REVIEW: Final Fantasy XV – Part 1

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

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Final Fantasy XV Title Image
Title Final Fantasy XV
Developer Square Enix
Publisher Square Enix
Release Date November 29, 2016
Genre Role Playing Game
Platform PlayStation 4
Age Rating ESRB T for Teen
Official Website

For a game like this there are two reviews going on at once here, because there are really two questions that need to be asked with a new entry in such a prolific franchise. The first question is whether the game is good on its own merits. But for Final Fantasy XV, there needs to be the second question answered. Is it a good Final Fantasy game and how does it compare to other entries in the series? As such I will be referring back to my three month long Countdown series when needed to provide context, but try to keep this review as concise as possible. That being said, it’s not going to be totally truncated. You can look at the reviews on major sites for that. We are a niche gaming and fan site, and as such the review for Final Fantasy XV is being written by a series fan with fans in mind. Hopefully readers of all stripes will get something out of the review, even if you disagree with the resultant opinion.

Final Fantasy XV | Mission Statement

Bold mission statement, but are you being honest or just pandering?

First I want to lay out the degree to which I invested in this game, so the readers will know the framework of the review. We did not get an early review copy, so my review does include the content from the day one patch. That’s also why we are a little later than most sites are on giving you the review. I did play the three demos of the game that were publicly available, but have mostly been media silent for the rest. I’ve intentionally avoided all previews and playthroughs prior to release so that my opinion would not be swayed by others. I did not watch Brotherhood or Kingsglaive before playing the game. I viewed them after I finished the story so that I could have an opinion about how they affect any perception of the game’s story. As for the game itself, I played it for 160 hours, completed every hunt and side quest, found every Armiger weapon, maxed out all the character’s skills, finished everything to do with Chocobos, and completed every normal dungeon. The Platinum trophy for the game was earned 25 hours before I finished doing the rest of the things I needed for the review, and I played through all nine of the post-game dungeons (only not completing Costlemark Hard Mode for reasons I’ll explain later). So this review was not rushed out in the effort to get first week clicks. I did try to finish it as quickly as possible for our readers, especially if you are making purchasing decisions based on our review. Instead of a quick review, I wanted this one to last as what will be prospectively my last word on the game. Also, frankly, the game needed to convince me to love it as I didn’t like what I was seeing initially from the demos.

Final Fantasy XV | Inauspicious Start

The boys get off to a rather inauspicious start when their car breaks down.

There are smaller casts of party members in Final Fantasy history. Some immediate examples that come to mind are Final Fantasy X-2, Final Fantasy XIII-2, and (most drastically) Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. Still, you will notice that those games tend to be off-shoot games, not numbered entries in the primary franchise. The decision to have a party of only four members is a little puzzling. More contentious still was the decision that all four be male. Now, before anyone gets their hair in the air about Final Fantasy X-2 having all female characters, I will point out that the decision there was far more contentious than this one was. As I have stated before on this site, my bias is towards connecting more with female characters in my games, so there was some struggle in connecting with these characters. Also, the entire relationship these four characters share is based on two things; guardians of their crown prince and male bonding. Frankly neither of those things appeal to me, so this game did not connect with me at all on that level. That being said, I would not want them to just include a female character to please me or any crowd. I want them to tell the story that they are compelled to tell and as long as it’s written well I will appreciate that. That leaves it to me to decide whether I will like it or not. Unfortunately, they were already failing there. These characters are not well written or enjoyable to spend time with.

Final Fantasy XV | Characters

They do look a bit like a boy band, but in the modern world suits of armor are unlikely.

Noctis is the only son of the King of Insomnia, and apparently he was also given the title of Chosen. It is never clear in the game itself how and why he was made the Chosen, but there is some additional information in the other content outside of the game. Even then it’s not well explored at all. What is explored more is what he’s supposed to do as the Chosen. Luna, the Oracle and his fiance, is the only one who really talks much about him being that and treats him as such. To everyone else he just seems to be a spoiled prince. Gladiolus and Ignis are Kingsguard personal bodyguards assigned to the Prince, protecting him on his journey to get married to Luna as part of a peace accord. Prompto is your last party member and he has been recently added to the Kingsguard at the personal request of Noctis, because Prompto is his friend. For whatever reason he never really understood or respected Noctis’ position or status, so they were able to form a bond that defied propriety. You hear oblique references to that and their past, but nothing concrete. It also seems that Gladiolus and Ignis have been with the prince for a long time, but nothing was ever stated or shown that fleshed the relationship out. All told, other than a few flashbacks with a young Luna, there is almost nothing of the past explored in this game.

Final Fantasy XV | Cid

This version of Cid, along with his daughter Cindy, are character highlights.

Because so little is told or shown about the past, it means that many of the characters the party are meeting for the first time end up being more real relationships. The party eventually meets up with his former butler and the butler’s grandson, and certain events happen that are supposed to make you feel all emotional for the circumstance of these individuals. But I felt almost nothing about those events because I barely even knew who these people were. They didn’t earn any of those emotions in the game. Much more apparent are well developed and more interesting characters such as Cid and his daughter Cindy. Cid has been a Final Fantasy staple since Final Fantasy II, and this is a very good version of him. He’s a crotchety old man, but he has a gorgeous daughter that was very obviously based around Daisy Duke and a lot of the car fantasy girls you would find in a magazine. I can envision some people offended by her sexually suggestive clothing, but Cindy is a pretty good character and one that you will interact quite a bit in your adventure. She is the mechanic for your car, so you will see her often to install upgrades. Because of all the time spent driving around, the car almost becomes as much of a character as any of the humans, and it’s good that they added so many upgrades and options to the vehicle.

Final Fantasy XV | Aranea

Aranea Highwind is possibly my favorite character in the whole game.

During the story bits and just wandering around the world, my favorite party member was almost always Gladiolus, and in several ways he reminds me of myself. He’s a big burly guy with tattoos, but you’re more likely to see him with a book in his face. Ignis is the more serious type and almost acts like a butler, and Prompto acts more like the class clown. The prince is a little more varied in character than the others, but he still mostly acts like a spoiled prince for most of the journey. None of these characters will make even the top 50 of favorite Final Fantasy characters for me, and even Gladiolus spent an entire chapter making me want to kick him out of my party for being so stupid and hypocritical. This was drawn into even starker contrast in the short time you spend with the Commodore Aranea Highwind as a party member. She joins you for a quest where you dive into a dungeon as a temporary replacement for a party member. She not only looks totally badass as a Dragoon, but she fights in a really cool way and she has tons of attitude and sex appeal. She oozes personality and style, and I wish that she would have become a permanent party member. I would have traded any of the other characters for her, especially Prompto, who was my least favorite. After that temporary party experience she will occasionally show up at night while you are fighting demons, jumping out of her airship to help you out. She will make a party of five members for a short time and even comes with her own super powerful technique that is a Dragoon staple. Also, she comes with her own Biggs and Wedge, part of Final Fantasy ever since Final Fantasy VI.

More XV on Page  2->

About William Haderlie

Born in the 1970's, I've been an avid participant for much of video game history. A lifetime of being the sort of supergeek entrenched in the sciences and mathematics has not curbed my appreciation for the artistry of video games, cinema, and especially literature.

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  • Salty Spitoon

    why is everyone on this site so opinionated on the waifu-value of games
    “before you say 10-2 made the same mistake I wanna let you know I have a bias for women as a big tattooed guy who would rather read books, also I have no interest in guys bonding so I’m gonna ignore the character development there and instead bash them for being underdeveloped and not well written at all but also say that Cindy is real well designed”

    I just used to love this site but it seems like what was once a “niche” jrpg site has spiraled into the most weaboo shit I’ve ever seen, like seeing y’all light up about fatal frame 5 not having bikinis in the english release.

    I’m gone after this so I’m not trying to start a fight and put everyone on defense mode and again I believe you’re entitled to publish whatever you like! But it’s hard to take you guys as a credible source when you went from getting xenoblade chronicles, the last story, and pandoras tower localized to now exclusively catering to how much tit there is to a game. The links I see on tumblr are always hyper sexualized bland as fuck anime bullshit for PC or vita, and nothing ever quality anymore. “You guys should give Senran Kagura a chance it’s actually not sexualized at all but also I hate ff15 cause I don’t like dudes that much”

    Like yes I think ff15 is absolutely a flawed game in so many ways imaginable, but it sounds like your reasons are so self-indulgent like the rest of this site

    You guys are really ruining your credibility as a source and alienating your reader base.

    • William Haderlie

      We give our honest opinions, and do not cater to any particular crowd. So if you feel that this is not a place that matches your particular views any more, feel free to leave and we wish you the best of luck finding a place that fits your style more. Certainly if you want a more mainstream opinion that will not show as much interest in females or Japanese gaming, you will have plenty to choose from.

      For my reviews, I will always give my own opinion and people can either take or leave it. I do not write them to be agreed with, nor do I have any concern what the greater market thinks of a game. For people with similar biases that I have, they will likely agree with them. For people who don’t, they can find other reviewers that they agree more with. The internet is full of varying opinions on art and entertainment. So I encourage people to come up with their own opinions and look at a variety of opinions if they are making a purchasing decision. And if you find someone who has similar tastes, follow that person’s writing regardless of what site they are at.

  • Dasher Manny

    By the way William Haderlie nice review. I’m looking forward to the battler system on the next one

    • William Haderlie

      Thank you. I was a little surprised that the game flipped my expectations so much and I grew to really enjoy the combat a lot more than I thought I would. They improved it enormously from what was in the demos.

  • Nice Points so far.

    I’ve seen a lot of comments on the story, and i’m not going to lie, the way that the story is told, the lack of background to a lot of characters and everything else feels Rushed, which is no Suprise, i can only imagine what it was to get into this proyect so late and have to put everything in order and try to release it in the most complete state possible, so Kudos to Tabata on that.

    While i will not pretend that the Story is good, In my case i was able to bond with the party, and the end made me really emotional (just ended it yesterday) so i feel like at least the core story was presented nice, you have to assume a lot but the message gets across.

    This game reminds me a lot of Xenogears, so i’m assuming they ran out of Budget and time and that’s why we ended with this game, but honestly i feel that considering the hell development was we ended up with a fine entertaining game so i can’t complain on getting a Incomplete product for $60 😛

    • William Haderlie

      That’s funny, I was making the exact same comparison a couple days ago. Leaving the first continent felt a lot like disc 2 of Xenogears. Granted, I loved Xenogears a lot more than this game, but it felt like they ran out of time and money all the same.

      I am glad that you were able to get that emotional payoff like they clearly intended. I felt very sad that I didn’t get the payoff. The business with Luna and the last chapter did feel emotional to me, it just didn’t hit as hard as it would have if I liked my party characters and if they spent more time on the story.

      That being said, Square Enix did announce that they are planning free updates to the game to address my two biggest complaints with the game. A lack of backstory and character interaction, and fixing Chapter 13 to make it more enjoyable. I read that yesterday, which was a few days after I wrote the review.

    • This is kind of spoilerish so FYI

      It was more emotional to me what happens to Ignis than Luna to be honest, I couldn’t attach with her because she basically shows like 3 times…

      And yeah I hope they don’t hide much behind the DLC that is coming, but adding more to the story via patch sounds great

    • William Haderlie

      I would have been a bit more broken up over Ignis if it wasn’t for what happens to Luna. And the way that Gladiolus treated Noctis afterwards pissed me off. I wish I had the dialogue option to tell him that I would gladly trade my eyesight to get Luna back, so he should shut the hell up. And how would he feel if it was Iris instead of Luna? Before that Gladiolus was my favorite of the four. But I did like that they made that disability an interesting mechanic. I like it when games play with those real life circumstances. I didn’t mind Ignis, but frankly it felt like I knew him even less than I did Luna. At least it shows Luna’s reasoning and her past a bit, Ignis I know almost nothing about other than just hanging around him. For me, personally, just hanging out with someone is not enough for me to attach. So it’s probably as much a personality quirk of mine as it is poor writing on Square Enix.

    • Got it, I did watch brotherhood before playing it so that probably made it so i cared more for the party because i knew a little bit more of them.

  • job trunicht

    Male bonding doesn’t appeal to you? What sort of cuck are you?

  • Andrea

    As a whole, I didn’t enjoy the game much. The story felt rushed, and I understand why, but I had no idea about Kingslaive or Brotherhood until I finished the game. I still haven’t watched them either. Chapter 13 was my favorite and least favorite chapter. It was my favorite because of it’s length and the background story we get to find out about of the main villain. It was my least favorite because this chapter being as long as it was didn’t feel fitting to the rest of the game when all the other chapters are really short. Also, I think they (or just Hajime Tabata?) could have left the background story of chapter 14’s boss. That is very important, imo, because, unless you have the guide apparently, you’re not going to know why you’re fighting him.

    About the Cindy part… First of all, I love her, too! She’s cheerful, owns her sexiness, is a good and hardworking mechanic. I don’t mind her outfit MUCH. I don’t think most people, if not all, who complain about her attire are complaining about it because it offends them. I think it’s more about how unrealistic it is for being a mechanic and working in a desert and/or the camera angles. Or even the hypocrisy.

    Gladio, to me, is my least favorite character. I don’t care if Brotherhood explains more about his personality change. Although I think he was a bit harsh, I do agree with him. It was when I decided between cup noodles and canned beans that did it for me.

    (SPOILER!) I felt nothing in chapter 9 with what happened to Lunafreya. She was just so boring to me. I was more upset about a freaking car than a human. And Jared… I had completely forgotten who he was for the longest time.