I do not think I have reviewed a main-line Final Fantasy game on this blog. I have reviewed the Final Fantasy VII Remake, as well as Crisis Core, but I finally get to talk about a brand-new Final Fantasy adventure and find out if FFXVI is as good as the legendary name that dons it.
Right off the bat, I want to point out that Final Fantasy XVI is the first Final Fantasy game to get a ‘Mature’ rating. It was quite jarring for me to play a Final Fantasy game with true adult content with swearing and sex scenes. Imagine if previous Final Fantasy games had adult content. Despite the shock, I was happy to see Square Enix take the teen gloves off and finally deliver an adult epic of a video game.
The aspect of Final Fantasy XVI that was the most enjoyable were the action cutscenes. Now, FFXVI has a heavy emphasis on the story and the general world-building of Valisthea with its numerous cutscenes, but when it comes to watching the action scenes, I was on the edge of my seat. FFXVI has some of the best-shot action scenes I have ever seen in a video game, to go along with fantastic graphics that seemingly only Square Enix can achieve. The story, characters (and their development), and the overall world-building that FFXVI tries to push are well-done, in my opinion. FFXVI always tries to educate you on the various conflicts, events, and central figures as you progress through the story, giving the sense of immersion to the player, and I can appreciate the effort. Square Enix drew obvious inspiration from TV shows such as "Game of Thrones", as well as other medieval fantasy works, while also mixing in the things we know so well from previous Final Fantasy games, such as Chocobos. I also enjoyed the grounded and emotion-conveying voice-acting of the main core of characters.
The gameplay is where Final Fantasy XVI starts to wobble a bit. The combat is overall fun, but repetitive. You have your use of Eikonic abilities that you can swap out, use, and upgrade, which gives you a bit of variety in your combat. Ultimately, the combat relies on a "hack and slash" mechanic, and I found that I did not really have to use any strategy in defeating enemies, other than avoiding enemy attacks.
Final Fantasy XVI also struggled to decide whether it wants to be a fully open-world game (like FFXV) or a linear-focused game (like FFXIII) in its level design. If you are just focusing on the main story, then FFXVI is a strictly linear game, but if you want to do side quests and hunts, that will require you to travel to other parts of the map.
I will say this about the side content of this game. I found most of the side quests to be nothing more than time-wasters, with its fetch quests and monster hunts. The side content severely broke up the pacing of the game, as the game will just throw a bunch of side quests at you between points of the main story. There were only a few side quests that gave useful upgrades. The equipment and crafting systems were bare-bones and could be much more robust. To be honest, for a series such as Final Fantasy which prides themselves on being the gold standard for RPGs, Final Fantasy XVI did not have very many RPG elements, instead focusing more on being an action game. I am not against the change, but I can see some Final Fantasy purists hate this game because of this game.
Overall, I think Final Fantasy XVI is a great game, with some flaws that hinder this game from being a game-of-the-year candidate. The storytelling, cinematics, characters, and voice-acting is such high-quality and a marvel to see. It is a shame that repetitive combat, empty environments, and monotonous side quests let this game down. After playing this game, I thought about where FFXVI would rank among all the main-line Final Fantasy games. Final Fantasy XVI will not reach the same praise as Final Fantasy’s 6-10, but I think that gamers and Final Fantasy fans alike will look favorably on XVI.