Author Topic: I just completed my first Final Fantasy game, XV. Some thoughts.  (Read 535 times)

kiwlei

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Over the years I’ve probably picked up every Final Fantasy game and given it a shot. For whatever reason, few of them resonated with me, and even the ones I enjoyed were difficult to keep up with for 40/50 hours.

Cue Final Fantasy XV, a game I fell in love with immediately and never stopped enjoying.

I feel it’s important to note that I knew NOTHING about this game going in. I remember it taking some 10 years to make, I remember thinking the idea of “road-trippin’ with the fellas” seemed a little weak, and I just never kept track of it. I got it purely because it was on sale, and wanted to give the series a proper chance.

So, I had no idea until scouring this subreddit after I’d finished the game that apparently there was a movie? Released before the game? That explains a lot of stuff? I had no idea that some of the content I was experiencing was actually DLC added in well after its initial release. I came in with about as clean a slate as you can get.

And I loved it. Apparently a lot of people don’t. Upon booting up the game, there’s this title that reads, “A Final Fantasy for new fans and old ones” or whatever. As one of those newcomers, I have to say, they were right. Here’s what I enjoyed about the game:

Characters

The lack of strong female characters is unfortunate, for sure. My real first Final Fantasy game was XIII, and while I never finished it (purely because I sucked at it. Ended up watching the cutscenes on YT) I was drawn to the game almost entirely because of Lightning. She was a really strong, nuanced character, and felt different from a lot of protagonists in games at the time.

I have a Switch, so I started VII after finishing XV. And you have Aeris and Tifa, right off the bat.

This game is all about the bros, and Luna functions essentially like Zelda in BOTW. A background presence who purely exists to motivate the hero.

But you know what? They’re good bros, these bros. I like the bros. If I must have a bromance, these are fine bros to mance.

One thing that stands out to me, as opposed to a lot of RPG’s I’ve played, is that they have a friendship right from the start. They have a history and a shorthand and a witty rapport. This comes into play with the story as well, but it does make the world feel very lived-in. FF is generally good at this, but it was unique here in that you basically start out with your bros, and end with your bros, and you almost never change that party. Like a good Star Wars movie, the characters often split up and then come back together, which makes the relationship stronger.

From the dialogue, to the performances, to their play styles, they each felt unique, and the fact that I had a set party for the entire game made me feel comfortable really investing myself in learning each one of them. Sometimes in RPG’s you’ll have a neat character hang out with you for a couple hours and then you never see them again.

It helps that these aren’t toxic dude-bros. They’re very open and emotional and they love the shit out of noodles, but they also jab at each other the way real friends do.

Noctis at first is the weak link. But as far as cyphers/player surrogates go, I really like him. By the end of the story you feel like he’s grown and changed. He gets taken down lower and lower emotionally through the game, really beaten down. But he keeps growing stronger internally, and by the end he has a real quiet dignity about him.

Prompto is of course the best and I will hear no arguments.

The Story

I think this is one of the reasons why I stuck with this one when some of the others lost me. I really appreciated how simple the story was. It wasn’t like XIII where I felt like I was dumped into the 19th subheading of a Wikipedia page for a deep-cut Star Trek episode and had to play catch-up. Here, we have pretty easily delineated good guys and bad guys and motivation.

On a superficial level, the story was simple: you’re trying to go on a road trip to see your wife-to-be, but then there’s a big attack by the Empire and things get complicated.

But the story also did a good job of giving the characters a level of knowledge about the world that they would realistically have. They’ll casually talk about things that you as the player might not understand for a few chapters. There’s no amnesiac outsider here, so you’re at a slight distance from the mythology as a player. But I kind of liked that approach. It felt Star Warsy—the conflict is simple, the characters are archetypical, but the world itself is complicated, and there’s nuance to discover if you dig deeper.

The end of the game genuinely made me and my wife (who had been watching me play and was really compelled by the story) teary. The final camp fire was such a beautiful thing, and that final shot with Luna and Noctis with your favorite picture from your adventure.

The pictures, by the way! I kind of assumed that they’d just play your photo album like a slide show over the end credits. Forcing you to pick one favorite moment from your entire adventure was genius. It made you reflect back in a nostalgic way, and gave weight to the fight to come.

Exploration

Look, everything after Breath of the Wild is a let down. It has ruined open world games forever. I constantly wished that I could climb every arching rock spire, that every dilapidated farm house had a dusty journal giving cryptic backstory and treasure inside. Alas.

But I will say, the game had different goals: I was amazed at how much it committed to the road trip aesthetic, and as someone who enjoys a good road trip, I think this game really does capture the serenity of rolling down the countryside with your best friends. The world wasn’t really meant to be meticulously combed through; it was designed to pass by from the passenger seat as you drive by it in wonder.

Chocobos made the exploring you DO do a total delight, though.

Combat

It’s my favorite. Sorry not sorry. I think it did a great job of capturing the constant thrill of more recent, more active JRPG stuff like The Last Story or Xenoblade Chronicles while being COMPLETELY original and addictive.

The warp strike is just a genius bit of game design. It looks amazing, it feels amazing, and it’s always fun. It reminded me of the Tanooki suit in Mario—just a perfect little addition to the traditional gameplay that adds a bit of whimsy and nuance.

And once you’re able to swap between characters, a lot of variety opens up.

Unlike other RPG’s, I actively sought out the hunting side quests because I just enjoyed the combat so much.

I can understand it being not so beloved by folks who prefer turn-based. And honestly I generally prefer turn-based. I just happen to think this is a lovely active combat system.

TL;DR

This game is delightful. The characters are charming, the world is beautiful, the combat is incredibly satisfying, and the story was compelling.

I’m playing FFVII now, and I can already see why it’s considered to be a masterpiece. XV is not as perfectly paced, its characters aren’t as diverse. But this was a PERFECT entry into the series. I’m a fan now. Thanks, FFXV!