Perhaps the biggest surprise from Sony's mid-September 2020 PlayStation 5 showcase was an announcement trailer for Final Fantasy XVI, the next mainline entry in the beloved role-playing game franchise that's been around since 1987.
The new mainline entry brings some serious Dark Souls meets Game of Thrones vibes that at once feels like a brand new direction for the franchise but also rooted in the classic high fantasy roots. Official materials refer to FF16 as "a single-player action-RPG being developed for the PS5," and it will also be a PS5 timed exclusive.
While many details about the game remain mysterious, there's plenty to unpack — even if all we really have so far is the initial announcement information.
Here's everything we know about Final Fantasy 16.
Is there a Final Fantasy 16 trailer?
Sony's September 16, 2020 PS5 showcase opened on a FF16 trailer titled "Awakening" (included above).
The trailer depicts a medieval fantasy world full of magic and familiar Final Fantasy Summons (called "Dominants" here). Several distinct cultures are engaged in some kind of war, and a young boy named Joshua with some kind of magical powers seems crucial to whatever is going on. It's also worth noting that the trailer confirms two different playable protagonists.
It's also worth noting that during the Tokyo Game Show 2020 in late September, producer Naoki "Yoshi-P" Yoshida clarified in an interview that the entire trailer features in-game scenes rather than a pre-rendered selection of footage: "I saw some comments from Americans saying that if we [released a trailer that was all pre-rendered], they wouldn't see the game until 2035 … So we decided to release a proper trailer." (Translated by @aitaikimochi.)
Yoshi-P also said the team was pressed to produce the trailer and didn't have time to fine-tune the graphics, which is to say that the team will release a more polished trailer at some point in the future — and that graphics in the final build of the game will be far better than what we see in the trailer.
Who is making Final Fantasy 16?
Final Fantasy 16 is in development under Square Enix's Creative Business Unit III. That's the same branch of the company that maintains Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and produces the expansions for the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). This business division, headed up by the aforementioned Yoshi-P, previously focused exclusively on MMOs, including Final Fantasy XI.
FF16 is clearly a glaring exception. While development for FF14 remains ongoing, Yoshi-P will serve as producer on FF16 with Hiroshi Takai will be the game director. Takai was a crucial combat designer on FF11 and years later proved vital to revamping the disastrous FF14 into the successful "A Realm Reborn" reboot that now boasts a player base of about 20 million.
“Yoshi-P” was briefly rumored as the director for FF16 in June 2016, and despite the fact that he expressed his frustration by calling the rumors “annoying” and “big fake news,” that was a fakeout.
When is the Final Fantasy 16 release date?
There's no official release date just yet, but producer Yoshi-P confirmed in official press materials that "the next big information reveal is scheduled for 2021." While it's likely that the game won't be released in 2022 or even 2023, a Square Enix recruitment page translated by Gematsu could indicate a release date before the end of 2021.
"We have already completed basic development and scenario production, and are continuing to create large-scale resources and build boss battles while expanding our various development tools,” the listing reads. “Also, most of our staff are carrying out their work remotely.”
For "basic development" to be complete indicates that production is quite far along, but there's no telling how long it might take to flesh out those "large-scale resources," particularly if they involve the expansion of different development tools.
A far more likely prediction can be made from a May 2020 rumor that claimed Square Enix would announce FF16 sometime in summer 2020 as a next-gen title, with plans to release it for PS5 and Xbox Series X in 2022. As noticed by Wccftech in an August 2020 article, a Resetera forums member called Navtra — who has a proven track record predicting events like Sony's June 2020 Future of Gaming presentation — made the bold claim that FF16 "was supposed to get announced in June's event."
"It's supposedly closer than most people would think," Navtra also wrote. "It has some kind of PS5 exclusivity (it was vague back then but it seems to be full timed exclusivity now). And I have no idea why they haven't announced it yet." All of that turned out to be true, so it does seem plausible that their other predictions will hold true as well.
By all accounts, FF16 has been in development for quite some time. A now-deleted recruitment page from April 2019 indicated that Square Enix was hiring developers for “a new key project following Final Fantasy XIV, taking up a challenge for the next generation.” In retrospect, that was definitely FF16.
Industry insider Jason Schreier also reportedly stated during a September 24, 2020 episode of his podcast Triple Click that FF16 has been in development for four years (at least since the release of FF15 in 2016) and that it might be released sooner than expected. All things considered, something like early 2022 seems most likely.
What is the Final Fantasy 16 story?
The story remains a bit unclear thus far, but the battle at the start of the trailer indicates that one army is targeting "Shiva's Dominant" and "only the Dominant." Based on context clues, a Dominant seems to be a kind of oracle with a singular connection to an Icon, aka Summon such as Shiva, Titan, Phoenix, or Ifrit. In this particular scene, it's Titan versus Shiva.
In theory, it seems safe to assume that killing a Dominant means that an army can no longer rely on an Icon in battle.
An early October 2020 Famitsu issue translated by Twitter user @aitaikimochi reveals some key information from Yoshi-P and Hiroshi. "In this world, without Crystals, humans cannot survive," one line reads. "There has been much strife over the 'Mother Crystal' in the world." Chances seem high that the Icons are involved with crystals in some way, and the political turmoil and outright conflict involves control over this crystal.
"The legacy of the crystals has shaped our history for long enough," a voiceover says in the trailer.
One key character who features prominently in the trailer is Joshua, a young boy (the Archduke's son, apparently) who lives in a kingdom that looks an awful lot like Winterfell from Game of Thrones. The aforementioned Famitsu issue notes that Joshua "uses fire to heal wounds" and is called the Phoenix outright, so he's most likely a Dominant connected to that Icon.
At one point in the trailer, Joshua seemingly transforms and is involved in some way in a conflict between Phoenix and Ifrit, another fire Summon. A soldier is also shocked to see the fight ("Two fire dominants!). While that dynamic and its importance doesn't make a ton of sense just yet, the logo for the game does depict Phoenix facing off against Ifrit.
Who are the Final Fantasy 16 protagonists?
Both protagonists remain unnamed, but they appear to be from different kingdoms. Through some kind of Icon blessing passed down through a Dominant, they've given magical powers that augment their already considerable combat abilities. "The protagonist can do a Shift Warp as well as use Summons attacks in his moves," a translation of the October 2020 Famitsu article reads.
The first protagonist we see in the trailer with connections to the people who have tattoos on their faces, and he is empowered by the earth Summon called Titan that also had a prominent role in Final Fantasy XV. While he seems motivated by vengeance in some fashion, that isn't the case for the other protagonist.
"The protagonist is Joshua's knight, who is sworn to protect him," the October 2020 Famitsu article reads. The knight does claim to be "Joshua's shield" in the English trailer, but the article claims that this protagonist is actually Joshua's older brother.
When will we learn more about Final Fantasy 16?
During the aforementioned Tokyo Game Show 2020 presentation, Yoshi-P also teased when we'll learn more information about the game.
"We're focusing on development right now," he said (based on one translation). "At the end of October we'll open a FF16 teaser site with info on characters and world, and the next big info will be in 2021." That website will probably wind up as https://finalfantasyxvi.square-enix-games.com/ by Halloween 2020.
Thus far, we really don't know much about the story, world, or characters beyond what was revealed in the trailer. The two protagonists, in particular, remain unnamed. We also don't really know much about the conflict between warring nations or what anybody's motives are. But more should be revealed before long.
It's also possible that Square-Enix might announce a release date window when the website goes live in late October, though that seems a bit too optimistic to assume.
What type of game is Final Fantasy 16?
According to a sketchy leak on 4chan from May 2020, FF16 is going to draw some inspiration from Dark Souls while retaining combat elements from Final Fantasy XV. If the trailer is any indication, then that's totally accurate. In fact, combat looks a touch more fluid and engaging when compared to FF15. It'll definitely be a role-playing game, but FF16 will be closer to a story-forward action game than anything like a classic FF.
There are some other major claims about the structure of the overall world: "a job system and customizable characters set in an open world" with "cities and dungeons within the rich open-world ... and ... free exploration of entire continents." These pieces of the leak seems a bit suspect. While playable characters will no doubt have some kind of progressions system (probably skill trees or something similar), it doesn't seem like it'll have a traditional Final Fantasy job system at all.
Yoshida himself said in a February 2019 interview: "I’d like to see a Final Fantasy that is straightforward fantasy, one that doesn’t have much machinery, and with no mecha in it." It's a funny way to say "this is the kind of Final Fantasy game I'm currently developing," but that's more or less what he was saying.
FF16 does look somewhat similar in scope and setting to FF11, FF12, and the Tactics offshoot series. FF14, however, is obviously the closest point of comparison. This high fantasy setting would let the game distinguish itself from the ongoing FF7 Remake series, which will presumably be around for many years to come.
Will Final Fantasy 16 impact development on Final Fantasy 7 Remake Part 2?
Although the FF7 Remake team includes many often associated with mainline Final Fantasy titles, like Kitase and Nomura, FF16 will not impact the remake series in any way.
Square Enix has internal divisions for every subset of the Final Fantasy franchise. One team might head development for mobile titles, another might focus on remastering old games. In April 2019, there was a massive restructuring of divisions, giving Kitase more power and promoting Yoshida to head of Creative Business Unit III. This unit works on FF14, FF11, and developed Dragon Quest Builders.
A now-deleted recruitment page that first hinted at FF16's existence was precisely for this unit. Yoshida’s team presumably had such an expansive recruitment process to prepare for developing FF16. When it was available, the recruitment page described the title with words like “inaugural” and “core,” implying this upcoming game to be important, like FF16 would hypothetically be.
Square Enix has already done some potential hires for the game. In June 2020, Ryota Suzuki, designer of Devil May Cry 5 and Dragon's Dogma, was reported to have joined Unit III as the Battle Director for an upcoming game. This is undoubtedly FF16, it wouldn’t take away from FF7 Remake Part 2 simply since they’re in completely different teams that are both part of Square Enix.
Final Fantasy 16 is currently in development.