I just recently finished Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition and I hoped there might still be some folks interested to talk about it.
It was my first real Final Fantasy outside of Ring of Fates and the III remake on the DS, neither of which I ever finished as a kid. But in order to really get the most out of it, I followed an exhaustive guide through all the pertinent media regarding XV, including mini novellas, trailers, and even the movie . I was very committed to the idea of a 'fantasy based on reality,'as it struck me as wholly unique and exciting. I’m ultimately disappointed, however, because it presents so many elements and gestures towards better mechanics and themes than it ever commits to.
Here are my thoughts, mostly divorced from the context of this project’s development:
Perhaps it isn’t entirely fair to compare the two given the gap in time between them, but after having recently finished season 4 of Netflix’s The Crown–which is perhaps some of the best drama I’ve ever seen–I couldn’t help but feel left wanting by FFXV’s frankly uncritical, storybook approach to monarchy. None of the principal characters are intentionally flawed in particularly relatable or even despicable ways; I don’t think the game is actually all that interested in what it means to be a king. There are peripheral gestures towards borders and the refugees they necessitate, with Cid having a falling out with King Regis years ago after he erected a wall around the crown city, leaving everyone outside the wall to fend for themselves against the rival faction. But this is only mentioned in one or two lines of dialogue and never actually explored. Class is also all but ignored, with only a line from Prompto about not being of noble birth. Prompto’s whole reason for being here is also a bit shit, revolving entirely around a presumptuous letter from Lunafreya that greatly overestimates his relationship with Noctis and bids him to keep watch over him. What?
I’m also just baffled at the handling of Revus, a character who has legitimate reason to hate Noctis and what he represents, having been left behind by King Regis to be violently assimilated into the rival empire. To say nothing of his sick design, he was completely wasted on this game, showing up maybe two or three times in the entire game in scenes that just confused me as to what his actual motivations and feelings even were, before literally dying? Off-screen?
As a consequence of Noctis falling off a bridge?
It was around this point in the final hours that I felt the game was indicating to me that it had given up on itself and just wanted to get things over with. Revus was a character with so much potential, and having him as a permanent party member would have added some much needed color to the game. The same goes for Aranea, who is unfortunately only one of three or four female characters in what is otherwise a fairly miserable sausage-fest altogether.
On that note, I’d feel better about the core “royal retinue” if I felt any real, honest intimacy between them. The game thinks it presents scenes of characters growing closer to Noctis, but each one is always constrained by stifling norms of masculinity that keep them from saying what they mean, or embracing one another, or generally doing anything people who love each other would do to express their happiness, appreciation, or even hurt to one another. Instead, it’s all endless ribbing, back-pats, and “you guys are the best.” It’s rather surprising, these characters having presumably been created by Tetsuya Nomura who, throughout the Kingdom Hearts games, was very interested and unafraid to tell stories about men loving men in a way that’s earnest and relatable.
As for Ardyn, his character was done much better in Black Panther’s Killmonger, which, again–fair enough–came out two years later. But it’s not as if that narrative was particularly groundbreaking or new. It’s just another failure on this game’s part to examine its pieces and understand their inherent strengths.
Regarding structure, the meeting with the First Secretary of Accordo in Altissia offered a real glimpse into a much more interesting and thematically committal game in which diplomacy is a key mechanic that changes the relationship of Lucis with foreign nations and the state of the world at large. I loved the idea of being given dialogue options that would affect the outcome of important agreements with neighboring power. I’m willing to bet that what’s in the game likely has a fixed outcome no matter what dialogue options are chosen, but a more narratively focused game in the vein of Mass Effect would have been a much better avenue with more leeway to explore a theme as complex and fraught as monarchy and its consequences.
As for what’s actually in the game, I rather enjoyed the road trip hours. Eos is gorgeous, but I must lament a very real lack of any verbs that connected me to it. The many hunts were mindless and the game’s attempt to make quest-givers memorable characters didn’t quite do the world enough justice.
One really important thing I want to touch on is the music…
What the fuck happened?
The main theme and the battle tracks are characteristically beautiful of Yoko Shimomura, but the town themes? The camping music? I literally had to turn the music off once I’d reached Altissia and turn on the Venice themes from Assassin’s Creed II because I just felt attacked. A game has literally never made me do this before.
Does anyone know the story here? Is Shimomura credited for the compositions she created during the Versus XIII days while someone else filled in these pieces in the years that followed?
God damn, dude!
All in all, I respect Final Fantasy XV for making it out into the world in any capacity. I only regret that it wasn’t handled with more focus and aplomb.
I wonder how it’s generally regarded by Final Fantasy fans? How was your experience?
I also hoped we might discuss what this game may or may not have to do with whatever’s next for Kingdom Hearts, given the ending of Re Mind. How much do we know about that? Is it really Nomura’s Revenge?