The Final Fantasy series stalled out years before the most recent entry was ever conceived. Final Fantasy X, the tenth numbered sequel in the series, was, by some, heralded as a great game and helped to bring the JRPG genre into the 21st century and onward. I, however, am of a different mindset when it comes to that horrid abomination. FFX was chock full of awful voice acting, strange difficulty curves, and mindless mini-games needed to unlock insane end-game items. Full disclosure, I never actually finished FFX, but I made it all the way to the final boss, which is, Jecht, or as Tidus says way too many times, his “old man”. The sphere was also way too hard to use and unlocking nodes you missed and had to move back to required lots of end game grinding characters I never used one; sorry Kimarhi, I just never thought your moves were that good until I was trying to finish the game and needed you. Nevertheless, the Final Fantasy series of games relationship with its fans maintains a longstanding hit or miss mentality. Many fans of the series spend years building up titles in the series and then they turn out to be not as good and lash out at the nearest media outlet comment section. Yes, many of you have a bad taste from FFXV in your “mouth” because you are dumb and don’t like good things, because these boys are beautiful.
I remember when the Final Fantasy Versus XIII trailer originally hit the web. I, for some reason, was always under the impression that this would be a Final Fantasy Nova Crystallis story told from the point of view of the antagonists of Final Fantasy XIII. Well, as FFXIII shaped up and came out. I soon realized what I thought Versus XIII to be could not even happen because I am still not even sure who the antagonists of that game were and I played some twenty hours. They were hours not well spent and I regret them immensely, but I can say, with great certainly, I do not like Final Fantasy XIII. The world building introduced a lot of made up names I can only half pronounce and not spell. They all operated under the assumption that the player knew what each word meant separate from each other. When, no one could tell you what any of the words they made up for the game meant. At some point, these Final Fantasy games will just be released in an entirely new language and the first forty hours are just spent unlocking subtitles so you know what is happening.
Final Fantasy games have always felt like open-world games by featuring massive world maps and side quests, however as game design and western RPG games have ascended to their current stature, a trip backwards in time reveals these to be weak open worlds. FFX was the first game to not feature an over world and relied on fast travel navigation through the airship, which was commandeered by the team at some point in the game. This mechanic allowed users to travel quickly to different parts of a world, although a lot of the world did not really have many reasons to go revisit certain locations. FFXIII removed all open world concepts that had ever been featured in any Final Fantasy game. The first twenty hours were a streamlined mess that featured party swapping characters, pointless dungeons, and slowly building on a combat system that some people thought was alright. The combat is always ancillary to me, so I thought it did what was needed to make the game not awful to play. People tell me once the game reached twenty hours there was a large field to run around in and kill monsters. They say it almost felt like an open world game. I did not get that far.
I feel most players value the open world experience over any real substance. They cherish the amount of possibilities over quality of them and wish to make their own stories. This has to account for some games, at least, because I’ll never understand why people continue to play Fallout 4. Final Fantasy games were never about the over world map, they were about the world that was being created around them. The map only helped to create separation between places and people, as only they knew how in the early days of game design. Also, FFXIII did a bad job of creating any sort of world with, or without, the use of an over world and open world concepts. There were like two planets orbiting one another and one was called Pulse. That’s the extent of the in-game world building that achieved. They included a myriad of reading material, but I would have bought a book if I wanted to read the real histories of Grand Pulse.
Final Fantasy XV does not reinvent the Final Fantasy series and feels like it grew out of modern games and old Final Fantasy story telling devices. Maybe, not so old, just a little worn out. The idea of a crystal being the all mighty power in the realm certainly goes back a long time, but it was almost reborn with the release of FFXIII, since they called their whole game universe the Nova Crystallis, which means absolutely nothing. Not a goddamn thing. The story attempts to avoid the classic character tropes that almost every JRPG relied on for the past few decades but it narrowly dodges them with the supporting cast but does not when it comes to Noctis. He is your basic emotional basket case of daddy issue young man who is stuck in his bad “woe is me” lifestyle. Throughout the game, all his efforts do not lead him out of the depressed zone and into being a badass. Gladiolus certainly leads the path as the best, most interesting man in the game. His calm demeanor and rugged persona shine in a world consumed by darkness and Noctis’s sunny disposition.
Final Fantasy XV is the best (and only) Final Fantasy game in years. Well, I guess there have been a multitude of offshoots and MMORPG games to keep us sated since the thirteenth installment. I have a lot of issues with most of the games since IX. I want to live forever in a world where I can roam around Lucis with my best boys. With Gladio and his cup noodle, Ignis and his intrusive recipe creation, and a thousand selfie’s of Prompto and every enemy in the game; I never want to leave this place. As the first game I played enough to earn a platinum trophy on PSN. This may be the best Final Fantasy I ever played; most assuredly a subjective opinion.