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The newcomer’s guide to Final Fantasy XVI

Before you jump into the dark realm of Valisthea this June, here's all the information newcomers need to know.

For a series that’s about to launch its sixteenth main entry, it’s incredible just how much hype Final Fantasy XVI has behind it. Longtime fans are still just as excited as ever to dive into the next game in their beloved series. But for newcomers, Final Fantasy XVI might seem like a pretty daunting place to jump into the franchise.

Thankfully, the Final Fantasy series is famous for its varying storylines that change from title to title. This makes just about any of the main titles a solid entry point. (At least, as far as narrative goes.) Every game has its own gameplay mechanics as well, and only a handful of elements carry over to each title.

Final Fantasy XVI is no different, and newcomers will have no problem settling into this game as a result. But if you’ve never played a Final Fantasy game before, there might still be some stuff you want to know. That’s what this guide is for: helping you prepare to dive into this sixteenth major title before it launches in June. Let’s cover all the information you need to know.

The history of Final Fantasy for newcomers

Final Fantasy XVI Painting
There’s tons of lore in the Final Fantasy series — and newcomers don’t need to learn any of it.

Here’s the thing about the Final Fantasy series. Every main title is its own separate adventure, so no, you don’t need fifteen games’ worth of knowledge to understand the sixteenth game. Some titles spun off into their own side series like Final Fantasy VII, but for the most part, every new numbered game represents a brand new narrative.

It’s probably more helpful to talk briefly about the series’ history instead. The franchise began in 1987 with the Famicom RPG Final Fantasy. Nowadays, it looks like your traditional old-school JRPG, but it and its five sequels made quite a splash in Japan and (for some titles, at least) overseas. Starting out as a traditional fantasy series with occasional science fiction elements, it quickly became more of a modern / urban fantasy game with Final Fantasy VI and especially the seventh entry.

That’s the look that’s dominated Final Fantasy for years for the most part. With some exceptions, the Final Fantasy series cemented itself as an industrial science-fiction series more so than fantasy. Sure, there’s magic and job classes and all that, but up until Final Fantasy XVI, most of the recent entries were far more modern than its swords-and-sorcery roots.

While some prefer this direction, many long-time fans have been wishing for a more traditional fantasy game. With Final Fantasy XVI, they finally have it.

The story of Final Fantasy XVI

Clive and Josh
Clive Rosenfeld and his brother Joshua go through several hardships along the way.

Final Fantasy XVI takes place in the world of Valisthea, a fantasy world inhabited by several different kingdoms ruling over their own territory. There’s been a steady peace over this land for millennia following a great war, but events transpire to shake things up. With a drought of materials and the controversial influence of the Dominants, or people who can control creatures called Eikons, the nations once again take up arms against each other.

One such nation is the Grand Duchy of Rosaria, the homeland of protagonist Clive Rosenfeld. He’s the firstborn son of the ruler of Rosaria, but his younger brother Joshua is set to take the throne instead, with Clive acting as his protector.

Unfortunately, tragic events surrounding Clive’s family send him on a course of revenge. With the dark Eikon Ifrit on the loose, Clive gains the power to control multiple Eikons and sets off into the far reaches of Valisthea.

We’ve gotten a few previews of the story so far, including a recent story trailer that shows us several key scenes and bits of dialogue. Square Enix is obviously being selective with what it shows us of Final Fantasy XVI, but if the trailers are anything to go by, it’s gonna be an epic story for newcomers and veterans alike.

Explaining the new gameplay

Final Fantasy XVI Gameplay
Newcomers might struggle with the gameplay of Final Fantasy XVI at first, but so might veterans.

The modern influence on Final Fantasy doesn’t end with the story. Final Fantasy XVI newcomers worried that the retro franchise mechanics will hold them back need not fret.

Final Fantasy XV fully brought the series into an action-RPG formula, and Final Fantasy VII Remake codified this new direction. And the sixteenth entry in this long-running saga doesn’t deviate from this new course. It isn’t an open-world game this time, with linear areas taking you through the many realms as the story progresses.

Battles take place in real time, with Clive able to target enemies at will and blast them with melee combos, acrobatics, and magic attacks. It’s meant to be accessible for modern gamers and newcomers to the series, but still engaging enough for veteran players seeking a challenge. With several weapons to choose from and the same leveling system as before, Clive grows alongside the player.

One of the most incredible aspects of the game, and one that newcomers will undoubtedly be awed by, are the Eikon battles. These bosses let you take control of one of your Eikons in a battle against giant creatures and other Eikons. Just imagine a Kaiju battle with fantasy creatures. (Er, well, Final Fantasy creatures.) That’s because the Eikons are actually based on common summons from the series, with regulars like Ifrit, Ramuh, and Leviathan, and Bahamut (among others) making an appearance.

Is Final Fantasy XVI approachable for newcomers?

Clive Rosenfeld
Clive’s journey presents an even playing field for everyone.

On the whole, newcomers should have an okay time getting into the game. Provided they’re ready for a tough and dark experience, there’s nothing that should prevent them from enjoying their time in Valisthea.

Here’s a potential hang-up, however. Final Fantasy XVI is apparently not approachable to either newcomers or series veterans in regards to plot. The story is apparently very complex, with several interwoven threads and moral and emotional hurdles for characters to overcome. Apparently, it’s even been confusing for the developers to keep track of everything.

That’s why the Active Time Lore system, new to the series, is so important. At any point, you can pause a cutscene to get quick information on dialogue the characters just said, with context provided for key words. This can help you get a better grasp on the game’s lore and characters in real-time.

Jump into Final Fantasy XVI on June 22

The world of Valisthea beckons us.

Whether you’re a newcomer to the series or been playing since the ’90s, this latest title is sure to thrill you. Final Fantasy XVI is developed by Square Enix Creative Business Unit III and published by Square Enix. The game will launch on June 22, 2023 for the PlayStation 5 as a timed exclusive. For more info on the game as it approaches launch, you can check out our ultimate guide to the game here.

Pre-orders for all versions of the game are available now. You can pre-order the game yourself via our Amazon affiliate links below. Every pre-order, regardless of the version, receives the Braveheart weapon DLC and Cait Sith Charm DLC for in-game items.


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Are you looking forward to playing Final Fantasy XVI? Will it be your first Final Fantasy game? Let us know!

Daniel Hein

Daniel Hein is either A) a lifelong video game fanatic, writer, and storyteller just sharing his thoughts on things, or B) some kind of werewolf creature. We're not quite sure which yet. He also makes mediocre video game retrospectives (and other content!) on YouTube where you can watch him babble on for hours about nothing.
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