Within the first five minutes of Final Fantasy XVI, one of the most jaw-dropping moments isn’t a massive boss battle, but a full-on make-out session between two characters. Producer Naoki Yoshida has said FFXVI will be more “mature” than previous entries — and a recent media preview of the first few hours of the game confirms that romance is very much back on the menu. You really do love to see it.
Inverse played a special version made for media to experience, and contents may differ from the final version.
Next to humor, romance is one of the most difficult things to do well in video games — awkward writing and wonky digital faces can turn a heart-pounding moment into a total buzzkill. Final Fantasy has managed to pull off some incredible romances over the years. Final Fantasy 7-10 marked a golden age of romance for the series — Cloud and Aerith (or Tifa depending on your preference), Tidus and Yuna, Zidane and Garnet, and “the best-looking guy here” Squall and Rinoa. FFXVI aims to pick up that torch again.
Beyond the mature depiction of war and violence that fills FFXVI’s world, the M-rated smooching signals that yes indeed this is — to paraphrase The Princess Bride — a kissing game. Though XVI’s portrayal of love won’t be a strictly fairytale version.
“Love is a main theme throughout the game — things as harsh as like using love as a weapon, or the true love between two people,” Yoshida told Inverse during previews in February, “Brotherly love, love of a family, love of a nation. Love is explored in many ways throughout Final Fantasy XVI.”
So much of Final Fantasy XVI’s story and themes have been compared to other stories from the series, particularly those in the Ivalice setting (Tactics and XII). They are highly political, which tracks with the Game of Thrones inspirations the team has publicized. Though in this world romance still finds a strong foothold. In the game’s first five hours, multiple brushes with romance occurred, though none as spicy as the initial smoochfest.
What makes the love stories of Final Fantasies past so special are how they intertwine seamlessly with the larger stakes of each game, which seems to be the case with FFXVI as well. The game sees protagonist Clive (and the world around him) at three different points in time. We see pieces of his life in his teens, twenties, and thirties. This allows an unprecedented look into the ways character relationships (romantic and otherwise) shift over long periods of time.
The first time we see characters such as Cid and Benedikta interact, we can tell there is a decade of complex emotions between the two. Like a good romance movie, FFXVI is happy to let shots linger on longing looks or subtle brushes of hands together. For those whose romantic trope of choice is pining, you are in for a good time.
This ability to tell a story of love that doesn’t take place entirely within the span of months, weeks, or even days does lend itself to a mature tone past entries in the series haven’t reached, and makes me pine all the more for Final Fantasy XVI’s release in a month.