( ) — The only constant in the Japanese video game saga “Final Fantasy” is change. It has shown a capacity to innovate that is unusual in other franchises, something that has been repeated and has been exacerbated with “Final Fantasy XVI”, its latest installment.
A title that, in order to appeal to a broader audience, has evolved towards real-time action combat in which there are no turns, commands, or tactical mode and which eliminates the open world and proposes more linear levels.
Can “Final Fantasy XVI” be considered, then, as a true game in the saga? Many fans will wonder. The answer is that “Final Fantasy XVI” is indeed a true “Final Fantasy”. And, furthermore, one that bets on the epic and that borders on a high level creating spectacular moments, although with some narrative problems.
The saga has had turn-based combat, more direct combat, it has killed protagonists, it has changed settings, it has had titles for online multiplayer, it has allowed villains to win, it has had more linear titles… The only recurring thing is that They are role-playing and fantasy games in which they usually repeat some elements such as their bestiary or the presence of magic crystals, among others. Beyond that, they are adventures in which a group of characters seeks, almost always and as their ultimate goal, to save the world from a great evil. And all of that is in this installment, more in the form of an epic than an adventure.
Eikons and combat, successes and narrative problems
The classic invocations of the saga, those omnipresent creature-deities in the saga, return to be the protagonists and backbones of all the elements of the game. This time they are called eikons. Arguably, “Final Fantasy XVI”, which is set in a world of dark medieval fantasy, tells the story of various kingdoms at odds with each other for control of a series of magic crystals that allow people without magical abilities to use them for matters of their own. daily life. However, the conflicts between these kingdoms are affected because each of them has a series of people known as Dominants, who have the ability to invoke the eikons, which are all-powerful deities.
In total, there can only be eight eikons and eight Dominants. In this context, the game tells the story of Clive Rosfield, a nobleman whose younger brother is the dominant of the Phoenix eikon and who suffers a tragedy that will lead Clive to start this story of revenge, in a plot that takes place throughout 20 years.
Those responsible for this new installment made it clear from the first moment they showed the game that they wanted to bring the franchise closer to a broader audience. That players of all generations, whether they knew “Final Fantasy” or not, would approach the title.
With this pretext they decided to make a more linear game and that the combat system was pure action. Pressing a button is to carry out an action and chaining them together leads to different combos. Simple and direct.
The result has been one of the most rewarding combat systems in the entire saga due to how spectacular it is and the possibilities it offers. It is dynamic, delicious and satisfying. It’s a frantic dance of hitting, dodging, parrying, hitting again, using abilities gained from the eikons… And it’s especially in the fights against the eikons that the game shines. They are spectacular and epic because of their design, because of how the combats take place, because of the plot that leads to them and because of the masterful soundtrack that accompanies them.
All plot lines and narrative twists have these eikons and their dominants as protagonists. They are the ones who set the pace of this story and what is most interesting about it. Each one of these deities has been designed to shine and the combats and interactions with them are the best moments that the game leaves. That’s when the story really progresses, with a multitude of cinematic sequences in which the characters and their world are developed.
The main problem found in “Final Fantasy XVI” is at the narrative level and affects different elements and mechanics. A good part of the cast of characters are flat, not very charismatic or fall into clichés and hackneyed phrases. There are characters who, at the end of the story, still do not know very well their motivations or even if their actions made sense. Clive is a well-defined and well-played protagonist that allows you to empathize with him and for the dramatic moments to gain weight. But the rest of the secondaries are far below. Only a few of them stand out, such as Jhasua, Cid and, above all, Dion, the latter being the protagonist of one of the best segments in the game.
The creators of the game have cited “Game of Thrones” as inspiration for this geopolitical plot and conflict between kingdoms, but this argument is diluted when all that is left in the background again and the story becomes archetypal and everything is a fight to prevent a great evil from ruling the world.
The game has also wanted to have a markedly darker and bloodier tone showing more violence, dismemberment and profanity, but at times it seems like a fake maturity imposted. “Final Fantasy” doesn’t need to decapitate enemies to show itself as an adult game or evoke deep reflections as the saga has done for more than 30 years.
The other big problem is the pace. The work shines in the moments in which it leads the player to face the eikons or the final bosses of each part. However, the connections between these moments do not quite work. It goes from a peak moment to a valley moment that extends too much. The game poses different preparation missions that usually follow the same scheme: reaching a new kingdom, doing errand missions that hardly contribute to the general plot while fighting some beasts/bandits/knights hoping that they end quickly in order to get there. to the next big fight against the eikons.
In turn, you can choose to carry out secondary missions, but most of them are very poor: they provide little knowledge about the history of the world and the local culture and consist of serving as a messenger or eliminating a certain enemy. It is gratifying to do them to obtain resources (there are rewards in secondary missions that are essential, such as the mount), experience and above all, because the combat system is very good. The world of “Final Fantasy XVI” is artistically beautiful, but the decision to make it levels instead of a large open world and that it’s only there to fight enemies and complete side quests and hunt down powerful enemies leaves a feeling of bitterness. to imagine what could have been.
“Final Fantasy XVI” has continued the saga’s tradition of innovation. And he has done it with a title that was very clear that he wanted to be spectacular, especially in his combat. Argumentally and narratively, it does not reach the level of other installments in the franchise, but its magnificent combats and dramatic moments with the eikons do enter the pantheon of the best that it has given.