Mmmmmmmmm. I was a wee-lad in eighth grade when I learned of this game, writing a biographical report on Tetsuya Nomura (the nerdy-ness was forever coursing through my vains). Back then the game was called Final Fantasy Versus XIII. I hadn’t even known about Final Fantasy XIII at that time. I thought that Versus XIII would be a game about Final Fantasy characters fighting each other. Though the game wasn’t about Final Fantasy fighters, Dissidia Final Fantasy was.
I deeply enjoyed playing that game. As I got further into Dissidia, I unlocked avatars I could rock for my online ghost profile (think of ghosts on racing game that you can race against online, but with fighting characters), that’s when I found Noctis, the main character of Versus XIII. That’s when my interest came back to the game. I started looking it up. I saw trailers. I looked up more pictures of Noctis. I fell in love with a game that hadn’t come out yet—a game that really hadn’t had expectations of being released. Year after year I thought of this game, without ever getting news of it. I played other games Final Fantasy had to offer in the meantime to stave my hunger for this, at that point, imaginary game. So I played FFXIII, which though it’s an okay game, it ate floor candy. There still wasn’t news on Versus XIII, and then Square Enix decided to make a sequel to a game that kind of disappointed a lot of fans with FFXIII-2. And…I actually liked that game. It was really fun to me, except for the last level…woof was that some torture. Then there was the announcement video that Versus XIII was getting a title change, becoming Final Fantasy XV, though with that announcement we still didn’t receive a release date.
So fast forward to March 30th 2016. I had been preoccupying myself with Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, which I never completed—it took years to beat enemies, and I…that game…it…yeah. I ended up watching the ending cut scenes and at least the game ended well? And I’ve played Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn for a week, once more learning that I still don’t like MMOs that much. Anyways, it’s the Final Fantasy Uncovered event, an event to celebrate Final Fantasy XV and reveal its release date. After watching the Kinda Funny crew skit their way through the event and watch the awesome “Reclaim Your Throne” trailer and listen to Lena Headey and Aaron Paul talk about Kingsglaive (the movie for the game) and hear about the mini games (that’re also available for mobile play) and hear Florence Welch talk about singing her beautiful cover of “Stand By Me”, we finally received the release date: September 30th 2016—though all of us knew the release date beforehand cause it was leaked. Nevertheless, I was excited. There was official proof of a release date. I finally knew I’d receive this anticipated game.
Now fast forward to August 2016. The game has been delayed to September 30th. I wanted to be mad about the delay, but I understood on a creator level. You want to send the best version of your creation to the world. I even wrote a blog post about it.
So once more fast forward, this time to December 1st because Amazon delivered my game late. I’ve played through World of Final Fantasy, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, and Pokemon Sun by this point (no…it never occurred to me that I play a lot of video games. Never crossed my mind). And this game is…pretty great. It’s fun. It’s a great time. Is it the Game of the Year? No (well for me: kinda, but objectively: no). Is it mind shattering? Not really? Um…before I end up just rambling (as I already have before getting to my opinion of the game), I think it’ll be best to talk about this game in five categories: Plot, Graphics, Gameplay, Characters, and Replay Value.
So the plot is okay. I mean…it’s a JRPG, and I know that that shouldn’t be the excuse, but it’s a JRPG. You know what you’re going to get with the game, and you know it’s not going to make all that much sense or connect plot points perfectly. I mean this game is filled with plot holes and gives you a lot more questions than answers. I mean… who the fuck is Ardyn, and why do I have to watch Youtube theory videos to maybe get an answer?
There are also a few moments where the plot leaves you wanting more. Part of the problem is that FFXV expects you to explore the side media that accompanies the game, which that’s asking a lot. When Childish Gambino made Because the Internet, there was a screenplay that you had to read to better understand the album. Did I read it? No. So why should a game expect you to watch an anime series (Final Fantasy XV: Brotherhood available on Youtube) or watch the movie (Kingsglaive available on DVD and Blu-Ray) in order to kind of better understand the plot? I did, but not everyone should have to. Even at the end of the game, there’s a moment where the movie gets referenced, and if you didn’t watch it, you’ll sit there confused at the reference (Maybe? Now that I think of it, you won’t be that confused, but still).
The game at times gives you cutscenes from outside media, such as Kingsglaive, to fill in some gaps, but that doesn’t really help. There are still so many questions, and at times the game approaches certain ideas and plot aspects, but then ignores it. Spoiler example (highlight the text to read it): In Chapter 13 of the game, you need to access a room to escape from an enemy fortress. Only those from the magitek army can gain access to the room. Prompto is able to access the room with his hand, which means he’s an MT (one of the magitek enemies), but then they just gloss over that and keep going with the plot. His father is also a researcher for the enemy’s army, but we ignore that too.
A few of these plot holes make sense, but the reasoning kind of frustrates me. In a few cases, the party members will venture off on their own and something changes about them. One will get a scar and one well…that’s a spoiler, but they never reveal what happened to them while they were away. For those little mysteries it makes sense because each party member gets a DLC episode, but that’s frustrating because I really believe in making a game and making it complete. We shouldn’t have to pay in order figure out the whole story, but I understand. DLC is part of the video game culture now, and the project was rushed. Which leads to another missing aspect of the story: the Niflheim Empire. They were really taken out of the game. They were just cut. I really wanted to face some of the head honchos of the Empire, but we never really got to that and Ardyn became the real focus too quickly (This isn’t a spoiler. Everyone knew he was the main antagonist. This is a JRPG). Also just a few of the cutscenes that we were shown over and over never make it to the game.
But even with so many cons against the story, it was still entertaining, because it had emotion behind it. Square Enix really stocked into the emotional impact of the story and made the characters enhance the story and coat over the flaws of the plot.
Whoo-wee these graphics were beautiful. There are moments where you’ll look at Noctis (particularly if you focus on his hair) and sometimes question if you’re playing a PS4/XB1 game, but other than that, the graphics are great. I didn’t expect to be so in awe of the graphics especially after living my life as a Square Enix addict, but I was. The particle effects were astounding. And if you really want to get into the nitty-gritty of it all, take a moment to look at the chocobos or stare at the car or go fishing or pay attention to the clothes. You’ll see how much work Square put into the textures of each part of this game.
So this installment of Final Fantasy (note: none of the flagship, one-number-not-connected-by-hyphens, installments of the game series are connected. Yes. I did have to explain this a few times) is quite different in its gameplay. Unlike its predecessors that went with turn based (sometimes loosely turn based) gameplay, this game is real time action. There’s quite a bit of reliance on reflexes and improv for this game. Luckily if you like to think things out, there’s wait mode. It allows you to pause if you stay still, allowing you to analyze your enemies and think through your progressions in the battle. I like to use wait mode, though I only use it because I didn’t want to get too into the game, and I thought it would help with aiming the magic (it does). So the addition of real time gameplay is refreshing, but know that you can’t go into the game swinging your sword and button mashing—you will die. There’s a lot of thought into when to dodge, when to go into full attack, should you warp away to replenish health and mp? Should you switch to this weapon? Would magic help in this case (the answer is usually yes)? There’s quite a bit to think about when playing the game.
Also in able to enhance the gameplay and techniques that your party members may partake in, there’s the ascension grid. This allows you to boost your stats, unlock techniques for party members, allow your members to make more AI actions (so combat is more fluid), increase bonuses for certain actions (camping, riding chocobos, driving your car etc.), and enhance your main protagonists abilities. It took me a while to figure out what works with what when upgrading the ascension grid, but it really helps with the gameplay.
Now something you might ask is, “How’s the camera angles?” To which I’d reply, “Good sometimes, obstructive as fuck other times.” This camera will decide your fate when in battle. You’re either gonna have a good time or a terrible one, and you just have to hope it’s a good time. Pro tip: stay away from trees. Stay away from bushes. You like to see? Stray far from the foliage.
With the gameplay are a few other additions such as cooking, photography, and fishing. Cooking helps temporarily boost your stats. Photography happens throughout the whole course of the game. One of your party members will take snapshots of you as you travel, fight, and generally progress through the story. Photography is a real sweet feature when it comes to keeping check of your progress and capturing cool moments. And as I mentioned earlier, you can share these photos (with Facebook, Twitter, and gamer communities/PS4 or XB1 network friends) to keep them beyond the game. Pro tip: cherish your photos and have fun with the photobombs (when it happens, you’ll know). Then there’s fishing, which, while not important to the story, is essential for certain side quests. Fishing is fun. A lot of people find it useless and long and at times needlessly complicated, but I find it a refreshing side feature. Try it out, and don’t go for the big catches on your first go round, it’ll definitely bias you in a negative way.
Now, with gameplay, there’s always glitches and complications. The same button you use for jumping (X/A) is used to pick up items or access certain parts of dungeons and whoo-wee does that button sometimes cause the wrong action. Sometimes I’ve jumped five times in an attempt to pick up an item. Sometimes your characters will ghost on you, as in they become transparent. Though this doesn’t really cause problems, it’s just offsetting. While playing this game, I’ve noticed that when the a party member ghosts on you, they’re about to disappear story wise (this might just be coincidental for me though). Other times, your main protagonist will get stuck in things. One time my character got stuck in a rock. I’ve seen people get stuck in walls and doors. The easiest way to fix it is by using your weapon. I’ve already mentioned problems with the camera, but it gets worse. Sometimes when a party member is using an item, the camera will focus on them, making it hard to navigate through dungeons (this recently happened while I was in a post game dungeon. I was deep in the dungeon—very close to the boss. I was so pissed). The only way I’ve been able to fix that problem is by fast traveling to a different location (I was near the boss and I had to fast travel to the goddamn beginning in order to fix the glitch. I too am surprised I didn’t yell, but Xmas Eve and all). Though the glitches can hamper your day, they’re easy fixes, and are kind of rare. That said…Fix it, Square. Pls.
In my opinion the best factor of this game is the cast of characters. They feel fleshed out. They feel real and while playing I actually felt attached to them.
So when we were first shown the character models, quite a few people had some not-so-positive thoughts about them—especially regarding the main protagonist, cause he looked like…well…a Final Fantasy main character. There was quite a bit of concern that we’d get a Hot Topic top seller like Cloud or Squall or, in some people’s opinion, Lightning.
Here’s the fun part, our main character, Noctis, isn’t emo and he’s very much a twenty-year old boy (note: not a man). His immaturity shows throughout the game, but a lot of the time he makes witty remarks to his friends (the party members) and jokes around, so don’t worry about him being an edge-lord. Pro tip: if you want the anti-thesis of emo, have him interact with animals (chocobos & cats).
There was also quite a bit of concern about the game having an all male party and how that would go along, but trust me, it’s not super bro hang out time. You’ll never ride in the car and feel like you’re watching an episode of Entourage (I still don’t know if we’re supposed to like or hate that show). You see that the characters care for each other and joke around. They talk about crushes, they talk about random topics—it feels quite real. As the story progresses, you notice the changes in their interactions. When something terrible in the story happened, you could tell from the way the characters talked to each other, how they might be silent when camping, from the way Prompto shares and talks about the photos he took. Square really took the time to put in the little details to liven these characters.
The only problem I had with the cast of characters was Luna. She just didn’t have enough screen time, and that didn’t help me care for her or see why Noctis wanted to marry her. Though my other problem was just the point that you didn’t get to interact more with one of the better characters, Iris. She’s…dope.
Seeing as I completed the game in forty-eight hours and I’m currently sixty-nine hours in, I’d like to say that the game has a bit of replay value. After beating the story, there’re still plenty of post-game dungeons and side quests to complete. You can also upgrade a few of your weapons and there are a few more Royal Arms and post game weapons/ accessories to obtain. Then there’s the adamantoise.
Also this isn’t the final version of the game. Updates and patches are being worked on as we speak. Square is steadily trying to make this the best game it can be. They’ve added New Game+ for people who like to redo the story, they’re adding episodic DLC for each non-Noctis party member. They’re attempting to fix the current glitches (pls), and even add more elements to the game so that you’ll have more fun. When I finished the game, I said I wouldn’t replay the story because Chapter 13 had destroyed my spirit, but I guess with enough complaints, Square decided to try and fix that chapter, so soon I’ll actually replay the story. They’re also attempting to add situations for the temporary party members so you can interact with em more (which means more Iris and Aranea). The game is steadily evolving and I look forward to it. This is one of the first games where I want to be a completionist and get every trophy (84% of the way there).
Overall, I will never say this game is perfect. It isn’t. And even if Square adds every feature they want, it still won’t be perfect, but that’s fine. I love the game as it is. It’s one of the only games that almost made me cry and it’s a game I’ve wanted for a while. I’m glad I’ve played it. And you should too. I’ll leave you with the Omen Trailer, cause it’s pretty pretty cool.