Final Fantasy XV is yet another disappointment from Square Enix, who cannot seem to understand what the fans want from a Final Fantasy title. It’s almost funny – they nailed fan desires on the head with Bravely Default and came very close with Bravely Second, but Final Fantasy XV turns out to be a different beast. Unfortunately, the beast it turns out to be is not the one that Final Fantasy is known and beloved for.
In certain ways, they’ve certainly made an improvement. XV is an open world title, rather than the linear hallways that XIII was known for. This is a welcome and wanted a return to one beloved aspect of Final Fantasy. The glut of side quests and optional content, far outstripping the main story, is another aspect that fans will enjoy wholeheartedly. These things are not enough to save XV in the eyes of most Final Fantasy fans, sadly.
However, the story is sub-par, if we’re going to be generous. Final Fantasy is, or at least was, a franchise known above all for its powerful stories. These often revolved around unlikely, or seemingly unlikely, heroes who had the obligation of saving all from some existential threat. What is XV about? A prince and his eclectic collection of bodyguards saving his kingdom from his fiance’s father. The politics of war. Highways, gas stations, and diners.
As you can no doubt see, it’s rather a depressing departure. Rather than an existential threat to the world of annihilation or despotic tyranny, we will simply save a kingdom from an erstwhile ally. Rather than being an underdog or some unlikely hero with a hidden past, we are to play as a prince. Rather than existing in some high fantasy world with science fiction elements to a greater or lesser degree, we play in a world that, save for monsters and a few other elements, is very like the real one. We see cars and gas stations, talk to people in diners, and then leave to fight monsters.
All of this is yet another disappointment from the once kings of the JRPG genre. Square Enix has demonstrated they understand what we want, and that they are still quite capable of it with the Bravely franchise. Why they persist on using the Final Fantasy name, the name of their premier product, as their experimentation space, burning fans time and time again, while they do ‘the right thing’ with a second tier name, is unknown and bizarre.
It seems that we’ll have to relegate Final Fantasy’s greatness to memory, friends. There are always other companies and other franchises looking to edge into the JRPG market, which at the moment seems to be very promising to us.
Indeed, one possible challenger was released just in February of 2017. Nioh was developed by Team Ninja, and published by Koei Tecmo inside Japan and Sony Interactive Entertainment outside Japan. It’s an action RPG, so hardly a heir to Final Fantasy’s turn-based glory of old, but for what it is it seems to be excellent. It’s been compared most often to Dark Souls, another no-name franchise that turned out to be a fan favorite, just like Final Fantasy once was. Look forward to our Nioh review, friends!