By William Haderlie / December 14th, 2016
|Title||Final Fantasy XV|
|Release Date||November 29, 2016|
|Genre||Role Playing Game|
|Age Rating||ESRB T for Teen|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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