So, it has been a while. Since I’ve last written in here I’ve moved to the Czech Republic and got a new job. Time has not been as I would like and it has been hard to time find time to write in here, but still, I want to keep this active, if anything by writing a post once in while about something that I come across.
When I started to write this, I had just finished Final Fantasy XV a game I had watched for the past 10 years or so. I was about 15 years old when they first announced this game. The Playstation 3 was still new, Konami was still kind of good and I fear for the quality of the game because I didn’t really like Final Fantasy XIII.
There were big promises about this game back then. That this was going to be the darkest Final Fantasy yet with blood and heavy themes (implies that almost all Final Fantasy games don’t feature one or two heavy themes at least).
Do you remember 2015? Do you remember when this game was still called Final Fantasy Versus XIII? I do. I was there.
The times were different to say the very least. I was surrounded by people who were hyping over this game because of that one very cool trailer with Noctis killing some soldiers and because Sommus is such a tight song (I prefer the instrumental version, but who cares?). It was pretty, yes, but we still did not get anything else but a pretty trailer. I have to admit that there was a strange beauty about creating hype about a game almost through music and mood alone, but I must admit that we were far more ignorant about this. It wasn’t bad, it was just different.
People came and went and this game never remained the same. With all the changes and long delay, I was ready to dislike this game and trash talk it out of the room. It was an incomplete game on top of everything else. I mean, what could possibly go wrong expect everything?
When the game finally came out, everyone was in love with it in some manner. Whatever it was the game mechanics, the characters or the lore, everyone I knew that had played it was in love with, at least, a part of it.
Having played one of the demos at my best friend’s house, I was skeptical. I shared her opinion that the gameplay was a mess and the characters were not that great despite the game being very beautiful. I struggled immensely with the controls of the game. I found them to be overly complicated and even messy at time, maybe because before playing it was playing a Souls game.
However, I think the very particular time of my life in which I’m right now affected my vision of the game.
I wasn’t going to buy it, being in the Czech Republic and only having PS4 when I travel to my boyfriend’s. When I do make the 2-hour trip, I end up picking up my boyfriend at work more often than not and we, sometimes, borrow used games to try. On that particular night, the choice was between Yakuza 0 and Final Fantasy XV.
Final Fantasy XV came home with us for the simple reason that neither I or my boyfriend had picked up a Yakuza game before (I’m seriously waiting for that remake of the first game so we can both enjoy that little slice of Japan).
After booting up the game and playing it for about 20 hours, it became very clear to me that I was going to enjoy this game until the very end and this game was going to end up having a very special meaning to me.
While Bloodborne is the game of my innocence from a time in which I couldn’t even imagine moving here and living half of the time with my boyfriend instead of having a shitty long distance relationship and Nier: Automata is the game that allows me to speak on hours to no end about a game universe I really like, Final Fantasy XV was my homecoming game, a game that allowed me to feel home without spending 300 euros to go to Portugal.
What the game was 10 years ago did not matter anymore. After all, the game changed directors and the story was revamped to leave the Final Fantasy XIII mythos and become its own thing (even if the influence of those mythoi is still noticeable). The demo that I hated didn’t matter anymore because I now could actually control my character. It didn’t even matter what was the game like before the patch because I didn’t play it without the patch. I was playing FFXV for FFXV, not because of some other reason that came taunting me from the past and by the end of my 35 hours of game, I could look at the menu and say “I like this, this makes me feel home and welcomed”.
What affected the most my experience is that I was playing what, in the end, is the tragic tale of a young man in love who doesn’t really know what his role is, with the person I had fallen in love with.
My boyfriend isn’t big on turn based RPGs, he finds them boring and I can’t really blame him for thinking that way. Not every turned based game is Shin Megami Tensei or Final Fantasy XII. Most are boring fests in which you’re pressing a bottom to see if you can get on with it. Taking this into consideration, you can imagine that most of our conversations revolved around how the previous connect with each other and symbols of the series. He seriously fell in love with the chocobos.
It may come as a shock to you, but I’m not used to fo this. The few games which I had something similar was with me watching something I already liked or something I really had no interested on, never was I on the role of guru that had to explain the situation and the evolution of the game to someone who never got his hands on a Final Fantasy game. As expected, I wanted to share as much as possible with this person, including the little details of the game and its shortcomings and that was one hell of a trip.
Early on, we agreed that the strong point of the game was the main cast and their relationship with each other and as the game progressed it became more and more apparent that (together with its antagonist) were the best part of the game.
Many people still call them a boyband, like there did back in 2010, and I don’t think that is a fair nickname. Although they appear to be one (which is not hard when you have four pretty boys traveling around in a luxury car), boyband often fall into stereotypes of male characters that the fans can hold on to and, while I cannot say that doesn’t happen, I feel that the main cast has way more character than Backstreet Boys (in case you don’t know who they’re, they were the biggest boyband back in the 90s) or even One Direction.
Each character has their own set of abilities and skills that help the others and make the group feel complete.
Noctis, the main character, and the prince doesn’t fall into either the trope of an emo boy (which he seemed to back in Final Fantasy Versus XIII). He’s quite grounded and does very human things like not liking carrots. He talks with his friends as equals, even though his royal upbringing sometimes becomes evident. He fishes, which escalates with Ignis’ cooking skills and he can give him some rest by driving the Regalia.
Noctis talks to his friends and lets them talk.
One of my favorite bits of the game revolves around the concept of the characters talking to each other while traveling within the game’s overworld and doing quests. Although the dialogue does repeat itself at times, I quite enjoyed how much it shows and tells you about the relationship the group has with each other.
And which is my favorite moment of these small insights? At a point in the middle to end of the game, Gladious is not present. Gladious is a muscular guy, the tank who uses a massive sword and more often than not is showing his muscular abs to the world. When he’s not present, Prompto the skinny fast character asks the other two what he may be doing. Noctis quickly answers that he must be meeting some girls, which makes Prompto so annoyed that he calls his friend a son of a bitch.
Final Fantasy was never a game that used swearing. Final Fantasy VII had Cid, whose dialogue was 80% swearing but it was censored and up until this point Final Fantasy XV seemed to be doing the same, however, Prompto, who may I remind you is the human incarnation of a chocobo, drops this insult which tells us a lot about his character.
Not that he can swear and other Final Fantasy XV characters can do it (Noctis does it later directed to the game’s antagonist), but how envious he is of Gladious being able to meet girls and having them like him.
Prompto is a very interesting character. Mostly due to the fact that he wasn’t always the marry-go-lucky joker that you see in the game. At a point in a game, he confesses to Noctis that he feels bothered and doesn’t know what he should be because he wasn’t always like this and this is quite clear in the anime, Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV. Prompto longs to be accepted by his friends, who he sees as vastly superior to him. He wants them to accept him as who he is and hides his insecurities under the mask of a funny guy, something that is not all that uncommon in real life. This theme comes back later in the game, although very quickly. It’s not that isn’t effective as it probably would be if the game was completed, but it brings something new to the character and it shows that his friends are his friends and are there for him, no matter what.
Ignis has something similar going on in which is own problems heightened upon his friends, but talking about would be talking heavy spoilers about the game’s plot and, even though these are widely known, I do not want to talk about that too much and keep the surprise for those who haven’t play the game.
Noctis whole character arc revolves around acceptance and belonging, which I reckon are the two main themes of the game.
Noctis’ father, Regis, never fully accepted his son’s fate and wanted him to live a normal life (which explains Noctis’ personality and way to speak) and Noctis himself must accept his own fate or doom the world to, eventually, end. This is never hidden from the player. Noctis has grand fate and we are made well aware of it in the start of the game and it all comes together, although not very well in the game.
The themes are always present, but how they come together with the story isn’t always satisfactory.
Sadly, Final Fantasy XV was rushed into completion after changing directors and changing its name. A lot of things are clearly missing and some were removed to avoid problems in the West. According to the internet, Lunafreya’s whole backstory which involved heavy themes like abuse was removed to avoid issues in the West. This resulted in Luna appearing 20 minutes in a 30-hour game and me feeling almost nothing for the character because she was barely there. If I felt anything for her it was because of Noctis very clear feelings for her and how happy he is with prospect of marrying someone he adores despite not seeing her in years.
The fact that the game is incomplete hurts it a lot. It makes the story confusing and sometimes it doesn’t even make any sense, but on the other hand, it gives it an almost Dark Souls-esque level of mystery. A lot of things are left to the player’s imagination and for the player to figure out on their own. Nowhere is this more evident than when looking at the Ardyn Izumia, one of the best characters to come out of a Final Fantasy game in the past years. His motives and objectives had me thinking for most of the game and his words are so incomplete that fans are left to theorize about what really happened to him. While he does tells Noctis about himself, he never truly expands upon it which makes his mystery alluring and keeps people talking about him and, by extension, about Noctis.
But this does not excuse the fact that the story feels rushed and all over the place. I got the feeling that the game was supposed to be much longer like most JRPGs are, but all the changes brought the game to halt and it was shipped as a beautiful mess.
My option of the gameplay has changed. I like it more, but it’s the biggest enemy is the camera. Half of the time I don’t know what I’m hitting if I’m hitting anything and I can’t see the enemy what the fuck is going on? Most of the time I can’t even dodge because I don’t know where the attacks are coming from and this becomes a little too frustrating if you’re going into the end game under leveled (which I was).
Despite everything, I enjoyed the game immensely and it all comes back to the themes of acceptance and belonging.
I wish it was complete, but I accept the game as it is because it’s so wonderful and it has so many little moments that make everything so heartwarming for someone who is far from home in a place unfamiliar and strange (one of my favorite moments is when Prompto, while healing Noctis from near death, slaps his butt), like a reminder that no matter where you go there will always be someone who will support and help you.
It’s hard to belong to a country that is not your own and to a culture you were not raised in and, if I may be honest, it hasn’t been easy living here for the past months. More often than not I’m left with the sour taste that I rather be home and meet up with my friends, but little things like Final Fantasy XV make it a little easier because I came here for something. Having beaten this game with someone else from whom I have sacrificed the safety of home, holding the case, reminds me that even for just a little while I can feel home even here.