“Final Fantasy XVI”, between titanic fights and colossal weariness, the monster production of Japanese role-playing games

Estimated read time 6 min read

Created in 1987, the series Final Fantasy (whose sixteenth episode comes out Thursday, June 22) was largely responsible for the breakthrough of Japanese role-playing games in the West in the second half of the 1990s, when it became one of the paragons of cinematic video games. Punctuated by spectacular non-playable sequences in computer-generated images, episodes VII, VIII and IX sublimated the lyrical scope of the choral stories dear to the saga.

Since then, the latter has pursued a double quest for renewal (the canonical episodes are based on different universes, characters and game systems each time) and graphic flamboyance, as if this constantly changing series were, like of its cult protagonists, an eternal teenager.

In 2016, however, Final Fantasy XV divides opinion. This blockbuster, which follows the runaway of four windy boys on the roads of an open world, is released in an unfinished state after chaotic development. To prevent such an accident from happening again, Square Enix entrusts the following episode to a dream team directed by Naoki Yoshida, already responsible for the miraculous rescue of the online role-playing game Final Fantasy XIV after its failed first launch.

The emblematic monsters of the

Final Fantasy XVI thus opts for a more controlled formula, essentially linear, with the main ambition of pushing back the limits of the spectacular. Returning to the series’ medieval origins after years of sci-fi, this new single-player adventure openly draws inspiration from the success of great western models of dark fantasy and strives to deliver the ultimate cinematic experience.

Beneath the epic, dark fantasy

To do this, Final Fantasy XVI abandons most complex systems of role-playing games based on calculations to consider itself as an action game in the line of Devil May Cry (which the fight director worked on). Varied without being too technical, dizzying while remaining readable, the clashes are part of what the game does best. But their interest wanes during the game, while a form of routine progression sets in. Players with little focus on the action can also reduce or even eliminate this aspect thanks to accessibility options that allow them to focus only on the story.

Twisted, the latter depicts a fictional world plagued by wars of kingdoms where magic is a salutary force as much as a fatal curse. We follow the awakening of Clive Rosfield, a mature and dark hero who saw his native archduchy devastated. Holder of formidable powers, he becomes the liberator of a people oppressed by a whole gallery of greedy monarchs, while the world of Valisthéa slips gradually towards its twilight.

Sophisticated without being difficult to follow, the main plot of

The plot of Final Fantasy XVI gives pride of place to geopolitical conspiracies but, unsure of herself, clings to many worn-out tunes, most of them stemming from the archetype of Game Of Thrones. In this world plagued by a supernatural plague, we meet a giant with a big heart, a cruel empress who cuddles her teenage son, while certain key characters meet a hasty death, the hero walks with a wolf-dog, or that sex and coarseness invite themselves heavily to this large wobbly table. Even the world map takes the form of a diorama decked out with a curious geographic reduction effect that all too clearly evokes the phenomenon HBO TV series.

The invisible cities

As a binder, Square Enix then turns to the proven recipes of Final Fantasy XIV (released in 2010), at the head of which the eternal courier missions where the player is sent to the four corners of the world under fanciful pretexts. However, what works in a multiplayer game devoted to the accumulation of experience points and throbbing walks here becomes only a hunt for quest markers in restricted environments. Promised by the marvelous horizons of the fabulous settings that we cross, the cities are generally reduced to a handful of alleys in corridors or a few cinematic scenes when we reach them. To this, the game opposes dungeons designed as successions of fights, where behind each door hides an arena, and vice versa. A somewhat outdated video game design.

Despite their abundance of visual effects, the fights remain clear and accessible by offering a small panoply of magical powers from which the player draws as he pleases.

Confident in its ability to take refuge behind its cascade of pyrotechnic effects, the game nevertheless manages to grab us by the image. His fights become luminous dances whose only objective would be to ignite the entire screen with prodigious spells.

The most notable of these pit titanic creatures against each other in duels that are admittedly off-putting but visually stunning. The extreme excess of these pieces of bravery may end up blurring our interest, we stay happy for the show.

Once past the admission that this sixteenth episode will be neither a great game nor a Final Fantasy memorable, it is therefore allowed to appreciate it for what it is: one more step in the long thankless quest for a series almost in its forties which is struggling to leave adolescence.

  The nations of Valisthea draw their power from imposing magic crystals, an obvious metaphor for our dependence on energies that are beyond us.

Pixel’s review

We liked:

  • the technical realization and the breathtaking sets;
  • a successful combat system that culminates in some particularly pleasing boss clashes.

We didn’t like:

  • the uninspired exploration which only gives the player the role of a passive guide;
  • a rhythm that is too lengthy, including in the most intense moments.

It’s more for you if…

  • you want to immerse yourself in a Japanese ersatz of Game Of Thrones featuring tragic characters, some of them endearing, in a beautiful synthetic film;
  • what matters most to you is the charm of Masayoshi Soken’s musical compositions.

It’s not for you if…

  • you don’t like the one-upmanship way Dragon Ball Z, The attack of the Titans Or transformers ;
  • you dream that we are done with games structured in quests and sub-quests.

Pixel’s note:

6 Primordials out of 10 Chimeras.

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