A fresh round of interviews with Naoki Yoshida reveals dozens of tantalizing new Final Fantasy XVI details

If you're as hyped for Final Fantasy XVI as we are, every new scrap of information on the upcoming JRPG behemoth is a sight for sore eyes. But thanks to a sizable new round of press interviews, famed Final Fantasy XIV director and FFXVI's overseeing producer Naoki Yoshida has ensured us that scraps are a thing of the past. We are feasting.

Before we get started, here's a link to every interview we've cited. We've gathered the information down below from the following outlets:

Without further ado, let's dig into the juiciest bits of intel that Yoshida has divulged during this most warmly welcomed media tour.


Origin Story

Several outlets asked Yoshida how and when the earliest templates for the project began to emerge. Confirming long-standing fan theories, he replied that the genesis occurred back in 2015, shortly after his team shipped FFXIV's first expansion, Heavensward.

It was at this time that a considerably barebones staff emerged: Hiroshi Takai as Director, Kazutoyo Maehiro as Creative Director and Scenario Writer, Mitsutoshi Gondai as Lead Game Designer, and of course Naoki Yoshida himself as Producer.

The team grew over the years, with a profound breakthrough occurring upon the arrival of former Capcom combat designer Ryota Suzuki whose substantial expertise with action-oriented battle systems lit the necessary spark for the overall vision to achieve fruition.

At PlayStation Blog, Justin Massongill inquired as to the key ingredients Yoshida considers to be part of Final Fantasy's DNA.

What do you think are the core tenets of a Final Fantasy game? Did the development team look to past titles in the series for guidance or inspiration when building FFXVI?

I’d say the core elements of a Final Fantasy game are a deep story, deep gameplay, cutting-edge graphics and cutting-edge sound… as well as chocobos and moogles, of course.

Taking a look at the recent "Dominance" trailer, it's plain to see the development staff is shooting for at least most of those. (No moogles to be found... yet.)


Eikonic Conflict

One of the most eye-opening things revealed in this batch of interviews, and bits and pieces of it emerge through various venues, is that those flashy hints at player-controlled Eikon battles may lead to even cooler clashes than we had anticipated.

As it turns out, not only will Eikon-versus-Eikon sequences be playable at certain points in FFXVI's grim storyline, but no two bouts will be the same. GameInformer's Wesley LeBlanc pried this colossal detail out of the game's producer:

The overall game design for these Eikon versus Eikon battles, however, is meant to be unique and in fact, we don’t actually use the same exact system twice. Each battle is completely unique in its playstyle and so we’re doing something that’s kind of crazy. 

For example, maybe one Eikon versus Eikon battle, if you have Eikon A versus Eikon B, that battle will be reminiscent of a 3D shooter. Whereas another Eikon versus a different Eikon, it’s more like a pro wrestling match, and then maybe even a third with one Eikon versus another Eikon will transform an entire area into a battlefield.

Of course, as intriguing as it is to ponder how these elaborate setpieces will play out, the bulk of XVI's combat will center around Clive's unique grasp of the Eikons' abilities. His gifts for assuming aspects of several Eikons form the foundation for the entire battle system.

This is emphasized multiple times throughout the interviews, with Yoshida specifically calling attention to one of many possible combo strikes: first, Clive taps into Garuda's Wind-elemental magic and pulls a foe toward him in the air; immediately afterward, by way of Titan's Earth-elemental prowess, he knocks that foe down into the ground hard.

Finding the best combinations for each situation, and for one's overarching playstyle, is a fundamental part of the game's flow, and — thankfully — players will be able to completely respec the "ability trees" they'll spend hard-earned points on at any time.


Not Quite Open World, Not Quite Playable Party

In order to facilitate his team's vision for Final Fantasy XVI's sprawling and diverse landmass, Valisthea, Yoshida and crew have elected not to go the open-world route that's so popular for many other RPGs (including the bulk of direct predecessor Final Fantasy XV's runtime).

"To bring a story that feels like it spans an entire globe and beyond, we decided to avoid an open world design that limits us to a single open world space," Yoshida tells IGN's Kat Bailey, "and instead focus on an independent area-based game design that can give players a better feel of a truly "global” scale."

You may be wondering whether Clive will be all on his lonesome whilst traversing these "independent areas." That IGN interview's got us covered on that front as well.

"We didn't want to overwhelm users in our newest trailer, so we focused solely on Clive's battles. That said, for most of his journey, Clive will be accompanied by one or more companions," Yoshida says. "These companions will participate in battle, as well as trade banter with Clive. That said, the party members will be AI-driven so as to allow players to focus solely on controlling Clive."

So, there you have it. There will be banter.


Big Picture

Local Japanese publications like 4Gamer and Dengeki seem to have squeezed the most narrative-centric comments out of Yoshida's otherwise-pursed lips. For one thing, we now have confirmation that not one but two timeskips occur throughout the story.

Previously, many fans had suspected as much thanks to the "Awakening" trailer opening with a 15-year-old Clive, shifting to footage with a somewhat older version, and then concluding with a Clive who appears that much older.

"And because we're covering such a large amount of time with those jumps, it's safe to say that a lot will be happening in the background with regards to the state of the realm," says Yoshida to GameSpot's Tamoor Hussain.

But those windows of time in Clive Rosfield's life that are fully illustrated through player control will not lack excitement. Not when Yoshida compares Eikons to nuclear bombs in his interview with Kieron Verbrugge at Press Start:

To put it simply, the Eikons in Valisthea can kind of be compared to what you would call weapons of mass destruction or nuclear bombs. And so, within the world of Valisthea, there are a lot of different nations and each nation has one of their own Eikons with the being awakening inside a single individual, although the rules as to how and within who that Eikon awakens differs between them.

And what could compel the realms of Valisthea to whip out their nukes and lay waste to their enemies? World-ending stakes, of course.

The thing is, though, that ether that’s contained in the Crystals has begun to dry up. And this has prompted some nations to basically try to invade other nations in an attempt to wrest away control of those remaining Mother Crystals. And up until now, the Eikons have never really been used, because again, they’re like nuclear bombs so you don’t use them. You just have them, and it creates this kind of standoff. But now, to wrest control of these Mother Crystals away from other nations, some nations have begun using and deploying these Eikons and basically bringing the realm into chaos, and that is one of our main focal points of our narrative.

Final Fantasy XVI is in the last phase of its development with a PS5 release window of Summer 2023. Stick with RPG Site for more coverage every time the legendary Naoki Yoshida so much as sneezes, let alone opens up big-time about one of the most hotly-anticipated upcoming role-playing games in the genre.