Even after a handful of trailers, there’s still a ton we don’t know about Final Fantasy XVI. We’ve only seen a few minutes of g gameplay and its overall narrative largely remains a mystery. While the trailers have seemingly introduced the major players of the story there’s one vital piece still missing, a villain. It’s not entirely unusual for Final Fantasy games to keep their villains secret, even Final Fantasy XV didn’t fully reveal that detail until the game actually launched. There are plenty of interesting details in the trailers, however, that could provide some tantalizing hints at who might be working against Clive. We’ll dive into a couple of theories, along with how FFXVI’s villain is likely someone very close to Clive.
Something important to get out of the way first is just who’s making the game. Naoki Yoshida is at the head as producer and Kazutoyo Maehiro, the main scenario writer of A Realm Reborn and Heavensward, is the lead writer. Final Fantasy XIV has revitalized the franchise in many ways, but Yoshida has been vocal in the past about how much they love Yasumi Matsuno’s works, the director of Final Fantasy Tactics and original creator of Final Fantasy XII. On top of that, Maehiro has played a central role in many of Matsuno’s games and was actually the event planner on Tactics, and the main battle system designer on FFXII.
Matsuno’s style of storytelling has always been super heavy on politics, and in terms of his villains, Matsuno loves to have a “puppet-master” type character that’s pulling the strings from the background. Vayne Solidor from XII is the perfect example of this. With that in mind, as well as the stories XIV has told, it seems quite clear that Final Fantasy XVI’s villain will be some kind of grand manipulator, pitting the Dominants against each other for some devious purpose.
This is a roundabout way of getting to a particularly interesting piece of art featured in the “Ambition” trailer. You can see the piece below but essentially it features each of the Dominants (Shiva, Odin, Leviathan, etc) rising up toward a singular creature at the top. This creature has horns and angelic wings leading many to speculate it’s a combination of Ifrit and Phoenix, which we now know are controlled by Clive and Joshua respectively.
While it could be Phoenix and Ifrit, that could actually be a Red Herring distracting us from the true villain of the game, a god-like being named Ultima. Final Fantasy Tactics featured Ultima s the penultimate villain, and Ultima also featured in FFXII as a powerful summon, that’s also vital to the game’s lore. You can see a distinct similarity between the figure in the painting and Ultima’s design in Tactics, and it’s possible that Ultima could function as some kind of “god” of the Dominants, or even the source of their power.
With the game’s story focusing majorly on “summon” creatures, it makes complete sense that the game would draw from some of the more powerful beings featured in the franchise. While Ultima may be the form of the FFXVI’s final boss, the big question remains the true identity of it and the game’s villain, and we have two theories on that.
FF16’s main villain is Joshua
Trailers heavily suggest that Joshua dies in the early stages of FFXVI, and it may be Clive himself that’s responsible for his death. We know there’s a major time skip in the story, but is it possible that Joshua doesn’t actually die? One of the major mysteries right now is the hooded figure we see in a couple of trailers, wreathed in flame. This figure could be Joshua, still alive, although we don’t know his overall objectives. Perhaps Joshua is seeking to end the Dominants once and for all, or some kind of higher power, like Ultima, kept him alive and warped his mind to its own whims.
FF16’s main villain is Clive
The wilder theory is that FFXVI’s main villain could be Clive himself, in some kind of strange time-loop similar to Garland in the first Final Fantasy. It’s possible that Clive absorbs Phoenix’s power by inadvertently killing Joshua, and subsequently ends up taking all of the other Dominant’s power as well. This confluence of power could transform Clive into something otherworldly, giving him the power to travel through time and try to influence his past self. Using Clive as both the hero and villain would be an interesting way to explore the trauma Joshua’s death has had, and it’d certainly be an interesting twist on a protagonist.
While it’s certainly possible that FFXVI’s villain is a character we haven’t yet met, Yoshida and his team are already renowned for ambitious storytelling, and that just seems a bit simple. At this point, it’s impossible to tell what the truth is outside of theories, as we simply need more information. As said before, however, Yoshida and his team have been heavily inspired by Matsuno’s works over the years, and looking at a creator’s inspirations is oftentimes the best way to see what’s coming.
Final Fantasy XVI launches on June 22, 2023, for PS5.