In Final Fantasy XVI, the flavor text for items in your inventory don’t just tell you what that item does, but also where it comes from, and/or how it is used by the people of Valisthea. This expanded description of each item was inspired by FromSoftware games like Dark Souls, among others.
These pieces of item text were written by Localization Director Michael-Christopher Koji Fox, which means the text originates in English – which is rare for the long-running Japanese RPG franchise.
“At that point, we had finished the script, and I had a little bit of extra time,” Fox explains to IGN during an exclusive interview at Square Enix’s Tokyo office. “The lore team was busy doing all of this other stuff, so I was asked to write the item text.”
While writing the item text, Fox says he was inspired by FromSoftware’s games, as well as Magic: The Gathering cards.
“I have been a big FromSoftware fan since Demon’s Souls, and I’ve obviously played games like Dark Souls and Elden Ring as well,” says Fox. “In their games, the item text is displayed on loading screens, so I’d read those and think, ‘Yeah this is cool!’ That and also Magic: The Gathering cards, on which you don’t only have an explanation of what the card does but also that flavor text which is usually some quote from this mysterious magician that lived a thousand years ago or a little bit of the history of the game.”
Fox wanted to have the same feel for the item text in Final Fantasy XVI, allowing the player to learn more about the game’s setting and lore.
“I didn’t want it to be like, Copper sword: A sword that was made of copper,’” he explains. “I wanted to answer questions like, ‘Where is it being used?’ ‘Where is that copper coming from in the realm?’ to give a bit more background story.
“In most games, nobody reads the item text. It’s kind of a throwaway thing, but FromSoftware turned it into something people want to read. We definitely wanted to have a similar type of experience in Final Fantasy XVI, and I think we’ve been doing the same thing in Final Fantasy XIV as well. It’s just something we think is really important.”
While Final Fantasy XVI’s main story is about protagonist Clive and his comrades, the realm of Valisthea is packed with lore and history. Creative Director Kazutoyo Maehiro, who also wrote the original story and script, created the setting for Valisthea before writing the main story. Ranging from history to geography and culture, the setting is packed with lore to discover.
April’s State of Play showcase revealed that in the game’s hub area, the Hideaway, Clive can learn more about the world’s lore through talking with various NPCs. Side quests and NPC dialogue will likely teach us more about the world too, and it seems that if you want to uncover Valisthea’s deepest secrets, the item text shouldn’t be ignored either.
Final Fantasy XVI releases on June 22 for PlayStation 5. For more on Final Fantasy XVI, check out how the development team were inspired by Dragon Quest V, why Chocobos are referred to as horses in the Japanese version, and the reason the team chose not to include mini-games.
Esra Krabbe is an editor at IGN Japan. His favorite game in the series is Final Fantasy X. After taking an X-ray, he learned that his body was made out of Shenmue. This inspired him to write this piece of flavor text.