Few franchises have the honor of boasting an active 35-year legacy, but that’s exactly what Final Fantasy will be celebrating the upcoming release of Final Fantasy 16. As the series’ 35th anniversary draws near, so does its new mainline entry. By the time it’s released in 2023, Final Fantasy 16 will be the first mainline Final Fantasy game to come out in seven years.
Both longtime fans and curious new onlookers are keen to see what Square Enix will deliver in this new era, so here’s everything we know so far about Final Fantasy 16.
Final Fantasy 16 Release Date
Final Fantasy 16 was revealed during Sony’s PlayStation 5 showcase on September 16, 2020. Its trailer was almost four minutes long, containing a significant amount of gameplay alongside rendered cutscenes. This was a welcome change of pace from past Square Enix reveals like Final Fantasy 15, Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Kingdom Hearts 3. Each of those games had a significant gap between their reveals and when they were actually released, causing some to feel like the publisher was revealing games too early and with teasers that were too short.
That seems to no longer be a problem. While Final Fantasy 16’s exact release date is still undetermined, the trailer that premiered at Playstation’s June 2022 State of Play showcase confirmed a summer 2023 release window. Producer Naoki Yoshida stated in a message tweeted on December 27, 2021 that the COVID-19 pandemic delayed development by “almost a half year.”
Final Fantasy 16 Platforms
Final Fantasy 16 is currently slated to be a PlayStation 5 exclusive. Yoshida says developing it for the PlayStation 5 has allowed the team to craft a game in which you’ll “jump straight from story cutscenes into real-time battles and back again without any loading times, making the gameplay flow at a breakneck pace.”
Final Fantasy 16’s reveal trailer ended with a card stating its platform exclusivity. Curiously, there was also some fine print at the bottom saying, “Also available on PC.” This was later removed. A PC version of Final Fantasy 16 seems certain, but it will surely come after some time has passed since the PlayStation 5 release.
As a reference, Final Fantasy 7 Remake was released on the Playstation 4 on April 10, 2020; it arrived on PC over a year later on December 16, 2021. Before that, Final Fantasy 15 was released on PC on March 6, 2018 – over a year after its initial console release on November 29, 2016. There’s a chance we can expect to see Final Fantasy 16 on PC around a year and a half after its release on PlayStation 5.
Final Fantasy 16 Setting and Story
Final Fantasy 16 takes place in Valisthea, a land blessed by the light of the Mothercrystals. These are glittering mountains of crystal that tower over the realms around them, blessing them with aether. Aether allows people to live comfortably – a gift promising enough to motivate different realms to engage in war with each other. Now, the destructive threat of the Blight and the fading of the Mothercrystals’ aether has thwarted the uneasy peace that has presided over the various realms.
The most powerful and deadly creatures to exist in Valisthea are the Eikons – think of them as being akin to weapons of mass destruction in the real world. Each Eikon resides within a Dominant, an individual who can summon their Eikon and use its power. Some realms treat Dominants as royalty to admire; others force them to be weapons of war – all recognize Dominants as crucial to the political landscape of Valisthea. By sending their Eikons to the field of war, the rivaling realms hope to seize each others’ crystals for their own gains.
There are six realms in total: The Grand Duchy of Rosaria, The Holy Empire of Sanbreque, The Kingdom of Waloed, The Dhalmekian Republic, The Iron Kingdom and The Crystalline Dominion.
The answer as to why Final Fantasy 16 will have a classic medieval European fantasy setting is simple: Many of the core members of Creative Business Unit III, the division developing the game, enjoy the setting and the feel it gives. The last mainline Final Fantasy took place in a world mixing advanced modern technology and magic, so Final Fantasy 16 having the kind of setting seen in entries like Final Fantasy 9 and Final Fantasy 12 will be a welcome return to form for many fans.
Despite the vastness of Valisthea, Final Fantasy 16 will not be an open-world game. It will take inspiration from recent triple-A open world RPGs to garner the interest of old and new Final Fantasy fans alike, but the team has avoided a design that limits them to a single open world space. Yoshida says that, in this way, the team can “bring a story that feels like it spans an entire globe and beyond” while focusing “on an independent area-based game design that can give players a better feel of a truly 'global' scale."
In an interview with Famitsu in 2022, he expressed his firm belief that “delivering what we believe is the best story, in an experience that blends together games and movies, does not require an open world.”
Final Fantasy 16 Story
The main story of Final Fantasy 16 will follow the life of Clive Rosfield through his teens, 20s, and 30s. It will also largely focus on the Dominants and their Eikons. Doing so makes the Dominants great avenues for exploring the more mature themes the team wants to depict, and the Eikons grandiose enough to offer the entirely unique experiences you’ll have while controlling them in Eikon fights.
One of the more mature themes the team is exploring with Final Fantasy 16’s story is the inevitable clash of values and ideals when different people with differing viewpoints are in the same room. What emerges from their discussions as truly right or wrong? The Dominants’ storylines will explore deeper and darker themes regarding how people should live – if, for example, people should live the life chosen for them or carve their own destiny.
As a result of wanting to tell the story they want to portray without worrying about adhering to a certain rating’s limitations, the team has gone with an M rating for Final Fantasy 16.
The only other entries in the series to share this rating are Final Fantasy Type-0 and Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin. The former is a story of child soldiers and contains some particularly violent scenes, such as a man stabbing himself with a sword, a girl shot by a sniper, and a character shot close-up. The latter has similarly violent scenes (dead soldiers lying in large pools of blood, a character impaled through the chest, bloody limbs on the ground) as well as a character using the F-word.
Final Fantasy 16 will contain a few side quests that will develop the world of Valisthea in addition to the main scenario, as well as some in-game compendiums and materials to read for deeper lore. However, it will be a self-contained story. As of right now, there are no plans to create tertiary content that will be required to enjoy or understand it.
This is perhaps a response to the criticism that Final Fantasy 15, as a game, is an incomplete story. In order to know its whole narrative, you had to watch the Brotherhood: Final Fantasy 15 anime, see the (bad) Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy 15 movie, and play multiple DLC containing vital content that takes place during Final Fantasy 15 yet is not included in the main game.
Final Fantasy 16 Characters
In Final Fantasy 16, you’ll play as Clive Rosfield, the firstborn son of the Archduke of Rosaria. While he was meant to inherit Phoenix and become its Dominant, fate instead gave this power to Clive’s younger brother Joshua.
To try and forge his own path, Clive dedicated himself to mastering the blade. He eventually attained the honor of becoming the First Shield of Rosaria, the protector of Phoenix who can wield a part of the Eikon’s fire. Unfortunately, Clive’s career ends in tragedy at the hands of the mysterious dark Eikon known as Ifrit, setting him on a journey of vengeance.
Joshua Rosfield is the second son of Archduke of Rosaria and the Dominant of Phoenix, younger than Clive by five years. He greatly admires his older brother, whom he sees as braver and stronger, and feels guilty for inheriting Phoenix’s power. But it’s Joshua’s strength – both emotional and physical – that will be deeply tested following the tragic events that change the brothers’ lives forever.
Jill Warrick was taken from her homeland in the fallen Northern Territories to become a ward of Rosaria, securing peace between the two warring realms. After being raised alongside the Archduke’s sons, she is seen as part of the Rosfield household as much as them. She is a treasured confidant of the brothers and is described as kind, gracious, and unassuming.
Hugo Kupka has gone from a once nameless foot soldier to the Permanent Economic Advisor of The Dhalmekian Republic. His status as the Dominant of the Eikon Titan propelled him to his current position. It’s a role he has used to influence the nation’s armies and government, amassing a fortune in the process.
He will have a mysterious bond with Benedikta Harman, the coldhearted and ruthless Dominant of the Eikon Garuda. She commands the elite intelligencers of The Kingdom of Waloed, and it is on a mission to find the second Eikon of Fire that she meets Clive and is forced to face her past.
Last but certainly not least is Torgal, the adorable wolf-pup you see in the reveal trailer. As for whether Torgal will eventually play a role in combat, Yoshida says you’ll have to “wait and see.”
Final Fantasy 16 Combat and Gameplay
By combining fast-paced, real-time action with a classic fantasy world setting, the development team hopes to capture as many people as possible with Final Fantasy 16’s combat. Yoshida has told IGN that, "translating traditional summon abilities into player actions, and allowing for the real-time swapping and chaining of these abilities in battle has allowed us to create a system that not only looks great, but feels really good to play."
It’s important to note that you will only play as Clive in Final Fantasy 16 – a significant change from the majority of the series’ past games. Clive will be accompanied by one or more companions for most of the journey, and they will both participate in battle and banter with Clive; however, they will be AI-controlled. Final Fantasy 15 operates similarly at the beginning, but you can play as the other party members in their respective DLC episodes and in the main game’s combat after unlocking specific abilities in the Ascenion grid.
That’s not to assume you’ll quickly grow bored of just playing as Clive, though. He’s armed with an arsenal full of powerful attacks and abilities based on traditional Final Fantasy summons, as well as the ability to cycle between those attacks and deal them in real-time. This results in “powerful combinations and smooth, stylist gameplay that both looks and feels great.”
The seamless switching and swapping of actions, and then chaining them together to create unique combinations, will allow players to have fun finding and developing their own playstyles.
Eikon battles will also all be different from each other. In one Eikon versus Eikon battle, it may be reminiscent of a 3D shooter; another will look more like a pro wrestling match; a third will transform an entire arena into a battlefield for these Eikons to duel it out. Each fight will be unique since the team did not reuse these systems – even the UI will be at least slightly different for each one. As a result, every Eikon versus Eikon confrontation will feel special and dynamic.
Final Fantasy 16 Notable Staff
Final Fantasy 16 is boasting some incredibly recognizable talent among its staff. Naoki Yoshida, producer and director of Final Fantasy 14, is the game’s producer. Many fans see him being at the helm as a reassuring sign, given his fame for elevating Final Fantasy 14 to become the biggest MMO in the world.
Final Fantasy 16’s main director is Hiroshi Takai, who previously served as the assistant director of Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn and its Heavensward expansion. He was also the art director for SaGa Frontier and the director of The Last Remnant.
Creative director Kazutoyo Maehiro, who is overseeing Final Fantasy 16’s original screenplay, was a main scenario writer for Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn and its Heavensward expansion, as well as the main battle system designer for Final Fantasy 12.
Michael-Christopher Koji Fox is Final Fantasy 16’s localization director. Final Fantasy 14 fans know him as the fantastic localization and translation director for the MMORPG since its inception; he was also a translator on Final Fantasy 11, Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy 7 and Final Fantasy Tactics.
Final Fantasy 16’s art director is Hiroshi Minagawa. He was the co-director, visual designer and character texture supervisor for Final Fantasy 12, as well as the art and event director for Final Fantasy Tactics. On Final Fantasy 14, he was the lead UI designer for A Realm Reborn and Heavensward and the art director for Stormblood and Shadowbringers.
The game’s combat director is Ryota Suzuki, who was a gameplay lead on Dragon’s Dogma, an effects designer on Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and a designer on Devil May Cry 5.
Final Fantasy 16’s character design lead, Kazuya Takahashi, has been a character concept artist and character designer for Final Fantasy 14 since A Realm Reborn.
Lastly, Masayoshi Soken, the beloved primary composer of Final Fantasy 14, is Final Fantasy 16’s composer. Yoshida says Soken best understands what he, the director, and the creative director imagine as the right kind of soundscape for a Final Fantasy – as well as the crucial fact that Soken’s musical style inherits much from Nobuo Uematsu, the father of Final Fantasy music.
Talk about an all-star lineup.
What Final Fantasy 16 Can Mean for the Series
Many perceive Final Fantasy to have stagnated as a series in the last few years — Yoshida among them. In an interview with Inverse earlier this year, Yoshida said he believes the series is “currently struggling” to successfully adapt to and set industry trends.
Final Fantasy hasn’t had the best last decade. The release of the last mainline entry, Final Fantasy 15, was met with mixed responses – and they were all the more egregious in the wake of its publicly troubled 10-year development cycle. Final Fantasy 14 has achieved arguably the best redemption story in the industry, but it began as one of Square Enix’s biggest failures and has taken years of support and massive content additions to reach its current revered status. Final Fantasy 13 was generally received positively but its flaws were heavily panned, and its multiple sequels didn’t inspire overly enthusiastic responses. The last universally critically acclaimed Final Fantasy from the get-go was 12, which came out over 15 years ago.
While Final Fantasy 14 is thriving and still setting records, the single-player Final Fantasy games need to spark much more excitement than they have in recent years. Final Fantasy 16 seems poised to try to represent a reassurance of the series’ future.
With aspirations to be a mature evolution for the series, an eagerness to try new things that have never been seen in the franchise before, and project leaders with impressive track records, Final Fantasy 16 might just achieve that goal. Only time will tell if the light of the crystals will result in a brighter future for Final Fantasy.
If you want to know even more about the game, check out IGN’s Final Fantasy 16 page.