Final Fantasy XVI's Best Character Isn't Who You Think
Sorry, Cid. No hard feelings, Torgal.
The latest installment of Square Enix’s genre-defying series, Final Fantasy XVI, introduces a slew of memorable faces to the series pantheon. There’s the lordling-turned-mercenary Clive Rosfield, dry-witted freedom fighter Cid Telamon, and sweetie-pie direwolf Torgal. For much of its forty-hour runtime, FFXVI is a somber tale of betrayal, revenge, and a world on the brink of social and environmental collapse.
That is, until one goofy fellow from the past returns to Clive’s life in spectacular fashion.
Warning: minor mid-game spoilers ahead for Final Fantasy XVI.
Still here? Great. The prologue of FFXVI, which was released as a demo earlier this summer, sees a teenage Clive and his younger brother Joshua at a pivotal moment in their young lives. Joshua is about to perform a coming-of-age ceremony as the Dominant of Phoenix and future ruler of Rosaria, and Clive is his sworn protector. The tragedy strikes, and the family is scattered to the winds. The sheltered life of privilege Clive once knew is over, and worst of all, he has to get a face tattoo.
Clive spends many of the game’s early hours searching for answers about what happened to his brother that fateful day. So when he suddenly says “maybe my uncle can help,” while planning a mission at the Hideaway, it’s easy to be taken aback.
So you go to this so-called Lord Rosfield’s house. It’s comfortable and lavish in a way that feels wholly foreign to most of the ramshackle villages and dilapidated ruins you’ve explored as Clive. This is a place where genteel people dine on pheasant rather than gulp down a “bowl of brown.” It takes a bit of convincing, but Uncle Byron eventually comes around, in a genuinely touching scene where Clive has to prove he is who he claims to be.
It’s from here on that things get good. Uncle Byron is a breath of fresh air at a particularly somber stretch of Clive’s story, a well-intended rich idiot who is nothing short of delighted at the prospect of sharing his wealth with his presumed-dead nephew. He’s a jovial, gray-bearded fellow who laughs like ohohohohoho and has a habit of clapping everyone in sight on the back and cheerfully calling them “my boy.”
And this fancy lad isn’t afraid to mix things up and get his sword dirty. He’ll accompany Clive on several adventures as an AI-controlled party member who helps out in battle. There’s a whole stretch with Clive and Byron attempting to do some stealth information gathering in a hostile region, and Byron blows their cover with absolutely hilarious results. It’s one of the most memorable moments of FFXVI’s story. Byron gives Clive’s adventure just enough levity to feel distinctively Final Fantasy in its weirdness but never overstays his welcome.
He’s a busy guy! He’s always got somewhere to be.
But don’t be fooled by his comic-relief appearances. Byron ends up playing a pretty important role in the story too — after all, he’s rich and well-connected. That’s the type of friend you want when you’re trying to save the world.
Turns out, I’m in good company in my fondness for Funcle Byron. Back in November 2022, FFXVI director Hiroshi Takai told PlayStation Blog that he was his favorite character to write:
He hasn’t been announced yet, but I like the character of Byron, who appears partway through the story. He’s a character with an extremely likable personality: very cheerful and magnanimous. So I expect a lot of players will end up liking him, just as I do! Unfortunately, I can’t go into too much detail, since it’ll enter spoiler territory, but the scene where he first appears makes me really emotional. When I was initially carrying out the cutscene checks, I found myself tearing up despite myself. I imagine he’ll be announced in future promotional material, so when you see him in the game, think back to this interview, haha.
So as you’re playing FFXVI, please keep one thing in mind. Protect Uncle Byron at all costs. You can thank me later.