Category Archives: Final Fantasy
So with the recent announcement of 75% of the “Season 2” DLC being canceled, and Tabata’s departure from Square Enix, I feel that it’s time to finally put a cap on the somewhat infamous entry in the Final Fantasy series. From its somewhat rocky and overly long development, to its reception and the follow up patches and DLC, it’s been a heck of a ride for Noctis and the boys. One that I personally have enjoyed but has also generating an overwhelming amount of spite and anger in the fan base as well. Maybe not as much as Final Fantasy XIII did, but it would not be wrong to call XV a base breaker.
This probably has a lot more to do with how the game was developed than what it actually ended up being. Announced in 2006 as a side game to Final Fantasy XIII titled “Final Fantasy Versus XIII” (Along with Final Fantasy Agito XIII which eventually became Type-0), the project was set up to be developed by the Kingdom Hearts team and headed by Tetsuya Nomura – a figure of near legendary status in the Square Enix pantheon to some, and a bit of a hack to others… my personal opinion of the man’s work lies somewhere in the middle to be honest. The game would be an action rpg in the style of Kingdom Hearts, and would feature a myriad of weapons, the ability to comandeer and control vehicles, and a plot line revolving around Noctis and then Stella’s ability to see the dead leaving this world. This would all be wrapped up in parts of the Fabula Nova Crystallis mythology – mostly the aspect of Etro who was repeatedly a major figure in the teasers and the logo art.
News of Versus XIII’s development for the next seven years would be scattering bits here and there. Even as XIII-2 and Lightning Returns were delivered, word on Versus was sparse. Heck, while the game was announced in 2006, not a single video or screenshot of actually gameplay would be shown until 2009’s Tokyo Game Show. This was immediately followed by the next year, four years post announcement, that the team was starting from scratch because the game Nomura wished to develop could no longer work within the constraints of the Crystal Engine developed for the Fabula Nova Crystallis – they would develop their own game engine for Versus XIII dubbed “Luminous Studio”.
In 2012, Square Enix appointed Hajime Tabata and his team that developed Type-0 to start working on a prototype of the next mainline game in the Final Fantasy series (XV) for next generation hardware. During this time and troubled by the lack of smooth development on Versus XIII after six years, Square Enix president Yoichi Wada contacted Tabata and asked him what his thoughts on Versus XIII and whether the project could be salvaged or just canceled. Tabata stated it could be salvaged, but the development could not be continued in the same way it had been up to that point. Square Enix then appointed Tabata and his team from Type-0 to help finish Versus XIII, a decision that most of Tabata’s team was resistant to at first (reports stated that 90% of the team was against the idea at first). This brought the Versus XIII to over 200 people, made Tabata the co-director on the game, and began the work of folding the already done work on Versus XIII into the next mainline Final Fantasy.
Tabata stated in interviews that at the time he and his team had joined the project, after six years of work and many promised concepts from Nomura, the game was only 25% complete. As part of the reworking to finish the project, many of the concepts that Nomura had planned from the initial concept pitch and announcement back in 2006 such as the character Stella and character switching in combat were axed to help streamline the development, the story was altered to follow closer to the original scenario written back in 2006 by Kazushige Nojima – the original creator of the Fabula Nova Crystallis mythology and former Square Enix scenario writer (including VII, VIII, X, and X-2) – which would focus on the themes of “Journey” and “Comradery”. Even with all these changes, Square Enix did state that their intent was to try and preserve what work had been done thus far, and Tabata and Nomura would work together to maintain the games direction and principal characters like Noctis would remain true to what Nomura wanted to achieve.
In 2013, it was formally announced that Versus XIII was set to become the new Final Fantasy XV. In December of that year, Nomura would depart the project to go work on Kingdom Hearts III and leave Tabata as the sole director of the game. Reports of a lot of internal struggle in the studio followed, with Tabata drastically rearranging the teams and the leadership on the project. However, reports from inside Square Enix that despite initial struggles, most of the changes and streamlining reinvigorated the team, and by the next year Tabata was reporting that the game was nearing 50%-60% completion.
From 2014 to 2016, the game released more and more in-game footage, put out two separate demos that showed off the scope and capabilities of the Luminous Studio engine, and announced the expanded “Final Fantasy XV Universe” project that would include a film, an animated series, mobile games and a spin-off VR game (eventually revealed to be a fishing simulator).
Finally, in November of 2016 – Final Fantasy XV was released. The reaction was a resounding “Eeeeh. It’s okay?”
It’s hard to say exactly what generated that reaction. It was probably a myriad of reasons across the fan base. From the long development cycle generating expectations, to the staff shake ups leading to conspiracy theories about good the game would have been if Tabata hadn’t “stolen” it from Nomura (Ignoring the fact that in all likeliness, Wada would have just canceled the game had Tabata not stepped in to get things back on track). If you look up complaint threads across the internet, you’ll find endless different reasons why people didn’t enjoy the game.
To me, it just feels like there wasn’t going to be a “good” solution here. There was no way this game was going to be able to deliver on everything that had been built up over 10 years of teases, and ideas, and concepts. It didn’t help that after the massive backlash to the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy, and the small splash Type-0 had on Sony’s dwindling handheld market, that many fans were hailing Versus XIII to be the saving throw of the entire Fabula Nova Crystallis project and when your savior turns out just to be another game… well, I think ‘letdown’ is putting it kindly.
Overall, I personally loved Final Fantasy XV. I enjoyed how the story was deceptively simple by calling back to the original Final Fantasy’s Warriors of Light idea and traveling the world on a quest to gain celestial blessings and power to stop a great evil with a Machiavellian plan. The game honestly felt like it was trying to tie back the modern Final Fantasy games with the old ones in a joining of hands across generations. I loved how you got to know these four characters in and out, and felt emotionally part of the squad as they went through these ordeals. I enjoyed the subtle implied storytelling and world building over the blunt brute force exposition dumps that you had in some of the previous games. The fact that Noctis and his friends really had no clue what their actual destiny was and only Lunafreya and King Regis were playing a big gambit with the whole thing to stop the Darkness.
That being said, it wasn’t a perfect game by any means. There was a lot of bits that felt like they had the right idea but they didn’t do enough with, or certain story elements were confusing (not helped in part of the fact that Noctis & Co. were kept in the dark about what was ACTUALLY going on in the story until the end). I won’t argue that those who complained didn’t have plenty of valid reasons to do so. The game was just simply average at best. Honestly, given the utter development hell that the game went through to get to release, part of me is shocked that it came out to even be average. There are parts to like and dislike and mostly what works and doesn’t is going to come down to personal taste.
Part of me just really wanted to look back at the facts of what happened to create this game because there has been so much speculation and so many armchair developers waxing on the topic that I think that the facts can often get lost. What could have happened instead? Well, Versus XIII would likely have been canceled as Wada seemed to be leaning that way when he spoke to Tabata, Tabata was slated to work on the next mainline game regardless of whether they absorbed Versus XIII or not, and Nomura would have gone back to finish Kingdom Hearts III. Would that have been better? I don’t know! There’s no telling if Tabata starting from scratch instead of trying to salvage Versus XIII would have resulted in a better game.
Following the initial wave of mixed press, Tabata and his team set out to work on fixing a number of issues people had with the game, including technical problems, frustrations with certain areas (This included the either maligned or beloved Chapter XIII which seemed to fall heavily on how much you read into it. Funny now given the applause for realism on how slow and tedious RDR2 can be nowadays.) and further exploring some characters motivations and backstories. This was in addition to the already planned season of DLC that the game was going to have featuring Episodes Gladiolus, Prompto and Ignis that each explored a point in the game where the characters were separated from Noctis in one way or another – clearly planned places for DLC. Any additional content created for the purpose of fixing the story (the revised Chapter 13, new Lunafreya bits, Chapter 13.5 with Gladio and Ignis), and additional Quality of Life fixes (Chapter select) were all released for free so that everyone could enjoy the fixes.
Looking back at how everything went down, I still feel that XV was a solid game at launch. The fixes and DLC certainly clarified and expanded on the core game, but were they vital to experience? I didn’t think so. I mean, I enjoyed it from start to finish and I beat the game within the first few weeks of release before all of the talk of “fixing” it really took off. The infamous Chapter 13 was a pretty cool experience when I played it, and as I mentioned before the plot was deceptively simple. By that I mean, it looked like there was a lot more to it than there actually was. Which is impressive, and does take some skill in my opinion to give that impression.
So with now the whole thing done with the exception of Episode Ardyn due out in March, what is there left to say? Final Fantasy XV was a risky venture no matter how you sliced it. I dunno. In the end it’s just up to each of us whether or not it was worth it. But I wanted to create a look back at what happened not based on speculation or rumor, but everything I could dig up that was reported from interviews, articles, etc. There’s a lot of “Tabata ruined it” or “Nomura couldn’t hack it” talk on the internet and I just wanted to just look at the facts and evaluate what all this was from that.
This was an enjoyable experience. Final Fantasy XV for good and for ill was something I enjoyed playing. I don’t regret the money I spent. I don’t think we were robbed of a different game when the other game was barely even started when all this went down. I don’t think badly of Nomura or Tabata.
It’s just a solemn end to a big extravagant project that left me kinda numb. I wonder if I will feel the same in January when the Kingdom Hearts series finally comes to a close. I guess we will wait and see, won’t we?
For those who have been wondering about the “Coming Soon” story summaries for Heavensward’s patches (3.1 – 3.5), your wait is now over! All of the story summaries for the Main Scenario Questline in Heavensward are now finished and posted on the Heavensward Story Summary page.
Unlike Heavensward where the decision to write the summaries came after finishing the 3.0 MSQ, I will be doing my best to keep notes on the plotlines of Stormblood as I play through it. Hopefully to decrease the downtime before I am able to get the next batch of story summary for the newest expansion out since as it has come to my attention, some people have been using my summaries as a way of not just catching up on the narrative but also skipping the non-voiced cutscenes and reading what happens here. Hey, if that’s how you want to play – go for it. Not my fifteen bucks. But I figured I should TRY to not wait until the end of the expansion before posting the Stormblood summary.
I’m happy to announce that just in time for the new Final Fantasy XIV expansion Stormblood, I have managed to put together a solid story summary for the story of Heavensward. While the “patch storylines” aren’t finished yet – namely because I haven’t played through those extensions to the Main Scenario yet – the main storyline of the expansion is now available to read here.
I don’t have a set date for when those remaining stories will be up mostly because I’m debating waiting until Stormblood is released to play through those patches since when Heavensward was released the 2.X patch story rewards were altered to give equipment to prevent having to grind item levels to progress to the next major step and since my current ilevel is sitting around 203 at the moment, and you need 230 to get through all the dungeons involved in the quests… Yeah, I might just wait and see if I can make this a bit easier on myself. If someone who is more active in the news for Final Fantasy XIV knows one way or the other if they plan on doing this again, do please let me know.
Otherwise, I’ll just keep on my current mission of “Get all Classes/Jobs to Level 30 then to Level 50” until Stormblood arrives.
EDIT: Upon further research, it seems that the Main Scenario Quests for Heavensward will have to be completed in order to access the Stormblood story, but you won’t need to do it to access the Samurai and Red Mage jobs. So I’m thinking it’s pretty likely for them to include “Catch Up Gear” with the quests like they did with ARR leading into Heavensward.
In case you’re not a Final Fantasy fan, there’s a bit of a hot topic spinning around in fan circles about the latest installment of the series, Final Fantasy XV. It pertains to the bonus dungeon, Pitioss Ruins, that can be found after the game is complete by taking your flying car over the mountains and landing on a pain in the ass small strip of land. From there you run up the hill and after the sun goes down you can enter the Ruins which has less to do with the rest of the game and more in common with games like VVVVVVVV or I Want To Be The Boshy joining forces with some insidious Little Big Planet levels. Precision jumps, instant death spikes, tons of bottomless pits, and plenty of puzzles. It’s a frustrating and yet suprisingly entertaining dungeon that had me less annoyed with each death and more so piecing together a solution or strategy.
However, the current “theory” or simply fan wank making the rounds right now is that this dungeon holds the key to understanding the entire game’s backstory and motivations for the villains.
To break it down simply, it posits that Ifrit, the second to last boss of the game, broke free of Titan’s imprisonment, ventured into the Underworld, traversed the Doomtrain to reach the afterlife, and freed the Goddess Eos who was locked away by the Astrals because she was pregnant with twin demi-god children (noted by the item the Genji Glove found in the statues belly button. Genji roughly translating to ‘Two Beginnings’.) These twin children would be the founding members of the House of Lucis, possibly Ardyn and Izunia (The Izunia thing is a WHOLE other rant), and would eventually give rise to Noctis. (If you want more detail, there is a great video by Final Fantasy Peasant that breaks the whole thing down here. It’s also where I got the lovely image at the top.)
At first glance, it’s a great idea. It explains why Ifrit turned against the other Astrals, Ardyn’s desire for revenge, why only the lineage of Lucis can use the Ring of the Lucii, and their connection to the Crystal. Damn. What a great theory. Boy is it clever.
I have a few problems with it though. (Shocker.)
A lot of the theory seems to be based heavily on Greek Mythology. No surprise there. The game itself draws heavily on Greek Mythology to tell its story especially when it comes to names and themes. However, the Pitioss Ruins theory goes beyond this and simply assumes at face value that if X happened with equivalent characters in the Greek myth, then the equivalent must be true in Final Fantasy XV. So things like “Eos was imprisoned for loving a mortal and having half-god children” is based solely on the idea that “It’s how an Olympian God would react” with no basis whatsoever in the mythology or story of Final Fantasy XV. There is zero evidence to back up the idea that the Astrals would be angry by this. This is just slapping in frog DNA to fill in the holes of your dino DNA and saying that it was always intended to be like that.
Secondly, the theory throws in concepts that are wholly foreign to the game as if they were just matter of fact things. For instance, the theory states quite plainly that Ifrit descended to the Underworld to find the Goddess Eos by riding Doomtrain. Okay. One, there is no “Underworld” ever mentioned in the game at any point as part of their mythology. Two, no where is the contraption in the Ruins called Doomtrain nor is the concept of Doomtrain ever mentioned let alone as the ‘Sole means of reaching the afterlife’ in Final Fantasy XV. This description from Doomtrain comes from other games, which is a bad practice since in no other Final Fantasy game is Bahamut a giant dude in a suit of dragon armor.
Finally, the Goddess Eos? The Goddess that is central to this entire theory? Not in the game. She’s not. Eos is the name of the world that the game takes place on. Beyond that it’s even more fan theory based on random comments made by developers. That the character in the logo is the ‘most important goddess’ despite never having a name and only appearing in the logo and one painting at the beginning (Oh, and after you beat the game it shows quite plainly who that sleeping figure is supposed to be, and she ain’t Eos.) So if there’s a super important goddess, and the world is called Eos, then that must be the goddess Eos right? Sure, why not. Except that nowhere is that backed up in the game. We know who all six Astrals are. We know that there were gods who left after creating the world and the Astrals but were never named. So how do we know this is a goddess? Well, mostly because this used to be based on the Fabula Nova Crystallis and in that there was a super important goddess named ‘Etro’ who was trapped in the ‘Unseen World’ (World of the Dead, Underworld.) But all of that lore was scrapped and only used as a template for ideas (Bhunivelze = Unknown Creator, Fal’Cie = Astrals, l’Cie = Lucii.)
So this theory is built on another theory and uses more theories to fill in the gaps. What’s actually canon to the game? That there’s a dungeon called of the Pitioss Ruins and there’s some statues in it one of which looks like Ifrit. That’s about it.
But what’s the problem, Vry? I hear you ask. It’s just a harmless fan theory, right? Well, yea and no. There are plenty of folks who are seeing this theory and turning around and shouting F#%& TABATA AND SQUARE ENIX FOR RUINING THIS GENIUS PLOT going along with the idea that if this had stayed Final Fantasy Versus XIII or that if Nomura had stayed on the project that this plot would have become fully fleshed out in the unknowable amount of time it would have taken to get finished (Don’t get me wrong, I like Nomura alright but the man is a hardcore creative and needs to some serious reining in if you want to put him in charge of a project or else he’ll just keep coming up with new ideas and trying to work them in).
So this theory is now being used as ‘Proof’ against the developers, and that’s where I felt like I should step up and use my corner of the web to try and remind folks that this is just a theory and one based on a LOT of conjecture. It explains a lot, but that’s fairly easy to do when you construct the entire argument from random bits and pieces of unrelated material. You can just as convincingly say that Eos was a Titan in Greek Mythology and Titan is an Astral, so Eos might be the mother of Titan as well. Which would make Noctis and Titan related, which would explain why they were mentally linked and the first Astral that Noctis forged a covenant with. See! It all fits! It must be true! Other than I pulled it out of my rump.
Fan Theories are great. But they are theories. They are not canon. They are not backdoors into the game developers’ minds. Need I bring the Game Theorists’ “Sans is Ness” Undertale/Earthbound theory? Great theory. So not canon.
But then why all the mysteries around the backstory of FFXV? I don’t know. Maybe because a lot of it wasn’t vitally important to the immediate situation. My own theory on that (HA!) is that it might be a leftover concept from the Versus XIII days when the game was described as portrayed the affairs of gods through the eyes of a mortal. Like war between the Astrals but only the given context of what a mere mortal would see or understand. Do I know for certain? Heck no. But hey… it fits, doesn’t it?
So I finished Final Fantasy XV, and by finished I mean I got to level 99, I ran through every dungeon, and I got every trophy. I FINISHED it. And like every Final Fantasy game I’ve played before, I had fun. But the question is how much fun did I have? Well, let’s break it down shall we?
The story of Final Fantasy XV is deceptively simple. By that I mean, the only reason it seems to be complex is the method by which its told rather the actual complexity of the events. For instance, the actual purpose behind the majority of the actions in the majority of the game isn’t revealed until the end of Chapter 13 out of a total 14 chapters. It’s not uncommon for a Final Fantasy game. Lightning Returns and Final Fantasy X both tried to do something similar to varying levels of success. However, here it feels the deception is almost malicious in its intent. When we meet the heroes, Noctis is on his way to get married and enjoying a bachelor party-ish road trip along the way with his closest friends and confidantes. Once we break through the games pseudo-prologue and the first twist happens (not much of a twist if you saw Kingsglaive first) where the city of Insomnia falls to Imperial betrayal, the road trip turns dark as the group swears on vengeance and begins to build power via Noctis’ birthright to command the weapons of former kings followed by forging pacts with literal gods.
We are given context to all of these events solely through the vantage point of Noctis himself. Hence we discover the true reveal along with him. We see the confusing messages that he struggles to interpret with him. And we are forced to face the consequences of his actions with him as well. It is a powerful way to tell the story, if your tale is simple enough to manage such a narrow point of view. Final Fantasy XIII tried something similar as I have mentioned before and it bogged down into tons of extra reading or be very confused. XV does succeed in the endeavor a bit more though there still are some confusing moments that feel like slapdash plot hole filling. Where this approach suffers the most is in the development of characters that are not directly encountered by our protagonist: Ravus, the Empire, King Regis, and sadly especially Lunafreya. You only get glimpses of these characters who are such major players in this story because our field of vision is limited to what Noctis sees and interacts with. You don’t meet up with Lunafreya until three-fourths of the way through the game. Before that you only get Noctis’ flashbacks with her, their two sentences dog-texts (They both own reality warping dogs that deliver messages for them. Yes, there is an explanation. No, it’s not a great one.), and the brief visions given by the Gods. This is all you get to figure out why these two who haven’t seen each other in years are supposedly “in love” (although Kingsglaive does explain the marriage idea was part of treaty.) And yet, because we’ve seen Noctis interact with so many people that when he acts so out of character when he finally sees Luna, you get this feeling of knowing how much she means to him.
And that’s what the game does so very well with the story. You may not know what’s going on, but you feel like you identify with the tale. The story isn’t laid out in the most narratively pleasant order but it does a DAMN fine job of getting you emotionally invested in these characters.
Our protagonist is Crown Prince Noctis Lucis Caellum, the sole surviving member of the Lucis Caellum line and a wanted fugitive of the Niflheim Empire.
I said before how a lot of the surrounding characters don’t get a ton of development and that is sadly true. Lunafreya is shown to be a powerfully determined woman on a mission that won’t even make sense until the end of the game, but she is also one of the more kind hearted characters shown as well. Her brother Ravus, despite building him up to be a big antagonist, gets next to nothing. He is a character of many seeming contradiction tried together out of an extreme loyalty to family that comes from who knows where. His story is mostly only told through journal pages you find late in game. I can kind of see why they want to revisit Ravus’ story in a patch or something.
The main ‘Warriors of Light’ (Yes, that IS what the four are meant to represent if you missed the blatantly call back to the original Final Fantasy at the start of the game) are on the opposite spectrum. You spend nearly ALL your time with your companions occasionally departing for a mission or two of the story before returning. Ignis, the attendant of our prince protagonist and the caretaker of the group in charge of repairing damaged clothing, cooking meals, and driving the car most of the time. Gladiolus is Noctis’ bodyguard and trainer who comes from a long line of Kingsguards. Finally there’s Prompto the seemingly fun loving commoner that became friends with Noctis in high school. The game does an amazing job making these three feel like they are your best friends. You feel for them on an emotional level. Which is important as the game progresses and starts using that affection and attachment against you. Oh there will be drama. Oh yes, there will be drama.
Finally, there’s the supporting cast. It’s a mixed bag of who you like and don’t like. I found myself being rather fond of Gladio’s teenage sister Iris and her love of Moogles, the mercenary Aranea Highwind and her dry wit was great for a laugh on the mission she joined you, and I kept imagining Cor the Immortal having epic adventures off somewhere without me accompanied by either heavy metal or the soundtrack to Conan the Barbarian. I was a bit irked that they changed “Cidney” to “Cindy” for the English release though. I mean, way to kill the joke. She’s still listed as Cidney in the credits along with her Japanese voice actress. There weren’t any characters I downright loathed though. Which is impressive for a big open world game like this.
Finally, we have our villain. What? No. Not the Emperor. No one cares about Emperors. Haven’t you been paying attention since Final Fantasy VI? No. We have High Chancellor Ardyn Izunia. Both pseudo friend and foe through much of the game, the main group immediately doesn’t trust him but also is forced to work with him repeatedly. His goals seem to be at odds at times with his masters in the Empire, but it’s not clear what they are until much later on. I’d go more into Ardyn but you really can’t without spoiling it. I can say that he is easily on my short list for best Final Fantasy villain. He’s so amazingly slimy.
I wanted to touch on this because as I had made mention of in my first reactions post a while back, this was one aspect that constantly surprised and frustrated me. That the world of Eos is built up so amazingly well just using what you see, hear and interact with that very little exposition needs to be given about it. You can tell how much of Lucis the Empire had controlled before the fall of Insomnia by the check points and military bases. You get a feel for the vast gap between the frontier people and the people living inside Insomnia just by comparing the names “Noctis Lucis Caellum” and “Dave.” You discover that pretty much ALL women of working age work in the reactor by seeing them walk around the city in their protective work clothes.
How about the effects of a world where monsters and Gods walk among you? You see the Hunters working to keep people safe, ultra bright UV lights at all points of civilization to help ward off monsters. Duscae’s power infrastructure is based on the giant meteor that Titan holds in the Disc. Altissia has statues and temples built to honoring Leviathan. All of these things and so much more end up coming together to form the world, and none of it is ever explained in depth. It just gives you that feeling again that this world is actually coherent and thought out.
However, that lack of detail also just drove me crazy! I would read tomes upon tomes of the history of the world. All we get is an art gallery at the start and a timeline in the strategy guide. And the timeline only begins maybe 2000 years prior to the start of the game. Everything beyond that is “Ancient Time” with no info. Bah.
I kinda wish I could say more about the music. It kinda of strikes me as similar to other open-world RPGs where the music kind of starts to blend into the background which in this kind of game I always considered a good thing. I’ve had to turn off music or radios that tend to become annoyingly intrusive after a while as I explore (I’m looking at you, Fallout 4.) The music alternates between pleasant and calm and bombastic and epic during the battles and especially the boss battles. The song ‘Apocalypsis Aquarius’ that plays during the battle with Leviathan is one of my favorites. However, other than the titular song ‘Final Fantasy’ (known to some as ‘Main Theme’, ‘Prologue’ or for the very old school fans ‘The Bridge Song’) and some updated renditions of the ‘Prelude’ Crystal theme, there are very few songs in the game I could identify without looking at the track name and even then I probably wouldn’t be able to place them. The music is good – of that there’s no doubt – but I can’t really say there are too many memorable themes or stand out tracks that immediately make you think ‘Ah, this is when X happened’. Even the Leviathan battle song since every major boss battle is just a different arrangement of the same Apocalypsis song. Great soundtrack for just playing in the background though. I bought a couple of tracks I like to listen to while driving.
Of course, if something more iconic is your taste, you can get music collections from older Final Fantasy titles throughout the game that can be played through the car stereo or eventually a portable music player you can purchase. The selection is usually about 5 or 6 songs per collection but some games have more than one “disc” that you can get. For instance, Final Fantasy XI’s music has a separate collection for each expansion the MMO had. There are some omissions though. While multiple Dissidia and Type-0 collections appear, you won’t find many other spin off games or sequels (X-2, XIII-2, Lightning Returns, Revenant Wings, Tactics, or After Years.) Final Fantasy XIV’s music doesn’t appear either sadly, keeping this from even containing tracks from all the main numbered games. Still it offers a huge selection of songs from classic Final Fantasy games, so there is always that to take advantage of.
Though I will mention one thing about the ‘portable music player.’ It does NOT work in combat. The normal combat music will always play and turn off the music player. Big minus there. Would love to beat up monsters while listening to ‘Sunleth Waterscape’.
While the game has transitioned heavily into a ‘live combat’ style that feels almost closer to Secret of Mana then what one may associate with the Final Fantasy franchise, the combat system is quite fun. There is a Wait Timer that while takes some getting used to at first, grants access to things like Libra that can be further buffed via the upgrade-able Ascension trees. Speaking of the Ascension trees, they are used like Sphere Grids or the Crystarium in the previous game with the exception that the entire party shares a single set of Ascension trees. Some branches of the trees will unlock or upgrade follower abilities and some will grant new ways to gain Ability Points to spend in the Ascension trees. It offers a good level of choice with nothing feeling ‘Absolutely Mandatory.’ The costs increase exponentially as the branches go further and ultimately culminate in nodes that cost 333 or 999 AP to unlock. Which is a lot when you realize you’ll be averaging about 2-4 AP a battle unless your actively farming it. Luckily, you don’t need to get all of the abilities. Not even in the end game. So it’s kind of just another to work toward to if you want to and there are all manner of AP farming guides out there to help ya.
The one thing to keep in mind is that certain things and areas will take time to unlock. You won’t have the car right away, and then you won’t have chocobos right away (And if your wondering why take a chocobo when you have a car, chocobos can off-road and the car can’t), huge sections of the map are opened a piece at a time and there are a ton of things to do in each of them: Sidequests, Helping fix broken cars, Hunts picked up from food stops, treasure hunting, and dungeons. Dungeons can be incredibly painful early on because while each has a ‘recommended’ level, there will often be monsters deep within (or right inside the door) that are much higher level than that. I did a dungeon that was supposedly a “level 15 dungeon” that also had randomly spawning level 40 monsters that could petrify insta-death you. Don’t be afraid to GTFO and come back more prepared with accessories or weapons to counter the enemies inside. There’s an option on the map screen to warp back to the entrance for a reason. There’s also a few dungeons you won’t be able to complete until the ‘post-game’ just simply because the means of accessing them aren’t available until then such as a specific quest or the flying car. Yes. There’s a flying car in the post-game. And landing that thing is the bane of my existence (you game over on a bad landing or crash.)
Once you reach a certain point – the end of Chapter 8 – the game shifts and the open world more or less leaves the game for a much more linear experience. Altissia in Chapter 9 is a bit open but there’s not a ton of space to explore. Once you reach the train however, the plot is literally and figuratively on rails until the end. Luckily, you don’t get locked into this. At any Inn/Lodging you can call one the previously mentioned reality-warping dogs to take you back to a previous section of the game. So if you want to go level up on hunts, or find a Fire-imbued or Light-imbued weapon you can (The Light-Embued Weapons are at the Megiddo Hunter HQ in the North. Buy them. They deal an extra 50% damage against daemons.)
As for the infamous Chapter 13? I still stand by what I said before. It’s not as bad as people make it out to be. I found it to be quite an experience that made for an intense little bit of gameplay. The only problem would probably be how poorly the story surrounding the ‘boss battles’ was handled. But the mystery, the desperation, the frustration, the fear? All just seem to help propel the story and create empathy with the characters. I LIKED Chapter 13. It was probably the most memorable moment in the game for me.
At its core, Final Fantasy XV is a great game. At no point did I ever stop having fun with it. Heck, I still have fun with it. I logged back in to explore that weird Chocobo Moogle fair that’s going on and just running around was a blast and the humor still gets me. But I won’t lie. There’s some problems with the game. The story truly feels like it suffered from one too many complete tonal changes in direction to the point that parts of it seemed to have become rubbed plain. Assets re-purposed for the new narrative seem out of place and no one was sure what to do or how to handle certain characters. The narrative suffers from being told from a single point of view much like Final Fantasy XIII, but unlike XIII it tries to compensate for that. Honestly, I’d rather them just be willing to cut away to other places and people to progress the story or be willing to drop more exposition early on.
However, what shines in the game beyond the sometimes directionless feeling and the lack of development in the plot is the emotional core of the game. You will find yourself completely enamored with these characters. When bad things happen to them, you will feel sorry for them. You’ll want to give them a hug. And most importantly, probably driving the story more than the actual apocalyptic scenario, you want them to have a happy ending. I can say that I have played many games that have better crafted stories and more finely tuned gameplay than Final Fantasy XV. But I can’t say that they drew me in emotionally the same way.
Walk Tall, My Chocobros.
So my journey through Final Fantasy XV has been continuing on, mixing up the story chapters with running back and doing batches of side quests and hunts. Or just driving around and listening to the Final Fantasy VI soundtrack – because I mean, DAMN. Terra, Celes, Locke, Sabin, & Edgar’s themes? AND Dancing Mad? That is one fine collection of music. More than I can say for Final Fantasy X’s selection of songs in XV which includes the battle music… and uh… that one song that plays when Tidus whines about listening to his story? Seriously? You left out the Hymn of the Fayth? You could have dropped one of the FOUR compilations of Final Fantasy XI music to give us a few more iconic songs from X. Or maybe included X-2, XIII-2 or Lightning Returns’ music AT ALL. I mean, Dissidia and Type-0 is in there. All I’m saying is I want my boy band quartet jamming out to Real Emotion as they drive around Duscae.
Anyway, I haven’t exactly been pursuing the ending with a fervor. I take my time with RPGs and I enjoy exploring and all the little doodads. Which is useful because like 50% of XV’s plot is told via radio blips, overheard conversations and newspaper clippings. Seriously, if you aren’t checking that stuff out you will be missing a TON of whats going on in Eos. However, if half the plot is revealed in little side things that you can check out, I’d say that about another 40% of the story isn’t told until you reach the most divisive and controversial moment of the game: Chapter 13.
Without spoiling too much of the narrative that goes on, Chapter 13 is the penultimate chapter of the game and could rightfully be viewed as the final dungeon. Much of the explanation for what has been happening and why it is happening all occurs here. However, the chapter itself is a 90+ minute jog through endless tight corridors without weapons, companions or the ability to save outside of the occasional safe room. The halls are filled with enemies, jump scares, blind corridors, and the voice of the main villain enthusiastically mocking you. Your only real defense is the Ring of the Lucii, which gives you three spells:
- Death: Must be channeled and expends MP all the while. Tougher enemies take longer to channel than weaker ones. Heals you when the enemy ultimately dies.
- Holy: It’s more of a dodge that also does damage than an attack. You hold down the button, MP starts draining. If you are melee attacked while holding the button down, you dodge and blast the enemy with power. Also recovers a bit of MP when successful.
- Alterna: Uses your entire MP bar to suck everything in the area into a bubble and then destroy them. It’s your only AOE attack, and it will automatically drop you into ‘Stasis’ when you use it.
I’m sure from those brief descriptions you can see why some may be annoyed with the Ring over things like your weapons, Royal Arms, or normal spells. I ended up mostly using Death for the daemons and Holy for the Magitek Troops. Alterna I used like twice when I got overwhelmed. Then again, the enemies are pretty much all in their low 30’s, and I was level 88. Nothing in this place could really kill me unless I intentionally let them. About halfway through you do get one of the Royal Arms to help you with the fighting, but the Royal Arms weapons also drain your health with each swing. Ultimately, unless you are loaded with items like potions or ethers, the whole chapter becomes about resource management between your health, your magic, and your patience.
Since the games release a few weeks ago, Chapter 13 has become infamous among fans as the worst part of the game. Some have risen to defend it as almost an ‘artistic expression’ of the loneliness and isolation that Noctis is experiencing and forcing you – the player – to experience Noctis frustration as well. Some have described the chapter as “physically and emotionally draining” including the radical plot developments that occur over the course and especially at the end of the chapter. A few even took the chapter number into account and thought the long hallways were a satirical stab at Final Fantasy XIII. Others call it “lazy design” and would rather just see the whole thing removed from the game. So where do I stand?
Meh. I liked it.
I honestly did not see what the hub bub was about. I kept waiting for a Mass Effect 3 Ending level bomb to be dropped on me and quite honestly it just never came. In fact, I found the design and work on the area to be very interesting. Not in the “Noctis is frustrated, so you’ll be too” way but in the “This is a LOT like Resident Evil” way. You’re in the enemy capital, daemons everywhere, and your walking down these tight tunnels with barely enough room for two people to pass. There are blind corners everywhere and you have no clue what around them until you turn. All the while, the sound design gives spots of noises: scratches, weapons being dragged on concrete, grumbles of monsters from somewhere. It puts you on edge. It makes the whole thing feel dangerous. And this is coming from someone whose character was 50 levels above everything in that place and I STILL was jumping about when bad guys leaped out at me. It wasn’t lazy in my opinion, it was actually really cleverly designed to keep you in suspense. The maps opened up a bit more as things went on, especially when more plot details starting being delivered.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to say it’s a flawless piece of perfection or anything. Plot gets thrown at you fast and at full force and there’s a pile up of plot twists toward the end. But is that really so different than say… Final Fantasy X? Not saying that makes it better, but let’s not kid ourselves and pretend that Final Fantasy is renown for its well paced stories. Interesting and cool stories? Sure. But the pacing is all over the place.
Still, over all I don’t understand the immense hatred this part of the game gets. It’s a long maze of a dungeon. There’s a couple of puzzles in there. You get some story. It’s atmospheric. Does it take a while? Eh. I did it all in 90 minutes and that was with looking in every nook and cranny for shiny dots and reading all the lore material. Considering some of the areas you get to run through in Final Fantasy XIII, you’d think this would get more slack, yet I’ve seen – no joke – people comparing XIII favorably to this section of XV. I mean, I loved XIII. I’d pick it up and replay it in a heartbeat. But come on. Coooome ooooon.
In the end, I can see why some types of people would find Chapter 13 to be an annoyance or a slog. But I really wanted to throw my own hat in the ring and say that I really didn’t find it to be that way at all. I really didn’t find to be nearly as bad or unappealing that so many voices out there are shouting it is. I will say this though: It can be emotionally draining with all those big reveals and twists. You will want to punch the bad guy by the end. There is also some serious nightmare fuel hidden in the readable paper stacks scattered throughout. But hey, that’s half the fun of a good story, right?
I’m almost done with the game, so expect to hear my full thoughts and probably another one of those Type-0 style “What actually just happened here?” style posts coming up in the next few weeks.
I mean, I’ve clocked in about 64 hours according to the in-game clock. But that includes ‘paused time’ where I was making food or running errands, etc. Still at 64 hours, I’m only about half done with the main story (but have the achievements for 80 side quests, unlock 50 ascension nodes, and sitting just shy of level 70) But yea, I think I can share some of my early-ish impressions of the newest addition to the Final Fantasy series.
- The action is fun and chaotic. I often find myself biting off more than I can chew. The wait mode helps some but takes some getting used to. It only activates when you stop moving, so there’s a bit of a flow to combat you have to figure out. My suggestion would be to get used to it early. Wait Mode is SUPER helpful, especially once you upgrade it in the Ascension menu.
- Speaking of the Ascension menu, it’s a neat system. It grants you more stuff you can do, empowers your existing stuff, but it gives you lots of choice on which tree to build on and what you want to empower. It also has a bunch of ‘do X to get more AP’ stuff so you can spend AP to make more AP (but warp-killing low level baddies is still probably the most efficient way to do it)
- I wish I had some degree of control over my party members. Other than Ignis’ gather ability which huddles you around HIS position instead of yours, they kinda just go wherever and attack whatever. This runs into problems when Magic has these huge bursts and does friendly fire. I get around this currently by just popping a mega-potion or megalixir after scorching the earth with a massive 300 power firaga.
- Director Hajime Tabata’s influence is ALL over the side quest structure in this game. It honestly shares a ton in common with Type-0’s side quests. Pick up shiny dots. Turn in shiny dots. Give items to people. Some actually have cutscenes tied to them but they’re brief. So. Many. Shiny. Dots. Just remember, when side questing, the ORANGE shiny dots are the important ones.
- I know it’s almost sacrilegious to say this, but damn am I missing FFXIII’s datalogs. There’s so much interesting stuff I’m curious about in the world of Eos and I have NO way to find out more. From the Gods and their war and its effect on the world, or the sharp cultural divide in Lucis between those outisde of Insomnia’s walls and those inside. I think more history and cultural info would be a great read to understanding some of the context to the world.
- Speaking of context, I’m not entirely sure what I’m supposed to be accomplishing in the plot. Now, granted, I haven’t even made it to Altissia yet, but so far its been ‘collect ancient weapons’ and then ‘collect God power’ without a great explanation as to WHY Noctis needs to do all of this. Other than ‘retake Insomnia’ which doesn’t seem to come up very often as a goal on the road trip. I know Lunafreya wants me to do something but I have no clue what. Seems like this game might be up there with FFX in terms up loading all the crucial plot points in the back end of the game.
- I think it’s fun that you can still spot a few places where the Fabula Nova Crystalis stuff was before it got changed. Like the Gods only communicating in visions, similar to how Focuses were delivered to l’Cie.
- The whole evil empire thing confuses the heck out of me too. They don’t seem evil beyond backstabbing Lucis during a peace treaty. They actively drop out of the sky to fight monsters to protect people where Insomnia pretty much left everyone outside of the walls to fend for their own, and they seem to be prepping for some big evil. Honestly, they more come off as ‘doing the right thing, the wrong way’.
- While you don’t get a lot of written history or cultural background, the game does an AMAZING job of world building through natural interaction. The fact that the boys from the Crown City have names like Ignis, Prompto and Gladdio and the folks outside the wall have names like Cindy and Dave gives quite a bit of an impression of the difference between the areas. Or the funky looking outfits you see women wearing in Cleigne are actually radiation/heat suits because women are the only ones who work the power plant. Hell, the game starts with Prompto asking “What’s a Gil?” at the gas station. This does a great job of building an atmosphere, I just personally wish to devour more. Like getting a nibble only makes you want the whole thing.
- What exactly is Luna & Noctis’ relationship? Their marriage is described as a political one – for what purpose I don’t know – but they were childhood friends and they send letters to each via magical teleporting dogs, so they do care about each other it seems. Noctis seems to be genuinely looking forward to reuniting with Luna at points. Honestly, I’m really hazy on this. Do they actually have a relationship or are they just childhood pals pushed into an arranged political marriage?
- Seriously, if you’re not going to give me a codex or datalog, don’t hide the lore books in random order all over the bloody kingdom.
Final Early Judgement: REALLY FUN, but from a Lore fans perspective very frustrating early on. I’ll give a full rundown when I finish it.
As this game is less than a month old at the time of this writing, I will not be going into the myriad of spoiler plot twists that this game has and instead give a brief synopsis of how the adventure begins:
One hundred years ago, the Demon Dyad unleashed its terrible monsters on the world and brought unparralleled destruction. This was followed by the Bahamutian Empire who began to conquer the kingdoms of the lands of Grymoire.
You play as siblings Lann and Reynn who have just awoken in a world that exists outside of time. There they meet Enna Krowe, who explains quite plainly that she is God. She also has a task for Lann and Reynn that will help them find their family – enter the land of Grymoire and collect ‘Mirages’ (monster creatures that can be magically captured and commanded).
Along the way, the discover the influence and destruction wreaked by the Bahamutian Empire but also a mysterious prophecy that foretold Lann & Reynn’s appearance and tells of their ability to either bring happiness or complete destruction to Grymoire.
So okay, what if you took one part Final Fantasy, and one part Pokemon, and smooshed them together to make a crazy fun RPG with an amazing story and some really great jokes? You’d get this. Seriously. That’s pretty much the game in a nutshell. You spend most of it collecting Mirages that you build ‘stacks’ with (a pile of a small, a medium and a large creature that combine their strengths and weaknesses allowing you combine things like Fire + Fira = Firaga) and that you go around and battle to get stronger. Those are the core mechanics of the game. Each monster or Mirage has it’s own little sphere grid like thing called a Mirage Board that you can unlock using Skill Points that you earn from leveling up and when you complete the mirage board, you get a one time mastery bonus to that monster that includes new abilities or major stat bonuses. Every mirage you catch however reverts to level 1 instead of whatever level you caught it at. Fortunately, the way that Experience scales, you won’t have too hard of a time getting them up to a usable level.
Beyond the catching and leveling of mirages, you also have got side quests, tons of puzzles to solve in dungeons, online battling, and the game even has a post game adventure and post post game content too. I’ve only had this game for a month and I’ve easily sunk 70 hours into it without even exhausting everything you can do. It’s definitely an awesome experience and even better is that there’s plenty here for young and old players, newcomers and veterans. It’s really a Final Fantasy for everyone.
That being said, the plot almost seems too aimed at the younger audience at first. There’s a ton of silly jokes (especially heavy on the puns) but the localization team did a great job in making sure the jokes worked just as well in English as I’m sure they did in the original Japanese (fans of late 90’s-early 00’s anime can probably tell you that’s not an easy feat.) But trust me on this – because I don’t want to spoil it – the plot ramps up BIG time the further you go in. Tons of amazing plot twists that don’t feel half assed, and some insane reveals that left me jaw dropped staring at the screen. The plot is pretty much entirely coherent on its own and doesn’t require any extra effort to enjoy it like some titles in the franchise. There are a few “WTF How does that even work” moments, but they are usually lampshaded and disregarded with the games’ own internal logic version of “It’s Magic, you don’t have to explain it.”
The other cool thing about this game? It’s a crossover of a ton of other games in the series. I think every game except II, XII and XIV get some form of nod or reference, and we know that DLC related to both XII and Kingdom Hearts are on the way in 2017. It’s a big celebration of all things Final Fantasy! And if you love Final Fantasy like I do, I can definitely recommend you pick this one and give it a whirl. It’s like Pokemon, but with more Final Fantasy flair to things like customization and leveling. It’s great for kids and adults, and it’s just overall enjoyable.
Well, that wraps up Final Fantasy Month. Tomorrow is the big day. We finally get to see Noctis and his band of brothers set out on their big journey to save the world. I can’t wait! May the light of the Crystals guide your way!
In the land of Orience, there exists four nations each holding a crystal that empowers them but also steals the memories of those who have died. The game begins with a ruthless attack from the western nation of Militesi on the nation of Rubrum, laying siege to Rubrum’s capital and neutralizing their signature magic with a magitek anti-magic field. However, a class of students from Rubrum’s premier academy brandishing red capes emerge to fight back and able to use magic even within the nullification barrier. They are Class Zero, a special group raised from a young age to be Agito – a messiah said to rise from the ranks of mankind. Rubrum, realizing Militesi seeks to wage all out war, plans to utilize Class Zero to bring a decisive victory to their lands.
From there the story follows the military campaign of Class Zero. From the destruction of the Lorican Alliance in the north using an Ultima Bomb so Militese can seize their crystal, to the treaties, betrayals and assassinations between Rubrum, Militesi and the eastern kingdom of Concordia. Class Zero witnesses first hand the repeated clashes between the Crystals’ chosen warriors – the l’Cie – who gain superhuman capabilities to battle for supremacy. Finally, one by one the defenses and cities fall as Rubrum pushes back to conquer both Concordia and Militese and unite all four crystals under a single nation. Then with a booming voice that echoes across the land comes “WE HAVE ARRIVED.” as nine and nine meets nine and Tempus Finis – the end times – begin.
Faced with the apocalypse at hand, Class Zero faces trial after trial established by the gods to test the Agito until they face off with the Arbiter himself and slay the god-like monster by ripping his soul apart bit by bit. They return home only to face death for the first time in their young lives. Their sacrifice is not in vain however, triggering events unbeknownst to them that break a endless cycle of death and rebirth that has cursed the land of Orience for millions of years.
Type-0 is probably one of the stranger entries in the Final Fantasy series. At least until XV comes out, it’s probably the most ‘action orientated’ of any of the games. It spends its time split between Dynasty Warriors style combat areas, simplistic RTS-ish missions, and running around the school engaging in side quests. It’s also the only Final Fantasy I know of that REQUIRES you to complete it more than once for the whole experience. The main story is only completed on a second playthrough that shows you several alternate missions that explain other things that were going on during the events of the first playthrough. It also has more side missions that can be completed in a single playthrough simply because of the limited ‘time til mission’ system that gives you a stock of hours to spend on side missions, interactions, and wandering outside the school.
That said, the whole game really takes some getting used to if you are a Final Fantasy die hard. The combat is fast and merciless, the magic system is a nigh incomprehensible number balancing minigame, and the relative lack of guidance when it comes to side missions leaves a lot of trial and error. For instance, certain side missions will only be available after so many hours have passed and only for certain characters. Since you have 14 characters available to you at nearly all the time, you can imagine that without some manner of guide you can get lost easily.
The story is really cool and also really hard to figure out. Part of this is apparently do to development issues. The story goes is that they got about 90% of the story and gameplay finished before someone reminded them that this game was supposed to be tied into the Fabula Nova Crstyalis mythology – something they forgot entirely. So it’s inclusion was kind of shoved in there. Because of that, a lot of the ending is really confusing with reading all the extra materials, a second playthrough and even then you may need some wiki-ing to get the whole picture. Of course, yours truly also did a write up that explains the ending *coughplugcough*. But once I understood it, the whole concept seemed REALLY cool. An endless time loop brought upon by two god-like figures attempting to break into the world of the dead? One of which is trying to breed a superwarrior that can penetrate the gate, the other trying to break it by flooding it with souls all at once. It’s kind of a cool idea that I just wish came across cleaner than reaching the final chapter of the game and then OMGWTFENDTIMEZ.
It should be noted that this game also marks the first time Final Fantasy ventured into a ‘M’ Rating from the ESRB and oh it earns that. The very first thing we see is a high school student die in a bloody heap along with his dying and bloody chocobo on the way to deliver a message to Ace of Class Zero. From there on, you will see a honest and bloody depiction of the war that these child soldiers are being put through. I mean, it’s not Mortal Kombat levels of blood and gore, but it doesn’t shy away from the utter brutality of war either. People die. A lot of people die. Important characters die. Nameless soldiers die. Heck, just summoning an eidolan requires three or more people to die. And because of that, I won’t lie, this game can get REALLY depressing at times. Especially since when someone dies that everyone loses their memory of that person. The best that anyone can hope for is that their ID is recovered so that there’s a record of the person who died’s name. A cruel kindness bestowed by the Crystals to hide the fact of the time loop.
Still, I feel that Type-0 deserves a better shake than it got. I mean, it was a PSP game that not saw international release, and the PS4/Xbox One version was pretty much sold entirely under the guise of getting access to the Episode Duscae demo of Final Fantasy XV. I know this because if you look at the percentage of players who got the completed the intro trophy of Type-0 and the percentage for literally any other trophy, it drops immensely. People bought it, played the prologue, dropped it. I kinda get it, it’s a very different Final Fantasy. But I think it merits more love than it got.
Next time, we near the end of Final Fantasy Month here at the Land of Odd as we look at the most recent addition to the Final Fantasy legacy. Till then, May the light of the Crystals guide your way!
Do you have any great memories from these classic Final Fantasy games? Feel free to share in the comments!