Review: Final Fantasy XV

Please note that this review is full of spoilers.


Final Fantasy XV - - Game Reviews


“There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”  – Shakespeare


This is the quotation that adorned all Final Fantasy Versus XIII trailers almost a decade ago. After years in production, the game eventually lost the quote, transforming into Final Fantasy XV, a game that I found to be so desperately disappointing that I would have had, as the quote said, to stop thinking in order to enjoy it. First, I was horrified that the “bro-trip” (road trip with nothing but good-looking male characters, who were even dubbed the boy band by the internet) was fraught with mismatched and thrown together formulas from previous installments of the much beloved series. In addition, the weak hero, plot holes, tedious and repetitive side quests, disappointing boss fights, lackluster gods further weakened the game. Finally, the underdeveloped female characters that were diminished to nothing but plot devices to be thrown away once they served their purposes, as well as a completely dissatisfying ending that in no way fit the characters that game developer, Square Enix so desperately wanted us to like didn’t help. And if that weren’t enough, all of these problems loomed under the crushed dreams and unrealized potential of a game 10 years in the making.


These scenes are plucked straight from Final Fantasy VII.

Like Aerith, Lunafreya floats away to her watery death.


Throughout this game, I could not shake the feeling that Square Enix chose successful or popular parts from every previous game in the series and slapped it into the game in attempts to make their audience like it—almost like when someone creates a YouTube video explicitly to go viral.  It seemed the game developer no longer knew how to make a game that remains true to its own series’ overall credos—defying fate, finding love, forging your own path, fighting for what you believe in—without copying formulas that they previously used. But what Square didn’t realize when they cut and pasted Aerith’s flowers into Luna’s hands is that parts of the sum do not necessarily make a whole, and in some cases, serve as an even bigger reminder of what is missing.


Final Fantasy XV - - Game Reviews
Noctis is not the hero I wanted.


The one time Square Enix successfully breaks the mold, is in their hero, Noctis, but unfortunately, this is one time where Square should have stuck to the mold. Though Square Enix attempted to make a different brand of their typical, stoic hero, whose rough exterior melts along the way, they ended up making a weak hero who is almost entirely unsympathetic. Noctis is in every way a sheltered, spoiled prince. He grows up unaware of his destiny as the True King, oblivious that his betrothed, Lady Lunafreya, must sacrifice herself in order for him to succeed, and that his father, King Regis sends Noctis away for his own safety, knowing that he himself will die and his country will be destroyed. I was even more appalled when Lunafreya dies, and Noctis cried, “I just wanted to save you,” but he never even realized she was doomed to die for him all along! Perhaps most upsetting, he never thinks of Lunafreya as her own person, with dreams for the future—she was simply the Oracle and his betrothed.  What a stark contrast to a stricken Cloud, the hero in Final Fantasy VII, who though indifferent to many things in the course of the game, never saw his beloved heroine, Aerith as the last Cetra, a race destined to save the world, but instead as his murdered friend, “who [would] no longer talk, no longer laugh, cry, or get angry.” Noctis is unmindful that he has lost the love of his life and their future together; rather, he focuses only on the loss of someone he barely knew and who would have made his life easier, a loss that makes it harder than ever for him to avoid his fate.


Noctis even imagines himself as a child in front of Lunafreya.


This is not the hero I wanted. I wanted Noctis to defy the Kings of Old, defeat the Scourge and Ardyn, and to unite his kingdom with that of Lunafreya’s, Tenebrae. Sure, I expected there to be a price—I expected Noctis to make a bargain with the Old Gods to which Nyx willingly sacrificed his life in the prequel CGI movie Kingsglaive, and I expected Noctis to decide to save his people, by taking up the mantle of his father, and serving justice to those who perpetuated the fall of his hometown of Insomnia. What I instead got was a kid who only finally put on the Ring of the Lucii when he was backed into a corner without his friends, his magical swords, or his girlfriend to die for him. I was even more dismayed when he wore this ring of these old Gods, without any problems—even though in Kingsglaive, I saw the very same ring rob Ravus of his entire arm, smite another in flames, and cost another, far greater hero—Nyx—his life for even daring to make a pact with the old gods. But no, the Ring of the Lucii simply deems Noctis worthy due to his royal blood, just like the audience is forced to accept Noctis as a hero simply because he is male.


Final Fantasy XV - - Game Reviews
Noctis with the Ring of the Lucii

But Noctis is no hero, as the game repeatedly shows us, by the way he allows fate to dictate his every course of action. He thinks nothing of his father telling him to leave the city before an important “peacekeeping” meeting with Niflheim, the ruthless magiteck empire that has taken over the rest of the world, and then is dumbfounded to find out that both his city and his father are destroyed. He thinks nothing of his friends’ loved ones who have died as well. Later, when Noctis finally learns of his fate as the True King, he questions nothing that the villainous chancellor of Niflheim, Ardyn Izuna, tells him and simply climbs into the crystal like a good boy, only to reappear 10 years later, visibly and magically aged as part of his deal with the crystal. He merely walks off to his death as he is told to do so both by Gods and prophecy, and in doing so, gets all of his friends—who for some reason stuck by him through all of his crap—killed as well.


Final Fantasy XV - - Game Reviews
Stella Nox Fleuret, the earlier incarnation of Lunafreya Nox Fleuret.


Perhaps most disappointing of all of these deaths, was not Noctis’s, or Prompto’s, or Gladioulus’s, or Ignis’s or even Lunafreya’s, but the loss of Final Fantasy Versus XIII’s rapier-wielding Stella, a heroine with the same powers as our hero, Noctis, and what promised to be a Romeo and Juliet-esque story of love and confrontation between the son and daughter of two enemy kingdoms. I accepted Stella being exchanged for Lady Lunafreya, as she was promised to be a more powerful character with a bigger role to play. I hoped that I would finally have a staff chick who could heal and kick butt—a woman who could support those around her while having her own strong sense of purpose and the powers to carry them out. I also hoped that she and Noctis would have their own story of dark and light to play, as foreshadowed in the trailer Omen, but again I was sorely disappointed.  Noctis need not kill his oracle, Lunafreya, in order to take the throne, to rescue the world, or to save himself from evil effects from using his powers, and in fact, rarely even thinks of her, except to state to his buddies on the bro-trip that he wasn’t particularly thrilled to be marrying her at such a young age.


Final Fantasy XV - - Game Reviews
This is the game I thought I was getting.


But Noctis would not get the chance to wed Lunafreya, who was so reduced to someone with barely any appearances, to the point where she could have been a mere cameo! Ultimately, she was a character whose only purpose in life was to prepare the way for a man who needed to do his duty. Lunafreya, as the oracle (which was strangely never mentioned in Kingsglaive), visited all of the Astrals, (something we see in tiny flashbacks), to beg them to throw in their powers with Noctis, so he could defeat the true evil of the world. I still don’t understand why Lunafreya didn’t obtain these godly powers or the Ring of the Lucii for herself and stand with Noctis to defeat Ardyn. And if the darker scenario, such as Noctis killing Lunafreya in order to obtain her powers and those from the Gods, didn’t happen, I would’ve loved to see this power couple take down the evil together, as many promotional images of the game implied.  Either scenario would’ve led to a far more interesting game.


Final Fantasy XV - - Game Reviews


But Square Enix takes the safe route, robbing Lunafreya and the audience. She should’ve been more than a martyr in a stereotypical white dress with a determined expression. Instead, Square Enix bestowed her with the title of Oracle, reminiscent of past successful heroines with similar roles of Cetra and Summoner, and threw her away once her purpose was served—further demeaning this polished and determined young lady, by specifically slitting her modest and elegant dress exactly right up to her thigh and ruining her intricate hairstyle. I couldn’t believe that this young woman, an icon and beacon of hope for her world, complete with the power to  heal the sick and to commune with and tame the gods, was stabbed and defeated by a man with a simple knife while the hero of the story  her fiancée, watches in shock. Was it really necessary to make her disheveled and sexier in order to kill her?


Even more shocking than this gross portrayal of what Square Enix deemed a “strong female character,” is the handling of all of the other female characters in the prequel and game. In Kingsglaive, Crowe, the only female member of the elite guard protecting Noctis’s father, King Regis, is killed within the first half hour of the movie. I couldn’t believe that Crowe, the most powerful mage in her unit, assigned with spiriting away Lunafreya from her confinement in Tenebrae alone, was disposed of like a fly before men in a van—not daemons, which she has capably taken on in the past.











The game itself isn’t much better than Kingsglaive.  The car mechanic, Cindy, wears a bikini, booty shorts with thong straps plainly sticking out, and boots in order to service the gang’s car—including pumping their gas, laughably the only time in the game when someone outside the male party does it, in order for the camera to get a good shot of her breasts. How she manages not to spill hot oil all over her half naked body is beyond me. And though Square Enix could’ve even made it somewhat logical by covering her in a jumpsuit when working on a car, to be stripped down to the bikini when it got covered in dirt and grime, the developers once again stick with what will appeal to their male audience and not to the brain.


Final Fantasy XV- - Game Reviews
Iris is Gladioulus’s sister, but lacks all of his battle hardness.


Iris, Galdioulus’s little sister, though clothed in a more wholesome and battle friendly outfit, is completely useless as a guest party member and uses a moogle to attack.  One would think Galdioulus, Noctis’s arms teacher, would train his younger sister to defend herself with actual weapons, but apparently not. Iris had a crush on Noctis forever and even takes him on an uncomfortable date-like excursion around Lestallum. In fact, she even remarks to Noctis that it feels like a date! Um, he’s engaged, remember, Square Enix? Could they make Lunafreya seem any more insignificant in any of her roles—fiancée, Oracle, lady of Tenebrae?


Aranea, the female dragoon who flirts with Noctis all while dancing circles around him on the battle field, is the best female character Final Fantasy XV has, but she isn’t around long enough to actually get to know her, her story, or to really impact the game. Furthermore, her interesting backstory as a mercenary before joining the Niflheim Empire, is only hinted at and not explored. Personally, I’d rather play that game. Does every female have to be in some form of love or lust with Noctis? I already get that he is the single male heir to the throne of Insomnia, who can summon swords, is a powerful, good-looking man without Square Enix having every female in the proximity—including NPCS—falling all over themselves to flirt with him.


Final Fantasy XV - - Final Fantasy XV


One could argue that Gentiana, an astral in disguise, wasn’t attracted to Noctis, but would she have stuck around Noctis and the gang after Lunafreya’s death if he didn’t interest her? In fact, she is the only Astral who willingly lends Noctis her power—and does so without him even asking her. Worse than this treatment of the game’s females was Square Enix’s admitted reasoning behind it, that “boys couldn’t be boys” so to speak, if there were females in the party all of the time.


Final Fantasy XV - - Game Reviews
Prompto’s storyline twist seems like a joke.

As a result of this lack of a good hero or any decent female characterization, I tried to get more interested in the bigger picture things, like the story and boss battles, but to my dismay, I was faced with huge, dragon-sized plot holes! And even after completing the game, most of my questions are still far from answered. One of these unanswered questions is how is it not a big deal that Prompto, one of Noctis’s best friends and party members, is a magiteck—a humanoid type robot made from daemons in a lab by Niflheim—and has a barcode marking him as one? There is absolutely no lead up to this whatsoever, and as we see Prompto as a young child in Insomnia in the Brotherhood anime, it’s just downright confusing. Plus, it’s not explained either. As Prompto doesn’t seem to be a magiteck, doesn’t have green skin, and he ages and has free will (complete with the ability to take horrible pictures), does that mean he’s just a regular old Niflheim resident even though he was born in a lab? Or is he a defect magiteck that escaped and just happened to befriend the prince? Either way, it is very reminiscent of Final Fantasy VII’s Cloud, who discovers he has a serious case of mistaken identity and is a remnant of Sephiroth; or Final Fantasy IX’s Zidane, who discovered he is a manufactured Genome. But in both Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy IX, these predicaments are handled seriously.


Final Fantasy XV - - Game Reviews
This random moment with Prompto is handled more seriously than the announcement of his secret.


Unlike previous Final Fantasy titles, Prompto’s revelation is not handled with any gravity greater than someone who is say, discussing the weather. Even more astonishing is that Square Enix didn’t lead up to this ability to unlock Niflheim doors with the magiteck barcode on his wrist earlier in the game at all.  They could have easily had Prompto use it on Niflheim bases that the boys infiltrate and destroy prior to this point in the story. Noctis and the gang could’ve split up to find another way around a locked gate and Prompto could’ve had a suspiciously uncanny ability to unlock these doors all along! But no, Prompto’s ability and identity are not revealed until precisely the moment they are coincidentally needed, giving it a very convenient and fake feeling.



Ravus as the hooded man, who would have served as Noctis’s foil.











Though Prompto’s origins are perplexing and will most likely be touched upon in DLC (though the groundwork for this whole plot-twist should have been addressed in the main game), the biggest plot-hole and consequent unanswered questions in the game for me revolve not around him, but around Ravus Nox Fleuret, Lunafreya’s elder brother. In Versus XIII trailers, Ravus or “the hooded man” as he was referred to, was a veritable bad-ass! But somewhere along the development road, Ravus was downgraded into a power hungry, boot-kissing fool in Kingsglaive, and then even further downgraded in Final Fantasy XV to a person who switched sides for no justifiable reason. To where did the rivalry between he and Noctis in the Versus XIII trailers disappear? Surely princes from enemy kingdoms would have made for a very complex story that would only have grown more interesting as Noctis fell in love with his sister, but sadly, this is another example of such great and lost potential.  But putting these unfulfilled hopes for the game aside, I still literally have no idea after beating the game why Ravus, the man who betrayed Tenebrae and joined the forces of the very people who slaughtered his mother, and the new military leader of Niflheim, decided to suddenly grow a conscience, turn traitor again and to betray the evil empire in order to support Noctis! And one would think this whole dilemma and change of heart would be crucial and pretty interesting to the story.


Final Fantasy XV - - Ravus and Lunafreya Nox Fleuret
Ravus and Lunafreya Nox Fleuret got royally shafted in both the game development and the story.

Alternatively, I am left to find a now-on-our-side Ravus’s body in the god-awful mess that is Chapter 13, only to fight his reanimated and twisted corpse in a boss fight, maybe 20 minutes later. Instead of this revival for a boss fight, which felt like a cheap trick, a long standing rivalry and a reluctant alliance with Noctis, with multiple boss fights, would’ve had a much bigger impact on the game and left his audience mourning his death and sacrifice. Instead, I was left feeling completely shafted by Ravus’s entire characterization, almost like someone who had missed out on a relationship because they couldn’t quite get the timing right. I felt with overwhelming certainty and disgust that the Nox Fleuret family had suffered enough, and regrettably, so had I in playing the game.


Final Fantasy XV - - Game Reviews


Sadly, the other boss fights weren’t much better. The Astrals, while larger than life and gorgeous were easy as pie to defeat and consequently, another massive disappointment. I was especially letdown by the fight with Leviathan and how it wasn’t quite as epic as in previous trailers; there is no running through buildings, leaping from roof top to roof top, avoiding flood waters and crumbling buildings, or climbing airships to escape Leviathan’s wrath. And as a result of the Astrals being dull, Gentiana’s true identity as the Astral, Shiva, fell flat with me as well. I had hoped that she would have a more important role that carried more weight with the story.  Perhaps she could have been the First Oracle ever, who had gained immortality in order to test the later oracles and their kings. As such, I could easily picture her in a role similar to Final Fantasy X’s Lady Yunalesca, the First Summoner who inspired Yuna and her guardians to fight her and defy a millennium of fate and tradition. Such a role would have made for a much more interesting use of Gentiana’s mysterious and immortal character and consequently would have had far-reaching effects on both the game and Noctis and Lunafreya’s actions.


Similarly, the Emperor of Niflheim, Iedolas, the face of this entire evil regime, isn’t climactic either. In fact, when you reach his throne room, he’s actually not even sitting on his throne; the only things in sight are his robes. Where had he gone, I wondered? Did he simply change into a suit and forget to put his robes in his closet? No, he is actually a daemon, which looks like a chicken-bird-thing.  I’m sorry, but who honestly thought turning the emperor into a chicken named Foras was a good idea?  I finally get to this long-awaited showdown with Iedolas and feel like I’m finally going to find out what makes this evil man tick, to fight a non-threatening and easy-to-kill plucked chicken. How am I supposed to take this seriously? At this point in the game, I was completely immune to yet another disappointment, and tried to get through to the ending of not just this horrible Chapter 13, but the ending of the entire game, as quickly as possible.



Ten years older, Noctis wakes up from his slumber in the Crystal, to a Starscourged world—one with no daylight. He reunites with Prompto, Gladiolus, and Ignis, but I am never given a chance to see an older Cindy (even though the party is at her car shop in Hammerhead), Aranea, Iris, Cor, Cid, or any of the other characters that helped on our quest before the crystal slumber. I was instead stuck with a teenaged version of the kid, Talcott, who explained how much life sucked after Noctis went to sleep. This was really disappointing, even with my bare minimum attachment to these characters. Noctis leads Prompto, Gladiolus, and Ignis, to his hometown Insomnia, the awesome city that I never even got a chance to fully explore in-game before setting off on the dumb bro-trip and before it was destroyed. I really wish I would have had a chance to play as Lunafreya, who escaped the city by herself after the events of Kingsglaive. This also would have given the players a chance to form more of an attachment to Lunafreya.


Final Fantasy XV - - Game Reviews
Noctis outside of the palace in Insomnia.


The music in Insomnia is haunting and brings back not the sadness of King Regis or Nyx’s deaths, but the feeling of the very first Final Fantasy Versus XIII trailers we saw so long ago, making the difference in the game players thought they were getting and the one that was delivered even more tangible. I was feeling very despondent at this point, but thankfully though, there are no more awful side quests to complete in this new post-apocalyptic dark world. This was a massive relief as I was so tired of tediously fighting a mob, obtaining an item, and running it back to some NPC without any decent rhyme or reason other than they were out of vegetables, or something else similarly inane. Plus, I was ridiculously over leveled for the entirety of the game due to all of the terrible side quests I had suffered through until I couldn’t take anymore and stopped completing them. This made the boss fights, hunts, and optional dungeons even more of a joke than their abysmal writing already made them. I know Square Enix wanted to create an open-world environment with lots of player freedom after the complaints of how linear and leveling controlled (there were locks on the Crystarium until players had progressed to certain points of the story), Final Fantasy XIII was, but why didn’t the developers simply have the mobs, dungeons, and hunts level with the player?


Final Fantasy XV - - Game Reviews
The “aged” boyband.


Upon reaching Insomnia, my level 70-something Noctis merely tells his friends to “walk tall,” and then leaves them to fight on their own against lackluster mobs—the likes of which I have killed easily hundreds of times—only for them to get slaughtered by them. O-kay. Meanwhile, Noctis fights Ardyn, the true mastermind and villain of the story, in what is perhaps the easiest and most anti-climactic boss fight ever. And then to my horror, Noctis dies as well. To summarize View Spoiler »


But the final battle takes place inside a crystal-like after-world, in a cut scene with no player involvement—as if I weren’t feeling detached already—and Noctis and his buddies face Ardyn once more. Lunafreya makes another two second Aerith-like appearance in order to make it all slightly easier for her man once again, but unlike Cloud from Final Fantasy VII who fights hard on his own until his comrades make an appearance, Noctis constantly feels powerless without all of the help he can get—quite a feat really, as he can summon magic swords, bear the Ring of the Lucii as soon as he puts it on, and has the power of all the gods at his back. I suppose Lunafreya’s reappearance in death is another attempt to give her untimely passing and character meaning, but it feels so contrived and forced that it falls flat.



Final Fantasy XV - - Game Reviews


Oh, but wait, there’s a happy ending after the credits like in all Final Fantasy games, right? Even this happy ending doesn’t satisfy me or seem at all fitting. I was completely shocked to see aged Noctis, as king sitting on the throne of Insomnia, along with his wife, Queen Lunafreya, who has not aged at all. The two kiss and this is awkward for many reasons, the first of which being that we’ve never even gotten a chance to see them affectionate together in-game as their young adult selves—they were too busy trying to save the world and of course, Lunafreya literally died the one time they were reunited since they were children. As such, seeing one of them unnaturally aged and the other unaltered is just plain jarring to the fairy tale feeling and just serves as another reminder that while Noctis and Lunafreya are together, they’re both dead. Sigh.


But why would Square Enix show Noctis and Lunfreya, who had next to no development together, and who supposedly only wanted to be happy as mere regular people, as king and queen in their own happy ending? And why even show Noctis as his older self, a guise he only had for like half a second at the very ending of the game? Witnessing the middle aged version of Noctis kissing a 20 something Lunafreya, is like skipping the relationship and going straight to the honeymoon and makes it apparent that this was really more of an arranged marriage than a love story, even though Square Enix tried to force it into the latter by modeling previous titles’ romances.


Final Fantasy XV - - Game Reviews

But most of all, if the main theme of this installment of Final Fantasy is brotherhood, why even end it with the extremely poorly developed romance of Noctis and Lunafreya at all? If anything, Square Enix should have left Prompto, Gladiolus, and Ignis alive to rebuild the new world order in honor of their friend and to really pull at our heart strings. But again Square Enix proves that Noctis is nothing without his buddies, and that even the True King has to take them with him in death, and that the developers can’t help but to fall back on the successes of its predecessors, many of which end with a kiss or a sign of a love not forgotten despite all obstacles.


Final Fantasy XV - - Game Reviews
The picture I chose for Noctis to look back on.


And there is no sign of Prompto, Gladioulus, or Ignis in this “happily ever after.” Sure, we get a flashback of them all gathered around the campfire before the final battle during the credits, but nothing of what came after.  After having these bromances shoved down my throat all game, their absence at what appears to be Noctis’s wedding is just baffling. Shouldn’t they have been the best men?  I would’ve loved to see some fan service in the way of appearances of other dead characters, like Crowe and Nyx from Kingsglaive, or a finally happy Ravus, a young King Regis or flashbacks to the actual live characters remaining on the saved world of Eos, but they are all notably absent.


I found the entirety of this game, the long-awaited new installment of my favorite video game franchise of all time, so disheartening that I lost almost all desire to play any game for a good while. After playing the entire game on my boyfriend’s profile (we made a deal that he could have Final Fantasy XV trophies, if I could have Final Fantasy VII Remake trophies on my profile), I had the original intention of going back and replaying it on my profile—but I couldn’t make myself! I was horrified to find that I would rather DO LAUNDRY, SOMETHING I ABSOLUTELY HATE, instead of replaying Final Fantasy XV or any other game. Only The Last Guardian, a game resoundingly and beatifically proves that being in production for almost 10 years does not, in fact, mean that the game will fail to meet years of expectations—was enough to pull me out of the slump that I fell into after Final Fantasy XV. 


But I still don’t want to replay Final Fantasy XV, which astonishes me. I have played and replayed almost every title in the series, including III, IV, VI, VII, VII-Dirge of Cerberus, VIII, IX, X, X-2, XII, XII- Revenant Wings, XIII, XIII-2, Lightning Returns, and XIV, trying to unlock everything imaginable—even in the XIII trilogy, which I also found to be painfully disappointing, but not as—but here was a game that was so universally flawed that it successfully sapped that desire out of me.  It seems that any urge to platinum this game died right along with every single one of the main characters. The only good thing that came out of their deaths is that Square Enix will at least not be able to make a sequel—hopefully.


Final Fantasy XV - - Game Reviews
At least the game had chocobos and stunning graphics.

Sadly, though the game did have its good points, such as beautiful graphics, fun gameplay (I know I certainly enjoyed warp-striking all over the place), and a sprawling open world to traverse by chocobo or car—at least in the first portion of the game—Final Fantasy XV was inextricably held back by the sheer, sprawling mess of its story. And as a consequence of this game—with its mismatched and thrown together formulas of previous installments of the much beloved series, a weak hero, plot holes, underdeveloped female characters that only served as plot devices, tedious and repetitive side quests, disappointing boss fights, lackluster gods—I am filled with nothing but dread for Kingdom Hearts III, the future remake of Final Fantasy VII, and other future titles in the series. I find myself wishing that another company, even a Western one like Bethesda, would buy the rights to the series and save it while there is still something of their once illustrious, ground-breaking series left to save. At the very least, Square Enix needs to hire better writers because even as a die-hard Final Fantasy fan, I am questioning whether or not I will buy future Final Fantasy releases and if I will have to stop thinking in order to enjoy them.



Game Reviews - - Final Fantasy XV

Posted February 17, 2017 in Games

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