Final Fantasy XVI vs Final Fantasy XV – 15 Changes You Need To Know About

The next mainline title in Square Enix's legendary RPG series arrives in June, but how does it differ from its predecessor? Find out here.

Posted By | On 11th, May. 2023

Final Fantasy XVI vs Final Fantasy XV – 15 Changes You Need To Know About

Final Fantasy 16 releases on June 22nd for PS5, barring any natural disaster like a meteor landing on Square Enix HQ (the development team’s words, not mine). It’s a watershed moment for the series, announced in September 2020 with the renowned Naoki Yoshida serving as producer and Hiroshi Takai as director.

As the first mainline title since 2016’s Final Fantasy 15, it’s generated endless amounts of hype throughout the years, which has reached a fever pitch in recent months. A lot is changing for fans of the long-running RPG series, from the overall tone and atmosphere thanks to a gritty medieval fantasy setting to the combat and world design.

But how does it compare to Final Fantasy 15, which also took liberties with the franchise’s norms when it launched back in the day? Let’s look at 15 of the biggest differences you should know about.

More Mature Story

While Final Fantasy 15 did have some dark elements here and there, including blood, Final Fantasy 16 is on another level. It’s the first game in the series to be rated M for Mature by the Entertainment Software Rating Board in the US due to Blood and Gore, Strong Language, Violence and more. There are blood spatters, dismemberment, and even some extremely choice curse words. It’s a lot to take in, especially for Final Fantasy fans that aren’t used to this level of gore, so be warned.

Combat Differences

Final Fantasy 16_0013

Final Fantasy 16’s combat is entirely real-time, which has caused friction with some long-time fans. The action is reminiscent of a character-based hack-and-slash action game, as Clive unleashes weapon attacks, spells, and dodges in real time. Though there’s no blocking, it has a parry system, which occurs when your attack collides with an enemy’s. You can also activate Limit Breaks with enough attacks, boosting Clive’s damage and triggering health regeneration.

Final Fantasy 15 offers two combat modes – Active and Wait. Active, as the name indicates, is real-time combat, but Wait mode isn’t necessarily turn-based. Instead, it pauses the action when Noctis isn’t moving, giving him time to scan enemies for weaknesses and plan a strategy. When you move again, the action resumes, but you must keep moving throughout a fight.

Normal attacks, magic and items are available, and Noctis can perform team-up combos with other party members. However, Magic Points are required to block or parry attacks. There’s also the Break Damage Limit, allowing party members to deal more than 9999 damage in a single hit. Magic spells can also break the limit with the Limit Break effect, and Summons and Armiger Unleashed (added in the Royal Edition) are also capable of dealing much higher damage.

Modes and Difficulty Options

final fantasy 16

Difficulty options are a rather interesting discussion in Final Fantasy 16…because it doesn’t have them. Instead, you have two modes – Story Focused and Action – with the only real difference being the Timely Accessories. Equipped at the start in Story Focused Mode, they include one-button combos and slowing down the action for easy dodging. They take up equipment slots, so you’re encouraged to remove them eventually. In Action Mode, they’re not available from the start.

Final Fantasy 15, meanwhile, has Easy and Normal difficulties, with the former adding the Carbuncle. It heals the leader if they’re KO’d while increasing Strength and Defense, though it doesn’t appear in certain places. Enemies are also not as tough, and you get more time in Wait mode.

Not Open World

Final Fantasy 16_03

Valisthea, Final Fantasy 16’s world, is divided into six regions, and players will explore four large zones that are 2 kilometers by 2 kilometers in size throughout Clive’s journey. We’ve seen how some look and the large scale of levels, but despite that, Final Fantasy 16 isn’t open-world like Final Fantasy 15. Hilariously, Yoshida said Final Fantasy 16 could have been open world if they had a 15-year development period. To avoid releasing it in parts, the team chose to avoid that route.

Returning to Previous Areas

final fantasy 15

Despite not being an open-world game, Final Fantasy 16 does let you return to previously explored areas. In addition to completing any pending side quests, new quests will also open up, so you’re encouraged to return to previous areas. Final Fantasy 15 also lets you return to older areas, though there is a section where you’re locked into the narrative and a point of no return around the end. Whether Final Fantasy 16 has the same is unknown.

Only One Playable Character

Final Fantasy 16_04

When Final Fantasy 15 launched, you were stuck playing as Noctis and couldn’t switch between characters in battle. While an update would change this, letting players control Gladiolus, Prompto and Ignis, Final Fantasy 16 only has a single controllable character. Clive is joined by other party members, like Cidolfus and Jill, during his adventure, but you only control him throughout. Torgal also remains by his side and can be issued commands for healing and attacking in combat.

Eikons vs Summons

Final Fantasy 16_03

Instead of Summons, Final Fantasy 16 has Eikons. You still have all the classics, like Ramuh, Ifrit, Bahamut, Phoenix, Garuda, Odin, Typhon, etc, but they’re not summonable per se. Instead, they’re tied to various Dominants, who serve as their hosts and occupy positions of power in each region. Benedikta wields the power of Garuda, Dion controls Bahamut and so on. So you won’t be summoning them to your aid, at least based on what we currently know.

Eikonic Abilities

Final Fantasy 16_06

Somehow, Clive can wield powers from each Eikon. He can unleash homing lasers like Bahamut, a dimensional slash like Odin, launch enemies into the air with Phoenix’s flaming wing, and slice enemies multiple times with Garuda’s claws. In Final Fantasy 15, Noctis could call on Summons under different conditions, but that’s pretty much it. He still has various combat benefits available via the Ascension Tree, like phasing through enemy attacks with split-second guarding and breaking demon appendages with his Warp-Strike.

Eikon Battles

Final Fantasy 16_003

Final Fantasy 15 saw players battle Summons as Noctis, with unique set pieces like the battle with Titan remaining fresh. Final Fantasy 16 mixes things up in several ways. Not only will Clive fight against the Dominants, who utilize their Eikon’s powers in different ways, but also transform into Ifrit and go toe-to-toe with other Eikons in massive battles. These battles vary in unique ways, from shoot ’em-up sequences to wrestling matches, and have multiple sections. There are also times when Clive, in his human form, will fight against an Eikon, though these are likely one part of the larger Eikon battles.

Arcade Mode

final fantasy 16

When visiting Final Fantasy 16’s Hideaway, the central hub for Clive and friends, players can use the Arete Stone to access the Hall of Virtue to train. Final Fantasy 15 offered training at camps players set up, with party members available to fight against (and even guests like Aranea). However, Final Fantasy 16 also has an Arcade Mode, where you can replay previous stages and showcase your combat prowess to earn a high score. There are several levels of difficulty, including the highest level, which is “one of the hardest things that we want to challenge our high-end users to see how far they can get,” as per Takai. You can also check your scores against other players via global leaderboards.

Game Engine

Final Fantasy 15 (10)

Though it started development on Crystal Tools, Final Fantasy 15 shifted to the Luminous Engine, which would serve as the namesake of Luminous Productions and used to develop Forspoken. It had its share of issues, as anyone who played Forspoken will tell you, but the engine is built primarily for open-world titles.

Final Fantasy 16’s engine is somewhat of a mystery. Square Enix told YouTuber Skill Up in February that it wasn’t running on Luminous Engine or Unreal Engine. In an interview with WCCF Tech, Yoshida said it’s using an “engine we’ve created specifically for Final Fantasy 16.” Though it began development around the same time as Forspoken, he noted “there isn’t much sharing of technology between the Forspoken and Final Fantasy teams.” So again, not Luminous, but still a mystery.


Final Fantasy 16 was revealed in September 2020, but development began long before that. Concept work started in 2015, and full production started in 2016. Game scenarios and other basic work wrapped by the end of 2020, and development entered the final stages in April 2022. It officially went gold on March 31st, almost three months before release. All in all, a long but rather smooth development period, even with Japan suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic multiple times over recent years.

By comparison, Final Fantasy 15’s development period is one long, confusing saga. It was originally announced as Final Fantasy Versus 13 in 2006 and meant to be exclusive to the PS3. Cue development hell and sporadic updates for the next six years when suddenly in 2012, Square Enix confirmed it was now Final Fantasy 15. Tetsuya Nomura was out as director, and Hajime Tabata of Type-0 fame was in, while the game was announced for Xbox One and PS4.

It took another four years before it was finally released in November 2016. That’s because when the name change happened, Versus 13 was cited to be about 20 to 25 percent and never really got off the ground. Overall, a long and painful wait for Final Fantasy fans.

PS5 Exclusive vs Multi-Platform

Final Fantasy 15 (6)

To go with its tumultuous development, Final Fantasy 15 went from a PS3 exclusive to a multi-platform release, launching on Xbox One and PS4 before eventually coming to PC. Final Fantasy 16 will launch for PS5 and remain exclusive to the platform for six months, per a PlayStation sizzle reel trailer from November 2022. Yes, the first reveal trailer did claim a PC release, and while Yoshida has expressed interest in the same somewhere down the line, this is a PS5 exclusive for now.


Final Fantasy 15 (3)

Even before all the updates, Final Fantasy 15 was a big game at launch. According to HowLongtoBeat, it takes about 28.5 hours on average to beat the story, which goes up to 55 to 56 hours with side content. That’s not counting all the DLC or hours needed for a completionist run.

By comparison, Final Fantasy 16 focuses more on its main scenario, requiring about 35 to 40 hours to complete. However, delve into the optional side content, and you could spend around 70 hours in total, as per director Hiroshi Takai. Again, that should be higher when full completionist details are available, so keep that in mind.

It’s also worth noting that despite the extensive side content, there aren’t any hidden optional dungeons. Takai told IGN that some dungeons are “off the field, and you go deep down” but these connect to the story. He also considers them “expertly crafted dungeons.” “We created these as great places, we want players to go there and so we’re going to give reasons for players to go there. We didn’t want to create something that most players may not even find.”

New Game Plus

When you think of New Game Plus, it usually involves carrying over your levels, items, and skills to a brand new playthrough. Some story-tied content may not be accessible, but enemies are usually at higher levels and tougher. There’s also some new content to experience.

While it’s unknown if your skills and levels carry over, Final Fantasy 16 offers tougher enemies in New Game Plus. It also mixes things up by changing enemy placements and adding entirely new fights that aren’t available in the regular playthrough. So if you’re looking for a challenge, New Game Plus is the way to go.

By comparison, Final Fantasy 15’s New Game Plus lets you carry over levels, Gil, Ascension Progress, weapons, accessories, Regalia cosmetics, and more. However, enemies don’t scale, and can thus be utterly curb-stomped. This makes New Game Plus more suitable for those who want to re-experience the story while completing any side quests they may have skipped.

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