Final Fantasy XV: What was I expecting?

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The year was 2006. YouTube only had been around for a year, and Twitter had barely come into existence. Everyone was still making Sparta memes. I was still in high school, and I thought that buying Final Fantasy XII for full price a week after its release was a good idea.

And the JRPG company Square Enix had just released a little trailer for a game they were calling Final Fantasy Versus XIII.

Versus XIII was part of a huge project called “Fabula Nova Crystallis” (otherwise known as “the director really really really likes Latin).” It basically involved Square Enix making three Final Fantasy XIII games and releasing them as “companion games” to each other. Your guess is as good as mine as to what exactly that meant, but either way, the trailer made quite an impact. It showed off all the graphical capabilities of the Playstation 3, and the game was planned to launch along with the system, catapulting Final Fantasy back into stardom.


Fast forward to last year. Final Fantasy XIII had been out since 2009; Final Fantasy XIV was coming out later that year. The third game in the Fabula Nova Crystallis project got a name change and had a quiet, Japan-only release in 2011. Versus XIII, meanwhile, had been an unknown for years, and the lack of news for its development was starting to become a running joke. Until June, when Square Enix suddenly announced that no, they were working on it now, for really reals! They’d just decided to make it Final Fantasy XV instead. Easier to revamp an old half-finished game than come up with an entirely new concept, I guess.

And now, just a couple weeks ago, they came out with some more information on the newly dubbed FFXV. A trailer and a gameplay demo, to be more specific. And it’s those I’d like to talk about this week, as they contain some interesting revaluations about the direction the game is taking. (Hint: there is controversy.)

First things first, the new trailer:

That sullen-looking, black-haired main character dude is Noctis. He’s the prince of the mafia-like kingdom Lucis, and he can see when people are about to die due to a mysterious childhood mishap (a death goddess was apparently involved). With a world war looming on the horizon, Noctis sets out on a cross-country road trip to a neighboring kingdom for currently unknown reasons, accompanied by his friends and bodyguards Prompto, Gladiolus, Ignis, and Cor.

From left: Prompto, Gladiolus, Noctis, Ignis, and Cor. (FF Wikia)

No, really. I told you the director likes Latin.

Right away, you can see that the game looks different — not only from most Final Fantasies, but from JRPGs in general. Everything looks sleek and modern; there’s cars and radio and highways with billboards and a whole lot of black designer clothing. A lot. I mean, I’m not asking for Lulu’s belt skirt or Nooj’s onesie, but more distinctions in the characters’ outfits would be nice.

The battle system is all real-time, and looks more like Kingdom Hearts than anything else. I love turn-based RPGs, but … this is the way the genre is going, and I would rather accept the battle system for what it is than waste time complaining. Besides, it looks pretty fun! There are a lot of enjoyable little details, like party members teaming up to take an enemy out, and monsters being able to trip Noctis up.

Also, the soundtrack is by Yoko Shinomura, who is some kind of video game music deity, so there’s at least one thing about this game that’s going to be perfect.

And now … the controversy. The reason I decided to write about this game now, when there isn’t even an estimated release date yet.

The news broke on Japanese gaming website 4Gamer, and was translated into English by Siliconera. Here’s the paragraph in question:

“4Gamer then mentions that the trailer and demonstration footage both focused on male characters, and that they get a feeling that it will be like a trip with guys. Meanwhile, they point out, we’ve only seen female characters in cutscenes.

‘The party will only have male characters,” replies [director Hajime] Tabata, “and that hasn’t changed since its previous form of [Final Fantasy Versus XIII].'”

“My job is to wait for the men while looking pretty and sad.” (FF Wikia)

Yep. Male-only party.

Why? Because it’s a road trip, of course! According to Tabata, the “strong road movie vibe” is a part of the game “in which we’re placing great importance.” (Because we all know women never go on road trips, am I right?)

Tabata explains this further here, saying, “The party members being all men was something that [former director] Tetsuya Nomura had kept as a very important element of this journey. He wanted to depict a story in which a group of men, a group of friends, journey throughout the world. So that’s something that I kept in Final Fantasy XV.”

Male bonding stories! How nice. No, really, I have no problem with male friendship being a strong and important theme in a story. It’s just that male friendship in video games (and every other form of media, incidentally) is dirt common, and I can count the games that have female friendships as an important theme on the fingers of one hand. Also, out of 15 Final Fantasy games, only two have had female protagonists … who weren’t even protagonists through the whole game. They were part of an ensemble cast. How interesting.

What’s even more bizarre, JRPGs are rather well-known for having equal gender representation. Final Fantasy in particular generally has an equal male-to-female party member ratio. Guys, I’m not even asking to make Noctis and his friends all women or whatever. They should stay as they are. But is it really that awful that I’m asking for an equal gender ratio to continue? That’s one of the reasons I love JRPGs in the first place!

Your story doesn’t exist in its own world, Mr. Nomura. Society influences media, and media influences society. And the picture we’re getting from your media has not been very flattering towards me and the many other women who play video games.

This isn’t going to stop me from playing Final Fantasy XV eventually (I need to become good friends very quickly with someone who owns a Playstation 4 first). But I must say, I’m disappointed.