Final Fantasy 16 is currently in development, and even without much information released about the game so far, many fans are already drawing comparisons between the new protagonist Clive and those that came before. The debut trailer does seem to make one thing clear: Clive will be another in a long trend that includes Final Fantasy 15’s Noctis and Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s Cloud. Ultimately, the grim, quiet, and aloof protagonist is a long-running trope in the Final Fantasy games, and Clive seems to fit right in.
There is a history of protagonists in Final Fantasy games beginning their journeys as emotionally distant and haunted by some past trauma or event that left them with little faith in other people. In Final Fantasy 16, Clive seems to focus on the experience of losing Joshua, though exactly how and if so does remain to be seen. This trend isn’t limited to the aforementioned characters either, but the disposition of characters like Cloud and FF8’s Squall is understandable when they are pitted against the powerful Final Fantasy villains and often have the weight of the world on their shoulders.
Players familiar with the Final Fantasy franchise are no strangers to brooding protagonists. While FF7 Remake was the first introduction for some players to Cloud, he was every bit as aloof in the original game. Some translation differences in the original versus the remake made Cloud more in line with the quiet and grim character seen in Advent Children, but Cloud had reason to be so distant given that his memories were altered and skewed to the point that he wasn’t even sure who he was. Notably, his attitude seems present in the new protagonist in FF16. Clive seems every bit as burdened by his position in the debut trailer, and that is one of a few things that FF16 should expand on from FF7 Remake.
Another similar character is Noctics from FF15. His being burdened with the fate of his kingdom, his predetermined role in the world, and the responsibilities heaped on him leave the young man as curt and aloof as any Final Fantasy protagonist could be. The ideas of challenging fate are one of the ways Versus 13 may still be impacting the direction of FF16, and it seems that this may be the root of the similarities between Clive and Noctis. Both characters are tasked with what may seem unsurmountable tasks against unstoppable forces like the Eikons that appear to play a pivotal role in the story of Final Fantasy 16.
The two leading characters from FF15 and FF7 Remake aren’t the only figures in Final Fantasy‘s past that bear the same somber disposition that seems evident in Clive. Heroes like Squall from FF8 and Lightning from FF13 also bear similar attitudes. This very common Final Fantasy trope is more common than not, with Zidane from FF9 being one of the few exceptions, but another important theme among those characters is their slow turn towards compassion and their companions. Cloud and Noctis both slowly learn to trust and depend on their friends more and more by the conclusion of their stories, and both heroes end up making great sacrifices in service of ideals they dismiss early in the games’ narratives. However, based on the limited information from FF16’s debut trailer, Clive might not follow in their footsteps in that regard.
Final Fantasy 16’s first trailer seems to emphasize the challenging of fate as a main theme. That may include implications for the directions the game will take away from its roots, and as fans wonder what to expect from Final Fantasy in the future, some may wonder if the clues in the trailer point toward Clive perhaps not following the same redemptive arc.
Most of the earlier protagonists, Cloud, Squall, and Noctis included, eventually warmed up to their companions and the world at large by the end of their games. Cloud restructures his memories and finds himself, also leaving many fans wondering if FF7 Remake Part 2 will cover that segment. Squall slowly begins to accept that he can’t accomplish everything alone and needs to trust in his fellow SeeDs, and Noctis eventually accepts his burden as King and tackles his responsibilities head on. By the end of these stories, their protagonists are more friendly (as much as they can be) towards others and less angsty. Clive, however, may prove the exception to the rule in Final Fantasy 16.
The debut trailer for Final Fantasy 16 shows off a lot in a short time, but one very noticeable highlight is the transformation Clive is shown to have undergone over presumably the main events of the story or a long time skip. Clive is shown as an older and more battle-scarred version of the youthful but still somber vision of him at the trailer’s onset. Whether or not the events of the game change Clive for the better or for the worse could set the stage for a pretty powerful narrative shift for Final Fantasy. After all, it seems Clive may be going in reverse of past protagonists, considering the franchise’s history of turning the distant and angsty lead characters into a person more trusting and open.
While almost nothing is really known about the events of Final Fantasy 16, comparing the transformation in the trailer to what players know about previous heroes like Cloud and Noctis can allow for some inferences, if speculative ones. The games before Final Fantasy 16 tended to soften their lead characters over time, but players examining the trailer are shown only the hardening of the protagonist. This would be a big shift in storytelling styles for Final Fantasy, as fans that consider the implications may be wondering what happens to Clive to bring about this change. What’s clear from the trailer is that Clive is tasked with protecting the young Joshua, and it’s possible that this responsibility either draws Clive to do things that he wouldn’t normally consider or that he may fail in his task (perhaps indicated by Joshua’s seeming transformation as well?)
Speculating about what may become of Clive may be interesting for some fans. Those doing so are likely aware of the parallels between Clive and other characters like Squall, Cloud, and Noctis. It will be interesting to see if players will experience a story that actually has its protagonists in worse traits than when they started. Either way, Final Fantasy 16’s Clive will be inheriting quite a legacy, and eager fans will have to wait to find out more.
Final Fantasy 16 is in development for the PlayStation 5.