Cracking the action-RPG
    Final Fantasy has lengthy tried to interrupt away from conventional turn-based fight in favor of real-time motion, to various levels of success. Final Fantasy VII Remake cleverly fuses the 2 concepts by working a menu-style command system in-between its swordplay. Final Fantasy XV delivered extra of a simple hack-and-slash system that suffered from an absence of depth. After all these makes an attempt and extra, Final Fantasy XVI feels prefer it’s lastly settled right into a satisfying fight system that works.
    That’s largely because of fight director Ryota Suzuki. The developer beforehand labored on Devil May Cry V — and that definitely reveals right here. The battle system is extremely quick and sophisticated, with a wide range of mechanics to juggle. Core fight revolves round a central assault button and a spellcasting command that shoots long-range magic at enemies. Limit breaks are represented, although they’re extra consumable bars that give gamers a surge of energy quite than a one-time-use particular assault. Modern motion staples are all represented right here, from evasive dodging to a parry system, and enemies might be staggered much like Final Fantasy VII Remake.

    The massive twist, although, is tied to Eikons. As Clive acquires the essence of various elemental creatures, he positive aspects entry to a number of talents for every that function on a cooldown. When his fireplace means is provided, you may press the circle button to warp towards an enemy. Holding down R2 and urgent the assault buttons fires off totally different expertise (unlocked through talent tree with means factors), like a fiery uppercut. In my demo, I’m capable of maintain three of these powers directly and cycle between them on the fly with L2.
    It didn’t take lengthy for me to get the hold of it as I easily shuffled talents in-between customary assaults to devastate my enemies with panache. Having entry to a number of talents ensures that I at all times have one thing cooled down and able to use, letting me fluidly chain collectively assaults. A regular battle would have me closing in on an enemy with my fireplace warp, flipping to Earth magic to dam an assault with my rock defend, delivering a barrage of close-range smashes, after which flipping to electrical magic to juggle close by enemies with a large aerial spell.
    When you discover the circulation, it feels such as you’re Dante or Bayonetta utilizing Clive’s powers to indicate off whereas holding the stress on his foes. It’s all the joys of an in-depth combo system, minus the sophisticated inputs. Instead, I can simply execute my talents and chain them along with simple controls. All I’ve to control is my cooldowns.
    While it’s an extremely enjoyable system, it may be a little bit of a tradition shock to longtime followers. When requested in regards to the shift to flashy motion, Yoshida offers a considerably sobering reply: The builders are simply following the info. It’s merely how the staff realistically thinks it may recoup the exorbitant growth prices that include a contemporary recreation. It’s merely enjoying to a youthful viewers that grew up on shooters and quick motion video games. Yoshida additionally notes that the staff felt it could be a waste of the PS5’s graphical capabilities to only have characters standing round ready for orders.

    Though which may not be essentially the most creatively satisfying reply, the staff hasn’t solely thrown historical past out with its new fight. In truth, Takai notes that the system has a shocking hyperlink to a traditional entry within the sequence.
    “The ability system that we have, with using the Eikonic abilities, that’s something that we actually based off of Final Fantasy V’s ability system,” Takai says. “For me, it was thinking back to: If we took the Final Fantasy V ability system and made it into something that was real-time action, this is what it would look like … To those players out there who are still on the fence and thinking ‘I don’t want to play this because I’m a turn-based person,’ I’d ask them to at least try it out once and see how it feels. We think you’ll change your mind.”
    Enter the Eikon
    The new fight system isn’t the one trick Final Fantasy XVI has up its sleeve. The most spectacular a part of it revolves round its Eikons. At the tip of my demo, I’m thrown right into a boss struggle elsewhere in Clive’s journey. At first, it’s much like what I’d skilled earlier than. Clive comes facefto-face with Garuda and is tossed right into a spherical enviornment with the titanic boss. I weave round electrical assaults and tornadoes as I load her up with injury. It’s a frantic, thrilling struggle, however it’s solely the prelude to the primary occasion.
    After a false end, Clive transforms into Ifrit, the traditional Final Fantasy fireplace summon. A kaiju battle ensues as the 2 hulking beasts go head-to-head. The core fight controls are the identical right here, as I lunge ahead with X, shoot some long-range flames with triangle, and slash at Garuda with sq.. That alone is thrilling sufficient, however the curler coaster spectacle ratchets up as her well being bar hits the midway level. Suddenly, we enter an prolonged cinematic the place I’m utilizing quick-time actions to execute cinematic dodges and assaults. It’s a full-on Hollywood monster film battle through which the PS5’s visible capabilities are on full show.
    I can’t cease grinning the complete struggle; it’s blockbuster motion at its best. I instinctively fist pump when it’s over.

    The growth staff laid out some inspirations for the encounter, which ranged from Neon Genesis Evangelion, to Godzilla, to skilled wrestling. However, they joke about how a lot cash they spent for a one-off sequence, as a result of no two Eikon battles would be the identical. The staff implies {that a} later battle will tackle extra of a 3D sky shooter setup, as an example. After the Ifrit struggle, I’m already dying to see how later battles can one-up that have.
    The monumental battles aren’t only for present. Eikons are the center and soul of the action-RPG, spiritually tethering it to the Final Fantasy sequence at massive. When creating the mission, Yoshida needed to create a Final Fantasy recreation that lastly dug into the lore and mythology of summons, which have lengthy been used merely as particular assaults. Final Fantasy XVI will dive into their backstories, whereas displaying them as extra succesful fighters. That alone is essentially the most compelling narrative hook the sequel has going for it, taking a brand new strategy to what components of the broader RPG universe are allowed to be fleshed out in a recreation like this. That’s all a part of the general mission of the sport: to create a extra mature Final Fantasy for an viewers that’s grown up with it.
    “Yoshida’s order at the time, he had this very big idea that he wanted to focus on the summons,” Takai says.” His different order was principally that the Final Fantasy fan base is getting older. They’ve been with the sequence a very long time. So we needed to create a narrative and narrative that resonated with the older followers.”

    I can really feel that philosophy as I play via my brief introduction to Final Fantasy XVI. There’s already quite a lot of weight to the narrative stemming from its private revenge story, its multidecade construction, and its deep mythological worldbuilding. The energetic motion is a wholly new frontier which may upset longtime followers, however the sequence’ coronary heart isn’t completely gone right here. Though it could not have the whimsy of earlier entries, and its linear construction leaves me with a slight little bit of trepidation, it honors the shape-shifting nature in a method that feels in keeping with its legacy.
    If that’s nonetheless not convincing sufficient, that is your second to get off the practice. But in case you keep on, it looks as if you’ll be in for a spectacular journey no matter how a lot it resembles the outdated video games you’re keen on.
    Final Fantasy XVI launches on June 22 solely for PS5.

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