We’ve just entered March, and at the end of this month we will be finally (FINALLY!) getting significant information and a potential release date for the long awaited Final Fantasy XV. Tim Gettys and Greg Miller of Kinda Funny are hosting Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV, the largest Final Fantasy event in franchise history, on March 30. On the site it reads “UNCOVERED: FINAL FANTASY XV will offer new information on the game as well as key surprises that speak to the full entertainment experience.“ So, in anticipation for the event and Final Fantasy XV itself, I thought I’d write about what I want from this enigmatic, highly anticipated title.
XV has gone through tumultuous development, with a title change, changes in directors and direction. Formerly Versus XIII, it was announced in 2006. Ten years ago. It went radio silent for years, to the point where some thought the game was dead. But lo and behold, it was “revived” as Final Fantasy XV in 2013 and development began anew with a (hopeful) step in the right direction. It’s difficult to hold out hope for something you’ve wanted for a decade, but when it’s something you care so much about, there’s always a sliver of optimism saying “This game will release.” Whether these ten years are worth the wait or not remains to be seen, but I’m hoping Square Enix delivers.
I’ve said it before, to the point where I sound like a broken record, but Final Fantasy is my favorite franchise in video games. I love the characters, the music, the jobs — all of it. Final Fantasy has been able to hook me with each main entry, all of which are different, and I appreciate that with the series. Sadly though, Final Fantasy seems to have lost its footing as of recently. Gamers, myself included, find that Final Fantasy isn’t the RPG staple it once was. There seemed to be something missing and Final Fantasy became a divisive series, beginning with X and infamously with XIII and its sequels. That’s not to say the aforementioned X and XIII are bad games. They’re not! They just aren’t up to the quality and positive reception that Final Fantasy has been known for with the likes of VI and VII.
I want Final Fantasy XV to be a return to form, a harkening back to its roots. Final Fantasy once meant a greater deal than it does today in 2016. When you thought of RPGs in the late ‘80s all the way up to the early ‘00s, Final Fantasy came to mind. IV (II in North America) provided us with a memorable story and multi-dimensional characters, exceptional music and the quality the series is revered for. VI is the underdog as the best in the series and had the series’ best villain, Kefka, VII brought RPGs to the mainstream and so on and so forth. X is my favorite in the series, but I can safely say it’s not in the same conversation as IV, VI and VII.
As of recently, director Hajime Tabata has come out and said that he hopes Final Fantasy XV’s ending will leave you in tears and that it will have the same impact that the legendary VII did. I hope so too, with strong characters, a vibrant world and a memorable story. I haven’t played Episode Duscae so I have no idea if that demo delves into the characters at all, but the trailer of young Noctis in his father’s arms, for me, stirred up the emotions. Why is Regis crying? Is something bad going to happen? Is Noctis’s well being okay? Perhaps it’s a foreshadow of the narrative direction Square Enix is taking with this game. Combine that with a villain that I can hate, similar to the aforementioned Kefka and Sephiroth, and Final Fantasy XV has the ingredients for a fantastic story. I hope the rag-tag best friends, dude-bros — whatever you may call them, are complex, just like Noctis (hopefully) might be. Being supportive of the main protagonist is great but I want more. I want flaws, problems I can relate to; something that allows me to connect with these characters. Perhaps Final Fantasy can take influence from the Persona series and Atlus’s ability to create complex characters that are so memorable and realistic.
The series has seen great quests, accompanied by climactic fights. Whether it’s to obtain a secret party member, to find the highly sought after ultimate weapon for your favorite character, or a badass summon, Final Fantasy has done a sound job of rewarding players who break off the main path. Imagine venturing out into a massive field with one weird, significant blemish: a canyon or section of this field decimated by something huge, something not man made. Your party investigates and you come across the almighty Bahamut, and he is gigantic and intimidating. What do you do? Well, after a mentally draining battle that tests even the most experienced player, Bahamut becomes available for the party to use, and he’s worth that David vs Goliath-like battle. Bottom line, I want to run around what looks to be a gigantic world, and I want to be rewarded with awesome gear and badass summons. Incentivize me to explore!
Outside of the narrative, I think one of the most important things XV has to address is its combat. It looks to be more action oriented and I am perfectly okay with this decision. Although I want it, I don’t think turn based combat would work well in 2016. I think people, mainly casual Final Fantasy fans and people new to the series entirely, would become too bored with simply waiting until your next turn to attack. Even Active Time Battle wouldn’t be enough, in my opinion. With fast-paced games like Call of Duty being such a modern staple, it’s important for Square Enix to keep the player’s attention. This game could have the best story in the series, but if someone finds the gameplay to be boring and repetitive, then I can’t fault them for not sticking it out.
From the Niflheim Base trailer I’ve seen it looks to mash together multiple genres to make the combat feel dynamic. Noctis and company are sneaking around while sticking to the shadows waiting to strike the enemies. Being able to warp from place to place seems like a fluid way to move around and I love the idea of utilizing Noctis’s warp to stealthily kill enemies to make his objective easier. Instead of not being able to control which battles to initiate because of random encounters, Noctis can now pick off foes one at a time and he’s able to decide who he wants to fight. Your patience and cunning are rewarded with fewer enemies to kill and less stress on the party.
I get excited seeing Noctis chaining together attacks and switching among his sword, lance, etc. to pummel his foes. Hopefully a sword and lance have different movesets that can cater to different playstyles, and each have special attacks that justifies their uses. On top of this, the party members seem to set Noctis up with magic and other moves to crush enemies. One ally looks to freeze a soldier in their place so Noctis and easily warp to them for the kill. It all sounds wonderful and I can’t wait to see how Square Enix utilizes teaming up to keep battles fresh. Lastly, what if you could unlock more powerful attacks based on your relationship with a certain character? Persona does this as two characters grow their social link together. The closer you are to someone, the stronger and crazier the attacks are.
I want Final Fantasy XV to be as accessible as possible. I hope the average gamer, who knows little to nothing about the series, to have nearly, if not as much, enjoyment as I do with this game. If Square wants Final Fantasy to be in the limelight again, they can’t just make a game that’s for the hardcore fans. You need to make sure that XV is easy to get into and it doesn’t have anything that will push people away. That’s the beauty of Final Fantasy: the fact that every game is different so you don’t need to play I-XIV to understand what’s happening in XV. I hope Square takes advantage of this and has the mentality that this is going to be a solid game that both hardcore fans and first timers can equally enjoy. Attracting newcomers, to me, is the most important thing. Hardcore fans will likely already know how they feel about this game. Square should push to bring this game into the eyes of newcomers. It worked with VII and it could happen again.
That’s what I want from Final Fantasy XV. I’d give anything for this game to be great, and I believe in Tabata and his team. They have members from VII and they’re implementing fresh ideas into the series that makes me optimistic that Final Fantasy XV will deliver as a rock solid JRPG. Ten years is a long wait, but I’m confident it will deliver, but we’ll see. Do you care about this game as much as I do? What do you want from it? Sound off in the comments!
Brett Woodmansee is an editor for The Game Bolt and he loves RPGs, Chipotle and his beard. For tweets about video games, sports and more, follow him on Twitter.