Most people who have known me for a long time know that the Final Fantasy series is quite possibly the most magical thing, besides coffee, to bless my existence. I’ve been playing the games ever since I was about six years old, and I’ve always been astounded by the beautiful worlds they take place in, the complexity and richness of the characters, the dynamics of their relationships with each other, and the intriguing plots that are written for each story.
I felt so strongly about the series in general, but fell out of touch with it for a year or two when Lightning Returns and Type-0 were the big releases, two games that just didn’t make me as excited about the series, anymore. Though I still had faith that the series could turn around, it was disappointing to get two games that I was so pumped for because of how much this series means to me, only to wind up disappointed. With Final Fantasy XV being just on the horizon after these two games were released, I became tentatively excited instead of feeling overly hyped, like I was when it was first announced as Final Fantasy Versus XIII. I knew the game had such potential, and it looked as impressive as I had always thought the series was, but I remained hesitant about losing my mind with excitement until I actually played the game.
I’m now seven hours into it, and I am beyond thrilled about Final Fantasy XV.
The story grips you immediately with a flashback in the midst of a chaotic scene, and it doesn’t stop giving you reasons to be intrigued about where the story will go from there. The camaraderie between Noctis, Prompto, Gladiolus, and Ignis is incredibly endearing, making you feel like you’re just another one of their pals tagging along with them. The “bro road trip” vibe in the game, a result of the addition of the car rides to different locations, breathes a different life into how we get to interact with the world (I thank Jeremiah Peterson, a delightful human that I follow on Twitter, for that amazingly accurate “bro road trip” description of the game.) The battles are so much more action-packed than they have been in previous games, really making you think on your feet and training you to react quickly. Veteran Final Fantasy players could take a while to get used to that (lord knows I am), but I’m really happy with how they’ve done it. It’s a fresh take on the battles, and I think it makes the appeal much more broad. This game served to cater to seasoned Final Fantasy players who were hoping for something new and innovative, while also appealing to people who have never played the games before, since many people were turned off by the turn-based battle systems in the previous games.
Overall, I just really love this game.
Some of my favorite parts about it include the characters’ hobbies, the photography aspect, and the relationship between the boys. I think their hobbies alone give so much depth to the characters, giving such a deep insight to their personalities. Noctis and his fishing suggest a need for an activity that gets him away from all the chaos, since the image of a fisherman is normally someone who’s kicking back with a drink in hand while they wait for fish to bite. Gladiolus’s survival tactics hints at his resourcefulness and being a quick thinker. Ignis’s cooking shows his love for providing/sharing with others, especially because of his role as right-hand man to Noctis. Prompto’s photography explains his exuberance and his genuine love of every aspect of life, which definitely comes from being an artistic person. The hobbies themselves add to the gameplay in a way that was so well done, like showing Prompto’s ridiculous selfies to give depth to the relationship between the group, and using Ignis’s cooking to help strengthen the party before a big fight.
A heart-warming detail I enjoy about their hobbies is seeing them constantly encourage each other with making endeavors with said hobbies. When Ignis develops a new recipe, they all make a comment to show how excited they are to try it. They all cheer Noctis on when he’s fishing, and try to help him out by giving him tips. Gladiolus’s in-battle tips literally save your life countless times, and the characters are often thankful for that. They all compliment Prompto’s photography, and always note when he got an especially amazing shot.
The photography aspect of the game is so cool to me, because it’s a great way to get a different look at characters, fight scenes, and just make for a fun pass time in the game. Though I gave the game a bit of side-eye due to Prompto taking pictures during incredibly challenging fights, (because like, rude? We almost died for your photography) it allows the player to get cool screen-grabs from the game, as well as add a little bit of depth to how Prompto thinks as a character/photographer. It also allows you to appreciate some of the beautiful landscapes, which they’ve done with such an immense level of detail, in this game. I save so many of the pics that I take, that I’m going to hit that 150 picture limit in the game very soon.
The relationship between the boys is, by far, my favorite aspect of the game. Very rarely do we see a group of grown men in video games interact with each other as human beings, as opposed to emotionless shells trying to ignore that they all have feelings. One of the moments I’ve appreciated the most was when I had the boys set up camp, and Ignis asked Noctis if he would help him make breakfast the next day, the end goal being because he just wanted to “have a fireside chat” with him. I also love how bright, bubbly, and borderline flamboyant Prompto is around all of them, and they don’t treat it like he’s not being “manly” or make it seem like they’re judging him. The bond between the four of them is so unlike anything that we even see with male friend groups in movies or TV shows, and I think it’s incredibly uplifting to see these platonic relationships play out so effortlessly. It’s such a different male-to-male relationship dynamic, and it shows a level of vulnerability between them that is so under-represented in the media, in general. Their stories aren’t based on trying to toughen each other up, or showing each other how to “be men.” They’re based on trying to build each other up and be there when one of them is down, and dang nammit, this makes my “smash the patriarchy” heart so full of joy.
I’m still hoping that at least one of the boys is revealed to be gay/bi/attracted to men in some way, because that would definitely further the progressive nature of their relationship. We haven’t really had a Final Fantasy story with a central character who openly identifies as LGBTQ, and this would be a perfect game for it, since the four main characters are men. Preferably, it’d be cool if Gladiolus was the gay one, because like…
I’m shamelessly attracted to him. That’s all. There was no deeper reason.
My biggest complaint about the game is the severe lack of central female characters. There have been a few introduced in the 7 hours that I’ve played it, all of which don’t seem all that dynamic, or like they’ll be regularly present in the story, as of now. I don’t want to be too hard on the game since it still has plenty of time to feature these characters in the light they deserve, but it would have been nice to see at least one of Noctis’s party members be a woman, instead. I did hear that the female characters that you encounter can join your party as guests, thus joining you in fights and certain missions, but I don’t feel like that’s the same as having one of the four central characters be a woman instead of being a man. I feel like this will be redeemed for me if one of the boys truly does end up revealing that they’re attracted to men, simply because the game ends up lacking in diversity if all of the playable characters are straight men (like it is in most games, anyway). They’ve had so many capable, complex female characters in the spotlight in past games, and it just seems anti-progressive for them to change that now, especially just coming out of the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy, where all three games had female protagonists that were beautifully written.
Regardless of that one big complaint I have with the game, this game surpassed all of my expectations, and it did redeem the fading hope that I had for a series I’ve loved for over a decade. The creators have done such a good job of making it appeal to avid fans, as well as newcomers, while also incorporating modern features that make it feel like Final Fantasy is truly aiming to keep up with the times. The several years of hype for this game was well-worth it, and I’m so happy the game is finally here.
If you’ve been playing Final Fantasy XV, feel free to share your opinions of it in the comments! I’d love to know how everyone else feels about it!