During our Final Fantasy XVI cover story trip, I played a few hours of the game much of the press experienced. But I was also given an exclusive tour of FFXVI’s endgame and other supplementary content by creative director Hiroshi Takai and combat director Ryota Suzuki.
It’s safe to say there’s plenty to play, especially if you enjoy chasing numbers in combat.
FFXVI features an Arcade Mode, allowing players to run through stages they’ve already completed, this time with an on-screen score calculator and combat grader. But a New Game+ playthrough opens up two additional versions, and both are more difficult than the game’s base Story Mode and Action Mode difficulties. It’s important to note you can play through New Game+ on one of these base difficulties if you’d like, but you’re missing a lot of features intended for New Game+. If you’re after treasures you missed or PlayStation Trophies you didn’t collect, Stage Replay might suit your needs better. And if you’re after some combat training or a speedy, destructive action fix, there’s a special training mode, accessible through a statuesque Arete Stone within Clive’s main hub.
New Game+ lets you play through FFXVI with all of your previously unlocked abilities and gear from the jump, but the highlight is Final Fantasy Mode. This increases the game’s difficulty, changes monster placement, and remixes which enemies might appear in combat.
“The main design philosophy is that the first playthrough is about learning Clive, learning the controls, and then enjoying the story,” Suzuki says. “The second playthrough, we want to shift that focus – because the story hasn’t changed – to the action. For example, in Story Mode, while players may encounter waves of enemies, a lot of times, enemies don’t attack at once to allow players to be able to handle everything. In the harder modes of the game, we have removed these limitations so that you have multiple enemies all attacking Clive at the same time.
“Basically, what we’ve done with [Final Fantasy] Mode is give players controlling Clive the sense that they’re always in danger, that death is around the corner, and that you’ll need to really, really pay attention to be able to clear the content.”
In a Final Fantasy Mode New Game+ playthrough, by interacting with the Arete Stone in your hideaways, you can complete Final Fantasy Mode difficulty stages in Arcade Mode or an even more difficult variant called Ultimaniac Mode. Arcade Mode’s global leaderboards will only be active in these two modes.
“[These modes were] pretty much created solely for the hardcore players, those players that pride themselves on their skills in action games,” Suzuki says, noting that the only exclusive reward players can earn from these modes is pride. “[It’s] a challenge that, even for them, is going to be very difficult to complete.”
And Final Fantasy and Ultimaniac Mode are just two things awaiting you in a more challenging run of New Game+. A New Game+ run also allows you to upgrade your weapons further beyond what you can in your initial playthrough. You can also upgrade accessories, which is only possible in the game in a Final Fantasy Mode playthrough in New Game+. You’ll also gain access to the Final Chronolith Trials, or if you’re not in Final Fantasy Mode, just Chronolith Trials.
These trials are the most difficult challenge in FFXVI, Takai says. They consist of multiple stages, each with four rounds of enemies. The first three rounds will be standard waves of monsters, each increasing in difficulty as you progress. The fourth round, however, will feature a boss. Chronolith Trials are also time trials, and every stage contains a list of moves, combos, and objectives you can execute to gain more time. However, pulling these off won’t be easy because there’s no healing in these trials, save for recovery that immediately begins after activating any Limit Break move.
Each Chronolith Trial is based on an Eikon. I watch Takai and Suzuki play through Phoenix’s Trial by Fire. In it, you only have access to Phoenix’s Eikonic abilities, forcing you to play much differently than you might outside these trials, where you can mix and match Eikonic abilities on the fly. And like Arcade Mode, the Chronolith Trials contain a global leaderboard but only in Final Fantasy Mode. As you play through the game, you’ll find stones similar in appearance to the Arete Stone, and interacting with these unlocks Chronolith Trials for you to complete.
I can’t go hands-on with any of this endgame content, but what I watch Takai and Suzuki play is blisteringly chaotic, fast-paced, and sure to bring the challenge fans of Devil May Cry might expect, as Suzuki also helped design combat in Devil May Cry V for Capcom.
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