Throughout the years, the Final Fantasy series has been no stranger to cultivating beloved characters. However, no main-line game has focused so heavily on the journey of one person. Final Fantasy XVI forgoes the traditional party structure and opts to tell the tale of Clive Rosefield. Every nook is crafted to elevate and deepen the player’s connection to Clive. It’s more of a character study than a traditional story. It interweaves themes such as brotherhood, neglect, and rediscovery. As seen in our review, this focus is both a great strength and what leaves many yearning for more.
Putting aside the game’s shortcomings with gameplay and structure, Clive deserves to be recognized and analyzed. I deeply connected with the struggles he faced and believe his story can help others with their own. This is going to be a closer look at Clive’s character and a deep dive into some of his nuances.
Warning – Heavy Spoilers for Final Fantasy XVI
The Feeling of Failure
Much of Final Fantasy XVI’s opening hours are focused on a younger Clive and his family dynamic. Our upbringing lays the stones of who we will be, and where our base sense of self is formed. Clive’s early years are complicated and rooted deeply in the journey he goes on. We learn that Clive failed to carry the legacy of his family’s Eikon the Phoenix. Causing his mother to treat him like a lesser being, always manipulating Clive’s feelings to make him feel worthless. From his youth, he felt like a failure, and never the person he needed to be.
Clive finds solace in his younger brother Joshua; he might have failed his legacy, but he won’t fail his brother. To Clive, Joshua is his purpose, and he will do everything within his power to protect him. While Clive may not be the Phoenix as his mother hoped, he would be Joshua’s sworn shield and best friend. Joshua is his second chance to serve their bloodline, the person he failed to be and never can be. Then, Joshua is ripped away from Clive in the most traumatic way imaginable, leaving him with nothing but failure.
The loss of Joshua shatters Clive, he is no longer a person but just a failed husk waiting to die. Everything that his life was built upon is suddenly gone and in his mind, it’s all his fault. No doubt we all have trauma throughout our lives, although hopefully not as extreme as Clive’s. We are shaped by key events in our life, good or bad. It defines and alters us. This experience allows us to understand Clive and his insecurities going forward.
Finding Purpose Again in Final Fantasy XVI
The Clive we are introduced to 13 years later is a stranger to us as well as himself. Clive has accepted the hand he was dealt, becoming a tool to be used and cast aside. He hates his life but more importantly, he hates himself, thinking he deserves nothing more than his current lot. Self-hate is a common human struggle; it can tear your life apart if you allow it to linger within. Clive’s hate has been bubbling for over a decade and the young boy is gone. That is until he happens upon an endangered Jill, a remnant of the life he once knew.
Jill was a true friend in his youth, an unmovable star who acted as his support. Seeing her after all these years reawakens that long-dead version of Clive. He is able to push back against his slavers and prove to himself that their still reason to endure. This singular encounter saved Clive from his fate and thrust him in a new direction. He has a purpose of his own making, finally becoming himself again after 13 years. The day he lost Joshua, Clive shattered into pieces and Jill helped him pick up one of those pieces.
Rediscovery of the Self
There are moments in life when we decide who we are and how we present ourselves. Clive was robbed of who he wanted to be and then was too broken to find a new identity. It’s something we all face, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who remains unchanged as they go through life. We always have that central spark within us but what we build around that changes through time and experience. Final Fantasy XVI is about Clive building himself back up. Rejecting the fate others have dictated, and remaining true to himself. It’s not easy for him, there are hurdles and moments where he wavers, but it’s what makes him relatable. At the start, Clive is emotionally that boy just pretending to be a sword, and we see him become more.
Once Clive regains his sense of self his goals are muddied by hate, he just wants vengeance for Joshua. Eventually, after much pain, he reckons with what happened to his brother, and from there he’s presented with a choice. Either dwell further in self-hate or find a new self, do something good, and become who he wants to be. Supported by Jill and his newfound family he chooses to move on and become more, carrying his own legacy. Clive abandons what he could have been and becomes a leader, a symbol for something greater.
In the real world, chances are your decisions won’t be grand like Clive’s, but they still harbor immense impact. It might be along the lines of a career change, reevaluating past beliefs, or altering your relationships. It can be a scary thing to change, the unknown isn’t comfortable, and staying complacent regardless of happiness seems easier. Clive shows us that no matter your situation, there’s always an option to change for the better.
Brotherhood that Binds in Final Fantasy XVI
At the heart of Final Fantasy XVI is Clive’s bond with Joshua, the brotherhood they share is everything. It’s how the story opens and how it ends, their love for each other empowers them in the hardest moments. They both bear the responsibility of being Eikons born of flame, the Phoenix symbolizing rebirth and Ifrit representing fury. Two very different beings but both wield fire just as Joshua and Clive both wield the same resolve. When their Eikons join they become unstoppable, a manifestation of their unbreakable bond. This bond drives Clive in his weakest moments, Joshua is a part of him, a piece he thought lost.
Growing up with two brothers, this theme of brotherhood interweaved into the story connected deeply with me. We always have at least one unbreakable bond in which we trust someone with everything. For me, that was my older brothers, and I can see that same bond between Clive and Joshua. Clive’s drive is to protect and care for Joshua at all times and be someone Joshua is proud of. All the while Joshua idolizes his brother, he lost Clive on that tragic day too. He had to grow up without a role model, but their brotherhood bonded them even when apart. They were both guided by each other and ultimately came together when the time was right to fulfill their goal.
It’s a beautiful message, one that this game excels at and crafts everything around it. Final Fantasy XVI is not a perfect game by any means, but Clive Rosefield is a perfect character.