Four friends on a road trip to get hitched are suddenly forced into an epic quest to save the world. Square Enix is at it again, and considering how convoluted their stories are usually, it’s certainly something different, yet it’s the same as it always has been. Final Fantasy XV turns the average anime protagonists into a boy-band of four attractive males, and just as Justin Timberlake lead me to question my sexuality from his days with NSYNC, I am left with mixed feelings and a strange fascination with my fellow men.
“Haha, I’m so gay,” no but seriously this entire game is a road trip where the “royal guards” get their “prince” hitched before a war destroying both their home and destination gets them stuck in the middle of nowhere. If this isn’t a metaphor for getting kicked out of your home for dating another man because your parents don’t approve, I don’t know what is.
The real story begins after a cutscene where Prince Noctis’s father tries to say a final goodbye to his son before he gets married, all the while Noctis acts like an angsty child. What would be immediately after if not for the century-long loading times is a scene where their car has broken down and you are forced to push the car to the song “Stand By Me.” This incredibly comical and memorable scene is followed by everyone speaking with a southern accent as breasts (I mean Cindy) gives you 17 tutorials. As I’ve stated before, some things never change.
However, unlike what you’re used to in the franchise, it’s an open world and all combat is are not random encounters, but rather fighting with physical enemies, a concept introduced ever since Final Fantasy XII. The turned-based combat has also switched out for a 3-D fighter with 3 possible weapons, allowing for a feeling of controlling your characters, an aspect unexpected from an RPG. This sense of control in combat is refreshing and refined. Square Enix also makes extreme use of the new-gen features, allowing you to level up your photography and cooking, both of which greatly utilize the graphics of the game.
While we’re at it, let’s name other aspects of the game that have never been seen in the Final Fantasy franchise. The story makes sense, that’s incredibly new. The characters feel like real people, boring people, but nevertheless real, all with side quests that pull you to explore the world rather than progress through the story, supporting the player’s feelings of exploration. You can buy basically every soundtrack Final Fantasy has ever created to put into your car and listen to at any time, you know, what everybody has always dreamed of. Finally, you can customize your characters and car, giving the player a sense of choice.
The story does make sense, yet being stuck talking smack with Sandy Cheeks in Pamela Anderson‘s body certainly gives the impression that there isn’t much urgency, among other things (other things including immense boredom). If you don’t like the story, the characters, or the battle system, there are no redeeming qualities to this game. Sure, you can customize and drive the car, but you can only drive on one side of the road. Sure, you can talk with and play dress-up with your Backstreet Boys, but you most likely won’t like all of them. Sure, the graphics are great, but if there’s nothing to do it’s hardly a game.
The story is understandable for the first time in years, but dear sweet Jesus in heaven is it SLOW (Calm down, I can’t use his name in vain if I’m Jewish). This is mostly due to the fact that you drive to destinations in your car IN REAL TIME. That means waiting five minutes to get to a sidequest subjects you either to sexy teens talking with one another, watching them simply sit there in silence chilling to video game music in their Corvette, or “fast traveling” forcing you to wait five minutes anyway. Considering the “realistic” distance between enemies, you are practically never fighting, perhaps twice every 15 minutes as compared to every prior entry focusing entirely on the combat aspect. It’s not truly an improvement; I would rather walk down a hallway fighting enemies constantly to an epic conclusion rather than wait an hour to fight a single foe.
The whole point of an RPG is the fighting, and there is fighting, but far and few between. This being said, the direction this game is moving in gives the series more possibilities than ever before. Rather than creating an epic quest filled with explosions and memorable yet confusing moments, we are given a story that anyone can comprehend and play at their own pace. Characters are realistic people, and while they aren’t as entertaining as expected, you are bound to like at least one of them. Final Fantasy is no longer a glorified movie, it’s a game, and while it’s not for everyone it’s certainly better for most in comparison to other options for RPGs. Final Fantasy XV has proven that traditional JRPGs have officially moved on to adopt an open-world format; it’s a strange game you’ll have to try before you judge.