FFXV Uncovered Recap: The Final Fantasy That Never Looked Better, Yet Never Looked Worse

It was hard to miss the hype around the Square Enix “Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV” event on social media yesterday, where director Hajime Tabata finally confirmed what had been rumored all along: Final Fantasy XV officially launches September 30, 2016, on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. A title in the works and re-works for several years, similar to its forebears Final Fantasy Type-0 and Final Fantasy XIII, this year’s installment continues the Square Enix foray into urban fantasy against big baddies with bigger, brighter and crisper graphics. Along with a brand new FFXV trailer, Square Enix revealed both a five episode FFXV anime mini-series titled Brotherhood as well as Kingsglaive, a FFXV feature-length full CG movie expanding the story of several of the game’s main characters:

If there’s something Square Enix has mastered time and again, it’s the graphics, trailer and soundtrack departments. Final Fantasy never looked better and it’s also never been farther away from anything I would personally like to play or watch for that matter. As a long-time franchise fan who started with Final Fantasy Legend on Gameboy and went through all titles of the main series from there, I haven’t recognized the franchise for a while. FFXV is certainly not where things started going wrong, it’s only where they’ve reached a new all-time low as the Kingsglaive trailer rolled in yesterday while its cast sat in an Audi R8. I shudder to think what other product placement is waiting in that movie or the game.

FFXV Uncovered Recap

At least they are still riding Chocobos

Through the years, I’ve stuck with Final Fantasy all the way up to FFIX – you could say I was brought up with black mages, magitek armors and chocobos. I still play FFXIV today and call it the best AAA-MMORPG currently on the market; it’s one that’s been treating its legacy and fanbase with great respect ever since the A Realm Reborn relaunch. Why the hugely successful console JRPGs went from whimsical steam-fantasy settings with loveable, sometimes goofy characters to four dudes sitting in an Audi listening to “Stand by Me” beats me. I guess after the international success of Bravely Default, I hoped Square Enix was really reconsidering their direction for FFXV as well as for other upcoming games. I was clearly wrong.

What’s with FFXV’s Target Audience?

We’ve known for a while that FFXV’s protagonists would be Noctis, Ignis, Gladio and Prompto, as past previews showed the gang of friends driving in their car, being all cool and killing big things with gunblades. While dudes in cars aren’t exactly an exclusive way of marketing your product, it’s obvious that the vibe created by all of FFXV’s new trailers, be it for the game or movies, targets a male audience primarily. Addressing the question about the all-male cast in a Gamespot interview in 2015, director Hajime Tabata offered this brief explanation:

“Speaking honestly, an all-male party feels almost more approachable for players. Even the presence of one female in the group will change their behaviour, so that they’ll act differently. So to give the most natural feeling, to make them feel sincere and honest, having them all the same gender made sense in that way,” Tabata said.

Having read the full article, I lost all interest in yet another story about “boys will be boys” in a videogame. I guess, I generally don’t understand the underlying suggestion that the sanctity of male-only circles is so disturbed by female company to a point where men can’t be sincere or natural when women are around or talk about the same topics. I’m not even sure what this suggests about male behavior and whether the answer is particularly flattering for male players. To me, it’s just the same old bogus premise that would be nice to overcome. But I guess after Final Fantasy X-2 and Lightning, which haven’t appealed to me either, I am not allowed to ask for anything a little less cliched and less juvenile gender division.

FFXV Uncovered Recap

Now far be it from me to tell anyone they’re not allowed to enjoy an RPG revolving around an all-male group. I don’t hate FFXV because of it and there are more things I dislike about it as an oldschool JRPG round-baser. There’s also a female character or two in the game that are no doubt somehow important to the story. Let’s be fair though: few exceptions aside, Final Fantasy has always told stories with a male protagonist / playable character. And when a director of a new title tells you “four guys are more approachable” then what he’s saying is that they are more approachable for men.

That is some very unfortunate phrasing. And why a franchise that’s been dear to so many female and male players for several decades would market new titles to only half of their player base remains an open question. But at least Square Enix has been consistent and never made FFXV seem like anything more than it is: nothing new under the sun. For a company that used to define genre standards, that’s quite the hit.

The Hype Starts Now

For those who missed yesterday’s big reveals and can’t wait to get a first hands-on impression, FFXV demos are out for both the Playstation 4 and XBOX One right now. The first episode of the Brotherhood anime series has been released as well and can be found on the Square Enix official youtube channel.

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