Final Fantasy XVI will be the biggest entry the franchise has ever seen — quite literally. The crown jewel of the next title in Square Enix’s long-running series is Eikon battles, massive boss battles between godlike creatures that the player gets to control.
But before these came together in their final form for Final Fantasy XVI, the development team headed by producer Naoki Yoshida used Final Fantasy XIV as a testing ground — and you can play it right now.
Patch 5.3 for FF14 was released on August 11, 2020. It marked the finale of the Shadowbringers storyline, but this patch also introduced a fight against the Sapphire Weapon.
While fighting against massive enemies like Sapphire Weapon is no unusual thing for the MMO, this particular fight gave players a unique experience by putting their Warrior of Light in the cockpit of a Mobile Suit Gundam-inspired mech called the G-Warrior. But another inspiration unknown to fans was FF16’s Eikon battles.
“It just happens that we were working on 16 when the G-Warrior content came out,” Yoshida tells Inverse. “[It] was pretty much influenced by what we were doing in the background on 16.”
The fight itself replaces the usual toolkit of the player and replaces it with a laser sword with which to beat up Sapphire Weapon, a looming enemy that towers over the giant mech you pilot. The sense of scale feels larger than life.
FF16 would be revealed to the world one month later during a PlayStation 5 showcase. The trailer spotlights some of the gigantic eikons doing battle with each other. At the time nobody knew these sections would be playable, and it was almost unbelievable to think that a prototype of those fights was already out in the world.
The uniqueness of the G-Warrior encounter in FF14 also speaks to the mentality behind each Eikon battle in FF16, the developers have said no Eikon battle will feel the same. During a hands-on preview, I experienced an on-rail shooter Eikon battle between Phoenix and Ifrit. (Note: Inverse played a special version of FF16 made for media to experience, and contents may differ from the final version.)
The connection between G-Warrior and the Eikon battles is clear just by looking at the two next to each other. The only thing the G-Warrior doesn’t capture to the extent that FF16’s massive duels do is the brutality in every hit that lands on an enemy. Yoshida has been open about this being a mature game, but where I didn’t expect that was in how visceral Eikon warfare is depicted. It is awe-inspiring if a little terrifying.
Both Final Fantasy 16 and 14 are developed by Yoshida’s Creative Business Unit III, and using G-Warrior as a testing ground for Eikon battles is just one example of how the flow of ideas goes both ways between the two titles. Climactic battles are accompanied by effects on the ground that signal an oncoming attack.
Yoshida says despite his connection to FF14, this MMO-like idea came from FF16’s director, Hiroshi Takai.
“We asked [Takai] why he wanted it, and his reasoning is that because you’re moving the series from turn-based combat to real-time action, so there’s going to be a lot of stress” explains Yoshida. “It’s so much stuff happening on the screen that players might not know where damage is coming from. If they don’t get out of the way, they’re going to know exactly what caused them damage.
Final Fantasy 16 releases on June 22. In the meantime, if you want a small taste of what’s to come, strapping into the G-Warrior and taking down Sapphire Weapon is the closest thing.