Final Fantasy XVI's Eikons finally give the franchise's Summons the respect they deserve
One of the game's most impressive features is the sheer spectacle of its Eikons going head to head. These huge elemental beasts are scene stealers whenever they appear - even though we’ve seen many of them before.
Names like Ifrit, Bahumat, Shiva, Titan and more are well-known to Final Fantasy fans, but it feels like they’re finally given their due in the franchise’s sixteenth instalment.
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We’ve come a long way from the likes of Ifrit feeling like a tech demo on the original PlayStation, raining fire before returning to Cloud’s back pocket - and let’s not get started on Knights of the Round.
Summons have always been a fun part of Final Fantasy, but it’s rare they’ve really been considered in the wider narrative (Final Fantasy X and XIII feeling like the main outliers).
They appear, it’s fun, and they’re gone. Still, imagine if Cloud had torn through Sephiroth just by using a summon to blast him into oblivion, or Kefka had been obliterated by Bahumat.
In Final Fantasy 16, these 'summons' are dubbed Eikons, and are handled by Dominants.
Revered or reviled depending on the part of Valisthea they hail from, Dominants wield the kind of power that makes them a very obvious (and heavy-handed) nuclear analogy, capable of causing mutually assured destruction at any moment.
By taking Eikon reins out of players’ hands, each feels less like just another ability to be wielded and more like a force of nature. These aren’t creatures to be tamed or shackled, but literal giants who command fear and respect in equal measure.
It helps that each Eikon battle is a spectacle the likes of which Michael Bay could only dream of. Each offers its own mechanics, which also helps tell their story in surprising new ways.
In many ways, it's a little analogous to how Metal Gear handles its titular walking nukes. It takes so long to actually meet Metal Gear Rex in Metal Gear Solid, that you begin to fear it.
Characters talk in hushed tones about the behemoth, and it allows your headcanon to run wild - what will it look like? What is it capable of?
Final Fantasy 16 doesn't obfuscate its Eikons in the same way, but just knowing there are more out there to find is enough to pull me by the nose through its web of political intrigue, where each Eikon is its nation's own weapon of mass destruction.
After decades languishing in Materia balls and more, the beasts are finally free - and it's glorious.