Previously I’ve discussed my excitement for Final Fantasy 15. I had a lot of hope for what the game could be as potential overflowed from various trailers and news points scattered over it’s 9+ year development cycle. As it traveled from being Final Fantasy Versus 13 into it’s final form broken into a film, episodes of an anime, and finally a video game my excitement grew. Before any of that really became a thing to me, my initial interest of this game began back in 2012 on my birthday when Theatrhythm Final Fantasy received a DLC song for an unreleased FF Versus 13, Somnus. The song was gorgeous and the mood was tonally different from anything I knew of Final Fantasy.
That was the turning point where it went from something that I didn’t even bother watching trailers for, to digging up as much as I could via Google notifications. The game was pretty much assumed to be dead at one point as the news was sporadic at best while Final Fantasy 13’s series continued to disappoint at Square. It was out of sight and out of mind until the E3 2013 trailer when it rebranded as the 15th entry of the mainline titles, breaking away from the baggage of Lightning’s saga. Yes, it got a fancy roman numeral all of it’s own as “XV“. Either way that trailer captured my imagination as Square games all tend to do eventually. Later on they’d eventually pair a demo titled Episode Duscae in with their HD port of a previously Japan exclusive PSP game, FF Type-O, and I totally spent $60 on it to get an early poke at what FF15 might be. It’s been two years and I’ve still only put in about 6 hours into Type-0. Really, I could have paid just $60 for that 3-4 hours of content in the FF15 demo and be satisfied. Everything I loved about open world fantasy games (Dragon Age for example) was wrapped up in this actiony, exploration driven Japanese RPG ready for consumption. Super emo characters, party system, myriads of weapons, dungeons to explore, side quests, ridiculously spikey hair styles, and brutally cheesy themes like friendship conquers all. Everything I want from my JRPGs was on parade in a gorgeous seamless world to breath it all in with. This was the Final Fantasy I’d been dying for since 1999’s adventures with Squall & co. I loved it so much I went ahead and wrote an entire blog just about the demo.
Flash ahead to November 2016 and finally the game released. Reviews were scattered despite sharing a common point throughout – “Flawed but great”. I’m not here to review the game on a technical level. That’s not what I wanted to write about. I can agree there is merit to the statement. There are moments… Like the entire back half of the game where it feels like you’re fastforwarding through a movie just to watch the good parts. Chunks of exposition seem to have been relegated to loading screen text, if included at all. So as the reader’s digest version of what was released comes to a head you’re left wondering what just happened. One of the first thoughts I had was where I needed to look first for more info, a wiki or a YouTube summary to parse through all the snippets of story? I was fascinated with what was given to me as a player and I wanted to know more. The game is definitely unfinished, flawed… yet entirely a gem to be celebrated for so many reasons. From the development cycles, the personal character driven narrative at times, a believable blend of magic and modern technology in one world, all the way to the gorgeous engine first displayed with Agni’s Philosophy... a tech demo debuted back in 2012. Final Fantasy 15 is something special that I want to share with everyone I know.
Once the credits finished rolling the game concludes with “Fin”. A touch of class befitting the pedigree of Final Fantasy… but is it the finale? There was a lot to process in the last few hours of this game and I was ready to reflect, compare notes online, and piece together the mysteries of the world. Whether intentional or a product of a rushed deadline for launch the story leaves quite a bit to figure out. Even beyond that to take in the emotional impact of the final chapter isn’t something I wanted to just write off and jump right into hunting daemons again immediately after. The “game” aspect of this game is the biggest flaw I can find with this tale for me. After delivering a poetic, poignant farewell to the game through both the final levels and cutscenes – Accompanied by the beautiful track Somnus that first sparked my interest in this game’s existence – the next thing presented to you is the ability to reload at your last save point in order to time travel back to the earlier chapters of the game and continuing questing with new missions, treasure, etc. It gives you more game to game with. That just didn’t set well with me to be frank. The notion that I can just undo this ending. The desire to chase arbitrary goals in order to get a platinum trophy would just devalue everything I just experienced. Much as Final Fantasy 6 before it could be broken up into two distinct pieces with the World of Balance and the World of Ruin narratively, FF15 could be viewed at in the same light. I’m not going to go into specific spoilers but if the first chapters of the game could be summarized as joy, exploration, fantasy, and camaraderie – the closing half of the game would be summarized as a dark, emotional, introspective journey of one’s self. To just zip back to the first half of the book the moment you finish it undermines the transition and says “hey, it’s okay buddy. Let’s just go back to better times and pretend the heavier times never bore weight on your shoulders”. With the press of a few buttons I could be right back to the bright open worlds cooking, camping, fishing, and photographing with my crew until a trophy ding sounds and a pop up slide into my view to inform me I’ve achieved something through repetitive play. Yay..?
So as the journey concludes, I returned to the title menu and let Somnus play in the background as I sat back in my chair. I’m drifting back into reality slowly as I notice my cat curled up on my lap during those chapters. It slipped my notice as I was just inside of the game. My brothers and I had a helluva time together. Now I think I’ll just sit here as a soft violin sings the sorrow and let my mind drift back to recall the bits and pieces of narrative I don’t understand but feel the implied emotions of. Like a child attending a funeral you don’t know why you’re sad. You can’t explain it, you don’t grasp what death or the final farewell means. You just know that part of you isn’t happy. That unknown yet profound sorrow, those pensive musings will remain for awhile longer. I cherish these moments and dare not challenge them just to squeeze a couple of more hours out of gameplay out of what currently stands as a very satisfying experience.
Let Somnus sing you back to sleep, dear sweet Final Fantasy XV. You were every bit the game I wanted you to be despite all odds. You made me feel.