Final Fantasy XV...5 Years Later

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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 :pensive:. 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:

Summary

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?

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Great idea for a retrospective thread like this! I was a fairly avid Final Fantasy player for a long time. My first was VII, and have since have played all of the mainline games to varying degrees, finishing most of the single player ones from VI onward. But I’ve only ever put about three hours into XV and I’m not sure I’ll go back.

Part of that is because I’ve gravitated to other JRPG series that have shifted what I’m looking for in a sprawling 40+ hour quest. I’d much rather spend that time with a relatable cast of characters in a Persona game or with the incredible combat of a Souls entry. But the other part is that the fantasy that XV is presenting feels so at odds with what I want from a grand quest. In previous FF games, I’ve had a diverse cast of characters through a wondrously inventive world that was unlike anything I’ve seen before. But in XV, I’m stuck with four anime-ass-looking dudes on a road trip through an ersatz America to get one of them married, I guess? I appreciate that Square wanted to do something different here but it’s just not what I’m looking for in an FF game, especially when I can dive into an older series entry I have not yet completed.

On the other hand, I can’t bring myself to delete FFXV from my hard drive, even though I haven’t touched it in years. Because it’s a Final Fantasy game and I’m a Final Fantasy Fan. So I’ll finish it eventually. Probably. Maybe.

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The music is by far the strongest part!

I played the entire game and thought I paid attention, but I have no idea what happened in the story, like I can barely even guess. My favourite part is when Noctis shows up suddenly after ten years (for some reason??) and he and they boys just go “Hey”.

The combat isn’t great either. It looks beautiful and cool but I’m pressing the same buttons and not giving it much thought. And then they ruined the exploration by having you being forced into combat when those dropships arrive, this game’s version of random encounters. And then the “boss fights”! Urgh.

Anyway, I did have an OK time with it.

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I wrote about it a couple of months ago as I made a pledge to finally clear my backlog of FF titles and this was next after XIII. I think I’m much more positive than the OP is but it’s a case of really appreciating the things they did do well and realising nearly every criticism is spot on. The game gestures to some cool ideas and has pretty cool presentation more than it has any substance.

I managed about 100 hours of play and that was mostly because the core combat loop and running about was enjoyable for me even if it was remarkably easy compared to, say, FFXIII. I died twice in the entire game and that was down to a glitch and a specific dungeon which doesn’t allow for healing. Even then I could cheese the latter with DLC armour which makes characters temporarily invulnerable.

Damn the Summons were great though. First (and only) time they’ve ever felt suitably epic. First time I summoned Ramuh was so great.

I think the main word I’d use to describe Final Fantasy XV is nostalgic. It feels like a homage to the series made by major fans.

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What a weird game. I got the platinum trophy and then never thought about it again.

I remember enjoying the tone to a point, but eventually it felt like their strict adherence to the whole “roadtrip with the boys” thing seriously impacted the way they were able to tell the story. If I remember right they said at the time that they did it explicitly for that reason–that their goal was for the player to only be able to see events through the eyes of the main party and to not always have a clear understanding of the things going on outside of the road trip… and yea hey turns out that was bad.

Thinking about it now it was probably mostly a financial thing. Like this obviously ends up as a better game if it incorporates Aranea, Ravus, and Luna + Gentiana–or, you know, expands on the main villain–but the game was in development for so long and they had to get a product on shelves so they made a narrative concession that chopped a lot that stuff out (and then let them repackage some of it later on as DLC.)

Speaking of post-launch support my understanding is that this game received a lot of it, even when it comes to them patching out some of the jank from the main game, so maybe my experience with it would have been slightly better had I not played it right at launch.

Though the combat probably still would have felt middling to me. My longest lasting memory of this game is a cave full of some electric cheetahs that had a counterattack stance and my AI teammates RELENTLESSLY running into it and dying. At some point on the quest for platinum I just started running past any enemies that I could.

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I agree with everyone else, but I want elaborate on a couple of these points. I think the game is somehow much better than the sum of its parts, but the parts are pretty bad.

My main gripe with the combat is that you hold attack instead of tapping the button to attack. I assume they did this to make the game more accessible, but since you also don’t need to move much, it makes the combat feel very perfunctory and slower-paced than what’s happening on screen. I assume they didn’t want to make it an actual action game, but this combat system is less engaging than the ATB system.

I accept that this game is going to be a sausage fest because of the premise, which isn’t necessarily a problem, but the way they treat Lunafreya is unacceptable. Lunafreya never gets any characterization and she gets fridged the instant there is a chance to do something with her. Kairi is essentially permanently fridged in the Kingdom Hearts games, but at least she gets un-fridged at some points and we have multiple scenes showing why she and Sora care about each other.

The scenes with Iris feel gross. It feels like she only shows up for 20 minutes to crush on Noctis so Square could sell merch of a 16 year old girl. You could do some interesting things with a little sister wanting to tag along on the road trip and go to the wedding.

I think the number one thing I like about this game is the guy who sells fancy swords out of the back of his van. I saw that and was immediately bought into the fact that this is a world where people use giant swords and wear leather jackets to fight giant robots.

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My opinion on FFXV… V years later is that I really hope Nomura gets to do have his mulligan with Kingdom Hears IV like the series seems to be implying and finally he can tell whatever story he was excited about. Because that excitement isn’t in this game.

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The more I experienced of FFXV stuff the more we started to hate it. Really promising early game and setting and like you say it keeps bringing up interesting stuff and then does nothing with it. But especially this:

Like, probably about 90% of the dialogue in the game (rounded down) is YOU’RE GONNA BE A KING NOW NOCTIS, YOU’RE THE RIGHTFUL KING, YOU’RE ROYALTY YA KNOW YOU GOT RESPONSBILITIES, NOCTIS ARE YOU LEARNING HOW TO BE THE KING? BEING A KING IS A HEAVY BURDEN YOU’RE THE KING NOW NOCTIS.

Like I don’t think I ever saws any game talk such big talk about a topic and then not actually deal with it in any way at all. Culminating in the ultimate insult of our main character taking a nap in a cave for 10 years because the devs didn’t think to develop his character at all until the game was almost released and then they cancelled the Noctis story DLC.

It feels really similar to the ID game RAGE in a way where instead of having teams of people focused on putting a game together they had all hands on deck working on like one aspect of the game, then the next, and then it had to ship. Especially if you played the vanilla game and not Royal Edition.

Regarding the party’s banter, it too I felt started out pretty strong, then like you say after the first act it never actually develops beyond that point.

My first Final Fantasy game was the original one, and I’ve played all of them except for the MMOs. But this one in particular came off as really unfocused to me and honestly, and like if that lack of focus wasn’t in the writing itself I could deal with it but it really rubbed me the wrong way how long the game went on for while having so relatively little character development. Hell look at like Final Fantasy IV which is pretty bare by today’s standards, but look how much shit goes down and how far the main character progresses and learns in the first like, not even four hours of that game.

You-Have-My-Sympathies

All of this too, though they did improve the combat a little bit in the Royal Edition, being able to switch who you were controlling and not being able to just hold down the button for the armiger stuff was a big improvement imo, and made the boss fights more involving.

I kind of just assumed Lunafreya was going to be a party member at some point but they really descended below my expectations in the most spectacular way possible. Same with Iris, like imagine anyone in their right mind crushing on the Noctis character we see presented in the game lmao.

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