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Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV reactions – Is Final Fantasy back?

by Ron Duwell | March 31, 2016March 31, 2016 10:00 am PST

Square Enix had a big night last night as it laid out the future of its franchise for the entire Internet to see, and Final Fantasy XV is about as “make or break” as the series can possibly get.

It’s been over a decade and a half since a Final Fantasy game was released to universal acclaim, and since Final Fantasy X, none of the entries in the series have proven to have the same impact. Final Fantasy XII‘s mixed reputation with fans lingers on to this day, and to an even larger extent, nothing can possibly get more polarizing than Final Fantasy XIII and its sequels.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is without question the strongest game of the bunch, but because it’s an MMORPG, a good portion of the fanbase has blown it off automatically, not wanting to try something new or pay subscription fees. Being universally loved by a niche audience of an increasing niche series isn’t the kind of blockbuster success that Final Fantasy needs right now.

Which is why so much rides on the shoulders of this game. After a decade of development, a decade of middling reception, and a decade of fans questioning the seal of quality that used to be “Final Fantasy,” how can the series possibly survive if Final Fantasy XV winds up a colossal failure?

The Uncovered event proved that Square Enix is going all out to show fans that they can put their faith in Director Hajime Tabata and his team. There isn’t a more qualified person at Square Enix right now to turn this game into both a modern hit that can attract a new generation of followers and a future classic designed to appeal to the older fanbase.

In addition to the release date announcement of Sept. 30, Square Enix unloaded the multimedia and free vantage points into the game’s lore and characters. It released a new demo (impressions coming soon), a free anime that can be streamed through YouTube now, and even announced a new Advent Children-esque CG movie chronicling the final days of King Regis’ reign. To further solidify the fact that fans need not worry about the quality of “yet another Final Fantasy CG movie,” Square Enix has wisely tapped Sony Pictures to help with production, as well as some A-list television stars like Sean Bean, Lena Headey, and Aaron Paul.

And how about that “Stand By Me” trailer? That was something special, wasn’t it?

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So with all of these different paths into the franchise, Final Fantasy is now open to any and all. Whether you like anime, movies, pinball, Steven King, or even just the good old days of Final Fantasy, Square Enix has got you covered to make you a fan before Sept. 30 rolls around.

Of course, it all means nothing if the game isn’t just the greatest thing on Earth. So many have questioned the battle system, the design of the main characters, and the technical issues, but I’m convinced that the more of Final Fantasy XV we see, the more obvious its emotional center becomes, really bringing the meaty drama to the forefront.

I’m a huge fan of this world the game takes place in, both in the looks department and in the plot’s setup. Final Fantasy has never been a series about pure “fantasy” as in Lord of the Rings or what-have-you. Nor has it ever been pure science fiction or even a generic mix of the two. Final Fantasy‘s worlds exist in their own realm of un-classifiable genres, homogeneously blended together so that not one element stands out more than the other. Airships and chocobos, magic and science, monsters and robots, mythology and history. Final Fantasy is unique in all of these categories with an established style that the world of Final Fantasy XV is capturing so perfectly.

Final Fantasy XIII leaned too heavily on the sci-fi to really understand what makes the series so special, but looking at Final Fantasy X and how it successfully replaced fantasy elements with a sort of Okinawan setting shows that the rules are not really rigid for creating something specifically “Final Fantasy.”

Final Fantasy XV‘s urban centers might be the “iPhone version” of Final Fantasy VII’s Midgar, but I’m all about that pearly white clashing with the open countryside, and as a unique addition,the giant geological archways that fill out the world bring another excellent touch.

I also love the story. A world’s final bastion of freedom under siege by militant kingdoms. A prince on the run. The friendship/servant relationship between the Prince and his bodyguards. A king tearing himself apart over passing such a wretched world onto his innocent son. We joke about the “bromance” of Final Fantasy XV, but I’m convinced it’ll get a lot deeper than what we all expect. There’s a lot of room for drama here, and the Summon monsters, elements, and general Final Fantasy packaging helps it speak worlds to me.

The only question I have, and many others have, revolves around the combat. I do understand that the series needs evolve alongside the rest of the gaming sphere and that classic menu-fighting is either a thing of the past or a thing for handhelds. I’ve made promises to embrace this new approach as well as I can, and I hope many staunch traditionalists set their pre-determined spite aside and at least try to do the same.

All in all, I think Square Enix had a tremendous night and really put Final Fantasy XV on the map. Again, I’m in pure fanboy mode here, but it’s sitting at the top of my personal “Most Anticipated Games of 2016” list, knocking down heavy-hitters like The Legend of Zelda, No Man’s Sky, Persona 5, and, yes, Dragon Quest VIIFinal Fantasy XV is currently towering over the competition, and I am a dirty rotten fanboy for admitting so.

On a more friendly note, how incredible is it that in this day and age, 2016 can get so many huge releases from classic video game franchises? At a time when blockbuster gaming is drowning out the established legacies of the 80s and 90s, to have a Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Legend of Zelda, Persona, Ys, and possibly even a Mega Man and Metroid game in development seems like a bygone era coming back from the grave to give the 30-somethings a year to celebrate and call their own.

Call me sold on Final Fantasy XV. If Square Enix believes in it this much, then so do I. Nothing about this hype feels artificial or arrogant like the path it to creating Final Fantasy XIII. This a much more humbled, level-headed Square Enix that doesn’t threaten a decade of unpopular lore onto its fanbase. It listens to feedback, includes the community, and encourages everyone to participate in creating the best Final Fantasy game it possibly can.

If it doesn’t pay off, though, who knows what I’ll believe in anymore. Magic the Gathering is making a comeback, so maybe that is a product of my childhood I’ll fall back on instead. Seriously, who isn’t excited for Shadows Over Innistrad?

Final Fantasy XV will be released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on Sept. 30. Pre-orders and the “Platinum Demo” are available now on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live.


Ron Duwell

Ron has been living it up in Japan for the last decade, and he has no intention of leaving this technical wonderland any time soon. When he's not...

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